By Prakash Waghmare
Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation’s (‘EVF’) glittering ‘Gala’ on Saturday, Nov. 4 at the majestic ‘Cipriani’ on Wall Street in New York City was a grand success. The response for this highly anticipated event was simply overwhelming, not only in terms of capacity-attendance, but also donor’s enthusiasm to support EVF’s worthy cause. The evening raised more than $2 Million. ‘Ekal’ as ‘EVF’ is popularly known, had been raising funds in USA through series of concerts mainly directed at grass-root level, until now.
This gala was an added innovative effort to reach out to the Corporate world and high net-worth individuals and bring mainstream America into its fold. This impeccably organized spectacular evening’s main architect was Mohan Wanchoo (Chairman, Founder of EC Infosystems). He was ably supported in this affair by Chirag Patel (CO-CEO & Chairman of ‘Amneal Pharmaceuticals’), Soner Kanlier (CEO Jasmine Universe) and Rajesh Gooty (Founder, Pres.-CEO of M Corp). Since its inception 29 years ago, Ekal had been setting new records, year after year in fund-raising.
Last year, even without any high-end gala event, this largest NGO, with chapters in ten different countries including in Middle-eastern countries, raised $7.2 Million in USA alone. The evening started with the salutation to American and Indian flags with national anthems on the big screen. Welcoming the guests, Mohan Wanchoo, briefed the gathering about Ekal’s multi-dimensional approach to uplift rural and tribal areas of India through emphasis on literacy, healthcare, integrated village development and empowerment of village folks. He informed the gathering that Ekal currently has 58,000 schools, spread all over India supporting 1.56 Million children – more than half of which were girls. He further stressed that the project cost, including administration and monitoring was only $1-a-day or $365 per year per school.
Chirag Patel thanked all the teachers working at grass-root level in India and imparting life-sustaining education to the children facing various hurdles. Vinod Jhunjhunwala, the President of Ekal-USA paid tribute to Ekal leadership in USA as well Ekal-India team, which had flown in specially for this occasion. Under Ekal-USA leadership Ashok Danda, Subhash Gupta, Ranjani Saigal and Ramesh Shah were acknowledged while for Ekal-India Dr Subhash Chandra, Bajrang Bagra, Laxmi Goel, and Naresh Jain were recognized.
Ranjani Saigal, the Executive Director touched on the whole range of Ekal mission in remote areas through couple of brief ‘reality videos’ that also depicted use of digital technology, organic farming, and skill-training centers which are empowering rural life.
Mitzi Perdue, the heiress to ‘Sheraton Hotel chain’ and ‘Perdue Poultry Farms’, was one of the keynote speakers of the evening along with Dr. Subhash Chandra, Chairman of ZEE-TV and Chairman of Ekal-Global. Ms. Perdue, regaled the audience with three heartwarming stories about Ekal, that also reflected the importance of education for better achievements in life. Her speech enthused so many people that live mission-based auction for raising funds had a jump start with pledging process reaching one million mark within first 15 minutes.
Three generous donors – Chirag Patel, Ajay/Ranjini Poddar, Sant Singh Chatwal – each donated $250,000 each. There was amazing synergy and excitement during the pledging process – so much so that it was hard to keep the tab on all auction ’paddle-cards’. The frenzy to give donations was simply astonishing. Dr. Subhash Chandra, praised Mohan Wanchoo and Chirag Patel for putting up the magnificent fund-raising show and challenged economically blessed group of people to shoulder responsibility of those in need.
Lauding the generosity of big donors, he further elaborated that numerous small donors were equally important as they had larger stake in building any Nation by their sheer number. The evening was interspersed with fabulous Indian dances. With this awesome success, Ekal plans to make such ‘Galas’ an annual affair going forward and host them at various Metropolitan places like LA, Chicago, and Houston.