Culture  Fashion meets fundraising

A close-up look at the charity behind SynesthASIA, McGill’s Ashraya Initiative for Children

Some trends occur for a greater good. The movement by younger generations to reach out to people beyond the borders of their own country through charity work is exemplified by SynesthASIA – the wildly successful Asian-themed fashion show that occurred on January 31 at Metropolis. Headed by McGill student Sylvia Kim, the show aimed to fundraise for the Ashraya Initiative for Children (AIC), a transnational charity that provides orphans in India with a proper home environment.

Over 1,200 people in the greater Montreal area attended and over $8,000 was raised for AIC – a remarkable feat considering it was completely student-run with no starting budget.

Much like SynesthASIA, AIC is completely student-run. AIC started off as a vision by Elizabeth Sholtys in the U.S. who did not want to create just another orphanage in India, which she felt were often impersonal and not helpful for the children.

“Many of the children come from backgrounds of abuse, neglect, and extreme poverty, and since they are older, they are unlikely to be adopted,” says Samantha Kumar, president of AIC McGill. “At the home, we want the kids to feel as if they belong to a family, and also provide them with a sense of responsibility, routine, and discipline so that they can better reintegrate into society.”

It is this transferable and reciprocal nature of giving, which Kim believes reflects a movement toward a more global society.

“My experience with SynesthASIA really makes me believe that right now in our generation there is a huge movement toward open-mindedness, positive change, giving back, and helping others who live in less privileged areas of the world,” she explains.

Apart from managing and funding the home for ten orphans, AIC also runs literacy, female-empowerment, health and hygiene, and educational outreach programs for the surrounding community, positively affecting an additional hundred people.

Canada’s branch of the organization is represented by AIC–McGill. The club fundraises through different events like benefit dinners and different movie screenings. Now, added to this list is the eventful SynesthASIA show, which Kim is confident will be bigger and better next year.

The show appropriately ended with a video showing the kids in their home. This was a heart-warming end to a profoundly well-organized and well-executed production.

“The video really made the cause tangible and real,” says Kim “because everyone could directly see where their money was going.”

Students interested in volunteering at the home in India, at next year’s fashion show, or with AIC can email