Beyond Expectations

12th Annual Gala Raises Funds Beyond Expectations. $300,000 is not a small amount.  This is what was raised/pledged at the 12th annual Gala, held September …

12th Annual Gala Raises Funds Beyond Expectations.

Hostel Donor: Shankar Subramani

$300,000 is not a small amount.  This is what was raised/pledged at the 12th annual Gala, held September 15 at the Pearson Convention Center in Toronto.

Rightly titled   “An Evening to Remember, An Evening for Seva,” the gala was attended by over 700 people from the Greater Toronto Area.  They were all there to help support the larger objectives of AIM for Seva:  educate and empower the poor, underprivileged and vulnerable children from the rural and  remote areas  of India.

Where has the Toronto Chapter of AIM for Seva  reached during 12 years?  From an obscure small place, the Gala now is being held at the Pearson Center, an exclusive location in Toronto.  From 150 people in the first year, 700+ people have started supporting the Gala and they come from various backgrounds – including Anglo-Saxon, South Asians and others.  The Toronto Chapter is now on top compared to dozens of other Chapters of AIM for Seva in many, many countries.  It is on top as the Toronto Chapter, under able leaderships of co-founders Dr. Terry and his wife Nimmi Papneja, have succeeded in getting donations for 20 Hostels out of a total of 99 hostels donated so far globally.  The aim is to build 640 hostels, one in every district of India.

One hostel was donated at this year’s gala by Shankar Subramani and his family. It will be located in Chennai in Tamilnadu.

In a pleasant surprise, Dr. David and his wife Jennifer Barrett announced donation for 10/10 scholarships.  That means they will pay for the education and upkeep of 10 boys/girls for 10 years, a substantial financial commitment on their part.  So what if they are not Indo-Canadians.  Their heart is at the right place and for them helping under-privileged children in India is also the right cause.

Here are these children in 99 homes in India.  They all have big aspirations and why not.  They have the same hearts and minds as we and others have. They have the same palpitations as millions others.  You ask them and they will tell you to your absolute delight: “I want to be a pilot.  I want to be an engineer. I want to be a lawyer” and any profession you can think of.  They don’t want to continue to live in misery, grow up without learning alphabets.

“To think that these children, just a short while ago, were on the fringes of civilization, condemned to poverty and suffering simply because  of where they were born; and now their lives have progressed so much that they can dream of a better life, and have more than a passing chance of fulfilling those dreams,” says Dr. Papneja.  He’s bubbling with delight as from his childhood, he has laid emphasis on education, helping poor kids in his native town in Madhya Pradesh donating his text books to them.  You needed help and he was there as the flag bearer for kids coming of families with limited means.  That habit has not been broken. Rather it is doubly strengthened.

Papneja attributed this  transformation to all supporters of  AIM for Seva and their number is growing by leaps and bounds each year.  People know it widely. You give a dollar, and each 100 cents will go to India to help education of children,  who truly deserve help so that they are no more left behind by the society.

The support in Toronto has transformed lives of 725 children, Papneja said.  And the organization has already raised over $3-million in the last 12 years. He has all smiles in asserting that “this makes us the highest donor city by far, amongst all donor chapters of AIM for Seva world-wide.”

“AIM for Seva is a remarkable initiative and the Canadian chapter’s disproportionate contribution is a tribute to the community and the exceptional leadership of Dr. Terry Papneja.  In a space of just over a decade he has spear headed its voluntary efforts and helped it cross the million dollar mark,” says Kasi Rao, who was an exceptional emcee for the evening, the task on behalf of AIM for Seva he accepted for the first time.

“Significantly the support he and his team have garnered comes from a broad donor base that is a reflection both of the vibrancy of the Indo-Canadian community and the growing band of India watchers from the corporate, academic and philanthropic organizations.”

To Rao, who’s known to be a very effective and delightful communicator,  “AIM for Seva reminds us in this interconnected world the cause of education and learning is truly special.  The organization brings to life Mahatma Gandhi’s saying ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever’.”

Raising money for charitable causes is  becoming increasingly tough  as  more and more charities are running after the same dollar and same donor.  Each organization believes, rightly from  its perspective, that their cause is the right cause and people should donate liberally.  That’s not the way the mind of any donor works.

Founders and volunteers of AIM for Seva are well aware of this and so they try various other means to approach these limited number of donors and  philanthropists.  So, to provide his helping hands in an effective manner, AIM for Seva’s Treasurer Arun Luthra, took the podium along with Vishay Dhunraj and the lively bidding on the ‘Painting of Kabir Teachings,’ – donated by Pinki and Arun Luthra –  started.  It concluded with the winning by Dr. Amit Arya, an Indian classical vocalist and disciple of legendry maestro, Pundit Jasraj.

There were three other items that were put to the hammer – a trio of ice hockey memorabilia, donated by Dr. Vishay and Beshie Dunraj, comprising Darryl Sittler’s rare 25th Anniversary 10-Point Game (1976) autographed hockey stick; Joffret Lupul autographed premium Maple Leaf jersey; and an autographed and framed photograph of Maple Leafs  Captain Dion Phaneuf.

There were also two business tickets valid for any where in Europe, compliments of Terry and Nimmi Papneja.  The lucky winners were Ravi and Nina Jain.

It can’t be all business.  There was respite from that when Sukalyann Bhattacharya took the stage with his Dance Troupe. What a rhythmic entertainment.  The Convention Center’s inside was shaking, so also the feet and minds of 700 guests.

How do you define a successful event?  When the main objective is realized to the satisfaction of the organizers and the event leaves a good taste in the mouth of the guests who go out of the convention center with smiles on their faces and doubly committed to the cause for which they  in the first place agreed to commit their evening.   With that as the barometer, one can safely pronounce Sept. 15 Gala was a success.  It raised substantial amount for the underprivileged in India and volunteers could hear guests talking good about AIM for Seva and the hope is they will come back next year with their new friends, who in turn will learn about what the AIM for Seva is dedicated to and what the needs of underprivileged kids in India are and how they could provide a helping hand.

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