NEW YORK—The American India Foundation (AIF) hosted its 15th Anniversary Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York earlier this month and raised $2.25 million.
Over 600 guests, including some of the New York Tri-State Area’s most influential business leaders, including C-level executives and investors, entrepreneurs, and community leaders came together to support the organization’s nationwide poverty alleviation work in India.
The gala highlighted AIF’s Digital Equalizer Program, which is transforming government schools across India through technology in order to enhance the quality of teaching, and capture children’s imagination while instilling a lifelong love of learning.
“This evening’s event was a great opportunity to celebrate the impact that AIF has created in India in the last fifteen years with some of our most dedicated supporters and volunteers,” said Alex Counts, the President and CEO of AIF. “Looking to the next 15 years and beyond, AIF is committed to continuing to develop and massively scale pro-poor innovations in India.”
During the gala, AIF honored Victor Menezes, the Retired Senior Vice Chairman of Citigroup and the Chairman Emeritus of AIF. “Of all the things I’ve done, the AIF cause and organization is closest to my heart,” said Menezes. “We continue to experiment and innovate. None of our programs was designed in the U.S., but rather the innovations took place on the ground in India. Through our partnerships with foundations, governments, and like-minded people, AIF has touched and transformed over three million lives.”
The evening also featured remarks from other prominent leaders who lauded AIF on its long-term success in fighting poverty for the most marginalized people in India. These leaders included Ajay Banga, President and CEO, MasterCard & Co-Chair of the Board, AIF; Rahul Bose, Ambassador, AIF and accomplished actor, director, screenwriter, former rugby player, and social activist; Lata Krishnan – Co-Chair of the Board, AIF; and John Reed – Retired Chairman, Citigroup & Chairman Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
One of the most poignant moments during the evening occurred during 9th grade student Keerthana Vivekananthan’s story of personal transformation through education, “Before the Digital Equalizer program came to my school, learning subjects was very boring,” said Vivekananthan, who hails from Tamil Nadu. “Now, me and my classmates are able to see subjects through visual images and it has made learning more fun and easy.” Vivekananthan also spoke of her dreams of one day becoming a doctor.
With 70% of India’s one million public schools lacking basic computing technology, the country is facing significant challenges to prepare its youth for success in the 21st century global economy. Poor school infrastructure, high teacher absenteeism, a large volume of teacher vacancies, and persistently low levels of learning and achievement all contribute to a staggering dropout rate that sees nearly 50% of young people abandoning their education at the key transitional ages of secondary school.
Since 2002, AIF’s Digital Equalizer program has been bridging this educational and digital divide by bringing technology to schools across India and utilizing technology to transform teaching and learning into a collaborative, project-based approach. This approach helps teachers to be more effective while motivating and inspiring students to continue their education and open doors of opportunity to higher education and career success. To date, the program has connected over 1 million children to technology.
The American India Foundation is committed to disrupting poverty, catalyzing social and economic change in India, and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India through high-impact interventions in education, livelihoods, public health, and leadership development, with a particular emphasis on empowering girls and women to achieve gender equity. Working closely with local communities, AIF partners with NGOs to develop and test innovative solutions and with governments to create and scale sustainable impact.
Founded in 2001 at the initiative of President Bill Clinton following a suggestion from Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, AIF has impacted the lives of 3.1 million of India’s poor and aims to reach 5 million by 2018-2019.