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The 16th annual Ek Shaam Raksha ke Naam celebrated community youth

December 2014
The 16th annual Ek Shaam Raksha ke Naam celebrated community youth

(Photography by Vinod)

On November 1, 2014, over 200 community members joined Atlanta-based community organization Raksha at the Buckhead Theatre for the 16th annual fundraiser, Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam, An Evening in the Name of Raksha. The night consisted of powerful presentations, live music, Indian and Italian food from Villagio, silent auction, and dancing.

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Emcees were Ms. Sonya Thaper, Ms. Anouskha Singh, and Raksha’s Board member Mr. Parag Mehta. The program opened with local poet Pooja Garg Singh reciting her original published poetry, “In Parts.” This was followed by a moving dance performance, “Nirbhaya” by Deeksha School of Performing Arts (two photos above, with dancers portraying gundas or thugs). The dance, which focused on the Delhi rape that made headlines throughout the world, left a lasting impression on the audience and reminded us about the power of women. Raksha staff, interns, and volunteers then made a presentation, showing that victims of abuse can find resiliency from supportive friends, families, strangers, religious leaders, teachers, advocates, etc. The work of youth in Raksha and throughout the world was also highlighted to remind the audience of the amazing power and impact that youth activists have.

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This year’s Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award was presented to Ms. Aasees Kaur and Japjee Singh (photo at left). Japjee Singh, a very confident young adult shared his experience of being bullied at school for just looking different. It was a rough time for him physically and emotionally, but with support from family and friends, especially his sister Aasees, he turned this negative incident and used it to achieve something positive for the good of many immigrant and marginalized students, even going on from this advocacy to testify before Congress about the impact of bullying. Aasees spoke from her experience about the importance of listening and engaging youth. Aasees and Japjee organized the very first Sikh day at the Georgia State Capitol this year. Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi presented the youth with their awards and reminded the audience about the growing need they continue to see from the calls they get and how much Raksha needs the community’s support and donations to continue helping our fellow community members.

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Raksha’s Executive Director Aparna Bhattacharyya talked about how clients draw strength not just from themselves but also from people who remind them of their strength: the police officer, the friend, the community youth who donate food to Raksha, or the community members who organize backpack drives for the children in the community. Raksha honored the detectives of Dekalb County Special Victims Unit (photo at left) with the Himmat (Courage) Award for playing a critical role in working for the safety of young South Asian survivors of violence as well as adult survivors. Sergeant Mercer spoke on behalf of the Unit, pointing out how strong and brave many of the survivors of violence are and that the survivors deserve the accolades for their courage and strength. Sgt. Mercer described the strong partnership with Raksha and how that helps her team in the work they do every day.

Ranjana Rathi’s student dancers energized the crowd with a performance of traditional folk dances, and Preeti Howlett and Neha Partain performed a Bollywood Zumba piece. DJ Arsin of Xtra Hot DJs filled the break for some dancing while folks bid on Silent Auction items such as a “communitree,” a unique piece of artwork that all of the attendees had a hand in creating. Other auction items included clothing from Mumtaz Fashions and Bawree, items from Innoconcepts, Local artwork, gift certificates, and more.

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Seeds of Change Award was given to APCA, the home of Asian Pacific Islanders for Professional and Community Advancement of AT&T. The Chinmaya Atlanta BalaVihar at The Hindu Temple of Atlanta were also honored.

In the second half of the evening, the Seeds of Change Award was given to APCA, the home of Asian Pacific Islanders for Professional and Community Advancement, one of the AT&T Employee Resource Groups, for hosting a school supply and backpack drive for Raksha for the past 7 years. Many APCA members have also supported in other ways by organizing tax consultations for Raksha clients, organizing yard sales, and making donations.

Raksha also honored the youth of Chinmaya Atlanta BalaVihar at The Hindu Temple of Atlanta for the annual food and toy drive that they have conducted for more than 7 years and from which Raksha’s clients benefit as well as other nonprofits such as the Atlanta Food Bank and the Clayton County domestic violence shelter. Many of the youth look forward to being selected as lead coordinators of this annual event. Many of those who have led this initiative have gone on to volunteer with Raksha by having their high school clubs organize service days, fundraise, or come to teach Raksha’s youth about martial arts The Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta’s (BAGA) Youth Committee was to also be honored for raising money for Raksha for the past five years, including $1,000 this year; they could not attend, so will be honored in 2015.

Bollywood Zumba with Shelia Devlia followed, and then Tanweer Mian captivated the audience and had them dancing to his amazing voice.

This evening was focused on celebrating the youth who volunteer for Raksha, the youth who receive our services, the partners who help us serve the youth clients, and of course a reminder of the inherent strength and resilience our clients and community have, both within themselves and through the help of community members who provide the love and support to overcome the challenges they may be facing.

Funds raised help promote a stronger and healthier South Asian community through Raksha's confidential counseling, support groups, support services, education, and advocacy for community members who have been impacted by family and sexual violence as well as other crimes. Raksha is extremely grateful for the support from the community for this event and for the past 19 years. Sponsors were Delta Air Lines (Gold); Kilpatrick Townsend, and Kumar, Prabhu, Patel, and Banerjee (Silver); and Ameriprise, Action Bartending and Design, Antonini and Cohen, The Chugh Firm, First Medical Care, Georgia Cancer Specialists, Kuck Immigration, The Law Offices of Joe Rosen, Metro Medical Associates, Bawree, and The Sheth Family Foundation (Bronze).
 Media Sponsors included Atlanta Dunia, Khabar Magazine, NRI Pulse, Namaste Bombay, TV Asia, and Wownow.com.
 Photography was provided by Photography by Vinod.

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