‘Indians living abroad are increasingly
concerned with development in India’
ARTHUR J PAIS
Last summer, Nikita Bhatia, 15, e-mailed Child Rights and You’s America chapter, offering to start a center in New Jersey to help the organization which supports hundreds of non-governmental
organizations in India and a few in the United States.
“Any apprehensions I had about Nikita’s age were
quickly dispelled when I talked to her,” says Monica
Kharkar of CRY.
Nikita, Kharkar says, has become one of the most
active of the 2,000 volunteers the 10-year-old
American chapter of CRY has. The organization is
over three decades old.
“The eloquence and passion with which she
described how she wanted to make a difference in the
lives of children were very inspiring,” Kharkar contin-
ues. “With the support of CRY America’s CEO
(Shefali Sunderlal), we authorized Nikita to be a co-
leader of the new New Jersey action center along with
her mother, who would handle the accounts.”
In just seven months since its founding in July
2011, the New Jersey action center has been able to
raise about $6,000 with two events and a Walk for
CRY America has raised about $1.2 million each
year for the past few years. It aims to raise over $2
million in 2013. With the support of over 17,000
donors and 2,000 volunteers, the organization says, it
has impacted the lives of over 411,359 children living
across 2,254 villages and slums through support to 56
projects in India, and a few in the US.
In America, CRY is supporting Children’s Rights,
which was started in 1995 and has used litigation,
advocacy and public education to reform child welfare
systems and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children across the US in states like Georgia.
Nikita’s group has five core team members and 15.
They use social medial like Facebook, Twitter and
Tumblr to recruit more volunteers and influence students around New Jersey to start CRY clubs in their
schools with their project High School Spread, says
Kharkar. So far they have established three CRY clubs
and 11 other schools are attempting to start clubs. In
the established clubs they were able to raise awareness, advertise events and raise funds.
She also organized a first Walk for Child Rights in
New Jersey August 14, 2011, where even in a downpour they were able to gain 50 walk participants and
raise around $3,000 with their walks in the rain and
“CRY America does not believe in charity and does
not believe in band-aid,” says Sunderlal, who has
spent over 22 years with the organization starting in
Mumbai. “And that is why we are seeing so many
ideal and yet practical people involving in our work.
But of course given the huge problem of children in
India, we could welcome thousands and thousands
From right, CRY America CEO Shefali Sunderlal; David Bloss, Knight International Journalism Fellow, Georgia and India,
International Center for Journalists; Bobby Ghosh, editor at large, Time magazine; and chef Maneet Chauhan at an event to celebrate 10 years of CRY America
volunteers and donors.”
Cry does not run schools, orphanages or dispen-
saries. Instead, it partners with NGOs working with
children, their parents, and community.
“We take a holistic approach involving not only
NGOs and children but also parents and teachers,”
Sunderlal adds. “And that means our role in these
partnerships goes beyond mere funding; we work
hard to bring about long-term and sustainable change
to the lives of children, by empowering communities
to address the root causes of illiteracy, poverty, dis-
crimination and exploitation. We have realized that
child rights cannot be ensured unless families have
their livelihoods assured.”
The organization has been able to help underprivi-
leged children, including street-children, girl children,
children bonded in labor, children of commercial sex
workers, physically and mentally challenged children
and children in juvenile institutions, Sunderlal says.
“We also take pride in our accountability,” she con-
tinues. “We report periodically to all our supporters’
donors and volunteers on the progress of each of the
initiatives we support.”
The support of the overseas communities is vital for
the progress of the organization, she adds.
“Indians living abroad are increasingly concerned
with development in India,” she says. “Their voices are
heard by policymakers and they have the resources to
enable bigger changes. Our hope is that this commu-
nity will continue to join CRY America’s efforts in
larger numbers to ensure the rights of underprivi-
leged children and help make this issue into a nation-
al and international priority. Annual events like CRY
benefit dinners — Pledge in New York and Uphaar in
Seattle — and CRY Walk for Child Rights organized
across 22 cities in the US, offer us a platform to
amplify the voice of underprivileged children.”
She could give the example of many success stories,
she says, but one or two stories keep coming up again
‘Great things are never done by one person,
man, who indulges in day sleep, or
follows sedentary pursuits or is in the
habit of taking sweet liquids, or cold
and fat making or emollient food, will
ere long fall an easy victim to this dis-
The World Health Organization’s def-
they are done by a team of people’
inition of health, Raju points out,
emphasizes the presence of physical,
mental, socioeconomics, and spiritual
well-being, not the absence of sickness.
“Look what Charaka said centuries
ago,” Raju adds. “Moderation, regulari-
ty, rest and activity leads to balance.
Today we do not have balance and there
are extremes in everything we do.
Ayurveda says, eat right, exercise right
and don’t take yourself too seriously.”