More than 900 guests attended the annual Houston gala of Pratham, the non-profit organization established in the slums of Mumbai in 1995, and now one of India’s largest non-governmental education organizations.
The gala celebrated 20 years of the organization’s presence in the United States. Held at the Hilton Americas, the event raised $4.5 million–the largest amount ever by a local Indian-American charity–to support Pratham education programs, a press release from the organization, said.
Among the highlights at the gala was a touching video tribute to gala honoree Vijay Goradia, a local businessman and humanitarian who established Pratham USA in 1999 after visiting a small preschool in the slums of Mumbai; followed by an conversation between Goradia and Pratham Co-founder and President Dr. Madhav Chavan, a former University of Houston professor.
“Like I would bet on an established company over a startup, by investing in an NGO like Pratham, I am investing in the future of tens of millions of children,” Goradia is quoted saying in the press release. Goradia pledged $1 million at the benefit. “It has a proven track record, continues to be well managed and grow,” he added.
Local luminaries and gala underwriters Bimla and Swatantra Jain, who were also recognized for their longstanding commitment to education, made a commitment of $1 million to support the construction of a vocational training center in North India.
“This is our city’s 20th annual gala, and every year we see an increase in participation and enthusiasm for Pratham’s innovative programs,” said chapter president Asha Dhume. “Many people are astounded to learn about India’s learning crisis and inspired with how Pratham is working to address it,” Dhume added.
Celebrity guest Anil Kapoor, an actor in both Bollywood and Hollywood, said, “It’s a privilege, it’s an honor, it’s an emotional moment for me to be here listening, observing, absorbing emotionally the kind of work Pratham has done for 20 years!”
“I’m feeling really very small compared to all of you and all the people who have done so much for such a noble cause and for such a great organization. It proves that Pratham is one of the world’s best organizations,” Kapoor said, according to the press release.
“It’s an easy sell,” said Joe Patterson, senior vice president of Bank of America, who has been part of the Pratham family for close to two decades, and added, “The efficiency of what Pratham does for really small dollars, what it can achieve in these villages and the way it pulls together the Houston community is very powerful.”
Among the many prominent people in attendance were Dr. Anupam Ray (consul general of India), U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois; Andrea and Bill White (former mayor of Houston), and Anne and Albert Chao.
The event was conducted by Nicole O’Brian Lassiter, and included a speech from Ali Dhanani, who supports a Pratham vocational training center in Hyderabad; a message from Pratham beneficiary Mamta Dawar; as well as entertainment from the dance group Rhythm India; and a fashion show by leading Indian designer Anita Dongre presented by Raaz.
The gala co-chairs were Peggy and Avinash Ahuja, Indrani and Hemant Goradia, and Shital and Bhavesh Patel. Event sponsors included Wells Fargo, Ascend Performance Materials, Packwell, Amegy Bank of Texas, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Fidelity Family Office Services, and PKF of Texas, all of which have been supporting Pratham’s work for a decade.