History of IFMP Youth
By Akash Bhardwaj
IFMP is the Indian Foundation of Metropolitan Princeton, a group founded about 30 years ago by a group of Indians willing to spread and preserve Indian culture in the United States. Over the first few years, they expanded throughout the West Windsor and Plainsboro areas of New Jersey. They did quite a few events like Holi, Diwali, Garba, Indian Independence Day, and performance shows like the December Show. More recently, in 2012, a group of Indian teenagers in the same area, whose parents were involved in IFMP, collaborated to form a youth division of IFMP, an organization that would have its own set of missions and goals while still staying true to those of the IFMP.
It started with Adeet Phanse, Ashwin Sethi, and I(Akash Bhardwaj). We would go to Adeet's house and have meetings on a regular schedule on how to improve the events that IFMP currently held. We gave them many suggestions for improvement and volunteered at the events. Later we added two new members, Beejay Chakrabarty and Yash Shroff and we kept expanding after that.
In December 2012, our first event separate from IFMP was our first nursing home show. We went to the Indian ward of a nursing home show(AristaCare) to perform. We knew that it was important to give back to the community and especially the elders, our ancestors, for shaping the community we live in today. We could all play instruments so we practiced a few english, hindi and instrumental songs to perform. When the first one turned out to be successful, and we saw that those elders enjoyed the music, Adeet decided it would be better to have an event similar to this every two months. We would even have the adult members of IFMP come and perform older classic hindi songs that the elders recognized. On our third or fourth nursing home show, we had one of the elder woman stand up and dance, she said she was inspired by us and just because she was old does not mean she could not have a fun time. We eventually started spreading out to other non-indian nursing homes to spread joy and happiness to others too.
However, by 2013, we decided not only to help IFMP, but several organizations like the Sankara Eye Foundation and the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation. It was important to help those less fortunate people and give them opportunities. Sankara Eye Foundation performs free eye surgeries to those in need in India. The people they help have some eye disease or a disorder which has left them blind from birth. Ekal Vidyalaya, as most of you already know, goes to uneducated and remote areas of India and provides a basic education to kids for free so that they can also have a chance for a brighter future. We raised money for both of the organizations and gave $550 to Sankara Eye Foundation and $1825 for Ekal, enough for five schools in India.
In October of 2012, the dangerous Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey and destroyed the boardwalk in Atlantic City. We were already planning a summer 2013 IFMP Youth event and decided to make all proceeds go towards Sandy Relief. We called a local group of singers called the hidden gems and we performed ourselves. We raised approximately $1000.
Our first time volunteering for Ekal was at their concert in 2013. We all went to help out with the event and got recognized by them. A few months after that, Adeet went to the Ekal Conference in Chicago to tell Ekal our story and tell them how important it was to give back to the community. He had given them the example of our TGIF Fundraiser event which had occur just a while before the concert. When you have a dinner at TGIF, You can invite as many people as you want and you can get 15% of the profits for your organization. Now it does not matter what group you are with or whether you are helping with a group at all. If you want to make a difference, you can just do fundraisers like this and donate to big organizations. Now maybe $100 is not enough. But let's say one hundred events just like this happen throughout the U.S.. Ekal will get $10000 and that will account for at least 27 schools throughout remote parts of India!
We all learned from these experiences how our actions can help the needy. Even though I relocated to North Carolina in the winter of 2013, I still try to help remotely with IFMP, give them suggestions and attend their meetings through calling in. I also help local organizations in my area. Volunteering is not just for hours. We help the community because our small actions make big differences.