By: Geeta Goindi
VIENNA, VA, Sept. 8 – At a gala benefit organized by the Sikh Human Development Foundation, Saturday evening, over $150,000 was raised along with sponsorships for 229 new scholarships - all benefitting needy students striving to procure a higher professional education in Punjab and neighboring Indian states.
It was an impressive show of strength, unity and philanthropy as over 600 people packed the ballroom of the Sheraton Premiere in Tysons Corner for the express purpose of supporting SHDF’s mission to provide need-based scholarships. At the helm of the event were Chairman of the Foundation, Mr. Amar Jit Singh Sodhi, and community outreach member Dr. Rajwant Singh. Well known television talk show host and producer Gurmeet Sodhi served as the emcee. A good number of volunteers contributed to the success of the gala including Ripi Kohli Chhabra, Reena Nagra, Reba Kohli Maharaj, Sunny Malhi, Harjot Goraya and Harpreet Kaur.
In a special message commending the efforts of SHDF, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh stated: “I have learnt with great pleasure about the valuable work being done by the Sikh Human Development Foundation in Washington. We are living in a world where human knowledge, particularly scientific and technological knowledge, has become a major source of power and wealth of nations. It is therefore, of utmost importance that our children are empowered through education to operate on the frontiers of human knowledge. Your Foundation, dedicated as it is to poverty alleviation, lays particular emphasis on the grant of scholarships to needy students for higher education. Your efforts to assist students in Gujarat after the earthquake in 2001 is also praiseworthy”.
The Indian leader hoped members of the Foundation will be able to raise sufficient funds to implement their “noble mission which is based on the Sikh principle of ‘Seva’ (service) and thereby render service to humanity without expecting any reward in return”.
Applauding SHDF at the gala here, chief guest and philanthropist Dr. Harshivinderjit Singh Bains, in a surprise move, pledged to donate $75,000 if the Foundation could raise an equivalent amount that evening. It was quite a sight: heartwarming, to say the least! A good number of people stepped forward and pledged amounts of $2,500 and $5,000, easily exceeding the benchmark. The grand total raised that night was $150,000 in funds plus the sponsorship of 229 new scholarships. One can surely take a cue from the fund-raising efforts of this organization!
Looking around the packed ballroom, Gurmeet noted, “We all know that it is not an easy task to come together for a charity event. It’s one of the most difficult events to host and one of the most difficult events to prepare for”. As such, success is even sweeter!
At the gala, the spotlight was on the Young Khalsa Girls (YKG). All of 10 years old, these kids founded YKG last Sunday, beginning with two girls, growing to four, then eleven by week’s end. The young activists raised $5,000 in five days which will support 13 needy students in Punjab. They got a well deserved standing ovation for their creditable efforts.
Leena Ahuja, coordinator of the group, told us that the idea of forming YKG originated over a girls’ sleep-over. “Before we knew it, they wanted to make a difference”, Leena said. Four young activists - Ishar Chhabra, Preetam Bhutani, Saachi Singh and Tarina Ahuja - wrote a letter requesting friends, neighbors, acquaintances to support SHDF’s mission. At the time of going to press, we learnt that YKG has raised $17,500 for 35 scholarships.
Regarding the program, Gurmeet requested a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims and those affected by the shootings at the Gurudwara in Wisconsin. The opening act was in true Punjabi style - Gidha by Dhiyan Punjab Diyan, a group which combines ‘Boliyan’ (couplets sung in Punjabi) with this fast-paced dance form. The audience was also treated to a special performance by Sarbjit Cheema who sang Punjabi songs accompanied by a band.
In opening remarks, Mr. Sodhi told the gathering, “Twelve years ago, we started with a dream of empowering youth in Punjab via education. Thanks to the generosity of our community, we have awarded nearly 2,400 scholarships at a cost of $1 million”, he said, to much applause. The Chairman pointed out that many of the beneficiaries are now working in multinational corporations, earning salaries which are ten-fold higher than that of their parents.
For more information about SHDF, readers should go to www.shdf.org