Supporters gather at Maitri's 25th annual gala celebration
Supporters gather at Maitri’s 25th annual gala celebration

PALO ALTO, Calif. (DIYA TV) — This year’s Maitri Gala was an extra special one — celebrating the foundation’s 25th anniversary, more than 450 long-time South Asian supporters of the nonprofit, which aids to combat domestic violence, familial abuse and trafficking, showed up in full force for the Maitri Gala, raising north of $600,000 in the process.

Maitri co-founder and award-winning author, Chitra Divakaruni, spoke at the event and described how the foundation came to life during its infancy stages — a phone line and answering machine in her home, and the assistance of fellow co-founders Anjali Dujari, Roma Majumdar, and Medha Joshi. “We started the organization because we felt that absolutely no one should have to suffer abuse in their home,” Divakaruni said. “Despite initial resistance from the South Asian community, we persisted as we felt that our mission was correct.”

“From a small group that used to meet in my house, it has now become a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful organization helping literally thousands of people every year,” Divakaruni added.

Sonya Pelia, president of Maitri, described the change of fabric in the Bay Area’s South Asian community, and how its evolvement has allowed for “a co-steward and partner in taking ethical responsibility and supporting those needing help.” Pelia advocated to the South Asian community to continue the fostered growth of a just, equitable, and violence-free society by adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards domestic violence, trafficking and elder abuse. The joy could be seen on her face when she saw the massive turnout of support for the annual gala, which was held at Palo Alto’s Crown Plaza Hotel. This year’s crowd was the largest in 25 years.

“What can you say when your own community stands with you and says ‘We are with you, we support you, we fund you’? I think there’s no other ­better ­accomplishment for 25 years,”Quote Author

 Pelia said.

The event was complete with a silent auction, which featured donated clothing and art, and a live performance from Blackmahal, which dazzled everyone in attendance. Shamik Mehta, co-chair of the board of trustees, said the focus of Maitri is now pointed towards not only treating the aftermath of domestic violence, but also the root cause of the issue.

“When there’s inequality in relationships between any gender, any age, any race, anything, it causes problems,” Mehta said. “So really, Maitri’s not talking about women’s problems, we’re talking about breaking the cycle.”

One donor and supporter of Maitri in attendance, S. Suresh, agreed the best solution to fixing the problem is tackling it at first sight. “The real thing is bringing awareness to the problem and then getting people to start changing their behavior,” Suresh said.

The free, confidential, nonprofit Maitri Foundation is dedicated to supporting the needs of Bay Area women regardless of their age, gender or faith. In its first 25 years, Maitri has responded to over 35,000 assist calls, empowered more than 3,400 survivors, and distributed over three-quarters of a million dollars to support its clients. For the past 16 years, the foundation has run a 9-room transitional center, which offers extended legal and other outreach services. For more information, visit the foundation’s website,