In Constrained Times, Pratham Gala Shows Limitless Learning












HOUSTON: Many charities around the world have been hard hit by the constraints forced the novel corona virus on participation by their members and supporters. While others have turned to the Zoom platform to reach out, it has severe limitations in size and the ability to hold the attention and dialogue of many of those who log in, let alone hundreds. But some non-profits have put their innovative minds together and come up with ideas on how to make the best of this adverse situation.

Pratham CEO Dr. Rukhmini Banerji welcomed the online audience to the event and explained Prathams vision for online learning.

The Pratham Gala 2020 was one of the premier charities which went entirely online last Saturday, July 18 evening for an hour and the presentation was one that kept the audience’s attention with it’s message mixed with Bollywood style entertainment. Testimonials from donors, Nobel Prize winners, Pratham alumni since grown and working and yesteryear Bollywood actress Waheeda Rehman kept the online audience engaged.

The gala was entitled “Pratham Beyond: Make Learning Limitless” and was held through the Mobile Cause app which people had to register through at no cost. With all large gatherings in the US on hold, Pratham turned to its first ever virtual gala that allowed people from all 13 national chapters to participate. More than 1,100 people took part in Pratham’s first National Virtual Gala, many logging in from across the US and even India, UK and the Middle East. The gala raised $2 million to provide funding for remote learning for 600,000 children in India.

Bala Venkatachalam, Pratham USA, Executive Director spoke about;the economic impact of COVID on Pratham.

The Virtual Gala was co-emceed by Sree Sreenivasan, Advisor to Pratham who introduced the featured speakers. Pratham CEO Dr. Rukhmini Banerji welcomed the online audience to the event and explained Pratham vision for online learning. Guest speaker, noted Indian journalist Fareed Zakaria, a CNN host, Washington Post columnist and Pratham board member spoke about how the confidence instilled through education was a huge force in life.

Bollywood filmstar and producer Anil Kapoor reached out to the audience from his home in Mumbai and entreated them to start donating by gesturing to “press on that button” and even sang a spontaneously devised Hindi couplet to get people motivated. The donations started rolling in and could be seen on the side panel by name and amounts.

Video clip testimonials from Nobel Laureate Ester Dufo added to Pratham’s unique approach to provide learning for every child. A longer clip entitled “Back on their feet – Pratham Alumni after the lock-down” showed Dr. Madhav Chavan, Pratham co-founder, speaking with five alumni from Pratham’s vocational training programs and the heartwarming stories of success in their career pursuits. Adding to the testimonials was an audiotaped phone conversation between veteran Bollywood actress Waheeda Rehman, who is the Ambassador of Pratham, on her passion for videogames, music and quest for learning.

From his home in Mumbai, Bollywood actor & producer; Anil Kapoor, encouraged everyone to donate generously.

The virtual Gala was made more entertaining by Bollywood singer, lyricist and composer Shaan who, in between, performed several of his popular songs from Mumbai.

The gala came to an end with Pratham USA, Executive Director Bala Venkatachalam, who explained that COVID had affected Pratham not only by cancelling all in-person galas, but also reducing the year-round donations in the US which has led to a funding gap of $10 million. Before this virtual event, $5 million was raised through accelerated donations from leadership donors across the US. After the totals were tallied, the gala itself was able to raise another $2 million.

From his studio in Mumbai, Singer, Lyricist and Composer Shaan;performed several of his popular songs.