Children in Houston Awarded for Helping Children in India


(Back row, from left): Manjit Soni, Bimla Jain, Swatantra Jain, Asha Dhume, Tegh Thind, Ajeet Nagi, and Vikas Bahl. (Middle row, from left): Arrman Katarya, Ezra Douglas, Divya Khatri, and Sharron Thind. (Front row, from left): Yash Katarya, Neil Bose, and Aaryaa Joshi. Readers Not Pictured: Jay Semlani and Adrian Chew.

SUGAR LAND: On February 11, at the Madras Pavilion in Sugar Land, eleven children from the Houston area were recognized for helping children in India get a better education. How exactly were these local kids able to help children on the other side of the world? It is actually a lot simpler than you might think: They were participants in Pratham USA’s annual Readathon program.

Pratham USA aims to raise awareness and funds to support Pratham, one of India’s largest education non-profits focused on eradicating child illiteracy. Pratham USA hosts an annual Readathon program across the United States to encourage children to read with a purpose. Supporters sponsor the children as they read a target number of books to raise funds for Pratham’s mission of “Every Child in School and Learning Well.”


From left: Manjit Soni, Vaani Gupta, Swatantra Jain, and Divyesh Khatri.

The 2017 Readathon program spotlighted at this award ceremony ran from May to December and raised $3,151, according to Manjit Soni, the Pratham Readathon Mentor in the Houston Area. The online campaign sites show that Pratham USA Readathons raised $65,723 nationally in 2017, with the program generating $560,546 for Pratham’s mission since its inception in 2012.

The award ceremony was sponsored by Pratham USA’s Houston Chapter President, Asha Dhume, with Manjit Soni organizing the event. “Volunteering with Pratham has been very rewarding,” expressed Manjit Soni, as she shared about her background as a teacher.

Before the awards were presented, Vikas Bahl, a Pratham USA Director of Development, shared how Pratham develops low cost solutions that address gaps in the education system to improve learning outcomes and influence education policy. He stated that Pratham has reached over 50 million children since its inception in 1995.

Bahl also shared about Pratham’s vocational training program for young adults that boasts a 75% job placement rate for its participants. He added that Pratham’s Second Chance program helps young girls that have dropped out of school receive a second chance at getting an education, resulting in an impressive 85% pass rate.

Children closed the ceremony by singing “Happy Birthday” to Swatantra Jain, Pratham USA CFO and Houston Advisory Board member, after he presented the children with their awards. Jain then promised to match the children’s sponsorships dollar for dollar in 2018. He also encouraged the children to read double the amount of books they read in 2017 once the 2018 Readathon launches in May.

While any outside observer can see the positives to this initiative, the strongest cases are made by the ones closest to the program. “There is no friend as loyal as a book,” stated Vaani Gupta, a sophomore at Village High School and a volunteer with Pratham USA’s Readathon program. She chose this quote from Ernest Hemingway to express how books played an integral part of her life growing up as an only child.

One award recipient also shared her experience with the program: Hello, my name is Aaryaa Joshi. I am a fourth grader and a reader of Pratham USA Readathon. First and foremost I would like to thank Pratham and Ms. Manjit Soni for providing us such a wonderful platform. Reading is one of [my] favorite hobbies and what is more fun than pursuing your hobby for raising money [for] a good cause[?] It gives me immense pleasure to raise money for the underprivileged kids back in India. I would really appreciate it if each one of us can make sure that we influence our friends to participate in this program. Today I would like to raise a toast for all wonderful readers and the Pratham USA Program.

Let’s spread the word to make more Readathon readers in America, so we can ultimately make more readers in India too.

Article by Peace Cowen, Development Associate at Pratham USA