A Note from Manoj Sreenilayam

It has been a great honor to serve the Malayali community in the Washington DC Metropolitan area as the 38th President of Kerala Association of Greater Washington (KAGW). I am gratified, thrilled and thankful for the fact that KAGW once again has been true to its mission and vision of serving the community and its need; as evidenced by the various large and small events that were held this year. This year had not only been eventful, but also a record-breaking one for us.

We had record registrations in Talent Time, record participation on Sports day, record crowd for a Friday professional program at our Oreswaram show, record attendance at Onam and Eid functions, and a record for a first time event at our Kerala day. Association also raised record amount of money this year.

However, the legacy of 2013 is not all these records that we created. They are meant to be broken and I hope it happens as soon as next year. The true legacy of 2013 is the bold steps we took to build a cordial and unified society. I believe we made a great effort to bring the community together this year with a remarkable attempt at cooperation and collaboration. We held three major events jointly. The Sports Day with Kairali and Oreswaram-Chithra/MG Sreekumar show and Thiruvonam 2013 with KCS. All of them turned out to be very successful.

It has been a great honor to serve the Malayali community in the Washington DC Metropolitan area as the 38th President of Kerala Association of Greater Washington (KAGW). I am gratified, thrilled and thankful for the fact that KAGW once again has been true to its mission and vision of serving the community and its need; as evidenced by the various large and small events that were held this year. This year had not only been eventful, but also a record-breaking one for us.

Of course, my task was made easier by a great team of highly talented volunteers willing to dedicate their time and efforts to serve the community wholeheartedly.

To summarize our activities of 2013, the committee started working very actively since October 2012, produced the 2013 calendar, and began the year in an auspicious way by successfully coordinating the volunteer service activity and collected over two thousand dollars in donation for DC Central Kitchen on behalf of Malayalees in January.

The first major event – Talent Time saw the introduction of 4 new events – Spelling Bee, The reel deal, craft competition and the Great Debate and a community driven Fashion show, all of which was well received. Around 350 kids and adults participated in the whole program that was done over two days – April 13th and April 27th. In terms of organizational improvements, the talent time registrations were fully automated and made available online. Also, scoring and evaluation and even data entry by Judges were also digitized.

On June 8, 2013, KAGW conducted the aptly titled “Malayali Sports Festival” at High Point High School. The preparations and preliminary games started in April which culminated in a spectacular finale that overall witnessed participation of over 300 members from this community. An event organized jointly with Kairali, it witnessed intense and competitive matches in Cricket, Basket Ball, Volley Ball, Track and other sports and was well attended by youth from our community. Again, several new items were introduced – Kids soccer, tennis and Badminton were very popular.

On Sep 6th, the community witnessed a historic stage show by MG Sreekumar and Chithra, a first ever such joint program by KAGW and KCS. It also recorded the largest participation for a Friday event in this area. Held in Fairfax, VA, it was heralded as a bold, scintillating effort to present a musical symphony on stage with a huge live orchestra with more than 20 people.

History is to repeat itself but it happened so quickly on Sep 21st. The glory of the previous joint event was eclipsed in no time by an even more momentous event – Thiruvonam 2013. Again, a first ever joint Onam program in the area, it attracted crowds in excess of 1,600. Over 1,400 people ate sumptuous lunch prepared as always by Suku Nair. It was made even more memorable by the presence of Hon. Ambassador Nirupama Rao as the chief guest.

KAGW joined hands with Thai Tennis association and other international organizations to organize the Asian Festival 2013. Held for the first time in Maryland at Rosecraft Raceway, KAGW took the lead in organizing the Indian village. Well decorated and peppered with a diverse set of vendors, Indian village attracted large crowds. KAGW also organized a couple of cultural events including a band by Desi Rain at the finale.

Making history became a habit for KAGW as they organized the first ever Kerala day event on Nov 3rd. Kavalam Sreekumar, the eminent singer from Kerala, was the chief guest. His mellifluous voice was well supported by the orchestra by Ayyanam band. The ambiance at the venue (Thomas Pyle middle school) was out of the world with a traditional Thattukada. Chayya-adi competition at the Thattukada was a huge hit and went viral on facebook and youtube. There was a record participation for a first time event. KAGW had also introduced the “Malayali High Achievers award” as part of this event. Four honorable members from the community from diverse walks of life received the award.

Held on the same day, Nov 3rd, Eid programs were a solemn reflection of the occasion. Again, in front a very large crowd, the participants from the community enthralled the audience with some scintillating dances and songs. The food was delicious as always, the variety had gone up a notch to include Kappa and mean curry.

KAGW organized its annual picnic on Oct 5th. Unlike the past years, there was an emphasis on kid’s entertainment. Moon bounce was organized which was an instant hit. Adults had a lot of fun playing volleyball, cricket and water balloon.

The last event of the year, RocknRoll XMAS/New Year celebrations was threatened by bad weather. There was a prediction of snow and ice on the day of the event. Fearing the worst, KAGW was prepared to have a modest event. However, defying all such threats, almost a thousand people turned up shattering all expectations. The atmosphere was pounding with excitement as the family photo booth opened to a great reception. The cake baking competition had 10 participants; the crowd was served delectable homemade cakes. The programs were of the highest quality and were well appreciated. The impeccable timeliness; that the three hour (3) program started and ended on time; earned high praise. The grand finale involving over 50 artists is still being talked about. Last but not the least, KAGW introduced Palappam to the Malayali community in DC metro area along with other tasty choices for dinner. It was a proud achievement for the committee to end the year in such spectacular fashion.

Amidst the major events, there were many smaller events organized by different groups within KAGW. Women’s club organized a self-defense class and a hiking trip. Cultural and Literary committee along with help from others kicked off a monthly video newsletter. Some of the news videos attracted huge viewership in Youtube. Finance committee raised a record amount of money in 2013. It was gratifying to note that we were able to make a substantial contribution to the long range fund at the end of the year.

I am proud to say that KAGW’s signature event Talent Time and other cultural programs provided platform and brought to forefront several artists and choreographers who are now well known. We are gratified to provide the budding artists an opportunity to perform and shine to the fullest.

In terms of structural changes, KAGW introduced a Board of Advisors to tap into the enormous mentorship potential of community leaders and past presidents.

I am also proud to say KAGW is a pioneer in many ways. I am reiterating few new things that were introduced this year below. Hope it will continue to blossom in the upcoming years

1. KAGW Monthly news video
2. Kerala Day
3. Malayali High Achievers award
4. Annual Cake baking competition
5. Joint events with KCS
6. New electronic assets such as an innovative ticket selling ecommerce site plus a complete renovation of the flagship KAGW.COM site

Of course, everything was made possible with the help and support of “you”; the community, Major event sponsors, magazine sponsors and last but not the least the volunteers, their family and the members of the community who supported and worked behind the scenes.

As I hand over the reins of this great organization to a new president and a new team toward the end of this month, KAGW will remain focused on reaching out to all Malayalees residing in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan Area. The association is in excellent hands of Mr. Thomas Kurien and team and I am sure that KAGW will travel to great heights while staying laser focused on its long term goals. I request all of you to extend the support and well wishes to the new President and his team.

Continuing on the tradition of selfless service to the community, KAGW 2014 committee plans to start the New Year with a very noble program, organizing volunteers and donations to DC Central Kitchen on January 4 2014.

Lastly, on behalf of the 2013 KAGW Executive Team, I wish you and your family Happy Holidays and a Healthy, Prosperous 2014.

Once again, thanking every one for the help and support. Signing Off

Manoj Sreenilayam

Manoj Sreenilayam President – KAGW 2013