A Cool Million for Education
The 2015 Children’s Hope India Gala set a new record with its Educate India initiative raising over $ 1 million for children’s education in India. Over 450 guests attended the very successful event on October 11 at Pier Sixty in Manhattan, NYC, where Prakash Melwani and Manjul Bhargava were honored for their contributions to the cause of education for underprivileged children in India.
The sold-out gala evening began with cocktails on the verandah facing the Hudson River on a perfectly glorious fall evening. The festivities started with a high energy performance by the Aatma Performing Arts dancers who invaded the stage with stunning fast-paced dances in many genres, establishing a feel-good, positive energy for the entire evening. Having created a fun, India-centric flavor, the evening segued into an evocative introduction to Children’s Hope India by Tinku Jain, media personality and CHI advisory board member.
Maya Rajani, president of CHI, discussed the grassroots work being done in our projects in India. As Rajani noted, “We are often asked ‘What makes CHI different?’ In a few words, we are a grass roots charity that is run by a handful of very passionate and committed women professionals. We pay no rent, utilities, travel expenses, and we have two part time staff who are equally dedicated.—so 90% of all tax deductible donations go towards our projects.”
Looking Outward in a Global World
Prakash Melwani, Senior Managing Director at Blackstone and CIO of the private equity group, received the Lotus Award. In his remarks, Melwani talked about the importance of helping children get an education, and his ‘Educate India’ initiative. “We all lead such comfortable lives here in the U.S. that one might ask why not just focus on charities closer to home. I think one of the things I love most about this country is the desire to look outwards to help those less fortunate.
The idea that building walls can shut out problems is something that Donald Trump may believe, but fortunately most people don’t think that way. Any one of us in this room could have been born into a very different circumstance, including being a poor child in India. Ultimately, we are all interconnected as human beings and those children we help lift out of poverty will become part of our global community for decades to come.”
He added, “It costs just $160 to educate an Indian child for a year and change their life permanently. That’s less than 50 cents a day, just think about that for a moment. These children that we are trying to help come from such poor backgrounds, and the cost of improving their lives is so low, that I can’t think of a more impactful area to direct charitable donations. ”
The Potential of Indian Youth
The Making a Difference Award was sponsored by Poonam and AJ Khubani of Telebrands who presented the award to Manjul Bhargava, who is a Professor of Mathematics at Princeton, and has received the Fields Medal and the Padma Bhushan. He is a lead advisor on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Gian Initiative to bring math and science to Indian school children.
Bhargava said, ” There is so much incredible talent and potential in the youth of India. But sadly this immense talent too often remains overlooked and untapped because basic needs such as water, health-care, and of course education are often unavailable to those who need it the most.
In working with children in India, I’ve seen that there is no greater reward or honor than seeing their faces light up when they are given a chance to show their talents, to dream for themselves and to aspire towards that dream. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to see some children’s faces light up in this way, just by teaching them mathematics, and music, and poetry, and it has been the greatest gift, bigger than any award could be.”
He noted with humor, “I remember that when working with kids living in the slums in Mumbai, they would come so excited to learn – even more than my students at Princeton! And they would come showered and early – this also doesn’t happen so much at Princeton – and would give us long, several minute rounds of applause at the end of the each class, with endless thank you notes… This was because they did not take the right and opportunity to an education for granted, the way we can often tend to do here.”
The Educate India challenge which was highlighted at the Gala with a live auction of projects by Christie’s star auctioneer Rahul Kadakia raised over $130,000 in the course of ten minutes. These funds will enhance CHI’s efforts to bring technological learning and infrastructure to many more underserved children.
Funds were further raised by a rich array of silent auction items including a Souza artwork donated by the DAG Modern, a sumptuous vacation in the private Bulgari villa in Tuscany by Podernuovo A Palazzone, and Air India tickets.
The highlight of the evening remained children – and children helping children, as guests were introduced to CHI junior members, CH 2 and CH 3, young professionals and high school students in New York, who are actively fundraising to help less fortunate children get an education.