Save A Mother Gala Raises Awareness and Much Needed Funds

SAM Board members on stage after the program with president Veena Kaul (third from left)            Photo: Roberto Morales

SAM Board members on stage after the program with president Veena Kaul (third from left) Photo: Roberto Morales

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By Manu Shah

“Mera paas bangla hai, gadi hai, daulat hai…..tumhare paas kya hai”

“Mera paas maa hai”

HOUSTON: For a country whose movies are replete with dialogues like these, a chilling fact is that a mother-to-be dies every 10 minutes in rural India.  And the reason is even more disturbing – a sorry lack of basic health awareness and literacy. It is precisely to address and remedy this that Save a Mother, a non-profit organization was conceived by Dr. Shiban Ganju, a gastroenterologist based in Chicago and the local chapter of which is headed by Veena Kaul.

Kaul isn’t new to community service having been actively engaged in various charitable organizations like the Indo American Charity Foundation, Pratham and Friends Helping Friends.  Her interaction with several like minded people encouraged her to take on the charitable cause that her brother Shiban founded.   Having been through two miscarriages, pregnancy complications and two C sections, Veena could instantly empathize with the pain and grief that sometimes comes with childbirth.  She strongly believes that many of the things we tend to take for granted don’t even exist for several underprivileged people and with SAM, she could help them and be a part of something that is meaningful.

Dr. Shiban Ganju

Dr. Shiban Ganju

SAM has been holding a fundraising gala every year for the past 4 years to raise much needed funds and this year was no exception with friends, relatives and total strangers gathering at Le Virage on the Westside on May 10, for its 5th fundraising gala.

The day was not without its fair share of snags.  The afternoon saw the mother of all downpours but someone up there must have heard Kaul’s prayers and the deluge stopped for a few hours just enough for the evening to go smoothly as if the Gods were anxious to help with a good cause!

The evening began with a warm welcome by emcees Seema Khachru and Sangeeta Pasrija. A brief overview of the work done by the organization was outlined and this was taken up in depth by Dr. Rupa Iyer and Dr. Ganju. The concept, as explained, is to provide a simple and sustainable health module to mothers in rural India to ensure a healthy motherhood.  Health activists are trained and sent to different villages where they educate a mother on different aspects of pregnancy and childcare through the medium of flip charts and songs as well as provide for  free antenatal checkups. SAM has so far covered 1,000 villages with plans to initiate a much needed TB control program.

In a heartwarming statement that evoked cheers, Dr. Ganju mentioned that in the last three years, there has been a significant reduction in maternal mortality rates. The program proved to be so successful that it was picked up by UNICEF and the Gates Foundation.  A surprising fact that emerged was that it cost a mere $100 per village per year to run this program!

The highlight of the evening – the fundraising, was kicked off by Girija Patel and Priti Singh. They asked the gathering to take a long sip of water.  While most assumed  this was a way to coax them out of vast sums of money, it turned out to be a clever ploy to highlight the reason for this year’s fundraiser – it would help pay for three water treatment plants which would provide clean drinking water for a fraction of the cost to pregnant mothers.  Donations flew in from all corners of the hall and within a matter of 15 minutes, the tally rose to $18,000. This includes Dr. Ganju’s donation of $5,000. The final amount from contributions to the event was $65,000.

Two group dances by the students of the Shingari School of Rhythm and a fashion show showcasing the sartorial designs of Seema Khan provided the entertainment for the evening.

An event can only be possible and successful with team effort and community support and this point was stressed by Veena Kaul in her vote of thanks. A huge helping hand was given by Surender Talwar, founder of Event Group, in organizing this event.

Dinner catered by Le Virage was followed by dancing where the DJ worked up the gathering to shake a leg with him on the dance floor to popular Bollywood chartbusters. Few could resist this end to a highly successful evening.

For more information or to make a donation, please visit SAM’s website