Holiday Luncheon Brings Out the Fashionable Set at Pratham Fundraiser

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From left: Past Presidents Anil Shah and Vijay Bhuchar; Swatantra Jain, CFO Pratham USA & National Board member; Dr. Marie Goradia, outgoing President; Ash Shah, incoming President.
Photos: Deborah Wallace, Barfield Photography

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON:  In a rite of passage for its year-long activities, Partham, the international charity that educates and trains poor kids and young adults in India, held its annual Holiday Luncheon fundraiser and the fashionable crowd of Indo-Americans got a chance to not only mingle but show support with their checkbooks. The event, and the annual Gala held in April, are bookends to Pratham’s annual fundraising efforts in the Bayou City.

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From Left: Annu Naik, Co-Chair, Asha Dhume, Susan Boggio, Co-Chair, Dr. Marie Goradia, President, Pratham Houston, Dr. Sippi Khurana, Coi-Chair, Vikas Bahl, Pratham Director of Strategy & Development, Ash Shah, President Elect.

The event was once again held at the Junior League of Houston, in the Uptown Park area, and brought together a capacity crowd of nearly 300 to a sit down lunch where they got a chance to rub shoulders with some of the Indian community’s elite who are committed to philanthropy. And while the mostly female crowd connected with each other – there were perhaps only 15 percent males at the afternoon luncheon – they also had a chance to see products from a few vendors of beauty products.

Later, after lunch, they were presented with a fashion show of original designs by Sameera Faridi of Poshak Fashion & Style and – for the first time at Partham’s Holiday event – a selection of men’s fashions by Hector Villarreal, a co-owner of Lucho, a designer and manufacturer of Italian clothing for men. The models (from Neal Hamill agency) walked the runway after the guests had eaten lunch and were able to appreciate the designs as music pumped up the air.

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From Left: Susan Boggio, Co-Chair, Annu Naik, Co-Chair, Dr. Marie Goradia, President, Pratham Houston, Dr. Sippi Khurana, Co-Chair, Rekha Muddaraj, Reporter & Weekend Anchor, KHOU 11.

The program began with welcoming remarks by Rekha Muddaraj, the weekend anchor at Channel 11, KHOU TV, who was also the emcee, and an introduction of the outgoing Pratham President Dr. Marie Goradia who started off with a reference to the recent massacre in San Bernadino, California and the possible connection to ISIS. “I can only recall a quote from Nelson Mandela ‘Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world’,” Goradia said, launching into the central tenet of Pratham over the past 20 years to promote education.

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Dr. Marie Goradia with Anne Mendelsohn.

She spoke about how Pratham had soared from the first event it held in 1999, and now offered many programs to help the poor and illiterate. Its Read India program has used its innovative technique to reach 7.7 million kids and teach them to read letters in 2 months, short stories in 4 months and then rise to higher levels, able to finish school and start careers. Its innovative ASER survey to gauge children’s literacy levels is now used in other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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Manjit Soni, Vineeta Salvi, Sydney Dao

Goradia spoke about the Open School for Girls which allows young girls an opportunity to rise out of the cycle of dropping out of school, having children by the age of 18, poverty and violence. India is projected to have a very young population by 2020, with an average age of 29, who will need an education. In 2014, Pratham has collaborated with other industries – hospitals, automobiles firms and manufacturers – to place 15,000 young people in vocational programs.

She ended with an request to fill out pledge cards to raise funds for these programs, noting it would take only $25 per month to help these children, appealing for $20,000 to help launch a Women’s Beauty Entrepreneurship Program. A short video on Pratham’s activities over the past 20 years followed. As the event ended, the donors instead rewarded the effort by helping raise $170,000.

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Fashion show presented by Poshak and LUCHO

The keynote motivational speaker for afternoon, a trim Dr. Sandeep Shah, followed to speak about his passion for running and his involvement as a Pratham spokesman and volunteer since a teenager as the son of the past President of Pratham USA. He related his experience in running the Tahoe Rim Trail ultra-marathon of 101.6 miles this past July and how the pain of endurance almost brought him to quitting the race. “But I couldn’t! How could I explain to my daughter that Daddy quit?” he asked. Shah related this experience to that of poor kids in India who crave for an education and have a mountain to climb to get it. “Pratham has all the tools and now you need to make the effort to help it,” Shah concluded. Ragini Das, a freshman at The Village School, presented Shah with an award of appreciation.