Lifeline for Asian Women in Distress Makes Strides to Reach Many More

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Asha for Women president Priya Kulkarni explained how the charity has helped many women and children escape domestic abuse

By Jawahar Malhotra

FAIRFAX, VA:  As galas and fundraisers go, it was a more relaxed affair, light on speech making and performers but decidedly heavy on entertainment for the over 130 guests and volunteers who attended the ASHA for Women event this past Saturday evening, October 3 at the Stacy C. Sherwood Community Center.

The fundraiser that drew many supporters from across the Tri-State area concentrated on delivering a fun-filled Casino Night, a silent and live auction and a buffet dinner catered by Indique Heights from their catering kitchen in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This was in sharp contrast to the lavish four-station, multi-cuisine dinners of the past few years which was delivered by AFW corporate sponsor Sodexo. Instead, Sodexo chef Rajiv Jaggi was on hand (with his wife Pam and mother Karuna) and became part of the evening’s fundraising efforts.

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Longtime supporter Sheela Murthy ran the auction with wit and a little coaxing

Many first-time players were among those experienced ones who frequent casinos in Atlantic City or Vegas, trying their luck at the blackjack, poker and dice tables with vouchers they could exchange for chips and then convert back for additional chances at the raffle for an airline ticket to India. Shrieks of laughter and delight punctuated the air as novices learnt the ropes of gambling or simply stood as spectators hanging around the tables on one side of the spacious hall.  Many silent auction items lined the other side of the hall and were snapped up before the night was over.

The event help raise money for the 26-year-old charity that helps South Asian women who are victims of abuse by counselling and assisting them to get out of their abusive environment and take control of their lives.  AFW President Priya Kulkarni explained how, in 2014, the charity had received 314 emails and even more phone calls for help and in turn was able to assist 96 women and 60 kids out of abusive situations. “For women in a domestic abuse situation, it is not easy to be empowered,” said Kulkarni, noting that October is the Domestic Violence Awareness month.  “They have nowhere to go.” In response to this growing need, AFW now has three part-time employees and is searching for an advocate position, as well as for an office in Sterling, Virginia.


The guests and supporters were able to play at Casino night tables to raise money
Photos:Joleen Byrd of and Jawahar Malhotra

A short video clip entitled “Break the Silence, End the Violence” by Vasant Naik was shown to a hushed audience. Shot in a sharp contrast, blue and black closeup of a talking woman’s face, narrating her own tragic journey, disturbing statistics of abuse among Asian women were typed over as the 5 minute video played out. The local dance group Rhythmaya performed a medley of two dances set to Bollywood music.

The live auction was held by a long-time supporter of AFW, well-known immigration attorney Sheela Murthy, and wife of Naik, who was effusive about the work that the organization has done over the years. A tall and gregarious woman who both encouraged and delighted with her wit and humor, Naik explained how almost one in three women have suffered from some form of domestic abuse and how “even the Gods don’t mess with Asha for Women,” she joked. Talking about AFW’s tireless eight-member Board of Directors, she added “the Board works for zero cash, but for hundreds in your hearts!”

Murthy then began the live auction of four items, goading and coaxing many in the crowd to open up their hearts and raise the money for the charity. As an item got stuck at a low bid, Murthy joked, “Can’t let him get away with that so quick and cheap!” The fifth item was for the services of Chef Rajiv Jaggi to develop and cook for the winning bidders and much to everyone’s surprise and delight; four people bid $1,000 each for the chance to have him at an event of their choosing. Jaggi good-naturedly raised four fingers and said he would do all four events, adding, “It’s all for a good cause.” By the time the event was over, over $60,000 was raised for AFW.

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