Former Indian president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam will be the keynote speaker at this year's All India Movement for Seva's fundraiser on September 26.
"Our mandate is educating children in India's rural and tribal areas," said Dr Terry Papneja, head, AIM for Sewa-Canada.
"That's Dr Kalam's message as well. He wants every child in India to be educated. We know that's ambitious, so we are confining ourselves to educating children in rural and tribal areas; there are 40 million children (between 6 to 14 years) who don't go to school," he said.
Papneja said this was the first time in eight years that the event would host such a high-profile keynoter. "He will be able to sway many people who may not have made any commitment to our cause before to open their check books," he added.
AIM for Seva-Canada has raised $1.7 million in the last eight years. The organisers are hoping to raise a at least $300,000 this year, 'maybe even more because of Dr Kalam's presence and the powerful message for children's education that he's expected to deliver,' added Papneja.
Over 600 tickets ($50 per plate) for the event, which will be held at the Pearson Convention Center, Brampton, had been sold at the time of going to press.
AIM for Seva has built 80 hostels in India -- each costing $65,000 -- which accommodates 50 to 100 children each. They aim to build at least one hostel in each of India's 800 districts.
"Canada has contributed the largest number of hostels -- 21 so far," Papneja said. He is hoping to get commitments for at least two to three more this year, in addition to sponsorship for direct education of children.
AIM for Seva has scheduled two more fund raisers this year. Indian classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj is scheduled to perform in Toronto October 31. The organisation hopes to raise at least $50,000 from the event.
This will be followed up with Toronto-based chartered accountant J Narula's endeavor to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in December. He hopes to raise $100,000.