2016 Gala: Daya Goes Over the Rainbow


The Honorable Parvathaneni Harish (left), Nandita Parvathaneni, Lakshmy Parameswaran, P. G. Parameswaran, Jayant Kabad and Kanchan Kabad.
Photographs by Enjoy the Moment Portraits.

By Anand Ramaswamy

HOUSTON: Consider yourself at home, consider yourself part of the family…

Thus began the program celebrating Daya Houston’s 20th Anniversary of empowering South Asian women, their children and families to break the cycle of domestic and sexual violence and reclaim their lives. Beautifully sung by HSPVA’s Sara Trogdon, and accompanied on the piano by Haeyun Lee, Daya transported its guests Over the Rainbow for lunch and a retrospective honoring two decades of working towards its vision of building a South Asian community in Houston and beyond, free from family violence.

The Junior League of Houston’s opulent ballroom was transformed into the Wizard of Oz’s Emerald City, and guests were greeted by Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Wicked Witch of the West and enjoyed a festive afternoon of lunch, musical performances and powerful speeches that were both moving and motivating.

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Guests with regular residents of Oz.

When Daya was founded in 1996, not only was it the first organization to address family violence in Houston’s south Asian community, its inception also revealed the existence and shocking frequency of violence in this small immigrant population. This acknowledgement was the monumental first step in replacing stigma and shame with responsibility and hope.

In addition to its client services of counseling, advocacy and case management, Daya’s annual seminars on sensitive subjects like bridging the cultural divide, drug addiction and depression show Daya’s commitment to broadening minds and strengthening communities.
Daya has helped thousands of clients rebuild their lives and as founding member, Lakshmy Parameswaran says: “Building stronger families, creates a stronger community, which ultimately makes us a better society.”

After welcoming the guests, Daya’s President Sesh Bala shared, “Most aptly, the gala theme this 20th year is the Wizard of Oz. In that story, The Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tinman seeks a heart, and the Lion yearns for courage. Daya’s story too, involves the unfolding of mind, heart and courage. Let us first look at the brain, or rather the wisdom, of the founders of Daya.”

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Guests enjoy the gala.

After a video tribute, Bala welcomed two of its founding members—Parameswaran and Viji Raman—to take the stage and accept a token of gratitude for their vision, commitment and humanity.

Guests were then treated to a powerful speech by the Honorable Parvathaneni Harish, Consul General of India, who attended the gala with his wife Nandita. He spoke at length about the need and importance of Daya’s services and saluted the organization for its continued growth despite the economic challenges which can critically contract charitable giving. “Daya’s uninterrupted development and expansion,” he said, “is a testament to how essential Daya’s work has become and the community’s recognition of its immeasurable value to our society.”

“What has kept the unstoppable heart of Daya beating for two decades is the generosity and support of individuals like you,” said gala co-chair Fatima Mohiuddin gesturing toward the capacity-filled ballroom. The “heart” came to the forefront as a new fundraising initiative, the Yellow Brick Project, was announced.

Mohiuddin continued, “ We are asking donors to purchase a yellow (or for a larger contribution silver or gold) brick and inscribe it with your name or a message of hope. Each brick purchased makes it possible to provide a client with necessities like groceries or medical insurance. A larger gift could cover a month’s rent, giving a client – often for the first time in a – safe and secure home.”

In addition to the $125,000 raised through table and individual ticket sales, the Yellow Brick Project raised $38,000 and continues to pave the road to the future at dayahouston.org.

After a moving performance of Over the Rainbow by Sara and Haeyun, a first-hand account of Daya’s brand of courage was shared. Introduced by Annu Rao Naik, “Our client’s story is one of determination, resilience and of course, so….much…courage.”

“I stand in front of you as a woman, a mother, and a successful professional, but most of all I stand before you as a proud Daya Client.  Daya gave me the tools to be who I am and where I am today,” the client began. Despite incredible hardships and physical and emotional abuse, her courage prevailed. She concluded “Today I stand here, an individual with respect and dignity. Daya gave me the courage to break the cycle of domestic violence and rebuild my life.
Wisdom. Heart. Courage..Daya.