Today marks the 11th annual fund-raiser (Aaraish) for Save the Children India Foundation (STCI), set up by the late Vipula Kadri in 1988. Today, Aaraish is hosted by interiors and real estate designer and social activist, Suniel Shetty’s wife and Athiya and Ahaan Shetty’s mother, Mana Shetty, who has been extensively involved in the initiative since 2007. The money collected aids the STCI which is committed to preventing exploitation and all other forms of discrimination of vulnerable women and children, and empowering them to lead a life of dignity, self-respect, and independence.

Few know about the other programs that STCI has been working on which include Dhvani, the cochlear implant center for children, apart from providing primary education to less privileged children living in the slums of Mumbai, Thane and Pune and on completion, placing them in mainstream educational systems, and giving basic literacy to mentally challenged children, and preparing the hearing impaired for entry into regular schools through innovation learning techniques and where they can interact with others.

Mana Shetty, who runs STCI with her siblings Isha Mehra and Rahul Kadri, says, “In Araaish we promote the concept that Glamour and Giving go together and all the proceeds go to Save the Children India. STCI works in three main areas - education, health and women’s empowerment in urban and rural populations. In Aaraish this time we have lots of young and new designers coming from Mumbai and all over India. Now we have over 71 designers for past two years curated by me and my fabulous team – it’s Team Aaraish, my girls from STCI and me.”

Talking about the various programs that the NGO runs, apart from educating children, Mana says, “We have so many other programs including cochlear implant surgeries on children who cannot hear. Dhvani was mom’s dream… Before she passed away our last meeting was about it where she wanted to introduce this project called early intervention because kids come to us very late as parents may be in denial sometimes. Early interventions happens when they are very young, sometimes newly born babies and they are operated by one of the biggest ENT’s of India. Each surgery is very surgery and we have managed to raise funds trying in our own ways. We want to do so much more…”

Mana adds that the STCI school also teaches girls who have been trapped in human trafficking. “We are the only people who can send vans to the remand homes and teach the girls about self-respect, that it’s okay to come out of it now and make your life better. We get them jobs and placements. All these programs happen at the Sahas Kendra in Bandra. We have education for the mentally challenged and hearing impaired and education programs with the baalwadis and BMC schools. When any program needs money we raise funds for STCI and dispense it towards that program. Aaraish is our biggest fund-raiser and we have done 70 plus shows which have all been for charity. Everything goes to STCI.”

Her biggest support is her husband Suniel Shetty and children Ahaan and Athiya, who make it a point every year to attend Aaraish in spite of their busy schedules. Mana says, “Suniel, Ahaan and Athiya are my left and right hands and are always there to support it. My husband gets me the sponsors, he knows about all our programs, helps me with the resource mobilisation and wherever he is, he always comes down for the exhibition. If you don’t have funds how do you run it? Suniel is my backbone where fund-raising is concerned and so hands-on with the running of STCI. He is shooting in Hyderabad right now but is flying down for a day to come for it. For my children it’s so special because they have grown up seeing naani doing it.”

Suniel Shetty tells us from Hyderabad, “I am leaving tonight and will stay for a day and return the next morning on Wednesday to Hyderabad to shoot. Aaraish is something I don’t miss because that is for charity and a good excuse to meet the people who support and thank them. The presence of the family is very important. My mother-in-law did everything for these kids and her children also do the same.” Is he taking a charter flight? “No. I will go and come back by regular flights. I am not a chartered plane flier (laughs). I am very simple that way.”