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AIF’s inaugural Philadelphia gala honors Raju Foundation

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Event raises more than $70,000 for the organization’s LAMP initiative, which educates children of migrant laborers in India.

Raj Gupta presenting the award to Ajay Raju, accompanied by Drs. Kavita & Sanjay Gupta, Rani Emandi and fellows from Germination Project. Photo credit: Gunjesh Desai / TV Asia
Raj Gupta (second from left) presenting the award to Ajay Raju. Also seen are Dr. Sanjay Gupta (left), Dr. Kavita Gupta (second from right), and Rani Emandi (right). Fellows from Germination Project are on the front row. Photo credit: Gunjesh Desai / TV Asia

PHILADELPHIA: The inaugural gala of the American India Foundation’s Philadelphia chapter honored the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation for its leadership in community building and public service in the city of Philadelphia.

Particular spotlight was laid on the foundation’s initiative, The Germination Project, a non-profit, catalytic incubator for Philadelphia’s next generation of business, political and civic leaders, drawn from the best and brightest of Philadelphia’s high school students.

More than 160 influential guests, among them entrepreneurs, top executives and leaders from academia, government, politics and the non-profit world from Delaware, Pennsylvania and South Jersey attended the event, held at the at the beautiful University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology on November 18, 2016.

The honoree of the evening, Ajay Raju, a prominent Indian American lawyer and founder of the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation, talked about his journey into philanthropy and the efforts of his foundation to bridge the disparities in the City of Philadelphia.

While applauding the success stories of Philadelphia and talking about all the things that made it great, he drew everybody’s attention to the poverty and lack of opportunity within nearly 40 percent of the city’s population. “There is a 20-year variation in life expectancy in this city,” he pointed out: “How can we address this gap?”

Six teenagers from the area working with the Germination Project accompanied Raju to the stage to receive the award.

“The Germination kids know that they have the power of flight and have chosen to commit their lives to use that power to lift those who are grounded in poverty,” Raju, the Chairman and CEO of Dilworth Paxson, said.

Speaking on behalf of the Germination Project, venture capitalist and futurist Rudy Karsan, called for the replacement of all social programs in the United States with a “universal basic income” for every citizen. He said such a program would cost $2 trillion.

“And that money is enough for a bed in a half a room, and two meals a day,” said Karsan, who sold the software company Kenexa to IBM for $1.3 billion in 2012. “You need more than that? You work.”

The award to the Germination Project was presented by Raj Gupta, a well-known business leader and philanthropist from the area, and a long time supporter of AIF.

“I remember just over a year ago, on October 2nd, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, we launched the Philadelphia Chapter not far from here,” the philanthropist and former CEO of Rohm and Haas said. “It gives me great pleasure to see how quickly and vibrantly this community has come together to take it to the next level.  The diverse group of supporters and champions who have gathered here in support of AIF indicates the huge potential of this Chapter and this region.”

AIF CEO Alex Counts described the journey of the fledgling chapter that just completed its first year and talked about the organization’s work in India in the fields of education, public health and livelihoods. “Poverty is a complex issue that needs to be dealt with holistically and AIF is doing so through its signature programs,” he said.

AIF CEO Alex Counts addressing the gathering. Photo credit: Gunjesh Desai / TV Asia
AIF CEO Alex Counts addressing the gathering. Photo credit: Gunjesh Desai / TV Asia

The event raised more than $70,000 in sponsorship, donations, and pledge drive. Funds will directly benefit AIF’s Learning & Migration Program, which provides access to quality education and opportunity creation to children of migrant laborers, according to the organization.

The concluding remarks of the event were made by Drs. Kavita and Sanjay Gupta, and Rani Emandi, the leadership of AIF’s Philadelphia chapter. Inviting members of the audience to get more actively engaged in the mission of AIF, they said: “It is a matter of great pride bringing together a very committed group of people representing Greater Philadelphia, South Jersey and Delaware.  It is also a reflection of the immense potential this region has for the future growth of AIF.”

The program also included an exquisite musical performance by sitar player and vocalist Hidayat Hussain Khan and his ensemble.