The Sikh Human Development Foundation of Washington D.C. rose over $210,000 at their gala held on Dec. 6 at the Gaithersburg Hilton in Maryland, for the underprivileged youth in Punjab, who are trying to pursue a higher education.
Over 350 people attended the gala which was graced by Bollywood actor and Punjabi comedian, Gurpreet Ghuggi.
“You all are lighting candles in many homes in Punjab and this is the best possible Sewa one can render. In actuality, you are fulfilling the dream of Guru Nanak who had said, ‘Vidiya vichari taan Parupkari’ – True education makes one benevolent. Guru Nanak will be proud of you all and those who are supporting this cause,” Ghuggi said.
“Your assistance is lifting young people out of poverty, tragedy and painful circumstances. SHDF has so far given more than 5000 scholarships. Of these, 2,700 have already graduated and found good jobs. They have become doctors, engineers, scientists and the like. Some of them are now helping other needy children. This is one of the major impacts. SHDF now has 7 centers in Punjab and Delhi. All of these centers are being managed by volunteers such as college professors and students. This program is executed in partnership with the sister organization, Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council based in New Delhi,” Gajinder Singh Ahuja, the Chairman of SHDF, told the audience.
“In my humble view, this is no small achievement. You inspired us to do this work. Also, we have a very committed team of Board members and a Program Manager who are working long hours because they all feel the pain of these needy children,” he added.
Jasdeep Singh Juneja, an IT professional from Dallas, Texas, recounted his own story as a recipient of SHDF scholarship.
“If there was no SHDF then I will not be in USA and I would have been lost in life. My family was not able to support me. It is only because of financial assistance at a very crucial time that I was able to become a professional. I am now able to support the education of my own younger brother,” said Juneja, who now runs a major operation for AT&T.
Asking the audience for donations, Dr. Manmohan Singh Kumar said “education is the key to bringing positive change among the youth in Punjab. This has the aggregate effect and it transforms families and the communities. Punjab has gone down in many aspects and especially in education. This kind of initiative is so critical for the future of the community and the state.”
“The supporters of this cause can be proud of the fact that they are holding the hands of the students who are dreaming to stand on their own feet. SHDF is perhaps the only organization which provides scholarships to students for higher education. It is a small effort but the need is immense in Punjab,” Dr. Rajwant Singh added.
Entertainment was provided by Raginder, also known as “Violinder” who enthralled the audience with his solo rendition in the beginning on Raag Charukeshi.
The SHDF scholarship has given out $2 million scholarships to bright but poor students in Punjab and the surrounding areas since 2001.