For Lakshman, soon to be a senior at La Jolla High School, summer is anything but restful. Not only is she busy preparing to host Passage to Bollywood, a fundraiser for her efforts to bring education to rural Indian children, she’s gearing up for a month-long trip to the village in India where she’s helping build a high school, along with a library and computer center.
To help with the endeavor, Lakshman is bringing together three nonprofits, all with distinct roles in the effort. The Rural India Student Education Foundation (RISE), an organization committed to giving rural Indian children the same educational opportunities as urban children, is teaming up with Lakshman and two other groups, Room to Read and U-TOUCH (Universal Technology Outreach Community Hubs).
RISE, which was founded in the southern Indian village of Thimmanguthu, built the village’s first elementary and middle schools 10 years ago. Now that the children who first attended those schools are ready for high school, however, their options are limited: travel miles and miles to the closest high school or be done with schooling altogether. Lakshman, who traveled to India many times as a child, saw the need for secondary education and got involved with RISE for the project.
“I saw that a lot of children didn’t have an education, and I wanted to give them that chance,” she said. “Growing up in the U.S., it’s hard to see those who didn’t have those opportunities [I did]. Those kids dream of becoming doctors and scientists, too, but they don’t have a chance.”
Lakshman knew the experience RISE had in building schools in the area, but wanted to get other nonprofits involved. La Jolla-based organization U-TOUCH, which has helped bring education and technology through digital libraries to several districts in Uganda, will provide about 15 computers and a modem for the technology center. Meanwhile, Room to Read, an organization that works to improve literacy and gender equality in education across the world, will provide books for the new library.
The undertaking is not small, and all of the construction, equipment, labor and materials will cost about $90,000. To help take a bite out of that, Lakshman has put together an evening of entertainment — with everything from an Indowestern fashion show and stand-up comedy to live and silent auctions and Bollywood dancing demonstrations — on July 19.
Passage to Bollywood will be held at the Balboa Park Ballroom from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. For $100 per person ($150 for two and $25 for students), guests can expect dinner catered by KC Tandoor, a comedy show from Maria Herman and Manish Gupta, live music from local band The Untouchables (along with tunes from DJ Fusion Sounds) and more. All proceeds will benefit the efforts in Thimmanguthu.
In August, Lakshman will travel to the village to witness her efforts in action. It will be the first time she will meet the students she is helping, a prospect she is “very excited” about. Construction will start that month, and is expected to be complete by next March.
“Right now, the students are waiting to go to school. Their schooling is being postponed every day we wait, so there’s a sense of urgency to it,” Lakshman said. “Giving them that access to education is really important to me.”
For more information about Passage to Bollywood, call (858) 352-8049 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase tickets to the event, visit www.facebook.com/PassageTo- Bollywood or passagetobollywood.eventbrite.com. The Balboa Park Ballroom is located at 2144 Pan American Road West. For more information about the nonprofits involved, visit www.india rise.org, www.u-touch.org and www.roomtoread.org.