SAN FRANCISCO — The American India Foundation March 24 hosted its annual ‘Bay Area Gala 2.0’ at the Union Square Hilton in San Francisco, raising more than $1 million in helping to achieve its mission addressing development challenges in India, including poverty, educational gaps and maternal health.
The gala drew leaders and luminaries from the Indian American and wider Bay Area communities who came out to support the foundation which, in its 18 years of service, has uplifted the lives of over 3.7 million people in India.
The $1.3 million raised at the gala will help the foundation with continuing to deliver life-changing programs to those in need.
Among the AIF initiatives the funds will support are: Digital Equalizer, the Learning and Migration Program, the Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative, Market Aligned Skills Training, Ability-Based Livelihoods Empowerment and Rickshaw Sangh.
“We are working with over 13,000 schools in India and have impacted 200,000 families through our education and skill development programs, but there is lot to do,” AIF chief executive officer Nishant Pandey told India-West. “Our vision is to significantly scale up all our programs and leverage resources of the government and the private sector towards this goal.”
The CEO added that he is “proud of everything” AIF is doing, particularly by the passion and commitment of all its supports.
“(The) Bay Area has been a big pillar in terms of the time and resources of people,” Pandey said, adding the foundation is looking for more engagement and resources from the area, which has already had a tremendous impact. “The magnitude of challenges in India is huge and we would like to scale up all our programs.”
During the event, AIF Board co-chair Lata Krishnan addressed the more than 500 donors and supporters on hand with the gala’s keynote address, relaying the inspiration she exudes having been with the organization for nearly two decades.
“Having been here for over 17 years I am still inspired and energized by how little it takes to impact not just one life, but millions. I believe that in today’s uncertain times, civil society and nonprofits, like AIF, help bridge the gap between government and society,” Krishnan said. “It is our role to enhance the abilities of the government and the private sector to transform poverty into potential.”
Krishnan further spoke of AIF’s life-changing programs, including MANSI, which has slashed India’s infant mortality by 46 percent; and the AIF Skill Development program, which has trained 12,590 individuals with visual, hearing or reading disabilities, allowing them to find work and lead productive, independent lives.
“We believe that the platform we have built is not just a fundraising platform. We bring together people of different age groups, industries and development interests through our 11,000 chapters nationwide,” the foundation board’s co-chair added. “AIF has been able to gather about 15,000 corporations, individuals and family offices to think about these critical issues. We now raise 20 percent of our funds in India. It’s very heartening to see that our efforts in the United States have a ripple effect in India, too.”
The evening also honored those who have dedicated themselves to uplifting the less fortunate around the world. Author and the founder of the Pachamama Alliance, Lynne Twist, received the 2018 AIF Service Award for her efforts toward alleviating hunger and poverty worldwide.
“It’s my privilege to raise money every day of my life and give people the opportunity to share their resources for the right causes,” Twist said at the event. “My association with AIF reminded me of how much I love in India, the depth of people in India, and how Indians are making a difference in almost all fields across the world. The contribution you make today, it doesn’t change one life, but many future generations.”
Vijay Goradia, Indian American founder and chairman Vinmar International, received the AIF Leadership Award for his
tireless support of nonprofit organizations dedicated to education and entrepreneurship.
“When you are young and healthy, what you give is gold. When you are old, what you give is silver. What you leave behind when you are dead is lead. My wife and I decided to give when we are of sound mind and healthy,” said Goradia, who pledged $100,000 to AIF.
“I believe the more resources you put in, the greater the impact. The sooner you put those resources to work, the quicker you will get the results,” Goradia added.
One of the evening’s highlights was a heart-warming discussion between Pandey and AIF beneficiary Sunita Kumari.
Kumari, who is from the Juna Katariya village in Gujarat, shared how she was able to get an education thanks to AIF’s LAMP initiative. When Kumari first began her studies, she was lucky if she got two meals a day; now she is a graduate and working towards becoming a block development officer.
It was an evening of coming together in the name of service and it spoke to the joy of community and uplifting those in need.