Children’s Hope Gala Celebrates Children on the Move

They have walked on foot, traveled by bus and train and trekked in bullock carts and auto rickshaws.

The children served by CHI are the children of migrants and wage workers, displaced slum dwellers and refugees. They are the children of seasonal agricultural workers and those leaving desolate villages for the urban margins and a chance to make a livelihood.

All these are children on the move, where home is often wherever the next meal and place to sleep are, wherever their parents’ work takes them. CHI’s 22 projects across several cities in India are there to give them the resources for a better education and vocational training.

It was a sold-out event, one of Children’s Hope India’s (CHI) most successful fundraising galas with over 500 guests from the tri-state area.

The theme of the evening was Children on the Move and it celebrated the upward progress of children through education and enhanced opportunities through CHI programs. CHI shared their story through a powerful video which showed that they are always on the move, as children of migrants, slum-dwellers, wage-workers and refugees.

The master of ceremonies Reena Ninan, CBS anchorperson and television personality, radiant in an Anita Dongre ensemble, introduced the highlights of the evening at the packed waterfront venue.

Dr. Dina Pahlajani, president of Children’s Hope India, pointed out the strides the 27-year-old organization had made, with a new India office and a new chapter in New Jersey, besides nurturing CH2 and CH3, groups of young people dedicated to supporting the cause of education.

Board Members

“We are now beginning to build partnerships in communities where we work so that together as a team we uplift a community,” she said. “Our newly opened learning center in Anganwa, Jodhpur is an example where a non-profit from New Jersey has partnered with us and is teaching vocational skills to women in this struggling community so they can be wage-earners as well. Our consultative ECOSOC status at the UN will allow us to build on such partnerships globally.”

Pahlajani also pointed out that CHI continues to be volunteer-driven with low overheads, with 90 percent of the funds raised going to helping children.

The evening marked the presentation of the Lotus Award to Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of Brookfield Properties Retail Group and Vice Chairman of Brookfield Properties. Mathrani noted, “Every child deserves the chance to achieve their goals and dreams just like I had the chance, and all of us here tonight have the chance. Building a community, and a world, on the privilege of equality means that none of us is, or can be, on our own.”

Sunil Sani, Sandeep Mathrani, Dina Pahlajani and Reena Ninan at CHI Gala

Ramakrishna Raju of Vision-Aid Receives the Making a Difference Award

Ramakrishna M. Raju, Founder of Vision-Aid, a 15-year-old non-profit based in Boston which has done great work to empower the visually impaired, received the Making a Difference Award. He observed that just as CHI’s motto is every child counts, Vision-Aid’s is that every visually-impaired person counts because they have their own challenges to live with dignity and independence.
He said, “We look up to CHI as a role model and a great NGO to follow. Here’s to the cause of children everywhere, and to the cause of the visually-impaired everywhere. Let’s work together to create a more inclusive world.”

Lavina Melwani, Dina Pahlajani, Ramakrishna Raju, Poonam and Sunny Khubani

The spirit of Diwali and of hope was highlighted with an entire wall of sparkling diyas, small lamps which light up villages in India. The theme was further enhanced by a lively performance by Amit Shah’s Aatma Performing Arts in which the dancers fully captured the earthy vibrancy of rural communities on the move.

Aatma Performing Arts

The cocktail hour was set up as a delightful carnival of ethnic street foods by Chef Gaurav Anand and appreciative crowds enjoyed the gol guppas, bhel puri as well as eats from different parts of India. This was further enhanced by Nihal Singh’s live tabla beats which embrace East and West in its rhythms.

Street Foods by Chef Gaurav Anand

Guests then sat down to a plated dinner of modern Indian cuisine which was served with fine Podernuovo wines from Sienna. This was followed by a dessert wonderland that included 50 varieties of petit fours, a live halwa & gulab jamun station, as well as freshly made malpua pancakes with rabri.

The live auction by Lucas Hunt Auctioneers raised six figures for CHI projects, especially for the new learning center for the children of refugees in Jodhpur who are currently in thatched huts with no electricity.

Kavita Gugnani, Sagorica Rudra, Reena Ninan, Lucas Hunt, Anu and Raj Thadani

Live auctions of an amazing 4-day stay in the Bulgari personal family residence and a visit to the vineyards received several bids as did a private gourmet dining experience for 30 people created by Chef Anand with a live tabla concert by Nihal Singh.

The flawless evening was enriched with decor by Elegant Affairs, co-ordinated by Jharna Jaisinghani of Artistic Affairs and the music was provided by DJ Sharad of DJUSA.

The On the Move Gala raised over $1 million for Children’s Hope India’s health and education programs.