Raj Asava and Aradhana from NTFB in conversation with Anu Benakatti
Anu Benakatti   Sep-2019   396 Views   0 Comments
NTFB - IAC HUNGER MITAO

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God can not appear to them except in the form of bread”. 
We recently learned that 42 million people--adults, seniors, veterans, and children in the USA grapple with hunger! We also learned that hunger no longer equates with homelessness. In fact, majority of the people struggling with hunger have a roof over their heads. Elements contributing to this issue are rising costs of living, people not making a living wage (under employment), job loss, illnesses, fixed budgets, etc. 

In North Texas alone, 850,000 people struggling with food insecurity are served by North Texas Food Bank (NTFB). Toppick media visited the North Texas Food Bank distribution center in Plano, Texas and had the chance to tour the facility. We also spoke with several dedicated volunteers who were sorting and packing donated nonperishable food to prepare it for delivery to the 200+ pantries that distribute it to families in need. 

North Texas Food Bank is a nonprofit hunger relief organization that serves the hungry in 13 counties of North Texas. Current statistics show that one in four children in our schools is food insecure.  Our kids go to school and have friends who are chronically hungry! It is unbelievable! Under the leadership of CEO Trisha Cunningham, NTFB enabled 77 million meals last year. Impressive, but the goal is to be able to enable 92 million meals by 2025. Yes readers, that is projected to be the need. Unfortunately, hunger is growing in North Texas almost as fast as prosperity. 

The wonderful state-of-the-art facility of Plano named “Perot Family Campus” was opened in 2018 with the help of a lead gift by the Perot family. In the Perot household, philanthropy was a priority. An 'X' marked on the curb outside of the Perot family home signified a pledge to feed anyone passing by who was hungry. The NTFB recently unveiled their own 'X,' a giant sculpture outside the new facility that tells the community that this is also a place where hungry people can get the help they need.

IAC - INDIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL



North Texas Food Bank has seen a surge of engagement from the Indian American community in the past couple of years. Food Bank and media is abuzz with “IAC” and “Hunger Mitao”. 

To understand this phenomenon, we met with Raj and Aradhana (Anna) Asava, founders of the Indian American Council (IAC) for Food Banks.

When Raj and Anna became aware of the rampant hunger issue in North Texas about 5 years ago, they knew they had to engage in the solution. They started donating, volunteering, and serving on leadership councils at NTFB. Their financial commitments kept growing, but they also realized that their contributions could only do so much. And they sensed a lack of hunger awareness in the Indian American community. So, in 2017, they launched a grassroots level initiative called the Indian American Council to engage the vibrant Indian community in North Texas. 

Their extensive corporate experience helped. They created the tag line “Hunger Mitao” (Wipe out hunger) and started conducting awareness sessions to generate awareness about the rampant hunger in North Texas and how people can engage with the food bank in various ways. 

With missionary zeal, the couple have made it their mission to mobilize and galvanize the efforts of the Indian American community around the important work done by the Food Bank. Raj and Anna explained the goals of the project and how the model works. It focuses on “Catalyzing and inspiring the Indian community to engage in helping fight the hunger issue. Secondly, it also aims to change the perception and image of the Indian American community, to be known and recognized for their generosity through the spirit of “give where you live”. 
People can engage in their own ways through the following avenues: 

· Become aware and own the issue of  hunger around us
· Volunteer at the food bank 
· Donate food
· Donate funds

The response from the Indian American community has been astounding!! In less than 2 years, the community has enabled 4 million meals, tons of donated food and thousands of hours of hands-on volunteering at the NTFB! Indian community members now look forward to volunteering on a regular basis; conducting food drives on special occasions over the metroplex; and raising critical funds needed by the food bank for their operations.

IAC calls the month of August a month for “Independence from hunger” in celebration of India's Independence Day. This year they established a goal to collect 25,000 pounds/$ of peanut butter. By the end of this campaign, the Indian American community blew past the set goal and has raised close to 30,000 $/pounds of peanut butter!

Dr. Martin Luther King's comment is so true, “Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, and any table, when man has the resources, and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will”.  Each one of us should take the responsibility to contribute to our best abilities towards “HUNGER MITAO” and make hunger in our communities a thing of the past. In Raj's words, “We may never be able to eradicate hunger, but let's make sure no one goes hungry”!



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Raj Asava and Aradhana from NTFB in conversation with Anu Benakatti
Anu Benakatti   Sep-2019   396 Views   0 Comments
NTFB - IAC HUNGER MITAO

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God can not appear to them except in the form of bread”. 
We recently learned that 42 million people--adults, seniors, veterans, and children in the USA grapple with hunger! We also learned that hunger no longer equates with homelessness. In fact, majority of the people struggling with hunger have a roof over their heads. Elements contributing to this issue are rising costs of living, people not making a living wage (under employment), job loss, illnesses, fixed budgets, etc. 

In North Texas alone, 850,000 people struggling with food insecurity are served by North Texas Food Bank (NTFB). Toppick media visited the North Texas Food Bank distribution center in Plano, Texas and had the chance to tour the facility. We also spoke with several dedicated volunteers who were sorting and packing donated nonperishable food to prepare it for delivery to the 200+ pantries that distribute it to families in need. 

North Texas Food Bank is a nonprofit hunger relief organization that serves the hungry in 13 counties of North Texas. Current statistics show that one in four children in our schools is food insecure.  Our kids go to school and have friends who are chronically hungry! It is unbelievable! Under the leadership of CEO Trisha Cunningham, NTFB enabled 77 million meals last year. Impressive, but the goal is to be able to enable 92 million meals by 2025. Yes readers, that is projected to be the need. Unfortunately, hunger is growing in North Texas almost as fast as prosperity. 

The wonderful state-of-the-art facility of Plano named “Perot Family Campus” was opened in 2018 with the help of a lead gift by the Perot family. In the Perot household, philanthropy was a priority. An 'X' marked on the curb outside of the Perot family home signified a pledge to feed anyone passing by who was hungry. The NTFB recently unveiled their own 'X,' a giant sculpture outside the new facility that tells the community that this is also a place where hungry people can get the help they need.

IAC - INDIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL



North Texas Food Bank has seen a surge of engagement from the Indian American community in the past couple of years. Food Bank and media is abuzz with “IAC” and “Hunger Mitao”. 

To understand this phenomenon, we met with Raj and Aradhana (Anna) Asava, founders of the Indian American Council (IAC) for Food Banks.

When Raj and Anna became aware of the rampant hunger issue in North Texas about 5 years ago, they knew they had to engage in the solution. They started donating, volunteering, and serving on leadership councils at NTFB. Their financial commitments kept growing, but they also realized that their contributions could only do so much. And they sensed a lack of hunger awareness in the Indian American community. So, in 2017, they launched a grassroots level initiative called the Indian American Council to engage the vibrant Indian community in North Texas. 

Their extensive corporate experience helped. They created the tag line “Hunger Mitao” (Wipe out hunger) and started conducting awareness sessions to generate awareness about the rampant hunger in North Texas and how people can engage with the food bank in various ways. 

With missionary zeal, the couple have made it their mission to mobilize and galvanize the efforts of the Indian American community around the important work done by the Food Bank. Raj and Anna explained the goals of the project and how the model works. It focuses on “Catalyzing and inspiring the Indian community to engage in helping fight the hunger issue. Secondly, it also aims to change the perception and image of the Indian American community, to be known and recognized for their generosity through the spirit of “give where you live”. 
People can engage in their own ways through the following avenues: 

· Become aware and own the issue of  hunger around us
· Volunteer at the food bank 
· Donate food
· Donate funds

The response from the Indian American community has been astounding!! In less than 2 years, the community has enabled 4 million meals, tons of donated food and thousands of hours of hands-on volunteering at the NTFB! Indian community members now look forward to volunteering on a regular basis; conducting food drives on special occasions over the metroplex; and raising critical funds needed by the food bank for their operations.

IAC calls the month of August a month for “Independence from hunger” in celebration of India's Independence Day. This year they established a goal to collect 25,000 pounds/$ of peanut butter. By the end of this campaign, the Indian American community blew past the set goal and has raised close to 30,000 $/pounds of peanut butter!

Dr. Martin Luther King's comment is so true, “Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, and any table, when man has the resources, and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will”.  Each one of us should take the responsibility to contribute to our best abilities towards “HUNGER MITAO” and make hunger in our communities a thing of the past. In Raj's words, “We may never be able to eradicate hunger, but let's make sure no one goes hungry”!



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Éire Ireland by Dr Reena Koppala
Dr Reena Koppala   Sep-2019   273 Views   0 Comments


Ireland is known for its wealth of folklore, from numerous tales of tiny leprechauns with hidden pots of gold to the patron saint, Patrick, with his legendary ridding the island of snakes and his reputed use of the three-leaved shamrock. The name shamrock comes from the Irish word “seamróg”, which is the diminutive of the Irish word seamair óg and means simply "young clover".

 

A seven-day Ireland tour is an ideal introduction to the Emerald Isle for first-time visitors who have limited time and yet want to cover all the highlights of this Irish Highlands. This journey was an escorted trip which started from Dublin.

 

Day 1: ARRIVING  IN DUBLIN.

After a long and exhausting journey from Dallas, we landed at our hotel around 5 pm. After tea and snacks, we went on an afternoon orientation drive through the statue-lined O’Connell Street, elegant Georgian squares, and past St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Oscar Wilde’s Trinity College. That night, we enjoyed a welcome dinner by our tour guide at the hotel.


Day 2: DUBLIN–KILDARE–CASHEL–LIMERICK–ENNIS.

 The horse-racing country awaited us this morning. We boarded our tour bus and drove across the Curragh to visit the IRISH NATIONAL STUD at Kildare, whose fine thoroughbreds command respect on the racecourses of the world. On our way we visited the Rock of Cashel, where St. Patrick preached; Tipperary, made famous in a wartime marching song; and Limerick, where an orientation drive acquainted us with St. Mary’s Cathedral, King John’s Castle, and the stone where the Treaty of Limerick was signed in 1691. Later in the evening between the drizzle of rain and the smell of freshly baked snacks, we took a pleasant walk on the main streets of Dublin exploring the place for an Irish Dinner. Do not forget to taste the famous Irish Coffee.


Day 3: CLIFFS OF MOHER.

Today’s excursion along Ireland’s spectacular Atlantic coastline started with a drive to the 668-foot CLIFFS OF MOHER, where we savored the breathtaking panorama of the Clare coast. The Cliffs of Moher have appeared in numerous films, including The Princess Bride (1987) (as the filming location for "The Cliffs of Insanity"), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) and Leap Year (2010). The walk up the Cliffs of Moher itself was exciting. A scenic route across the limestone plateau of The Burren took us to Galway, a popular seaside destination and a buzzing cosmopolitan center with colorful shops and a busy café and bar culture. This afternoon, we had a special treat at Rathbaun Farm we tried our hand at scone baking, and learned from the farmer about sheep shearing and herding. Afterward, we enjoyed coffee and scones, fresh from the oven on the farmland.


Day 4: ENNIS–RING OF KERRY–KILLARNEY.

After a short drive via Clonderlaw Bay to Killimer, cross the Shannon estuary by ferry we continued to Killorglin on Dingle Bay to join the spectacular RING OF KERRY for a 100-mile panoramic drive around the island’s southwestern tip. The Lakes of Killarney was so pleasant and we later spend the night at a popular resort in Killarney. This is where we visited Ross Castle and later strolled our way back. Killarney won the Best Kept Town award in 2007, in a cross-border competition jointly organized by the Department of the Environment and the Northern Ireland Amenity Council. In 2011, it was named Ireland's tidiest town and the cleanest town in the country by Irish Business against Litter.

 

Day 5: KILLARNEY–BLARNEY–WATERFORD.

The next day after breakfast, we traveled across the Kerry Mountains and passed through County Cork to Blarney, renowned for its magical Kissing Stone. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446. The castle is a popular tourist site in Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world to kiss the stone and tour the castle and its gardens. There is something funny about the way you kiss the stone, you have to kiss it at a certain angle, I will leave this as a surprise on how? My 9-year-old son must have kissed the stone at least 30 times no wonder I just cannot get him to shut up. The town itself is a beauty of its own. After lunch and shopping in the town, we walked up to the castle to shop for traditional Irish handicrafts. In the afternoon, we proceeded via Cork to Waterford, a stronghold founded by the Danish Vikings, for a guided tour of the house of Waterford crystal. This evening was very special as we stayed at a castle hotel and later had an Irish Medieval show with Irish dinner. After dinner, we relaxed and shared our stories with our guests during a live demonstration of Irish coffee making.


Day 6: WATERFORD–AVOCA–GLENDALOUGH–DUBLIN.

Today we visited the Enniscorthy, site of the final battle of the Great Rebellion of 1798; Ireland’s oldest Handweaving Mill at Avoca, where we watched the weavers at work; the Wicklow Mountains; and Glendalough, the early Christian monastic site founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Also, we witnessed the engaging audiovisual Ireland of the Monasteries before we headed our way back to Dublin. Once we were back in Dublin we wrapped up our shopping and bid a final farewell to Ireland with a cabaret evening with dinner, followed by dance, song, and laughter.


Day 7: DUBLIN.

Today we not only packed our bags but also all our memories of this beautiful country and after a 7 course Irish breakfast, we headed back to the airport.

 

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MISS TEEN ASIA WORLD 2019: SAISHA KARRI
MISS TEEN ASIA WORLD 2019: SAISHA KARRI
Toppick Media Editor   Sep-2019
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From a young age, Saisha had always shown a passion for entrepreneurship and business. In 2018, Saisha and her partner co-founded their cosmetic and skincare company named, Prema Beauty. This was a new twist on the billion-dollar market, it combines their Indian heritage with their American background. Prema beauty offers ancient Ayurveda recipes that enhance an individual’s inner and outer beauty. This year, they won 500 dollars from FISD for their creative idea.
 
Aside from her company, she competes in DECA, Distributive Education Clubs of America. This year, she made it all the way to state as a finalist. She created CSA, Charitable Students of America a volunteer organization in her school. Through it, she promotes volunteerism within her community. Last year, they partnered with the city of Frisco and helped host a community celebration for the July 4th event.
 
In March she hosted a basketball tournament to raise money and awareness for mental health. All proceeds went to Mental Health America; the tournament was a huge success as they were able to help hundreds of people.

Saisha is an outstanding dancer. She’s been dancing since she was only 5 years old. She’s learned the form of Kathak, a classical Indian dance for the past 11 years. Saisha is part of Stage Skuare, a professional Bollywood Dance Company. To her, dance is a way to express her feelings through her body movements.

 This year she took a leap and decided to compete for Miss Teen Asia World. She joined this competition because she believes that this pageant fosters healthy attributes of a strong and confident woman.
 
It has helped her become a better individual in many aspects. It has tremendously improved her speaking style, public relations, confidence, and more. Not only that, but it has brought her closer to her Asian roots while surrounding her by people who embrace their culture.
 
And the winner is …. Saisha Karri and she is the proud title holder with the glittering crown and she feels that this is a new journey with new challenges and new opportunities on the way.
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Meet Sophia Enzo patel
Meet Sophia Enzo patel
Toppick Media Editor   Sep-2019
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Hi, I'm Sophia Enzo Patel and 7 years old, I am an Indian girl from Dallas and a professional model for Kim Dawson Agency, singer and also I like to act. I like to joke, sing and of course dance Bollywood style. I started modeling when I was 4 years old and currently I am featured on Neiman Marcus, Sams Club and Michael's websites. 

I did a Bollywood dance at the age of 5 by myself in front of a crowd of 800 people at my cousin’s wedding with only 2 rehearsals. I also have done a lot of photoshoots and been on a lot of websites such as J.C Penney's, Kid Kraft, Neiman Marcus, Sams Club, Michaels.  I also have done fashion shows for the World Trade Center in Dallas and I am a brand ambassador for Purveyor24, Uniquebaby shop, Moque, Jean and Hadley, Amelia J Collections and LittleGoodall clothing.   

I like to travel and have been to London, Dubai, Mauritius, Germany and France, where I did a photoshoot at the Eiffel Tower and get this, a company created a doll that looks just like me which is currently sold at  Posh Customs Dolls. 

My Mum, Kalyani is born and raised in the Mauritius Island and speaks French and my dad, Anil is born and raised in England and speaks Gujarati, I am trying to learn both languages slowly. I like a lot school a lot and want to be a Pediatrician so I can help kids when I grow up. 

I like modeling because its a lot of fun, we get travel and dress up in different clothes. I also love being able to make new friends outside of my school, and dance class and also like the attention. I like to smile a lot and in modeling, we call it  "Turn - Smile - Pose" and like to  work with a lot of different  professional photographers especially with Vishal Gandhi  for the "Back To School" photoshoot and like getting my makeup done by Lavish. This was a lot of fun, because it was a big school and Uncle Vishal let me pose upside down on the school desk, which was a lot of fun... 

I think modeling for me can help me become who I want to be in life because as my mum and dad say, ‘Everything is possible in life’ and everyone can do it too if you work hard enough. 

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Age is just a number
Age is just a number
Toppick Media Editor   Sep-2019
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Age is Just a Number: What a Full-of-Life Grandpa can Teach you about Fulfilling your Dreams

“Age is an issue over mind and matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”-Mark Twain. Most people have an expectation of what someone can do at a certain age. For example, most 65-year-olds are set to retire. However, my grandpa, Shashikant Dalwadi, is still working at the age of 67. He also engages in activities such as photography, swimming, snorkeling, and zip-lining. He inspires others to achieve their goals, regardless of their age.

His Backstory
My grandpa attended the New English School in Gujarat, India for his high school education. Throughout school, he was a member of the National Cadet Corps (NCC), a youth wing of the armed forces. To pursue higher education, he went to I.V. Patel College of Commerce in Gujarat. He was the team captain for kabaddi, an Indian team sport. Nana (Hindi word for Grandpa) was also a team member for rifle shooting and basketball. He was very athletic and involved in co-curricular activities. 

Shortly after his graduation, Nana joined my great grandfather’s business of brick manufacturing. His role was to supervise 150 workers and talk to clients to increase sales. Subsequently, my 39-year-old grandpa became President of the Nadiad Junior Chamber in 1992. In the same year he started a commercial construction business. Nana’s company built strip malls, rental conditioned storages, and gas stations. In 2007 Nana migrated to the US along with my grandma and settled in east coast. Evidently, Grandpa has always been in the construction business.

Below is the interview I took of Nana. I gained knowledge of his history and ambitions, and hopefully you will too!!

Can you describe what field you work in and what your job is?
I am currently working in an Engineering Construction Company as a Construction Inspector and Material Testing Technician. I monitor the quality control of road construction. I also test compaction for asphalt, soil, and testing concrete. 

What do you like most about your job? What do you look forward to every day at work?
I believe that every day we learn something from others. For me, learning never ends, and I love to gain knowledge from my colleagues and supervisor. After all, a candle doesn’t lose its flame by lighting another candle.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in this job?
My future goal is to become the supervisor of my job. I am also looking for jobs in Maryland and New York. 

When do you plan to retire?
I plan on retiring at the age of 70. After I retire, I want to pursue wildlife photography in the African safari. Photography has always been a passion of mine, and the safari captures Africa’s untamed beauty.

Besides work, what other activities do you enjoy? What is your idea of fun?
I thoroughly enjoy swimming, going to the beach, hiking, traveling to foreign countries, cruises, and meditation. I love the natural world; it makes me feel inspired, motivated, and rejuvenated. Meditation also helps improve the heart, body, and mind.

Back in 2015, our family went on a cruise and you indulged in a lot of riveting activities. Can you list some of them? Which activities were your favorite?
I participated in snorkeling, swimming, zip-lining, ATV riding, and dancing in the cruise theater. The cruise was a vibrant experience for me, and I love to go on cruises around Pearl Harbor as often as I can. 

What do you think about the saying “age is just a number”? How do you think you demonstrate that quote?
To me, it means that age should never be an obstacle to your goals. It doesn’t define who you are, what you do, or the quality of your life. As I grow older, I want to perform my daily activities independently. My target is to never use a walking stick, so I work out and meditate every morning. 

What is your life mantra?
My life mantra is, “A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”- Colin Powell. That means that success only comes through hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence. It doesn’t appear in thin air, everything has to be worked for.

On the contrary, I also touched this subject in a 2015 pageant. I was asked this spontaneous question: Should sports and extreme activities have an age limit? While I was exploring the question, I immediately thought of Nana. I thought of his accomplishments and character. Therefore, my answer was: “Age doesn’t define your ability or maturity. For example, my grandpa, who is now a senior citizen, participated in zip-lining and snorkeling when I went on a cruise a few years back. He shows us that determination does not have an age limit.” Everybody loved my powerful answer, especially the judges. In fact, I went on to win the 2015 Miss Junior Pre-Teen title! I will never forget the prideful day and clever answer.

In hindsight, age has no boundaries. Whether it’s construction work or extreme sports, you can do anything you set your mind to! 

“Don’t aspire to make a living. Aspire to MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” by Denzel Washington
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