Imagine, an evening when people thought they were simply going for an entertainment program but ended up so excited and involved in the program that they opened their hearts and their purse strings to change the lives of countless other human beings!
That is exactly what happened at the Atlanta Chapter of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA's dinner and music program “Ekal Kee Shaam Bharat Ke Bachchon ke Naam” at Global Mall's Ashiana Banquet Hall on April 24th. As it was an Ekal awareness program there was no admission fee. About 400 People enjoyed a complimentary dinner and were entertained by seventeen talented local singers and mesmerized by the live band "Dhwani".
Vandana Aggarwal outlined the mission and objectives of the non-profit, charitable trust that is shaping a people's movement in India for people to take charge of their own education and empowerment. It initiates, supports, runs non-formal one-teacher schools in India's rural, remote and tribal areas from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. As of March 2009 they have 26,429 schools with 753,810 students. Apart from basic education, these schools also offer health-care, development/vocational and empowerment education. In fact one school becomes the transformation point for the entire village!
An Ekal school only needs $365 to get started. It also receives the support of the villagers in cash or kind and after five years each school becomes self-sustaining. So the program hoped to entertain, show how a sponsor's dollar-a-day contribution could transform an entire village and draw on the generosity of Atlantans to support the education of 20-25 children in an Ekal school for the entire year!
The program started promptly as scheduled at 8pm with the Chief Guest, Mr. Curt Thompson, Georgia State Senator for District 5, lighting the lamp. The Senator is especially proud to support the local Indian community's education and economic development projects.
Artists like Archith Seshadri, Supriya Sridharan, Pankaj Bhargava and Anand Srinivasan who have competed in Atlanta Desi Idol came forward to lend their support and perform for an audience of nearly 400. Members of the Shaam-e-Sargam music group and other amateur artists sang old and new Bollywood songs. Sandeep Savla of Nritya Natya Kala Bharati provided the music system and sound support for the evening.
Five year old Anthony Shajan received a thunderous applause for his wonderful rendition of "Mere sapnon ki rani....". Paramjeet Gill, who works for Georgia Public Broadcasting, Smita Daftardar and Shyam Gupta who volunteer at Bal Vihar enjoyed singing at an event which was so closely linked to education. Chandrika Narayan said "everything is really well organized, the show started on time, and people were really enjoying themselves! I'm really glad to be a part of Ekal".
After the show, Anand Srinivasan, the Atlanta Desi Idol for 2008-2009 had this to say: "Thank you for giving us fledgling artists an avenue to do what we love, and yet contribute back to society in a productive manner."
The Master of Ceremonies Rachna Gupta and the short Ekal film presentations were able to beautifully connect the audience and the songs with the Ekal cause. Captivated, the people chose not to watch from the sidelines and came forward to sponsor 48 schools, 3 of which came from one sponsor, Madhuri Saxena! Shiv Mandir and the volunteers of SEWA were the non-profits who will have Ekal schools running in their names. A raffle draw generously sponsored by Rajkamal Foundation brought the exciting evening to a close. Some people who had come for the first time said they were looking forward to the next Ekal events on July 12th Mata Ki Chowki by Atlanta Chowki Group at Global Mall and on September 12th for which "The Narasimha Academy of Arts" is choreographing a thematic dance presentation.