Ashwin Bhavnani Cancer Foundation for Home of Hope
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ashwin Bhavnani was introduced to the Home of Hope as child while volunteering there with his mother Neelam Bhavnani. In his early teens he moved to Bangalore, India, with his parents for a few years. It was then that Ashwin experienced firsthand the pain of young underprivileged street children, who stood at street corners with tricks up their sleeves or ran up to air-conditioned cars to peddle their wares.
These children and their distressing situations tugged at his heartstrings. Back in the US, Ashwin wanted to help give a better life to the underprivileged children in India. He also championed the cause of Home of Hope at his workplaces Yahoo and Facebook.
In early 2022, Ashwin was diagnosed with primary CNS lymphoma and thus began his valiant face-off with cancer. During this time, Ashwin thought of the many others who were suffering but could not get the same medical care as he was receiving and expressed a desire to do something for those people.
In August 2023, 33-year-old Ashwin passed away. To honor his memory, the Bhavnani family dedicated the Ashwin Bhavnani Cancer Foundation for Home of Hope to the organization with the dual mission of helping patients of cancer and youth in distress.
Home of Hope gala highlights the horrors of human trafficking
At the gala, Dr. Nilima Sabharwal, Home of Hope founder, introduced Padmashree awardee Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, keynote speaker, who spoke about the scourge of human trafficking. Human trafficking is not just sex trafficking, Krishnan said. Besides labor and sex, the world over, young children are trafficked for reasons such as skin grafting, organ harvesting, and camel jockeying.
Detailing the horrors, Dr. Krishnan explained, “The child is tied to the leg of the camel, the more the child cries the faster the camel runs.” She added, “The youngest victim of human trafficking was one day old”. She also referred to Hyderabad, her home city, where traffickers targeted communities that practiced female infanticide and bought the unborn girls off pregnant women. “If it is a boy, keep him but if it is a girl she is ours, they told the mothers,” said Krishnan.
The global problem of modern-day slavery
Technology has enabled penetration by traffickers into our homes, making everyone vulnerable. “Slavery is a global problem”, said Krishnan. “The United States is one of the largest sources of human trafficking in the world. The buyers and sellers are from this world, our world. They are our brothers, uncles, fathers, etc. They sit among us,“ she added.
Dr. Krishnan’s organization, Prajwala, rescues young girls from sex trafficking. Home of Hope also supports the rehabilitation of the rescued children. Among those at the gala supporting the work of Home of Hope were Rita Sharma, Poongodi Subramanyam, Neelam Bhavnani, Pat Kumar, and Neeti Sandhu.
Youth Volunteers of Home of Hope Win the President’s Volunteer Service Award
The Youth Chapter won the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA). Winners are Adil Grover, Amora Grover, Keshav Khanna, Asha Durga, Sehaj Singh, Aditya Mathur, Divya Mathur, Avi Taneja, AnyaTaneja, Samika Agarwal, Tara Subramanian, Shamsheer Singh, and Manas Devaki.
“Ashwin visited Home of Hope projects with me for years. He interacted with the children, reading them books, sharing stories of his adventures, and doing yoga with them,” said Neelam as she remembered Ashwin. “He was very proud of our work.”