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By Kelly Twedell

Hindustani music wafted out over the crowd at the Avartan event where a traveling troupe dressed in traditional colorful garb told a story through dances and music known as the Shiva Lingam Pratistha. 

Fayetteville’s local SENCAIA (South Asian North Carolina Asian Indian Association) Interact Youth Group and Ekal Vidyalay Foundation sponsored the music and dance collaboration consisting of five artists from India as they performed at Hindu Bhavan for the 32nd event in the United States. Five different artistic disciplines were present to include classical dance, a Bollywood dancer, a vocalist, a percussion instrumentalist and a stringed Sarangi instrument. The language barrier was no problem, as the stories were conveyed through dance. Patrons journeyed through songs during the Kathak Tabla recital, its origin in the ancient Indian temples and its journey through the Mughal era, its reflection on Indian cinema, to today’s time of contemporary Bollywood music.

During the anniversary celebration of their interfaith event, the Rotary’s high school Indian community youth group got to share a bit of their culture and heritage with the Fayetteville community, while raising money for a great cause. “The event raised upwards of $10,000 to provide education for rural villages in India,” said Tejas Dalvi, Jr., the club’s treasurer. Each village project costs $365 and we surpassed our initial goal to fund 15 to 20 schools raising enough funding for 30 schools.”

The group’s international service project benefitted the Ekal Foundation, a global non-profit dedicated to building schools across India. Organizations that financially sponsor a project gain access to photos of the progress. The resources will provide materials up to fourth grade education. Many of the rural villages with complete illiteracy will be staffed with local volunteers as single teacher schools, ensuring the villages become self-reliant, along with learning farming skills, helping with global education type skills, to include healthcare basics. Ekal’s philosophy is to take a holistic approach to social and economic development and is the largest, grassroots, non-government education movement in India, operating in remote and tribal villages with foundation chapters all over the U.S. and the world.

“We are so blessed with education and success, it’s our turn to give back,” said the group’s advisor Dr. Sumedha Dalvi. "India is where we grew up. We want to show our kids how to give to those who aren't as fortunate as we are."

The Interact group first became chartered just last year in August 2013 with around 25 students. The SENCAIA Interact group of teens meets every other Sunday and completes community service projects and volunteer work within the community. 

The organization sponsors local service projects too. The SENCAIA Interact club partnered with Relay for Life of Cumberland County to benefit the American Cancer Society as their local project to raise awareness and resources inside our community for the charity. Next on their agenda is participation in Fayetteville’s annual International Folk Festival. The group will have a booth with food and they’ll be wearing their colorful costume like attire and walking in the parade.

“I’ve really enjoyed attending some of the Rotary meetings, branching out, creating a network and planning the Ekal project,” said Trisha Slehria, this year’s co-president. “India has 1.6 million kids and the movement began 25 years ago and has grown, we are excited to contribute to that.”