Sep 20, 2018

A Memorable Night at the Pratham Seattle Gala


On September 14, 2018, more than 300 local business leaders, dignitaries and residents passionate about education gathered for the annual Pratham Seattle gala. Held at the Westin, Bellevue, the event raised over $500,000 for Pratham’s transformative education programs. First-time attendees Krishna Thiagarajan, president and CEO of the Seattle Symphony, Vandana Slatter, a member of the Washington House of Representatives, and JJ McKay, founder and publisher of The Fresh Toast, were among the many notable faces that graced the event.

Following cocktails, guests were treated to an exclusive fashion show by master weaver Gaurang, whose heirloom pieces can take up to two years to create. Known for his Jamdani weaving technique, the lauded designer showcased traditional Indian saris and other attire set to songs from classic Hindi musicals. A representative for the label voiced their solidarity with Pratham’s mission: “We are proud to be a part of this fantastic gala tonight and to support Pratham.” Gaurang generously donated two stunning outfits, which raised $5,000 during the live auction.

Seattle chapter chairman Pradeep Singh welcomed the audience and explained what impresses him most about Pratham: “Building great organizations is not easy, but building great nonprofit organizations is impossibly hard. Because you can’t promise your employees the promise of being of great wealth, because you can’t promise them that the world will be fantastic. So I come to sing the praise of a Pratham, an organization that does that without the advantages I had when I was building my own.”

The highlight of the night was a rousing keynote speech by Pratham CEO Rukmini Banerji, who stressed the importance of taking action: “You’ve got to understand a problem before you solve it. Accept the problem, and then you’re ready to start thinking of solutions. If you’re going to deal with something, you’ve got to engage. It’s not enough to think of a beautiful house—it needs to be built.” Dr. Banerji then moderated a live feed with children from Pratham programs in India, who delighted the audience and received a standing ovation.

Ahead of the pledge drive, board member Darshana Shanbhag reminded those in attendance why they were all there: “Today, I’m standing here not as a part of the board, but on behalf of all the voices that can’t be here today. With Pratham here, we have the tools, we have shown that we can make an impact. The joy of giving is truly far more than the joy of receiving.”

The spirit of the evening was perhaps best summed up by attendee Yashodhra Painumkal, a technical recruiter at Facebook and longtime Pratham supporter: “We’re really here because we care about education, we care about the next generation. My kids are the same age as the kids that are being impacted and it really is close to home. I just feel that I, as an Indian American, should not be so privileged when people in India or other parts of the world should have the same rights to education as we have.”

View more photos from the gala.