Children’s Hope India, which helps underprivileged children progress from poverty to prosperity giving them a chance for a brighter future, held its very popular annual women’s luncheon on May 9 at the Carltun at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.
The $35,000 in funds raised at this year’s luncheon will benefit Children’s Hope India’s educational programs for the girl child in India and the New York Metro Area. The event was attended by approximately 300 supporters, including renowned fashion designer Anita Dongre (House of Anita Dongre), who is set to open up a brand new flagship store in Manhattan.
While India can claim improvements in recent years in terms of enrollment in its schools, girls are still underrepresented proportionally. After primary schooling, which is provided free by the government in India, many girls give up their education due to limited resources, household chores, having to babysit siblings, or an early marriage. For every 100 girls in rural India, only a single one reaches class 12, and almost 40% of girls leave school even before reaching the 5th standard.
This has an enormous impact on the girl child given the ties between education and health and prosperity. Through its support of several schools in India, including the newly opened Children’s Hope India Girls School in Bhopal — CHI’s first all-girls, English-medium secondary school which will educate up to 800 girls, two schools in Hyderabad and one in Jammu, CHI hopes to change the lives of hundreds of children, their families, and their communities.
A highlight of the spring luncheon is the Woman of Distinction Award, given to a woman who has managed to balance the challenges of the workplace, home, and social responsibility. This year CHI honored Divya Gugnani, a native Long Islander. Divya brings 20 years of investment and entrepreneurial experience to her role as co-founder of Wander Beauty, a brand focused on multitasking beauty essentials created with global inspiration. Prior to that, she co-founded Send the Trend, an e-commerce site focused on personalized fashion and beauty, and sold it to QVC, where she focused on digital innovation. She is a serial entrepreneur and has co-founded multiple companies.
Divya spoke about five lessons she has learned as a mother and entrepreneur, summarized as the following: “One — Always be listening – there’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth…because we should listen more and talk less. Two — Intellectual curiosity is the single best indicator of success. If we want to grow intellectually, morally, socially, and spiritually, we need to ask questions and seek out our own answers.
“Three — Live life outside of your comfort zone. Being out of my comfort zone allowed me to survive, to evolve, and most importantly, to grow. Four — Self-motivation should be taught and encouraged. Those that are motivated by their own passion and drive create immense value in organizations.
“And five — Spend time alone with yourself every day. Never forget to invest in yourself. This time alone will create happiness and peace within yourself that will then radiate to others around you.”
Representatives from Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s and Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth’s offices were in attendance to issue proclamations to Divya at the luncheon.
Guest speakers at the luncheon included two women, Raahkee Mirchandani and Karuna Chani, who are champions of the South Asian #MeToo movement due to personal experiences, one in the workplace and one at the hands of a relative when she was a very young girl. Raahkee, who is a writer, editor and pediatric cancer crusader, pointed out that two out of every five South Asian women experience domestic violence or sexual assault in their lifetime, versus the national average of one in four.
“Women feel as if they don’t have a voice,” she said, and encouraged the attendees, “Consider when you leave here today… think about breaking the cycle in whatever way you can.”
Karuna, an internationally recognized make-up artist, pointed out the difference in being a child in the 1970s versus the 1990s or 2000s—how millennials have the benefit of education and awareness.
“All we need to do is talk to our children. Boys and girls both — I challenge you to talk to your children about the topics your parents weren’t able to speak to you about. Protect them. Save them. All it is is a one-on-one conversation.”
The spring luncheon is organized by the CHI benefit committee comprising of Babita Advani, Milan Devjani, Aarti Kamat, Moneesha Sani and Madhulika Shroff. It was coordinated by Jharna Jaisinghani of Artistic Affairs, and DJ Sharad provided the fun music for this lively event.