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Philanthropy is Delicious

Atlanta, GA: April was the month for some delicious philanthropy in Atlanta. Asha for Education and Tadka and Inchin’s Bamboo Garden teamed up to raise funds to help educate and empower a critical part of India’s future which is perhaps getting overlooked. Asha for Education as the name suggests, is a nonprofit organization founded on the belief that India’s socio-economic progress critically depends on the education and advancement of India’s children. And that is why here, at Asha-Atlanta, we have made it our mission to support several educational grassroots organizations all over India. Our growth however, has depended on the dedication and involvement of the greater Atlanta community. One such effort came from Alpharetta-based Tadka and Inchin’s Bamboo Garden in April when they chose one of Asha-Atlanta’s projects, Trinita Society for Children (www.trinitachildren.org) based in Kolkata, West Bengal, to be the sole beneficiary of their annual month-long Szechwan Festival. The Szechwan Festival is already a hit amongst Tadka and Inchin’s Bamboo Garden lovers, but this year as word spread that their meals would benefit education of underprivileged children, we saw Atlantans pour in to the restaurant for lunches and dinners and donate generously all through the month. With scrumptious Indo-Chinese menu to dine, it was win-win all around! The support did not stop there. Tvachia, a Georgia-based drum-dyed leather company, that gets their premium leather bags handcrafted by skilled artisans in Kolkata, also came forward to support this cause.

Every penny raised from Tadka and Inchin’s Bamboo Garden’s Szechwan Festival and Tvachia’s contribution will go towards supporting 225 children in five education centers supported by Asha Atlanta at Trinita Society for Children. For the past 16 years, Trinita has been working relentlessly to improve the education, health and nutrition of children in the slums of Kolkata. Families in these slums live on less than $2 a day. Boys drop out of school and go to work in leather and recycling industries, and girls are married off at a young age. Trinita has been striving to empower these children and eradicate child labor and child marriage through education. In the last six years, Asha’s support has enabled Trinita to run after-school coaching programs for Math, Science, and English at various slums in and around Kolkata where children from unstable households get crucial attention and care they need in order to learn and progress at school. As a result, we have seen a 40% decrease in high school dropout rates and a significant 5-year extension to the average age at which a girl is married, with it now being 18.5 years. In 2012 for the first time, four girls from Kolkata’s Topsia and Tiljala slums enrolled in 3-year college with the help of Asha’s Support-A-Child program. Such are the victories we strive to make happen every day. And this is why in 2013, Asha for Education was awarded the Best Indian NGO in USA as a part of the 2013 Indo-American Corporate Excellence awards (IACE).

In the last decade India has grown at an unprecedented rate. This growth, however, has not trickled down to the vast majority of the 76% who live on less than $2/day. According to UNESCO’s 2009 report on India, only 16% of India’s youth are enrolled in high school. India’s growth can only convert into sustainable progress if bolstered by educating our youth. Asha Atlanta has had an opportunity to be a catalyst to that progress by supporting several educational projects all across India. In Gujarat, Gram Vikas Trust provides bicycles to girl students in remote villages to help them commute to far-away schools resulting in 86% decrease in dropout rates for girls. Asha Atlanta also supports the Sikshana Teacher Training Program to improve the quality of education in Govt. schools in rural villages so those children can compete with private schools. Viklang Vidyalaya in Sitamarhi, Bihar is a residential school where physically challenged children are given education, vocational training and rehabilitation to foster confidence and dignity. Nishtha in Baruipur, West Bengal runs a day and night shelter and school for children of sex-workers, where for the first time ever in 2012, two girl children of sex workers enrolled in college. And Inspiration in Kamarhati, West Bengal, run by IIT alumni strives to integrate school dropouts into mainstream education through bridge programs.

Supporting such a wide range of programs is not cheap. With an annual fundraising requirement of ~$40,000, we would not have been able to do it without support from the greater Atlanta community. In the past few years, many Atlanta based organizations have joined us in our passion and cause. The Atlanta Cricket League avowed their commitment by nominating Asha Atlanta’s project Vikalang Vidyalaya as the beneficiary of their state-wide Annual Cricket Tournament. The Greenville India Association and Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta (BAGA) have provided significant support to our West Bengal based projects while Deeksha School of Performing Arts brought together a classy evening of classical dance which turned out to be a huge fundraising success. Together, our commitment to these projects is humbling and empowering at the same time. When you see children in their formative years, who would have long dropped out of school, instead, studying, learning, playing, and having a healthy childhood, the excitement of being able to give them a leg up is overwhelming!

We are very grateful and humbled by the support we have received from the many community organizations in the last 10 years towards our endeavors. Their support is a validation of our cause. However, it’s not just large organizations that can help. Individuals, professionals and students alike can choose to volunteer with us, support events organized by Asha Atlanta, steward projects or even visit our projects while you are on a trip to India to witness your money translating into real change. You can also benefit our projects by hosting your own events to raise awareness and funds. Enthusiasm, optimism, and an undying desire to contribute to India’s vibrant future are the very qualities that make you an Asha for Education volunteer at heart.

Asha for Education is a 501(c) (3) tax exempt organization. For more information or for volunteering opportunities, visit us at www.ashanet.org/atlanta or email us at atlanta@ashanet.org.

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