New York: The American India Foundation (AIF) held their Annual Spring Awards event at the historic Cathedral of Saint John Divine where over 500 successful leaders across various sectors, including successful executives and philanthropists from the Indian diaspora, came together to raise funds and awareness for AIF’s Learning and Migration Program (LAMP). The program is aimed at educating and empowering children of Indian seasonal migrant workers. Nearly Rs 20 crore was raised at the event.
“This event demonstrated how bringing people together from across all sectors and from all walks of life can have a huge impact,” said AIF CEO MA Ravi Kumar. “The funds pledged will go a long way in educating these children in India and giving them a chance at a brighter futurem,” he said.
The AIF honoured Founder/CEO of 5-Hour Energy – Manoj Bhargava and CEO Tyco International – George Oliver. Both eminent figures were recognized for their corporate and philanthropic leadership, as well as their investment in India. Bhargava, an Indian-born entrepreneur, has had an illustrious career in launching various successful companies, including Living Essentials; this company developed the product 5-Hour Energy, which has become a prominent brand in the energy drink market.
Bhargava is also well known for his philanthropic work. He has started multiple foundations, including the Hans Foundation, as well as signed the Giving Pledge, which will commit over 90% of his wealth to charitable causes.
The special guest of the evening was actor and activist Rahul Bose. He commended AIF on its innovative work in disrupting poverty in India and talked about how receiving an education can have a powerful impact in a child’s life. The emotional highpoint of the event came when Jashobanti Mahanand, a 19-year-old young woman from Orissa, shared her story about working in migration sites in Andhra Pradesh.
“Tears come down my eyes when I remember those days,” said Mahanand. “In the brick kilns, children were involved in the work; my job was to flip the half dried bricks in the hot sun.” In 2005, AIF’s LAMP program gave Mahanand the opportunity to receive an education and to live in a hostel with other children of seasonal migrant workers. Ten years after taking part in the program, Mahanand is now a first-year college student studying political science. “Because of LAMP, I have the drive to complete my education and become a teacher, so that I can provide support to the children in my village.”
Across India, approximately 72 million people migrate from their villages in remote rural areas every year in search of labour, uprooting entire families for up to eight months at a time in hazardous work sites. All too often, children are forced to migrate with their parents, leaving behind their schools, friends, and communities. The LAMP Program was launched in 2003. To date, the program has educated 352,599 children in 9 states in India.