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A dancer’s brightly colored skirt frozen in mid-sway. Elephants and their mahouts. Young professionals pressed together on the trains in Mumbai. A street urchin begging for coins at a busy traffic intersection.

 

All are arguably images of India. It is a country flush with different cultures, terrains, and peoples. And it is also a country where wealth and extreme poverty exist together; sometimes side by side.

 

For many of India’s poorest children, the likelihood of remaining trapped in the cycle of poverty is painfully high. Their options are further limited by the fact that they do not have access to an education. Today, there are 180 million illiterate children in India and 17 million of them work as child laborers. These children are deprived of any hope for the future.

 

Asha for Education was founded in 1991 to address this social inequity. The organization was founded by a few graduate students at UC Berkeley with the intent of fostering socioeconomic change by educating underprivileged children. Since its inception, the organization has grown to include 45 chapters in the U.S., and 66 chapters globally.

 

This year, Asha-Berkeley is proud to hold its 18th annual culture show. The event, titled Images of India, will present a unique spectrum of India’s performance arts. All proceeds from the event go to support a wide array of grassroots initiatives in diverse communities across India.

 

One such project is Sahyog, an all-girls school in Mumbai. While initially started to address the growing gap in education between boys and girls in the area, the program has since expanded to include a health clinic that serves the needs not only of the students, but also of the rest of the neighborhood as well.

 

Another project Asha funds is Guria, a school for the children for sex workers in Varnassi’s red light district.

 

Information about these projects and others are available on the Asha Berkeley website and donors can choose to donate to a specific project is they wish.

The word “asha” means “hope” in Sanskrit and that is exactly what Asha wants to bring to underprivileged children. As a secular and nonpolitical organization, Asha aspires to transcend sectarian conflicts and work toward the goal of socioeconomic change in India.

 

Asha for Education has been able to make some strides toward providing every child access to education. By supporting over 400 projects Asha has changed the lives of 150,000 children. But the problem we face is of such magnitude that we still have an immense amount of work ahead of us. We need the support of the Bay Area community, conscientious businesses, volunteers, and donors. Images of India is Asha-Berkeley’s largest fundraiser and it will be a truly wonderful night. Please join us in this celebration of India’s culture and take this opportunity to support the struggle for social equity in India.

 

 

Saturday, Nov. 8, 7-9 p.m. International House Auditorium, 2299 Piedmont Ave., Berkeley. $20, $30, $45 advance; $25, $35, $50 at door ($5 off for students/seniors).  Tickets: www.ashanet.org/berkeley/ioi.  www.ashanet.org/berkeley.

 

Lakshmi Santhosh has been active with Asha for Education for the past year and is chapter coordinator of the Asha-Berkeley chapter. A Bay Area resident for the past 16 years, she currently lives in Berkeley and studies Economics at Cal.

 

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