“Sold Out” Daya Gala 2015 Raises $175,000 for Families in Crisis

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Daya board members and staff (from left) Shazma Matin, Sesh Bala, Fatima Mohiuddin, Devika Ramachandani, Vatsala Bhaskaran, Saima Toppa, Abhilasha Raj, Vyoma Majmudar-Banker, Nusrat Ameen, Annu Rao Naik, Charu Verma, Anita Manoharan, Sheela Rao, Viji Raman, Shaila Patel, Jyoti Kulkarni, Chitra Divakurni, Lakshmy Parameswaran. Not pictured: Dinesh Pejawar, Indrani Goradia, Nandita Harish, Raji Aiyer, Stuti Patel Trehan.

HOUSTON: It is gratifying to see an organization, dedicated to eradicating our society’s greatest afflictions, gain in strength and community support.

Daya has been helping South Asian victims of domestic and sexual violence since 1996. Its annual fund raising galas have continued to grow in popularity. The Daya 2015 gala, held Friday, March 27, was sold out 10 days prior to the event.

Set up as a luncheon at the Junior League, the gala drew more than 400 donors and well wishers from the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi community, enjoying a live flamenco performance by Cuadro La Tempestad and Spanish influenced cuisine, while witnessing the significant role Daya has played in changing the lives of hundreds of survivors of domestic and sexual violence in the community.

Special guests at the gala included Indian Consul General Honorable P. Harish and his wife Nandita, who serves on Daya’s advisory board. Emmy Award-winning journalist Rachel McNeill from KPRC Channel 2 served as the emcee for the event.

President Jyoti Kulkarni welcomed the gathering with a passionate plea for community support. “Daya’s programs are funded through a variety of sources such as grants and contributions from the community,” Jyoti explained. “You may ask why not finance these activities through only grants. The fact is that your support is vital to our organization as all the foundations specifically look for community support before approving their grants.”

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Indian Consul General P. Harish praised
Daya’s programs and vowed
his office’s continued support.

Jyoti also emphasized that Daya is a local charity. “Daya helps families in the Houston area. By helping Daya’s cause, you are helping to create a better local community.”

India’s Consul General in Houston, Hon. P. Harish, praised Daya’s activities over the two decades and pledged the CG’s office support in achieving the fine balance in helping the victims and supporting families within the legal frameworks of the U.S. and India.

Award winning author, poet and activist Chitra Benerjee Divakurni who is a member of Daya’s advisory board presented an overview of Daya, highlighting the culture-sensitive services and programs that the agency offers to the clients and the community-at-large. A typical South Asian woman who seeks Daya’s help is around age 35, educated and married to a professional. Daya offers its clients individual and family counseling, long term case management, legal clinic and advocacy, housing assistance, translation services, skills building classes and limited financial assistance. In 2014, Daya received over 6,000 calls on its help-line, translating into 337 clients served, a majority of them residing in Harris and Fort Bend counties. Geographically, 40% of Daya’s clients are of Indian origin, 18% from Pakistan, 6% from Bangladesh and the rest coming from other countries in and near South Asia.

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Daya President Jyoti Kulkarni made
a passionate plea for community support
as a means of garnering more grants.

The highlight of each year’s gala  are testimonials from Daya’s clients
“Daya has played a major role in my health and establishing a career…because of Daya and my family I am standing here in front of you all, happy and healthy,” a powerful statement made by Asha (not her real name), a Daya client and survivor of domestic violence who bravely shared her story of spousal and in-law abuse.

Asha’s courageous and empowering journey was an inspiration to the capacity crowd in attendance and a testimonial to Daya’s mission to end domestic and sexual violence against South Asian women.

According to recent studies, 38% of South Asian women have experienced domestic violence in the past year, with 27% experiencing physical abuse and 33%, sexual abuse. In addition, in-law abuse and immigration abuse are prevalent and unique to the South Asian community, and occurs not only in a joint family situation but also in cases where in-laws monitor the actions of their daughters-in-law via Skype from a continent away.  Immigration abuse is the withholding of green card, work permit or passport by the abusive spouse or in-laws.

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Board member and novelist Chitra Divakaruni
explained Daya’s current activities
and future plans.

The bulk of Daya’s work is managed by four full time staff members and aided by an active board of directors and a dedicated advisory board and a volunteer core.

In 2014, Daya received a federal grant from the Department of Justice – Office of Violence against Women. The Houston Endowment, George Foundation, Simmons Foundation and Indo-American Charity Foundation also provide grant monies to Daya. The OVW grant supports Daya’s direct services and outreach programs, as well as sexual assault tracking and intervention.

Daya works with various agencies throughout the Houston metroplex, including Houston Area Women’s Center, Houston Police Department,  and sheriff’s departments and county attorney offices at Montgomery County, and Fort Bend County.

Due in large part to the hard work of gala co-chairs Annu Naik and Fatima Mohiuddin and the generosity of Houston donors, the event exceeded its goal by raising $175,000.

Nineteen years after founding Daya, Lakshmy Parameswaran summed up her emotions at the gala, “I was very moved to see the Junior League filled with people because it was an indication of the new height that Daya has reached. I was reminded of the initial struggles in getting our community to support us in this cause of domestic violence. Today’s crowd proved that the community has our back and it felt good.”

For additional information, visit dayahouston.org.