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Pratham Gala Raises $1.2 Million for Literacy in India

Access to education, Finances & Budgets, Global news, US

HOUSTON: Elegance and philanthropy were the hallmarks of the Pratham-Houston Gala 2012 when over 800 from this city’s diverse communities gathered at the Hilton Americas Hotel on April 21, to support the non-profit grass-roots organization’s literacy programs in India. The event themed We Are One World, chaired by Dr. Marie Goradia and Medha Karve, raised an unprecedented $1.2 million that will help educate over 60,000 underprivileged children and further Pratham’s vision of Every Child in School and Learning Well.

Following a cocktail reception, Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening Meena Datt welcomed guests and lauded their spirit of humanitarianism. President of Pratham-Houston Swatantra Jain told gatherees of the organization’s odyssey from humble beginnings in the slums of Mumbai in 1994, to its indomitable presence in 21 states and 42 cities in India today.

“Pratham is recognized for three important aspects of its work, said Jain. “First is the scale on which we work and second is the low costs with which we achieve this. The third aspect is our ability to innovate and grow. I am happy to share with you that Global Journal recently listed Pratham as the 22nd NGO among 100 best NGOS in the world. Today the organization continues to expand both geographically and in terms of the scope of work it undertakes,” Jain added.

He invited guests to visit Pratham programs in India to witness firsthand, how it impacts the lives of the children there. He also extolled Pratham India founders Dr. Madhav Chavan and Farida Lambhay, and Pratham USA founder Vijay Goradia as visionaries.

Keynote speaker for the event was Ajay Bhanga, President and CEO of MasterCard worldwide. He commended Pratham for making education a priority.

“It’s vital to our future and I agree with Pratham that it is a human right,” said Bhanga. He discussed India’s trajectory and the challenges, both present and future, and why education is so critical at this time in strengthening India’s global competitiveness and domestic economy.

“Everyone knows that India and Indians have made amazing strides in a relatively short period of time. Just look around the room and you’ll see a who’s who of first generation Indian success,” said Bhanga. But, he added, more than half of India’s population lives in poverty, malnutrition is rife, healthcare is poor, and 128 million Indians lack access to safe water. He pointed out that education is in dire straits, academic resources are scarce, there is child labor, a lack of teachers, and that more parental involvement is essential. The country’s infrastructure is under-developed, roads abysmal, there is a waste management problem, and the corruption and red tape impede India’s progress.

“Education has to align with vocational skills, and the workforce needs to be better prepared and critical thinking, comprehension, and social skills have to be reinforced for a strong stable India,” said Bhanga. “Pratham is breaking the cycle for the most vulnerable and uplifting prospects of millions who hold India’s future in their hands. Pratham takes a multi-dimensional, holistic approach to improving education and literacy, it recognizes that you can’t successfully teach children without addressing the root problems I just mentioned,” added Bhanga.

Dr. Rukmini Banerji, Director of Pratham Programs, gave the audience an update on the many innovative ways that Pratham has since impacted 33 million lives through Read India, the Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children, the ASER Centre that evaluates the status of elementary education in India, and the Pratham Institute that offers vocational training programs to young adults.

Dr. Subodh Bhuchar served as auctioneer for the evening and attendees bid enthusiastically for items sponsored by Easy Tours and Karat 22. During dinner guests enjoyed entertainment by the Fred Astaire Dance Studio and NAACH Houston Inc.

Indo American News, 26 April 2012

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