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Daya 2018 Gala Raises Record $300,000 for South Asian Victims of Domestic Violence

Daya Board Members with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy at Daya’s annual gala held on Saturday, April 7 at the Westside Omni Hotel. Photos: Jibreel Photography

Daya Board Members with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy at Daya’s
annual gala held on Saturday, April 7 at the Westside Omni Hotel.
Photos: Jibreel Photography

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HOUSTON: Despite the recent rise in women’s empowerment and the emergence of the #MeToo movement, South Asian women in Houston remain vulnerable as victims of domestic violence. Now in 22nd year, Daya empowers South Asian survivors who are trying to break the cycle of domestic and sexual violence and reclaim their lives. Daya empowers these survivors by offering counseling and advocacy, and promoting community awareness.

Daya staff and volunteers greet attendees as they arrive.

Daya staff and volunteers greet attendees as they arrive.

Daya’s annual gala was held last Saturday, April 7 at the Westside Omni hotel under the theme, Bloom: Gala of Giving. Co-chaired by Daya President-Elect, Fatima Mohiuddin and Board Member, Annu Naik, the gala raised a record $300,000. As a result of increased outreach by Honorary Event Chairs Aparna Asthana, Tehmina Masud and Vanitha Pothuri, this year’s gala welcomed over 650 diverse community members, the largest in Daya’s history.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, keynote speaker, an activist filmmaker with two Academy awards to her credit.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, keynote speaker, an activist filmmaker with two Academy awards to her credit.

Over 65 tables filled the room, topped with floral centerpieces by Curtis Matheaus. Against this enchanting floral backdrop, the program was kicked off by the emcee, KTRK TV’s Pooja Lodhia. The gala featured keynote speaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, an activist filmmaker with two Academy awards to her credit.

Daya Board President Sheela Rao with Houston Mayor Pro Temp, Ellen Cohen

Daya Board President Sheela Rao with Houston Mayor Pro Temp, Ellen Cohen

Daya Board President Sheela Rao took the stage to welcome the audience and acknowledged the outstanding efforts of the staff, board members, advisory board members, and volunteers that make up the Daya family. Rao gave special thanks to Daya’s shelter, legal, and law enforcement partners. Rao then welcomed Houston Mayor Pro Temp, Ellen Cohen, to the stage, who read an official proclamation from the Mayor’s Office, naming April 7 as “Daya Day” in Houston.

Daya in 2

Executive Director, Rachna Khare then spoke of Daya’s tremendous growth in 2017. “This year alone, Khare said, “Daya supported 394 clients of domestic and sexual violence with confidential, culturally sensitive, services including mental health care, case management, legal assistance, employment coaching, housing, and childcare.”

Khare applauded the work of the community in addressing the stigmas of domestic violence, but challenged the audience to create a more supportive space for survivors. She then introduced a Daya client, who spoke honestly and passionately about her abusive marriage and how she relied on Daya for safety, emotional support, education, legal assistance, and counseling. Met by a standing ovation, the client ended her emotional speech by extending her gratitude to Daya for bringing safety to her and her young son’s life.

President Elect, Fatima Mohiuddin then took the stage to illustrate how community donations impact the life of a survivor. “For $500, donors can provide a Start Up Kit that gives families essential items as they rebuild their lives. A donation of $1,000 provides six months of trauma-based professional counseling, $2,500 gives a legal retainer for immigration and family law cases, and $10,000 provides an year of rental assistance.”

After dinner, Obaid-Chinoy took the stage. Through a video montage created by Daya’s Event Specialist, Anand Ramaswamy, the audience was given an introduction into Obaid-Chinoy’s life’s work in giving voice to vulnerable populations around the world. Her Oscar-winning documentaries are Saving Face, a story of the victim’s acid attacks, and A Girl in River: The Price of Forgiveness, explains how a woman in Pakistan sentenced to death for falling in love becomes a rare survivor of the harsh judicial system.

Obaid-Chinoy spoke passionately about standing up against injustices, the power of film, and the need for men to help end violence against women. She described stories about the support she received from her father and how his influence made her the activist she is today. Obaid-Chinoy ended her inspirational speech of courage and social justice by urging the audience to help Daya meet its goal of $300,000 and was met by resounding applause.

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