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Raksha celebrates youth at 16th Annual 'Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam'

Photos by Photography by Vinod

Atlanta, GA: On November 1, 2014, more than  200 community members joined Atlanta based organization Raksha at Buckhead Theatre for the the sixteenth annual fundraiser Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam,  An Evening in the Name of Raksha.  This South Asian non-profit’s goal is to end domestic and sexual violence in the community and Georgia. The evening focused on celebrating youth who volunteer for Raksha, 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 potentially face.

The night consisted of powerful presentations, live music, Indian and Italian food from Villagio, silent auction and dancing.   Aasees Kaur and Japjee Singh received the Tenth Annual Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award. Dekalb County Police Department –Special Victims Unit received the 4th Annual Himmat Award

The evening was hosted by Sonya Thaper, Anouskha Singh and Raksha board member Parag Mehta. The program opened with a 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 inAtlanta. The dance which focused on theDelhirape that made headlines throughout the world left a lasting impression on the audience and reminded us about the power of women.   This was followed by a presentation on survivor’s source of resiliency by Raksha staff, interns and volunteers. The message of the presentation was that the victims of abuse can find resiliency from supportive friends, families, strangers, religious leaders, teachers, advocates, etc.  Raksha also highlighted the work of youth in Raksha and throughout the world to remind the audiences of the amazing power and impact that youth activitsts have.

This year’s Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award winner Japjee Singh, a very confident young adult, shared his experience when he was bullied at his school for just looking different than most of his school mates. He shared the rough time he had physically and emotionally due to the incident. He then described the support that he got from his families and friends, especially his sister Aasees.  He also shared how he turned this negative incident and used it to achieve something positive for the good of many immigrant and marginalized students in the school system. Due to his experience and advocacy, he testified before Congress about impact bullying.  Co-award winner Aasees talked about the importance of listening and engaging youth.  She shared how she was aware of the importance of advocating and listening based on her own experiences.  Both Japjee and Aasees are inspirational youth who are working on a daily basis to make change not just in their own lives but in the lives of others.  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 as community members and how much Raksha needs the community’s support and donations to continue helping our fellow community members.

Raksha’s Executive Director Aparna Bhattacharyya talked about how many of their clients draw strength not just from themselves but also from the people who remind them of their strength. It could be 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 then went on to honor the detectives from Dekalb County Special Victim’s Unit who have been playing a critical role in working for the safety of young South Asian survivors of violence as well as adult survivors with the Himmat (Courage) Award.  Sergeant Mercer, spoke on behalf of the unit, and pointed 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 went on to talk about the strong partnership with Raksha and how that helps her team in the work they do every day.  

Ranjana Rathi’s dance group energized the crowd with her students performing traditional folk dances followed by Preeti Howlett and Neha Partain performing a Bollywood Zumba piece.  Raksha took a break for some dancing to Xtra Hot DJ’s DJ Arsin while folks bid on silent auction items such as a communitree- a unique piece of art work that all of the attendees had a hand in creating.   Other items on auction included clothing from Mumtaz Fashions, Bawree, items from Innoconcepts, local artwork, gift certificates and more.

The second half of the evening opened with the Seeds of Change Award being 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 of the APCA members have continued to support Raksha in other ways by organizing tax consultations for our clients, organizing yard sales and donating outside of the school supply drive to support Raksha’s work.    Raksha then went on to honor the youth of Chinmaya Atlanta BalaVihar at The Hindu Temple of Atlanta for their annual food and toy drive for which Raksha’s clients benefit.   The youth group has been doing this for more than 7 years and other non-profits such as the Atlanta Food Bank and theClaytonCountydomestic violence shelter also benefit from this annual food and toy drive that is lead and organized by youth.  Many of the youth, look forward to being selected as the lead coordinators of this annual event.   Many of the youth who have led this initiative have gone on to volunteer with Raksha by having their high school clubs organized service days, fundraise for Raksha, or coming to teach Raksha’s youth about martial arts.   The Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta’s (BAGA) Youth committee was to also be honored but were not able to attend the event but will be honored at the next BAGA event in 2015.   The BAGA Youth committee has been raising money for charity  for the past five years and the youth have selected Raksha as the recipient every year.   This year the BAGA youth committee raised $1,000 for Raksha.  

The evening continued on with more Bollywood Zumba with Shelia Devlia.   Tanweer Mian then took the stage and had the audience dancing to his amazing voice.  Tanweer had the audience captivated and enthralled.   

“Raksha is extremely grateful for the support from the community for this event and for the past 19 years,” said Bhattacharyya. The gold sponsor for the event was Delta Air Lines.   The silver sponsors were  Kumar, Prabhu, Patel, and Banerjee and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP.   Bronze sponsors were 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. 

Media sponsors included NRI Pulse, Atlanta Dunia, Desi Express, Khabar Magazine, Namaste Bombay, TV Asia, and

The Photography was provided by Photography by Vinod.    If you were not able to attend, please consider making a donation to Raksha atP.O. Box 12337,Atlanta,GA30355.  The funds raised from Ek Shaam Raksha Ke Naam help keep Raksha’s services available to the community.   Raksha’s mission is to promote a stronger and healthier South Asian community through confidential support services, education, and advocacy. Raksha provides counseling, support groups, and advocacy to community members who have been impacted by family and sexual violence as well as other crimes.  

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