Ekal Foundation Raises Over $4 Million at Virtual ‘Future of India’ Gala
Speaking at the Ekal virtual gala, Niren Chaudhary, Indian American CEO of the highly successful ‘Panera Bread’ brand, explained how his daughter Aisha was the central motivating factor in whatever he did in his life. (photo provided)
India-West Staff Reporter
The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation raised over $4 million in a star-studded virtual gala, billed as the “Future of India,” on Nov. 13 that featured eminent Indian American speakers and highlighted Ekal’s accomplishments and contributions of the youth to its mission.
Ekal, according to a press release from Prakash Waghmare, currently has presence in over 102,000 rural-tribal areas all across India with a reach to over 300,000 such clusters of habitants. Although rooted in education, Ekal has expanded into providing healthcare, integrated village development, empowering functionality and new-age technology to these rural people.
The two-hour gala event, co-chaired by Mohan Wanchoo and Kamlesh Shah, both successful entrepreneurs and philanthropists, saw consistent overwhelming response from the donors from the moment it opened up till it was capped by youthful entertainment by “Penn-Masala’, an Indian American group of singers from the University of Pennsylvania.
The funds raised at the gala were for specific projects, such as tailoring training centers, E-shiksha, Ekal-on-Wheels, Telemedicine, Gramotthan Research Centers, and Integrated Village Development, noted the release.
Wanchoo, who pioneered gala events at Ekal, regaled viewers with a personal story of how hospitable tribal villagers were in the midst of a horrific tragedy that they had endured earlier. As a professional singer he delighted the viewers with an inspiring song in his melodious voice. Shah elaborated on Ekal’s aggressive fight with the Covid-19 pandemic and the steps that were taken to fight misinformation about the virus and its treatment.
Ekal’s women-centric empowerment activities and education as a tool for progress touched a nerve with all three chief guest speakers who wholeheartedly supported Ekal’s mission for the future of India.
Kiran Mozumdar-Shaw, founder of Biocon and recipient of the ‘Padma Bhushan’, emphasized the need for digital tracking of patients by tech-savvy nursing caretakers, as a core point for managing the pandemic. Renu Khator, Indian American president of the University of Houston System, stressed the important role education has played throughout her career. She lauded EVF’s efforts for women empowerment.
Niren Chaudhary, Indian American CEO of the highly successful ‘Panera Bread’ brand, explained how his daughter Aisha was the central motivating factor in whatever he did in his life. He expressed unequivocal passion for India, where he had witnessed a ‘spirit of humanity’ in his own time of acute need to save Aisha.
Ranjani Saigal, executive director of Ekal-USA, assured him that his daughter’s legacy lives on through what Ekal does best. For every $1 a donor invests in Ekal activities, Ekal volunteers provide $8 worth of selfless volunteer efforts, the release said.
Ekal’s youth wing had raised a substantial amount of funds to arrest the spread of Covid. During the gala, they talked about what attracted them most to this large social endeavor, supported by Indians and NRIs in a dozen countries.
A galaxy of Bollywood stars – from Hema Malini, Boney Kapoor, Subhash Ghai to Varun Dhavan, Udit Narayan, Alia Bhatt – provided glitz with their enthusiastic support for Ekal.
A ZEE-TV ‘2019 Cine Awards’ clip, showed three Ekal alumni students honored for their exceptional achievements. This public honor was bestowed on Pinky Karmakar of Assam who was the torch-bearer at the 2012 London Olympics; Divya Malgave of Maharashtra, who won a Gold Medal at the International Intermediate Karate Championship; and Ramchandra Verma of U.P., who has made his birthplace of Aligunj an ideal ‘Gaav’ (village).
While unveiling the roadmap for the future, Suresh Iyer, president of Ekal-USA, confirmed that the essential objectives of all the projects are two-fold: first, to prevent migration of rural folks to urban areas for lack of opportunities; and second, to increase the economic and social impact on their lives.