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A fund-raiser for needy students in India

June 13, 2008 00:46 IST

The Sikh Human Development Foundation, which provides scholarships to needy students in India, raised more than $ 213,000 at a dinner called 'Umeedan di Shaam.'

The event, held recently in Vienna, Virginia, featured Satinder Satti, Punjabi artist and Zee TV anchor in India who sang songs and read her poems.

Gurvendra Singh Suri, chief executive officer, Optimal Solutions Integration, Inc, and a community leader from Dallas, was the chief guest.

'It is a historic evening when some 700 members of our community have come together at one place to support young men and women of Punjab and neighboring areas who cannot afford higher education," said Amarjit Singh Sodhi, chairman of the Foundation.

Gajinder Singh Ahuja, secretary general, SHDF, said the Foundation's mission was to financially-empower talented but poor students and help them realize their potential by improving access to higher professional education, and to award scholarships without distinction of caste, religion or gender.

He said 178 such scholarship recipients had already graduated. The funds raised will be distributed to the students through the SHDF's partner organization, the Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council in Delhi, after the selection criteria are fulfilled.

Suri exhorted the audience to donate generously to support higher education for children from poor families.

"We all have been blessed by the Almighty with good fortune and we need to give back to our community. This is not only our responsibility because we belong to the Sikh faith but also our moral and social responsibility to take care of people who need our help.'

Entrepreneur Ken Bajaj, who was honoured for his support to the cause of higher education, urged the audience: "If we do not invest in the education of our bright young people, we are throwing away the future of our community." He gave a large donation to the cause.

Sodhi, who welcomed the audience, said that every scholarship brings a welcome journey "from potential destitution to dignity. Such is its magic. It moves our youth from darkness to light; from bitterness, frustration and despair to a life of hope, gratitude and dignity."

Dr Rajwant Singh, member of the SHDF's executive council, thanked the volunteers and the guests for their support.

Other donors and supporters honoured during the event included Dr Pavanjit Kaur Sawhney, Baldev Singh, Dr Rishpal Singh Aujla and Manmohan Singh Kohli.

The event started with a Sikh hymn sung by Amrita Dang and a dhol performance by Harjot Singh.

A bhangra by the award-winning MAR group and a solo Punjabi folk dance by Supreet Kaur Malhi were also on the event's cultural menu.

A Correspondent