Karuna Charities' 18th Annual Diwali Gala was held on Sunday, November 6, 2016 at the Holiday Inn, Gaithersburg, MD.
The Master of Ceremonies, Mrs. Nilima Mehra announced that Karuna Charities, Washington has donated over $350,000 from inception. She praised the "returning women" in homeless shelters who with a little help from Karuna Charities were able to take their rightful place in this world. She welcomed the Guest of Honor, Mr. N.K. Mishra (Community Affairs Minister, Embassy of India, Washington D.C.) and the Keynote Speaker Mr. John Ruffino (Executive Director, NVCC Educational Foundation). Karuna Charities has endowed scholarships at the Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), The University of the District of Columbia (UDC), Montgomery College in Maryland, and The Universities at Shady Grove in Maryland.
The tone of love and peace was set in a welcome melodious song by Mrs. Swati Kanitkar.
The Chief Guest, Mr. N.K. Mishra and Board Members as well as Karuna Ambassadors lit the Diwali Lamp, signifying hope. Board Members present included Mrs. Amrit Kalotra (President); Mrs. Kanti Singh (Vice-President); Mrs. Jasbir Sethi (Vice-President and Treasurer); Mrs. Sujata Avasthi (Vice-President); Mrs. Promila Banik (Secretary); and Mrs. Bina Dhir (Joint-Treasurer) along with Karuna Ambassadors Mrs. Rohini Khera, Mrs. Sangita Kalotra and Mrs Sushma Oberoi; and Karuna Webmaster and Editor Mrs. Gita Bhatia.
There was a welcome surprise and moment of happy excitement when Nilima Mehra, the popular Emcee, a tireless community worker, a great philanthropic was recognized and presented with the first Karuna Community Award!! The award was richly deserved and was accepted with great grace by a happy and totally overwhelmed Nilima.
Mrs. Amrit Kalotra, Mr. N.K. Mishra and Mr. John Ruffino were called upon to address the audience.
Mr. N.K. Mishra brought meaning to the popular Indian slogan "Beti bachao, beti padhao" (Save the daughter by educating her). He praised Mrs. Kalotra for personally engaging with women from India who the Indian Embassy cannot help but who Mrs. Kalotra has helped by giving them the courage to help themselves emerge from catastrophic situations by taking the right actions. Mr. Mishra welcomed the idea of having more helpful organizations like Karuna Charities.
Mr. John Ruffino painted a picture of the diversity in Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and the needy students who are helped by Karuna Charities' scholarships.
Mrs. Kalotra welcomed the guests to the event and explained the main goals of Karuna Charities and its activities. Karuna Charities especially helps battered women and children who are victims of domestic violence, poverty and illness – with financial, emotional and moral support as they transit to towards independent living, leaving the protection of the shelter to live a life of dignity. They assist these “returning women” in various ways, for example, providing them with their first month’s rent, lawyer’s fees, educational and vocational training courses for her and her family. The wonders that a helping hand can do to change a human's life around was illustrated in a touching story by Mrs. Kalotra. She strongly believes in education for all, particularly in the adage “If you educate a woman, then the whole family is helped.” Keeping this in mind, Karuna has established Endowed Scholarships at the four institutions mentioned above. She noted that in addition to the four scholarships, Karuna Charities engages in helping the community, for example, by feeding the homeless in shelters, providing medical supplies and cleansing materials to HIV patients at Mother Teresa's Home, and also supporting orphanages and the sick. Karuna has helped in natural disasters, e.g., Tsunami and Gujarat flood victims in India, Firefighters during 9/11, Katrina survivors, Haiti, the Philippines, and earthquake relief in Nepal. Karuna Charities has also reached out to needy people in India, such as, by a regular financial aid to a girls' school and helping the needy and sick in need of treatment of grave illnesses.
Bollywood folk dances, beautifully choreographed by Mrs. Priti Vasavada were performed by Riya Patel, Isha Vashee, Maria Naveed, Riya Patel, and Vagmi Luhar of the Kalajali School of Folk and Bollywood dances. The colorful attire and the grace of the young dancers was a visual treat!!
The highly anticipated Talent Contest showcased immense singing talent in the Indian community. The winner of the "Youngsters" category, Tarun Donipati, wowed the audience with a rendition of the song "Mitwa". The winner of the Female category was Sangeeta Simlote ("Baiyan Na Dharo"), and Samarjit Patnaik ("Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb Thi") won in the Male category. All the contestants won the hearts of the audience.
A return Air India ticket and a Porsche suitcase were auctioned to the highest bidders. There was much excitement at the Raffle drawing where a number of lovely gifts were given.
Sumptuous dinner was catered by Bombay Tandoor and the music was provided by the ever popular and a long-associate of Karuna Charities, DJ Hemant.