Home of Hope Raises $125K at Annual Charity Event
By KETAKI GOKHALE
India-West Staff Reporter
NEWARK, Calif. - Ladies in glittering saris and their dapper partners spilled into the foyer - not of the Ritz-Carlton or the similar - but of a much humbler venue, for the ninth annual fundraiser for Home of Hope, a local charity that partners with foster homes in India to nurture orphaned, destitute, and physically and mentally disabled children. To date, over 1,500 disadvantaged children in India have benefited from the charity. Chandni Restaurant, located in an unassuming strip mall, hosted the Sept. 30 event that raised over $125,000 in ticket sales, sponsorships, pledges, and donations.
"We wanted to stress that you don't have to do a five-star event to raise money," HOH founder and executive director Nilima Sabharwal told India-West. "Our philosophy is to do a bare-bones event. The cost for this entire event was under $16,000, which is usually the flower budget for fancy events."
The restaurant's dining area, crowded with posters, pictures, and letters from children, was a clear indicator of the event's focus. "We wanted to put a human face on Home of Hope," said Sabharwal. In keeping with this directive, HOH board member Nalini Bhat recounted some of the organization's greatest success stories in a moving speech to the audience. With the aid of HOH, two girls - Salma and Sunita - developed marketable skills, which in turn became their livelihoods. "By the end," Bhat said, "these girls were writing their own checks - if that is not empowerment, what is?" The organization's goal, she said, is to create "hundreds of Sunitas and Salmas."
HOH's modus operandi is efficient and, according to many supporters, extraordinarily transparent. Since 1999, the year it was founded, HOH has been identifying promising grassroots projects in India that share its vision of providing services to needy children regardless of their race, sex, or religious beliefs. HOH then raises funds to support these projects and assigns a U.S.-based project coordinator to supervise and audit the progress of the project. HOH currently partners with 11 organizations throughout India. HOH also dedicates some of its funds to one-time projects, such as the construction of classrooms, computer labs, and the purchase of books.
Sunita and Ashwini Dhar, a San Francisco Bay Area couple that has supported HOH for four years, say that they were won over by the organization's undiscriminating service and the transparency of its operations. "They don't focus on one community," Ashwini Dhar told India-West. "It's not for 'my people' or for people of a particular region in India. Home of Hope focuses on all of India, and that is really what attracts us."
Hina Saiya, another long-time supporter of HOH, told India-West, "There isn't a lot of bureaucracy in this organization. They immediately invited me to meetings. Everything was very transparent and the money is mostly spent on the kids."
"We saw a high degree of transparency and accountability," Sunita Dhar told India-West. "In other organizations you never see what happens to the money, but we constantly see documented evidence of success from Home of Hope."
By way of documentation, HOH board members presented their annual reports and success stories at the start of the fundraiser. They also recognized four youth volunteers - Amaraj Judge, Nisha Kalra, Neyha Bhat, and Nandini Nallasivan - who had contributed significant time and energy to HOH's cause. "Kids helping kids" was a theme of the night, Sabharwal told India-West. Many parents in the audience also identified it as one of the characteristics of the organization that drew them to it. "They have really encouraged kids to get involved," said Hina Saiya. "My kids have become so interested in this cause - it's really wonderful."
Also presented at the fundraiser was NBC 11's report on a day at Atmashree School in Bangalore, where HOH championed computer literacy by opening the Abid Hussain Computer Lab. The report aired Sept. 25 to 29 as part of the network's series "Bangalore to the Bay." According to Sabharwal, Scott Budman, the producer of the series, was so impressed by HOH's work that "he has connected to the cause and can't forget the faces of the kids."
The evening's entertainment was provided by singers Anisha Bakshi and HOH entertainment chair Vikas Singh, and DJ Mukesh. The singers were accompanied by musicians Ali Shahbudin and Malkiat Singh.