With only about $25,000 of the necessary $10 million raised, the Indian International School has a long way to go before it can start building a community center of its own.
The school now offers more than 50 classes per week in rented space at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, 8900 Little River Turnpike, Annandale. Since more than 400 students attend the school’s classes, its board members want to build their own center where classes, events and culture can be learned and shared.
“At the current rate, it will take about 400 years,” said Dhananjay Kumar, president of the school. “We need to expedite that process.”
Speeding up the building process is one of the reasons for the school's two-part annual show and fundraiser, featuring Indian performances of dance, theater and music. The sheer size of the school and its students, parents and volunteers, caused board members to divide this year’s annual show into two parts, on separate days, because the auditorium at the JCCNV is not large enough to accommodate their audience. Since its inception in 1984, the Indian International School has grown tremendously, said Gita Shah, a member of the school’s board of directors. The school has 100 times more students than in 1984, and 19 more teachers.
“We are here to share the vision and support the school in any way we can,” said Shah.
Kumar said buying the land for the project would hopefully get people more interested in donating, because they would be able to visualize the center more.
“First, we want to buy the land this year, by any means,” said Kumar.
Part one, Sunday, May 14, showcased Indian dance, music and theater. The event included plays performed in Hindi, and a vibrant performance of more than 40 students playing the Tabla, an Indian drum. School members, parents and volunteers packed the JCCNV’s auditorium to see the performances and listen to ways to help raise money for the project. Part two is scheduled for June 11, 11:30 a.m.
“Donations would be the best way to go,” said Anandi Ramachandran, senior student of dance at the school, and the founder and director of the Health Smart Foundation, Inc.
As the main sponsor of the show, the BB&T Bank gave $2,000 to the school for the event. B. George Dwarka, the vice president of foreign exchange at BB&T in Washington, D.C. said the company hopes to continue giving to the school, in order to help them finance the $10 million building project.
“We are a community-oriented bank,” said. “We like to get involved in culture and education.”
THE CLASSES offered at the Indian International School cover a variety of Indian fine arts subjects, including language, dance, and yoga, vocal and instrumental music. Shah said that while even the classes taught are Indian, the school welcomes all members of the community to join and learn about Indian culture and heritage, regardless of age, race or religion.
“I don’t think age is a barrier to learn anything in life,” said Ramachandran.
The school's strategy is to raise $10 million through fund raising and donations, said Kumar. The school will conduct several car washes and bake sales, in addition to the proceeds from the annual show and corporate and private donations. Money generated by tuition is also largely added to the fund, since so many of the school’s staff and teachers are volunteers.
The Indian International School welcomed Vivek Kundra, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Trade in the Virginia governor’s office, as the show's special guest. Before Kunda, an Indian-American, took the stage to present the student awards of the evening, he sat with a few students privately and answered their questions about education, economics and politics. He said he thinks the Indian International School is important because it keeps the Indian culture and tradition alive.
“Institutions like this allow people to integrate rather than assimilate,” said Kundra. “The Indian people have done so well here because we put such a huge value on education and hard work.”
“If you lose your culture, you lose everything in this world,” said Dwarka.