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Vibha’s ‘Ray of Light’ Gala: A Night of Hope and Celebration

BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
VIDEO REPORT BY NAMITA DOGRA

Photos by Venkat Kuttua

Atlanta GA, January 16, 2024: Taking a leap of faith, Manjusha Chanmallappa Chitte, a dedicated teacher with twenty-seven years of service at ZP Primary Marathi School in Karjagi, Akkalkot taluka, Solapur, India embraced LeapForWord’s English Literacy Program (ELP) in 2022. Armed with an M.A. and B.Ed., she enthusiastically incorporated ELP techniques into her teaching methods. The impact was remarkable, simplifying English instruction and making it more effective for both Manjusha and her students. The program’s videos and accompanying materials provided valuable tools for breaking down words and correcting pronunciation. Manjusha, in turn, extended this transformative experience to her daughter, who now reads complex words with ease and enthusiasm.

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Beyond the individual impact, Manjusha’s students actively participated in quizzes and the word power championships, driven by motivation and rewards. ELP has not only clarified doubts for teachers like Manjusha but has also inspired newfound confidence and enthusiasm for English literacy among her students.

LeapForWord is one of Vibha’s foundational learning program partners. Vibha is currently funding 7500 schools in 5 states of Inda benefitting close to 400,000 children through its foundational English literacy program. It takes $100 to provide ELP techniques to 5 teachers like Manjusha. 

Vibha is a volunteer-driven movement enabling high-quality public education to reach children from underserved communities.

The brainchild of Dr. Sreekanth Pannala, Vibha kicked off its flagship fundraiser – Dream Mile in 1998. Dr. Pannala was then a PhD student in Georgia Tech. The Cricket tournament, a first of its kind in Atlanta, was also initiated by few volunteers who were also cricket enthusiasts.  

The funds raised through the Dream Mile go towards supporting child development projects in India and the USA. The mission is to transform the quality of public education by scaling proven models of Motivation, Learning, Training & Technology. In addition to their projects in India, local beneficiaries of the Dream Mile host cities include The Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, The International Community School Georgia, Inspiredu, Communities In Schools Chicago, and School on Wheels, Massachusetts. Over the years, The Dream Mile has raised more than $3 Million that has been directed towards supporting more than 180,000 children.

Through the school year 2022-23, Vibha’s Foundational Literacy and Numeracy programs outreached over 600,000 children between the age of 5 and 10 years, and 13,000 Public school teachers trained in these methodologies.

With a dedicated group of over 1,000 volunteers across 10 cities, contributing over 70,000 hours, Vibha celebrated 25 years of Dream Mile and Cricket in Atlanta. The milestone Gala was celebrated in 3 cities including Atlanta, the Bay Area and Boston. Vibha conducted successful events in Dallas, Boston, Houston, Minneapolis, the Bay Area, Atlanta, Raleigh, LA, New Jersey, Mumbai and Bangalore. Vibha has also initiated 3 new youth chapters and gearing up to expand and contribute more. 

 
On December 9th, Vibha Atlanta celebrated “Ray of Light Gala”, the 25th anniversary of their Dream Mile and Cricket initiatives at the Omni Hotel with a gathering of hundreds of people, including volunteers, dignitaries, and a starry line-up. The “Ray of Light” gala journey began in early 2023 with Vibha Atlanta leadership team’s decision to commemorate the 25th year of Dream Mile and Cricket tournament in a special way. This, Vijay Vemulapalli, Secretary, Vibha said, was followed by multiple brainstorming sessions, sketching plans, and collaborative efforts that culminated into a hugely successful event attended by celebrities, sponsors, patrons, community leaders and volunteers.

Through an outpouring of support from sponsors and donors at the Gala, Vibha was able to successfully raise $220,000.

Acclaimed Bollywood actor and philanthropist Sonu Sood headlined the Gala, enhancing the vigor and vibrancy of the gathering. His moving speech about his personal commitment to community service and the establishment of his foundation captivated the audience. His narratives set a powerful tone for the event, underlining the collective purpose of the gathering. The Atlanta team was unanimous in their decision that Sonu Sood was the perfect choice for their guest of honor not only because of his star power but also his commitment to philanthropic endeavors. “His well-known dedication to helping the underprivileged deeply resonated with everyone present at the event” said Pravin Chavda, one of the leads of the event.

Padma Bhushan Dr. Jagdish Sheth, Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Business, Goizueta Business School, Emory University and Vibha advisor / board member and guest of honor spoke on the occasion. Dr. Sheth inspired the guests present with his words of wisdom and his quintessential sense of humor lauding the organization’s achievements and outlined future goals. He emphasized the importance of education and acknowledged Vibha’s undying commitment to the cause, especially in their focus on improving the quality of public education in India.  

The evening was further enhanced by performances from the Georgia Tech Bhangra team and a vibrant Fashion Show by team Rang led by Lakshmi Mandavalli as well as stand-up comedy by well-known Indian American comedian Kabir Singh. The event also served as an occasion to honor various individuals and groups for their unwavering support to Vibha, spanning sponsors, donors, advisors, and volunteers. FutureTech CEO, a long time sponsor of Vibha, Sravan Vellanki, said “ FutureTech is proud to be associated with Vibha for the past two decades for making a difference in the lives of children through education.  I want to express my Congratulations to all the volunteers of Vibha on completing 25 years of Vibha Cricket and DreamMile.” Paramount CEO, long time sponsor and supporter of Vibha, Pramod Sajja, said “Paramount is elated to be part of Vibha’s Ray of Light Gala 2023. We believe the long-term evolution of society and the amelioration of our civilization is grounded in education, and endorsing Vibha’s mission for improved learning for children in underserved communities delivers on that belief for Paramount.”

“It was a perfect way to end a landmark year for Vibha Atlanta! A magical evening made possible by the generosity of our sponsors, dedication and hard work of our volunteers and trust and support of all who believe in our effort to make a difference in the lives of children” said Madhavi Korrapati, co-lead of the event echoing the sentiment of everyone present. 

Funds raised from the gala, executes said will contribute to Vibha’s ongoing goal to educate 10 million children in 10 years. In particular these funds will be used for the Foundation Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) solutions for children between 5 and 10 years, so that children can read, write and do basic math. Through the FLN program, Vibha has positively impacted 511,458 children and trained 12,724 teachers across multiple states in India during 2022-23. This remarkable evening not only celebrated the power of collective effort but also reinforced Vibha’s foundational belief that a small group of dedicated individuals can indeed make a substantial impact in the world.

The event was not just a fundraising success but also a celebration of community and awareness, leaving a lasting impact on all attendees.

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