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Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam: Aarti Patel receives Community Change Award

December 2010
Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam: Aarti Patel receives Community Change Award The Westin Perimeter Hotel was the scene for a night of comedy, dinner, dancing and a silent auction for over 300 community members celebrating Raksha’s 15th anniversary. The Atlanta based community organization (whose name means "protection" in several South Asian languages) held their 12th annual fundraiser Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam, An Evening in the Name of Raksha, on November 13, 2010.

A woman’s inner light and soul (her candlelight), dimmed by abusive and controlling words—this was visualized in a short video created by Setu Raval: the candlelight dims, and the woman asks the community to walk with her on her journey.

For this purpose, Raksha was created 15 years ago by Sunita Iyer and her parents, Shyam and Kamal Iyer, who were in attendance and recognized by Emcee Aruna Rao-McCann. To continue walking with abused women and children in our community, Event Chair Sangita Patil and counselor Aqsa Farooqui encouraged community members to be involved by donating funds, medical, legal, and other services.

One community member being honored for such work was Aarti Patel, a fitness trainer. Rajesh Jyotishi, Raksha Board Vice President, introduced her as the winner of the Seventh Annual Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award, for individuals exhibiting leadership in making social changes and promoting a stronger and healthier South Asian community. Nominated by a community member and then chosen among other nominees by previous winners of this award, Aarti has contributed by promoting physical fitness, nutrition and healthy living through her health columns in South Asian media and her volunteer work in the community. Aarti thanked her husband Pankaj, Rajesh Jyotishi and Gulshan Harjee for their support and mentorship, and encouraged the community to be healthy.

Past recipients of this Community Change Award are Dr. Gulshan Harjee, Shyam Sriram, Pankaj Sampat, Anneliese Singh, Navneet Singh Narula, Deepali Gokhale, and Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi themselves—whom this award honors for their leadership in creating Raksha’s annual fundraising event “Ek Shaam,” which has raised more than $200K since it started in 1998, helping Raksha to provide free and confidential services to more than 2,000 women and children.

After dinner by Madras Chettinaad, came entertainment: the Silent Killers Dance Mania; comedian Sohil Shyamsundar, an 8th grader who stole the show with his funny performance,; and the featured performer from Philadelphia, PA, Shareen Kassam, a.k.a Funny Brown Girl. With her humor focused on personal experiences, Kassam’s sometimes edgy act delves into the triumphs and struggles of being a modern Muslim woman in America, struggling with conservative family opinion and interactions with Western peers.

The silent auction was a huge success with items donated by many local businesses and artists. DJ Jaz managed the show, concluding with his rhythms and beats. And attendees could take music home with Rajesh Jyotishi’s CD, the proceeds benefitting Raksha.

Silver Sponsors for the event were Kilpatrick Stockton, Kuck Immigration and Kumar Pathak. Bronze Sponsors are the Antonini Law Firm, the Chugh Firm, First Medical Care, Georgia Cancer Specialists, Sunita S. Iyer, Kamal and Shyam Iyer, Metro Medical Associates, Michael Messick and Randall Connell, Platinum Consulting and the Sheth Family Foundation. Media Sponsors include Atlanta Dunia, Khabar Magazine, NRI Pulse, Namaste Bombay, and Wownow.com.

As a nonprofit, Raksha promotes a stronger and healthier community, playing a critical role in addressing violence against mostly South Asian and immigrant women and children. Through five dedicated employees and countless volunteers, Raksha provides linguistically and culturally specific crisis intervention, long-term therapeutic counseling, legal advice, advocacy, and referrals—a safe space to individuals who have few social networks to utilize when they are facing situations of domestic abuse, family violence, divorce, sexual assault, discrimination, and harassment.

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