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Pratham Gala Raises $700,000 to Benefit Literacy in India


By Kalyani Giri

Over 600 from a cross section of this city™s diverse communities gathered at the Pratham Houston Gala 2011 and helped raise $700, 000 to benefit literacy in India. The event, held at the Westin Galleria on the evening of April 23, illumined the non-profit organization™s crucial role in arming millions of children in rural and urban areas of India with an education that would help them escape the grim cycle of poverty and exploitation. Pratham, a recent recipient of the prestigious 2011 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, was fêted for its innovative approach to education; the award comes with three-year $1,235,000 grant from the Skoll Foundation to create an institution dedicated to identifying, training, and nurturing leaders and managers who will continue to further Pratham programs and strengthen efforts in education in India.  Pratham, started in the slums of Mumbai in 1994 by its prolific founder Madhav Chavan, operates under the dictum of every child in school and learning well and has garnered a global support system of generous aficionados that embrace the organization™s vision.

I™m often asked why I became involved with Pratham and the reason is quite simple. Education is the greatest equalizer, said Sonu Anand, President of Pratham Houston. In 2007, I visited Pratham schools in Bhopal and was greatly inspired by these kids. They were all eager to become doctors, engineers, and teachers. A very vivacious little girl Pooja, wanted to become a pilot. The light in their eyes and smiles on their faces was enough to keep one committed to working towards our goal, Anand told the capacity audience at the gala. Primary education for one child for an entire year of school costs $25,00. In addition Pratham has started several accelerated programs in science, technology, and English. Pratham since inception has touched the lives of over 40 million children across 21 of India™s 28 states, said Anand. She thanked Gala Chairs Medha Karve and Somesh Singh for an event well-executed, and recognized Honorary Gala Chairs John and Ann Montgomery who are Founder /CEO of Bridgeway Capital Foundation, and Bridgeway Board Member respectively, who have supported Pratham since 2008.

Pratham Houston President Sonu Anand receiving an award from Swatantra Jain, President elect. Photo: Jenny Antill

A cocktail reception preceding the event saw many longtime and new supporters of Pratham thronging the foyer. The gala began with the traditional lighting of the lamps by Mayor of Houston Annise Parker and Ann Montgomery, who were invited onstage by Mistress and Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Meena Datt and Rishi Reddy. The event was replete with a fashion show with models strutting the runway in confections created by local designers in the ilk of Carmaa Boutique, M.A.B.Y. USA, Kohinoor Diamonds, Poshak Fashion and Style, and Ardhni. The live auction that followed had Dr. Subhodh Bhuchar wielding the auctioneer™s gavel that decided the fate of a Lladro figurine, weekend and four-day get-aways, Sonu Nigam concert tickets, catered dinners at upscale restaurants, dazzling jewelry, to name but a few.

President Elect of Pratham, Swatantra Jain, outlined his plans for his year at the helm of the organization and pledged to keep the light trained on the underprivileged children of India through energetic and focused fundraising.

The volunteer-driven Pratham programs are low in cost and high in impact. The Read India program cultivates a love of reading and has become a nationwide movement reaching 34 million children across 19 states. Pratham has trained 448,000 volunteers and 605,000 teachers. About 700, 000 children in 16,000 villages tested by Pratham™s Annual Status of Education Report has spurred the Indian government into recognizing the high level of learning that the organization offers.

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