November 9, 2019 will remain as a historic day in the annals of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF). On this day, in a star-studded, glamour-filled “Future of India” gala in New York City, Ekal reached 100,000 schools milestone within minutes of its beginning. Going into the gala, Ekal had 99,200 schools and so the evening was full of anticipation and excitement to ring the bell for magical 100,000-school landmark.
As soon as Mohan Wanchoo took the reins of the evening as the chairperson of the gala, he took everyone by surprise with his announcement. He pledged $1 million over a period of five years starting with immediate effect to meet the shortfall amount for 800 schools to reach the magical figure of 100,000 schools.These additional schools will be established shortly and will benefit 25,000 children bringing annual literacy total to 2.7 million children. Wanchoo’s announcement was not only celebrated with thunderous applause and sparkling fireworks’, but it also set in motion an outpouring of generosity, for the rest of the evening. By the end of the evening $3.1 million was raised. This was in addition to the Los Angeles Gala where $2 million was raised.
This year, the NYC gala was hosted at the lavishly decorated majestic Gotham Hall and was attended by the elite of the society and Ekal’s dedicated supporters. Although rooted in literacy, Ekal has blossomed into empowerment of rural and tribal folks across India. The evening’s keynote speaker and star-attraction was Bollywood celebrity and philanthropist Vivek Oberoi. In addition, distinguished speakers included Raju Reddy, a successful entrepreneur whose company was acquired by Hitachi, and Ragy Thomas, leading a social-media management and marketing enterprise.
Ranjani Saigal, the executive director of Ekal, traced 32-year history of the foundation, including its transition into a nation-building movement.
Vivek Oberoi completely stole the show with his pledge to put all his entrepreneur might behind rural issues and spearhead small-scale solar power solutions for energy requirements of villages.
“I have already received a commitment of over half a million dollars for such initiative,” Oberoi said. At the conclusion of his captivating speech, he applauded Ekal for getting the iconic “Gandhi Peace Prize” from the government of India for its social work in rural and tribal areas with gender equality. This award, which is given to only one organization each year was recently bestowed on Ekal Abhiyan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind. For the benefit of people assembled, the Peace Prize itself was ushered on to the stage by a select group of people and presented to the gathering by Prakash Waghmare, a member of PR national committee, and Suresh Iyer, president of Ekal-USA.
There was a brief panel discussion also moderated by Amrita Saigal, a young entrepreneur, to highlight various aspects of Ekal that appeal to the donors.
Ragy Thomas voiced strong support to education and pledged $100,000 to accelerate its pace. Raju Reddy, partnering with Ekal, expressed the desire to bring transformation to rural Telangana. Sarva Mangal Family Trust and Keshap Group confirmed technological intervention in education in digital-tablets format. There was much applause when 13-year-oldr Riya donated $1,000 from a fund-raiser she had at her home. Vivek Oberoi was so touched by this that he appealed to the gathering to match her cute gesture and the gathering responded by donating an additional $30,000.
Several dignitaries were honored, including India Consul General in New York, Sandeep Chakravorty, and New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Ekal also recognized several supporters for their distinctive projects. Among them were Dr Kavita Navani of ‘Sankalp’ for aiding 625 Ekal schools; Himanshu Shah of Shah Capital for supporting Gramothan Resource Centre; Adish and Asha Jain and Vandana and Vivek Sharma for corroborating in integral village development; and Subra and Anu Dravida for promoting digital literacy through ‘Ekal-on-Wheel’ project.
Perfection of Man Foundation made a significant announcement at the end of the evening to support planting of one million trees in Ekal villages. Pradeep Goyal, chairman of ‘Ekal Abhiyan Trust’ and S.K. Jindal, a trustee, had specially had flown in from India to grace this occasion and to boost the morale of everyone to make gala a grand success.
No gala is complete without the musical treat and this was no exception. To preserve the upbeat nature of the gala’s success, Bollywood singer Shibani Kashyap kept the crowd enthralled with her singing and enticed them to dance to her tunes. Unlike most of such events, the remarkable thing about this event was the participation of young professionals in large numbers. This is an indication that Ekal’s future is secure.