Philanthropy back home by Indian diaspora

More NRIs take an interest in giving back


July 11, 2021

/ By / Gurugram

Philanthropy back home by Indian diaspora

Volunteers at AIF distribute ration kits in North Delhi as part of the foundation's Covid-19 relief strategy (Photo: AIF Instagram)

Several organisations founded by Indian diaspora philanthropists have made strides in improving healthcare, education, and livelihoods of underprivileged communities in India.

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Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in charitable donations and interest in humanitarian causes among Indians living abroad. Although there is a lack of annual systematic data regarding the philanthropic activities of the Indian diaspora worldwide, a study by in 2018 revealed that “people of Indian origin in the United States volunteer at double the rate of the U.S. population.”

A report by the Asian Development bank says voluntary, non-profit organisations (NGO) have been present in India since late 19th century, when “nationalist consciousness” as the focus of socio-political movements became more widespread. These causes now focus mainly on problems in healthcare, education, and development sectors in India. Since the 1960s, when there was an initial effort to provide drought relief during agricultural seasons, international NGOs have entered India in significant numbers. This is also due to a rise in the average wealth of foreign-born Indians; for example, the annual household income of Americans of Indian origin is approximately USD 120,000, which surpasses other ethnic groups and even White Americans in the US.

However, it has been reported that there are certain giving gaps, where Indian-Americans and other Indian diaspora populations were, in general, “giving far below their potential.” This has been attributed mainly to donor distrust of philanthropic organisations, a lack of information, and regulatory and tax constraints that disincentivise giving. Experts recommend solutions that involve policy reform in India, national campaigns for giving, and improved impact measurement and reporting.

The following foundations are some of the biggest NGOs that strive to work towards building a trustworthy bridge between people among the Indian diaspora willing to donate and organisations and grass-roots NGOs in need back home. These organisations, with offices both in India and abroad, have encouraged Indian-diaspora philanthropy to become more strategic by recognising need and focus areas and allowing for accountability by providing measurable results.

American Indian Foundation

The American Indian Foundation is one of the biggest secular, non-partisan American organisations supporting development and volunteer services in India. It was started in 2001 by then-US president Bill Clinton and a group of Indian-Americans including Lata Krishnan, a Silicon Valley start-up investor, and Rajat Gupta, an Indian-American businessman. The organisation was founded at the request of then-Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee, who asked Clinton to help mobilise the Indian-American community to help rebuild hundreds of villages that had been destroyed by the Gujarat earthquake. At a foreign relations council in 2002, Clinton said the foundation wanted to ensure “economic empowerment of people” and that they had raised USD 10 million. Since then, AIF has undertaken several relief campaigns, such as after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and the Pulwama attack in 2019.

Currently, the CEO of AIF is Nishant Pandey, who is also a routine speaker on development issues and corporate social responsibility on platforms such as CNN India and NDTV. He believes in the mission that philanthropic initiatives of platforms like AIF “can make a lasting impact in the lives of ordinary people, nations and the global community at large.” The foundation’s focus has expanded to the education and public health sector as well as creating sustainable livelihoods for Indians in underprivileged communities. One such important initiative is the Maternal & New-born Survival Initiative (MANSI), which provides preventative and curative care for new-borns and mothers who are often forced to give birth in unhealthy spaces. MANSI’s focus region is Jharkhand, where the dense forests and hillsides deprive agricultural villages from access to healthcare facilities.

AIF has also made a significant impact regarding the recent issues plaguing Indians. In June of 2020, a live telethon fundraiser was held in partnership with NDTV, called the #RebuildLives campaign to provide support and holistic rehabilitation of migrant communities, who had been severely impacted by the continuous Covid-19 induced lockdowns, with over 140 million migrant daily-waged workers losing their jobs.

Rizwan Adatia Foundation

Founded in 2015, RAF is a non-profit organisation primarily working in India and Africa. RAF’s mission focuses on improving health systems and promoting food security in disadvantaged communities. The organisation’s core philosophy is encouraging self-reliance, for example though encouraging economic inclusion for vulnerable citizens, especially women and children, by skill-building in order to promote workers’ adaptability and employability.

The foundation is run by Rizwan Adatia, a Mozambique national of Gujarati origin. Adatia is now passionate about supporting education of youth in underprivileged communities, previously having said “I never completed my education after failing in class 10 and thus, today put a great emphasis on formal and informal education. When I came to Congo, I had Rs 200 in my pocket.” He personally works with young people through Rizwan Adatia Foundation for Social and Cultural Development and conducts workshops to help them achieve their goals.

The first of RAF’s major projects was in 2015 when the foundation built schools in earthquake-hit regions of Kutch and constructed girls’ hostels to ensure that education was not impacted as a result of the disaster. They also adopted Maliya Hatina village in Junagadh district, constructing school facilities, LPG connection to villagers and employment opportunities for women.

A unique goal of the foundation is its interest in ensuring food safety by optimising sustainable, Climate-Smart Agriculture techniques such as improving crops’ resilience to climate change and supporting micro-irrigation. With a primary focus on growing production and access, programs such as the promotion of E-agriculture aim to increase farmers’ access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) that can help boost agricultural development. This is especially significant in a country like India that is largely dependent on the success of farming communities.

The Hans Foundation

The Hans Foundation was started in 2009 by Shweta Ranawat and Manoj Bhargava, an Indian-American businessman. It is chiefly a Public Charitable Trust that provides funding to non-profit organisations in India in the areas of education, health, livelihoods and disability. One of the foundation’s main goals is facilitating engagement between American and Indian organisations to improve accessibility and affordability in the healthcare sector, through the The India States Health Innovation Project.

THF also believes in helping disadvantaged citizens achieve economic freedom and bring progress and development to their families. Rawat says on the website that “quality education and healthcare are necessary steps to poverty alleviation.” Some of THF’s educational initiatives include the organisation’s support with early literacy promotion in 14,000 primary schools in Rajasthan, the Mahatma Gandhi Academy for Human Development in Nagaland, which is the first in the region to offer diploma courses in livelihood innovation and social entrepreneurship, and the HEAL Academy in Vijayawada, a residential school offering education to orphans and abandoned children.

‘Cochlear Implant and Little Hearts’ is a program directly implemented by THF, which helps underprivileged children afflicted with ailments such as hearing impairment and deafness, which often affects speech and therefore education and overall development, ultimately leading to social isolation when left untreated or uncared for. THF works with India’s leading hospitals such as Apollo and Max City to run one of the largest cochlear implantation operation and therapy programmes in India.



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