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Ekal collects $ 420,000 for tribal schools

June 11, 2010 04:28 IST
Ekal Vidyalaya, a charitable trust engaged in one of the largest non-formal, basic education projects for underprivileged children in rural India, raised close to half a million dollars last month during five charity shows in the mid-Atlantic region including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The trust collected $420,000, including  $325,000 raised through three benefit concerts in New Jersey, with a concert in Edison raising $175,000.

Singer Sanjeevani Bhelande, the 1995 Sa Re Ga Ma Pa winner, sang melodies by famous Indian singers of yesteryear.
'We got her [Bhelande] here to do the concerts so we could attract more people. She is going to do 30 concerts throughout America in the next month,' said Prakash Waghmare, a senior official of the trust's New Jersey chapter.

For $365 a year, Ekal Vidyalaya schools provide non-formal basic education and hygiene training to groups of 30 to 40 underprivileged children each in remote tribal villages in India that often lack approachable roads and basic facilities.

Waghmare, an engineer who benefited from charity for his education in India, said Ekal Vidyalaya derives inspiration from Swami Vivekananda who said, 'If the child cannot come to education, let the education go to the child.'

'We started with 60 schools in 1986 and today thanks to efforts by Indians and Indian Americans we have 27,000 facilities in remote tribal areasÂ…. Our goal is to take it to at least 100,000,' he said. Explaining the project, Umesh Shukla, the trust's regional president, said Ekal Vidyalaya is the largest literacy movement undertaken by the Indians and the Indian Americans.

Prajna Khisti, a New Jersey chapter president, in emotional appeals to the gathering, said, 'Our success in this country was due to our heavily subsidized education back home. Unknown to us, someone else paid for it. Now, by reciprocating the same helping hand to the needy children of India, we are only seeking salvation in a small way.'

Madanlal Agarwala, whose pioneering efforts were responsible for the Ekal Movement, was posthumously honored along with his extended family. Veena and Sharad Gandhi, life-long supporters of Ekal, were also recognized for their community service and dedication to the literacy cause.
A Correspondent