Even Super Storm Sandy couldn’t keep the CHAI community from coming together for the Fifth Annual Community Awards held on Saturday, November 3rd 2012 at the Sheraton Town Center Hotel in Columbia, MD. The event was a collective recognition of individuals who have made extraordinary differences in our area and community.
Board member and former board chair, Swaran Dhawan, said of the event, “In my five years of participating in this function, it was the most uplifting and I was very impressed by the presenters!
Keynote speaker, Andres Marques-Lara ignited the audience in a role-play that invited us to take on the character of another person and to engage in table conversations as that character.
Mark Borchardt, board chair, summarizes the keynote address:
At the CHAI Awards Luncheon, Andres Marques-Lara got the crowd going with an entertaining presentation. Andres has a background in the theater which he used to advantage. He asked each table to discuss the weather as a group and each person was invited to discuss it as though they were playing a character other than themselves. Finally, he asked the group to discuss as themselves.
My table had been chatting in small groups prior to the presentation but not as a single group about a single topic. Andres presentation changed the dynamics of the conversation. Whatever shyness I felt about not knowing people at the table dissipated after Andres’ presentation. The more reserved members of the group, including myself, were motivated to participate.
I had a case of nerves about doing my own presentation much later in the program but after the group dialogue, I felt more relaxed. Andres has a warm, easygoing personality which the audience responded to.
Board member, Bina Martin, also enjoyed the keynote address and said, “Andres was very impactful in helping us understand how he utilizes theater and psychodrama in his social therapy. During his presentation he had each table portray someone different from ourselves. My table reflected and learned most about ourselves when Andres asked us how will this person would breath, of course, our answer was ‘they will breath the same as we do’. Although we portrayed someone so different from ourselves, they are so much like us.” Veena Kapur said it best when she commented that having to breathe like her character, a person with different political beliefs than her, helped her pause to connect to the humanity of the person. It was a powerful insight that invited us all to realize the humanity in all of us, both similar and different.
As the event continued, so did the lively discussions and interest in the CHAI programs and outreach efforts. Author, Jameela Alter, generously donated a portion of the sales of her book, ‘On Clipped Wings‘, back to CHAI and stated how inspired she was to meet and talk with many members of the CHAI community. She will be at the next bookclub discussion on Saturday, Nov. 10th, to discuss her book. Jameela told us later, “It sure was an enlightening, and very humbling experience for me.”
Raj Vinnakota, founder of the nation’s only charter boarding school, the SEED School, shared his journey in undertaking this bold effort. He honestly and modestly said the two key things that led
to his and co-founder, Eric Adler’s, success was being naive and being stubborn. Raj wasn’t tainted by a previous preconception of what could and could not be done, he didn’t see the obstacles that others may have experienced, he and his friend Eric had a vision and went for it, and quite simply didn’t stop until they were able to open the schools for the children they knew would benefit from this new approach to schooling.
Dr. Milan Joshi, a local psychiatrist, shared his journey and path from Simla, India to Balitimore, MD through the magic of storytelling. Dr. Joshi’s father was a doctor in India, who was a true healer who cared about his patients. Insurance, co-pays and reimbursement were never issues for his father, he was paid with whatever the people in the community could give, accepting the payment with gratitude and honoring the dignity of his patient. True values were instilled into the young Milan, that a doctor is a healer of a person, and this person is more than a diagnosis. Dr. Joshi’s care and treatment of his patients reflects his compassion and care for the person.
Awardee, Dr. Milan Joshi, told us “I did not know that we had such wonderful network. We would
like to work with CHAI going forward. It was a delight to be a part of CHAI at the gathering and humbling to be getting an award for what I always believe to be my daily offering of taking care of people. What impressed me most was the dedication passion and hard work all of you have put in to make this organization what it truly is.”.
A true highlight of the event was hearing from a participant of the Women’s Wellness Group, Saiba K. shared her experience in the group and what she gained from her
participation. She was honest about her hesitation in committing to the time on a Sunday, and reflected that what she gained from the safe space created by the women, was worth her investment in time.Exercises from the group- such as the journaling, or topic discussions were able to help her and the women gain deeper insight into their lives and think through ways to take action for positive change. She also greatly valued the friendship and connections she formed in the group that have continued beyond the length of the group. Her only critique was she would have liked the group last longer than the seven sessions.
Overall, the event was a great success, “I was so energized enjoyed all the happenings, one of the best yet!”, stated our generous supporter, Esther Bonnet, who is close to being 100 yrs old and has attended every CHAI luncheon. If you somehow missed out on the truly special day, it’s not too late to make a contribution in order to help us offset the cost of the event and allow for the majority of proceeds from the event to go back into the organization in support of our mission to provide outreach, referral and educational services to the South Asian community on issues related to mental health and wellness in the Baltimore / Washington metropolitan area. Click here to make a tax- deductible donation and thank you!