A Record $2.8 Million Raised by Pratham Houston to Curb Child-illiteracy in India!

Pratham Houston Board members and their spouses at the Pratham Houston Gala 2018 held on Saturday, May 12 at Hilton Americas in Downtown Houston. Standing: Dr. Randeep Suneja (left), Anil Shah, Brij Kathuria, Sagar Naik, Pankaj Dhume, Somesh Singh, Mehul Parikh, Dhamo Dhamotharan, and Shawn Karande. Sitting: Seema Suneja (left), Purnima Shah, Shital Patel, Annu Naik, Asha Dhume, Jyothi Singh, Dr. Sapna Singh, Seema Karande, and Rema Dhamodharan.

Pratham Houston Board members and their spouses at the Pratham Houston Gala 2018 held on Saturday, May 12 at Hilton Americas in Downtown Houston.
Standing: Dr. Randeep Suneja (left), Anil Shah, Brij Kathuria, Sagar Naik, Pankaj Dhume, Somesh Singh, Mehul Parikh, Dhamo Dhamotharan, and Shawn Karande.
Sitting: Seema Suneja (left), Purnima Shah, Shital Patel, Annu Naik, Asha Dhume, Jyothi Singh, Dr. Sapna Singh, Seema Karande, and Rema Dhamodharan. Photos: Bijay Dixit

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By Vanshika Vipin Varma

HOUSTON: Houston participated in one of its most resplendent events, the Pratham Houston Gala 2018 held on Saturday, May 12 at the spectacular Hilton Americas in Downtown Houston. One of the premier events of the local Indian – American social calendar, the gala celebration, attended by more than 900 people and a complete sell out, was a grand success with an amalgam of glam and truly heartfelt emotions.

Pratham, one of India’s largest education charities, has its presence in 23 of India’s 29 states, having its methods replicated in a dozen countries, including Mexico. The first US chapter was founded in Houston in 1999 by prominent Indian-American businessman and philanthropist Vijay Goradia, who was looking to make a difference back home. Last year, donors in the US contributed $20 million for Pratham’s mission to have “every child in school and learning well”. Through their noble act Pratham has affected the lives of more than 50 million underprivileged children in the past two decades. Pratham USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is a 5-star charity.  It is listed as one of the top ten charities in Houston by Charity Navigator, as mentioned in Houston Chronicle in November 2017.

Left: Pratham Ambassador & Bollywood Actress Waheeda Rehman & Pratham Houston President, Asha Dhume. Center: Gala Chairs & Pratham USA CFO Swatantra Jain and wife Bimla Jain with Pratham Ambassador & Bollywood actress Waheeda Rehman. Right: Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray with Pratham USA Chairman, Deepak Raj. Photos: Bijay Dixit

Gala Chairs & Pratham USA CFO Swatantra Jain and wife Bimla Jain with Pratham Ambassador & Bollywood actress Waheeda Rehman.

The evening began with National Anthems of United States and India, sung by Apoorva Das and Pooja Vettical. Co-emcees for the evening were LA-based Indian-American comedian and entertainer Rajiv Satyal, whose high-energy and unique brand of clean comedy was a hit with the multi-generational crowd and had everyone in titters throughout the evening and along with him was Bollywood actress and former Miss India Neha Dhupia.

Pratham in 5

Pratham Ambassador & Bollywood Actress Waheeda Rehman & Pratham Houston President, Asha Dhume.

Pratham Houston President, Asha Dhume welcomed the guests and thanked everyone for attending. She said, “ Pratham means first and I am truly humbled that so many of you chose Pratham first tonight and came here, your presence here means a lot to me and thank you from the bottom of my heart”. Citing the organization’s positive impact on “50 million underprivileged children in its 23-year history,” she encouraged audiences to donate generously and pointed out that in a country where nearly 100 million children cannot read or write, “there are many more mountains to climb”. She thanked Gala Chairs –  Swatantra and Bimla Jain, Gala Benefactors – Shawn and Seema Karande, Bhavesh and Shital Patel, and Gala Co-Chairs – Aravind and Mai Melligeri, Dhiren and Anila Shethia, and Chowdary and Angela Yalamanchili and also thanked everyone else for their donations and support. She thanked her team: Vice President Dr. Randeep Suneja, Mani Surkari, Dimple Kalani, Manasi Pendharkar, and Houston Board of Directors. She shared her heartfelt thanks for Vikas Bahl, Brij Kathuria, Simran Rihal, and Darel D’Souza and his team of most dedicated volunteers.

Pratham in 1

Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray with Pratham USA Chairman, Deepak Raj.

Veteran Bollywood actress Waheeda Rehman, graced the event as the guest of honor. She has also been the goodwill Ambassador of Pratham since early 2000. She said, “I am happy to see Pratham grow bigger and I also am very happy to see all of you here today”. Thanking the audience, she mentioned that she hoped they will continue to support Pratham. Her quick speech was followed by the Gala Chairs and Pratham Visionaries Swatantra Jain and wife Bimla Jain coming up to present the plaque to Waheeda Rehman as a token of appreciation. Jain complimented this by singing a couple of lines from the veteran’s famous movie Guide. He also complimented Asha Dhume for a successful gala.

Ganpat Luche, Former Pratham Vocational training student with Host & Bollywood star Neha Dhupia.

Ganpat Luche, Former Pratham Vocational training student with Host & Bollywood star Neha Dhupia.

Commending on the tremendous work being done by Pratham, Dr. Anupam Ray, Consul General of India, Houston stated, “Education will determine the speed at which India becomes a rich and powerful nation. I have myself seen the work Pratham does in India. Its activities have a huge positive impact and I am glad to be associated with it.” Deepak Raj, Pratham USA President presented a plaque to Dr. Ray as a token of appreciation. Dr. Rukmini Banerji, the Chief Executive Officer, Pratham Education Foundation in her speech said, “ I have been here many time and I am always impressed by the energy and warmth Houston gives us.” Elaborating on Pratham’s noble cause, she encouraged everyone to support the organization.

She was soon followed on stage by Neha Dhupia who introduced Ganpat Luche, Pratham’s vocational training program graduate, and one of  the millions of youth impacted by Pratham’s programs. At the age of 23, he earned Rs.1300, the equivalent of $35, a month doing odd jobs. After completing a course in hospitality with Pratham, Ganpat, now 29, takes home $800 a month as a waiter in Dubai and is saving to buy a piece of land in his village, where he plans to start his own restaurant. His closing words echoed the sentiment of the entire evening: “I ask you all to continue supporting Pratham and we, the youth of India, will not disappoint you,” leaving the audiences visibly moved.

Designer Tarun Tahiliani with models.

Designer Tarun Tahiliani with models.

While delectable dinner was served by Daawat catering, pledge drive was conducted by Dr. Sapna Singh and Mark Turner, while the charming and master at the art of auctioning, Dr. Subodh Bhuchar managed the live auction with Turner. The evening was bedazzled by a special attraction, a scintillating fashion show, choreographed by Simran Rihal that showcased stunning designs from world-renowned fashion designer, Tarun Tahiliani, leaving the audience mesmerized. The night closed with a beautiful dance performance by the very famous Rhythm India Dance Company founded by Artistic Director Arzan Gonda, shaking a leg to Piya Tose – a tribute to Waheeda Rehman and ended it with the latest songs Boom Diggy and Laila Mein Laila that got the crowd tapping their feet. At the end of program, Asha Dhume and Dr. Randeep Suneja thanked everyone for attending the program and for making it a great success.

For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, visit prathamusa.org or make a check payable to “Pratham USA” and mail it to Pratham USA, 9703 Richmond Ave, Suite 102, Houston TX 77042

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