Bayou City Shows its Big Heart for Children’s Rights in India

Patrick Bocco, Fundraising Manager CRY (left) and CRY Houston coordinator Dharam Bali with Bollywood actor, Abhay Deol at the fundraiser gala on Friday, May 4 in Sweetwater Country Club in Sugar Land. Photos: Murali Santhana

Patrick Bocco, Fundraising Manager CRY (left) and CRY Houston coordinator Dharam Bali with Bollywood actor, Abhay Deol at the fundraiser gala on Friday, May 4 in Sweetwater Country Club in Sugar Land. Photos: Murali Santhana

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By Jawahar Malhotra

SUGAR LAND: The evening was equal parts playful and high-stakes finance, which was just appropriate for an event that was to benefit underprivileged and often abused or neglected kids in India. After all, the funds that would be gathered in the fundraiser gala in Houston on Friday, May 4, would join with those collected in five other fundraisers across the US and help thousands of kids back in India.

Child Rights and You America, the fundraising arm of the Indian NGO, has earnestly been establishing its presence in the Metroplex with the dedicated work of a growing cadre of volunteers for whom this cause resonates with an urgency. Although it has been active with smaller events, CRY Houston has held two previous fundraisers, and the third on May 4 was held once again at the Sweetwater Country Club in Sugar Land. Previous fundraisers have featured Bollywood celebrities like Pooja Batra in 2016 and Arjun Rampal last year; and this year another Bollywood actor, Abhay Deol lent his name to the Houston gala, followed by two others in San Jose and San Diego.

CRY Houston team with friends and Bollywood actor, Abhay Deol.

CRY Houston team with friends and Bollywood actor, Abhay Deol.

As with the other celebrities, Deol was charming and approachable, standing politely for pictures with a line of fans and then gamely having dinner with others who paid to sit at his table. “This whole experience has been an eye opener for me,” the star said in brief remarks, “and I have learnt a lot of the work that CRY does.”

The evening was opened up by emcee Rashi Vats, a news anchor at Channel 26, FOX TV and was followed by the poignant video clip “Dreams Don’t Discriminate”. CRY America President Shefali Sunderlal, described the scope of the work of CRY and projects it supports in India, reaching 695,077 kids. “Ours is a three-legged stool model – influencing government policy, education in schools and health and nutrition,” she said. “We provide children protection from abuse and make them more confident.” Over 73 projects are supported by funds collected in the US.

CRY-in-1

Local supporters also made a pitch for funds. Ash Malhotra got everyone into a fun mood with a karaoke version of a Kishore Kumar song form the 50s, followed by an appeal from Lalitha and Niddhi Trehan who run two private schools in Gurgaon, India. “Education is the key out of poverty,” they emphasized. Juhi Ahuja spoke about her own childhood and “how lucky it feels to have parents and family that support you.” Oliver Rajamani, an Austin-based flamenco guitarist in the genre of the Gipsy Kings played several pieces with a dancer performing on the floor.

The fun started flowing when Subodh Bhuchar took to the mike and used his burgeoning auctioneering skills to raise thousands of dollars for collectibles like a guitar signed by Paul McCartney; a portrait photo signed by each of the Apollo 11 astronauts; a baseball signed by President Barack Obama and a black Darth Vader helmet signed by all of the Star Wars cast members, all of which were quickly and eagerly snapped up. Later, cajoling from CRY Houston coordinator Dharam Bali, brought in more pledges within 30 minutes for funds.

Dr. Rolee Singh, the Director of the Dr. Shambhunath Singh Research Foundation in Varanasi travelled to the US for the CRY fundraisers and, in Hindi, shared glimpses of her work on child marriage and child trafficking giving examples which sent chills through the audience. She spoke about her own life, getting married at age 15 and then getting protection from CRY, getting an education and working in the slums of Benares.

As the evening wrapped up with dinner prepared by the Country Club served at the table, people got onto the dance floor to dance to, among the first, the flamenco-inspired song “Seniorita” from Abhay Deol’s movie “Zindagi Na Milagi Dubara”, and the star playfully joined in.

Child Rights and You America Inc (CRY America) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that envisions a world in which all children have equal opportunities to develop to their full potential and realize their dreams. CRY America has impacted the lives of 695,077 children in 3,676 villages and slums through 73 Projects in India and USA.

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