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AIF fundraiser to benefit rickshaw program

September 13
04:44 2010

L-R-Pankit, Doshi and friends

LOS ANGELES, CA: Speckled with guests in festive black and white attire, the ultra cool X Bar in Century City was an inspirational sight on August 26. The American India Foundation (AIF)’s Young Professionals Chapter hosted a fundraiser to benefit AIF’s Rickshaw Sangh program. Buzzing with enthusiasm, more than 200 young professionals mingled with members from the AIF Young Professionals team over cocktails and appetizers. The room was filled with passion, excitement, and a desire for changing the status quo.

Speaking on the occasion, Tania Kapoor, a member of AIF’s Southern California Leadership Council, said, “It is heartening to see so many young professionals realize the importance of philanthropy. We may not be able to give much at this point in our lives, but what is important is that we have begun to act.”

Dular Pandya, President of the AIF Young Professionals Southern California Chapter, encouraged the crowd by saying, “The desire for change must be matched by action. Every bit of support from a young person goes a long way to build a strong foundation for those in need.” He also shed light on the Rickshaw Sangh program and the power of micro-finance in alleviating poverty.
AIF’s Rickshaw Sangh program enables cycle rickshaw pullers across India to become owners of their vehicles.

Since its inception, the program has enabled over 8,600 rickshaw drivers to own their vehicles. AIF initiated the Rickshaw Sangh program in Guwahati, Assam in 2006. Today, AIF is implementing the program in 11 cities across India.

The program enhances the quality of life of rickshaw drivers by enabling them to get loans from banks to buy their own rickshaws. Without the help, individual rickshaw drivers lack the credit-worthiness to get the loan to buy their rickshaw. By standing as a guarantor, AIF has succeeded in drawing them into the financial system. In addition, AIF facilitates additional support in the form of vehicle insurance, identification cards, and uniforms.

According to AIF’s CEO, Dr. Sanjay Sinho, “For many recent migrants to India’s cities, driving a cycle rickshaw is one of the easiest professions to find a job. However, lacking assets, [drivers] are unable to invest the $250 it costs to buy a rickshaw and instead have to rent their rickshaws at exorbitant rates, which relegates them to a hand-to-mouth existence. Through AIF’s Rickshaw Sangh program, they are getting access to micro-loans that enable them to buy their own rickshaws.”

Inspired by the particular story of Mouzam Ali, the Young Professionals Chapter decided to raise funds for the Rickshaw Sangh program. Mouzam Ali, a rickshaw driver in Lucknow, the capital city of the state of Uttar Pradesh, has driven rickshaws for 10 years and received a loan from Punjab National Bank through AIF to own his own rickshaw. Mouzam now manages to save about 500 rupees ($10) a month and he and his wife earn additional income stitching uniforms for other rickshaw drivers.

India Post News Service

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