Unlocking the Potential of India’s Children
at the Secret Garden

Children’s Hope India held its 26th Annual Gala on October 7, 2018, at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers, in New York City, where the organization raised money to further its prime mission– the education of underserved children. This year’s theme, “Unlocking the Potential of India’s Children at the Secret Garden,” focused on the goals to Educate, Empower, and Enrich. There was food; there was the beauty of music; there was the honoring of several individuals for their commitment to public service and making a difference in the lives of the less privileged—three remarkable people from very different walks of life, each of whom has shown the value of education in their work. But most of all, there was generosity in heart and in spirit as over $1 million was raised to support Children’s Hope India’s new school in Bangalore and a learning center at a refugee camp in Jodhpur—as well as other projects providing education and medical care both in India and the New York Metropolitan Area.

The event brought together CHI’s many supporters for a real live celebration of bettering children’s lives.  Included on the guest list were the Consul General of India Sandeep Chakravorty and his wife Taruna, Chandrika Tandon, Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank, and designer Anita Dongre.

Barbara Corcoran with Board Members Sagorica Rudra, Lavina Melwani and Dina Pahlajani

What started as a small group of women professionals trying to make a difference with one orphanage in Mumbai today covers 20 projects across India and has taken on four schools, namely CHI’s own Children’s Hope India Girls School in Bhopal, a school in Jammu, and two Ekalavya Schools in Hyderabad.  CHI President Dina Pahlajani, after recognizing the gala’s current and past year’s honorees and sponsors, and the enormous impact their contributions will have on changing lives, spoke to the mission of the organization. “Whether it is in a non-formal setting like our mobile school or in a formal setting like the Children’s Hope Girls School in Bhopal, we stay true to the core values that this organization was founded on—Every Child Counts. We provide the Wholistic and Holistic care that includes medical care, nutritional support, sports and arts programs and add components like meditation and yoga where possible. This year our Cradle to Career approach took a much needed leap by adding college scholarships to enable the bright children from our schools and some youth in our community based programs pursue their dreams.”

Anand Khubani with some Board Members
Anand Khubani with Board Members Nisha Bharwani, Radha Vanjani, Maya Rajani and Dina Pahlajani

A highlight of the evening was the felicitating of Lotus Award Honoree Anand Khubani, who is Chairman and CEO of IdeaVillage Products Corp. and the master marketer behind today’s top-selling TV products. Anand and his entire family are committed to bringing education and new opportunities to underprivileged children. Khubani spoke about the impact his early travels to India had on his life, and his dedication, in line with the mission of Children’s Hope India, to address the problem of extreme poverty in India and to transform children’s lives. “Thanks to your generous support of tonight’s event, we have changed the lives of 5,000 children,” he noted. “If, over the course of time, these children have an impact on 10 people’s lives, and they have an impact on another 10 people’s lives and so on, over five generations we will have affected over 500 million people.”

Chandrika Tandon presented the Making a Difference award to Ravi Kanth Ganti, who spoke about the successes he and his team have achieved in the academic arena with their students: 99% pass with 93% first classes in Telangana state X grade board examinations. He shared this insight: “Building an institution called a ‘school’ is THE transformational strategy for change. It is the creation of the Institution that leads to deep, lasting and irreversible impact in the life of children and their families.” Mr. Ganti is Chief Operating Officer of Ekalavya Schools, one of Children’s Hope India’s cornerstone projects. He has led the operations team managing five Ekalavya Schools, for underprivileged children.

Ravi receives plaque from Lavina, Dina and Chandrika
Ravi Kanth Ganti receives plaque from Dina Pahlajani, Lavina Melwani and Chandrika Tandon

Dr. Manjit Singh Bains, thoracic surgeon, cancer researcher, educator, and humanitarian received a Special Impact Award. Dr. Bains is an Attending Surgeon in the Thoracic Service, Department of Surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and a Professor of Surgery at Cornell University Medical College. In addition to being published extensively, Dr. Bains has received numerous awards for his professional and humanitarian work.

Dr. Bains receives plaque from Khubanis and Counsel General
Dr. Manjit Singh Bains receives plaque from CG Sandeep Chakravorty, Dina Pahlajani, and AJ and Poonam Khubani

Entertainment for the evening included a special performance by America’s oldest collegiate a cappella group, the Yale Whiffenpoofs, and Irene Fong, the number one New York City electric violinist, who transformed the evening in the Secret Garden into a lush musical experience. Taste buds were also indulged as celebrity chef Guarav Anand, the man behind New York’s Moti Mahal, Bhatti Grill, and Awadh, showcased a dining experience that enticed and engaged guests, as they enjoyed cuisine that was inspired by the interplay of flavors, ingredients and cultures, followed by a creative sit-down dinner and a dessert bar full of unusual delicious surprises.

Irene Fong
Irene Fong

A highlight of the evening was the live appeal, conducted by Sandhya Jain-Patel, formerly Head of the Indian Department at Christie’s New York, of life-changing ventures where guests bid on educational projects for the Children’s Hope Girls India Ekalavya School in Bangalore, specifically bringing technology into classrooms for remote learning; funding education of classrooms of 50 students; medical care, nutrition and health education; and scholarships, thanks to the newly launched CHI-Tandon Higher Education Scholarship Program funded by Chandrika Tandon.  The pledging will also go towards a learning center (with restrooms, and including school supplies, teaching aids, medical care and a mid-day meal) in a refugee camp near Jodhpur for Hindu Pakistanis who have fled to India, as well as buses to transport these refugee children to government schools nearby.

The Master of Ceremonies of the evening was Tinku Jain, noted broadcaster and philanthropist, and music was provided by DJ Sharad of DJ USA. Jharna Jaisinghani of Artistic Affairs coordinated the event.