The September 23 event raises $150,000.
BETHESDA, MD — Raj and Neera Singh, successful telecom entrepreneurs from the Washington, D.C., area were honored at the American India Foundation’s (AIF) annual D.C. gala for their outstanding philanthropy and leadership.
More than 250 influential guests, among them U.S. and Indian officials, business leaders, and philanthropists from the greater Washington area attended the power-packed gala, held at the historic Congressional Country Club in Bethesda on September 23.
Former United States Ambassador to India, Frank G. Wisner, an inspiring diplomatic leader and Chair of AIF’s Advisory Council, was among the headliners of the event.
“It is a privilege to be here tonight, it’s a privilege to come as the chairman of the advisory council of the American India Foundation, and it is sincerely a great honor to have been the United States Ambassador to India, to serve the Indian-American relationship and the terrific work of AIF,” he said.
Wisner, a veteran diplomat, spent four decades in the highest echelons of the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense. His decorated diplomatic career also includes postings as ambassador to the Philippines, Egypt, and Zambia. “All of us acting together can make a difference, a difference for India, a difference for this country,” he said.
Emphasizing the value of education in their lives, honorees Raj and Neera Singh explained why they continue to support education and livelihood programs, like those of AIF, across India. “There is no better way than education to make this world a better place and AIF does wonderful work for this noble cause,” Raj Singh said. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my parents. They were the first in my family to go to school.”
Neera Singh added: “I’m grateful to my parents for their hard work and their ambition to have education first. We come from a very humble family but they made sure that their three daughters had the best education possible,” said Mrs. Singh.
Raj Singh praised the involvement and contribution of the AIF in India: “When AIF gets funding, that can transform everything, and transform many lives. This is a great cause, great institution, and great place. Without our support, without your support, without all of our support, we cannot continue this good work,” he said.
Other speakers included Lata Krishnan, AIF Chair and CFO of Shah Capital Partners, and Alex Counts, President and CEO of AIF. She spoke about the current status of persons with disabilities in India, the subject of AIF’s featured program of the night: “There are 70 million people with disabilities in India, and less than two percent are employed,” said Krishnan. “At AIF we believe that it is what you are able to do–not your disability–that defines you.”
On AIF, Krisnan said: “Not only have we been able to raise $115 million dollars in the past 15 years, we’ve been able to work with over 250 not-for-profit organizations in India, across 23 states, and impacted over three million lives. We are a group of likeminded people who are filled by extraordinary passion and pride for the underappreciated in India.”
The gala raised nearly $150,000 through sponsorships, donations, and pledge drive. According to an AIF press release, funds will directly benefit AIF’s Ability-Based Livelihood Empowerment (ABLE) program, which works to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to obtain equal, inclusive and dignified livelihoods. Two beneficiaries–and now leaders–of the ABLE program in India were present at the gala and spoke on the shared, positive impact of empowering persons with disabilities with job skill development.
Counts spoke passionately about the 10 years of his career in India, and the importance of continued partnership between India and the United States, especially in the realm of philanthropy. He left the audience with a call to action: “I look out here and I see many people who were born in India but America touched something in you. I look at myself and others in my room, people in America, who were touched by India. So let’s join hands together and touch some other people tonight. People whom we may never meet, people with disabilities or who are not able in others ways. And, if we never meet them, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we cannot imagine their gratitude. Let’s work together tonight, and throughout the next year, to advance the AIF mission.”
The event also recognized the leadership of Aruna Miller, member of 15th Legislative District Representative of the Maryland House of Delegates. Other influential attendees included Sudhakar Shenoy, Chairman and CEO of Alyxtech, Dr. Mahinder Tak, prominent Indian American leader, Ranvir Trehan and Shekar Narasimhan, well-known philanthropists, and Senior Director or AIF and key architect of the D.C. Gala, Venkatesh Raghavendra.
Raghavendra remarked that “the diverse gathering here represents the appeal the mission of AIF has to all cross-sectors of society, representing business, academia, corporate entities, thought leaders and community organizations. We are proud of the trust the greater DC community has shown in the work of AIF.”
Also in attendance were eight fellows of the prestigious William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India, a fellowship program dedicated to shaping the next generation of leaders committed to impactful change while also strengthening civil society to be more efficient and effective. The evening featured musical and dance performances from local DC artists, Sargam and Dooniya.
The gala was organized by the AIF Young Professionals Leadership Council of Washington, DC. Sponsors included Jones Day, Qatar Airways, ALYX technologies, infinite, KPMG, eHealth Objects, Blue Ocean Global Technologies. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the U.S.-India Business Council were gala partners.