April 7, 2003

Asha Cornell Fundraiser To Benefit India Projects

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While attempting to solve some of the most abrasive problems facing the world may seem too ambitious, Asha Cornell undergraduate and graduate students continued in their tradition of making a difference with the Asha dinner held April 5.

“Asha is the Sanskrit word for hope. Our mission is to provide hope to underprivileged children by funding educational projects,” said Mansi Kasliwal ’06, an Asha Cornell core member. Along with the 34 other chapters of Asha in the U.S. and India, Asha Cornell seeks to take advantage of the “exchange rate differential” to raise funds for primary education projects in India.

The Asha dinner is held annually, and has been one of Asha Cornell’s chief fundraisers since its inception in 1997.

Though the organization has found the dinner to be an effective way to raise funds for their cause, the dinner’s success is the result of its evolution over the years.

“They started out baking cookies, then trying a small dinner and now we have annual dinners that seat a total of 300 people with 150 each seating,” said Suniti Maheshwari ’04, Asha president and board member.

Though the Asha Cornell has been organizing dinners for some time, such an event still requires significant collaboration and preparation.

“It is a huge logistics effort in terms of publicity, organizing the food preparation and setting up the venue,” said Ashima Sood grad, Asha Cornell treasurer.

The menu, featuring a homemade Indian vegetarian meal was cooked entirely by student volunteers, while Asha Cornell provided them with the appropriate ingredients. To cater to the high demands for Indian food the event provided two seatings.

Financing the event was a collaborative effort. The Student Assembly Finance Commission, International Students Programming Board and the South Asia Program were all involved in funding the dinner.

While the dinner has proved to be a successful fundraising project to combat education problems in India, the event is also noteworthy for its cultural contributions to the Cornell and Ithaca community.

“We’ve been described as the best Indian food in Ithaca,” Sood said.

This year’s dinner was one of the most successful in the Asha dinner history; they sold out to the over 300 people in attendance.

“It was very successful. We got a lot of professors and a lot of people from the international community. We don’t usually get as many [people outside of Cornell’s Indian population],” said Sharmistha Majundar grad, Asha Secretary. According to Majundar the increase in attendance could be due to the invitations that were distributed to Cornell professors.

With the success and support that the dinner has once again garnered, many more Asha dinners in the future look probable.

“The dinner is going to be pretty much a fixture of Asha Cornell’s annual calendar as long as the organization is around,” Sood said.

Archived article by Carrie Tremblatt