Manoj Bhargava, George Oliver honored.
NEW YORK: The American India Foundation, in a star-studded gala held here on Friday night, raised a whopping $2.85 million to educate and empower India’s youth.
“This event demonstrated how bringing people together from across all sectors and from all walks of life can have a huge impact,” AIF CEO M.A. Ravi Kumar said in a press release. “The funds pledged this evening will go a long way in educating these children and giving them a chance at a brighter future.”
The Annual Spring Awards Gala, held at the historic Cathedral of Saint John Divine, attracted more than 500 leaders from the for-profit, non-profit, government and philanthropic sectors.
The primary focus of this year’s gala was raising awareness about and funds for the organization’s Learning and Migration Program (LAMP), which educates and empowers children of seasonal migrant workers in India.
Manoj Bhargava, founder and CEO of 5-hour ENERGY, and Tyco International CEO George Oliver were honored at the event for their “corporate and philanthropic leadership, as well as their investment in India.”
Both honorees spoke about commitments for progress in India and the social responsibility of their companies to give back.
Indian actor and activist Rahul Bose, who starred in Bollywood films such as Pyaar Ke Side Effects, Chameli, Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam and Kucch Luv Jaisaa, was another prominent guest. He lauded AIF for its “innovative work in disrupting poverty in India.”
One of the highlights of the evening was the speech of Jashobanti Mahanand, a 19-year-old woman from Orissa, who shared her powerful story about working with migrant workers in Andhra Pradesh.
“Tears come down my eyes when I remember those days,” the teenager said. “In the brick kilns, children were involved in the work; my job was to flip the half dried bricks in the hot sun.”
Mahanand got an opportunity to receive an education and to live in a hostel with other children of seasonal migrant workers thanks to AIF’s LAMP program in 2005, the organization said in the release. A decade later, she is 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.”
The LAMP initiative, which was launched in 2003, has educated 352,599 children in 9 Indian states, according to AIF. Approximately 72 million people migrate from Indian villages in pursuit of jobs, uprooting their families in the process and living in hazardous work sites. Children, who accompany their parents, are forced to abandon their education because of the migration.