New Delhi: On the occasion of its 20th year anniversary, the prestigious American India Foundation’s William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India has been rebranded as AIF’s Banyan Impact Fellowship and the program scope has been expanded to include climate justice, social inclusion, sports, arts, social inclusion and many other pressing issues of national and international importance in addition to the fields of health, education, livelihood. Co-founder and AIF Board co-chair, Lata Krishnan and her husband, Ajay Shah, also announced a $5 million endowment to the Fellowship program– the largest so far to AIF to bring the program’s renewed vision to life.
The much-sought-after fellowship—an immersive, 10-month volunteer service program–gives an opportunity to fellows from both the US and India to work with civil society organizations in India on scalable and sustainable development projects in support of social justice. The program aims to shape the next generation of leaders committed to positive and sustainable change and creating a lasting U.S.-India relationship by broadening the existing constituency of future leaders, civil society and other stakeholders.
Lata Krishnan, Co-founder and Board co-chair, AIF said, “Through service we have made investments in American Indian diplomacy by shaping the next generations of leaders to be more inclusive and socially minded advocates who will collaborate to solve the most pressing issues in India. We are impacting individual lives and building bridges, this is what motivates me year after year with AIF.”
Nishant Pandey, CEO, AIF, said, “The Fellowship is the longest running program of AIF and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year too. From our 20 years of running this strategic programme in the US-India corridor, we believe the program is at a crucial stage where it can expand, grow and flourish as a separate entity within the AIF umbrella. This seed grant of $5 million from Lata and Ajay helps us pursue this exciting vision. This is the biggest gift in the history of AIF and we are immensely grateful and thrilled.”
Agrees Ajay Banga, Mastercard Executive Chairman. He said “Our hope is for the US and India to form a much tighter partnership so that their people understand each other better and can contribute to solving real problems in each other’s countries. Through this fellowship, we are creating a force multiplier.”
Started in 2001 as the AIF Service Corps for young Americans to work in India on disaster relief and long-term rehabilitation, the program was later renamed the AIF William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India in recognition of the former president’s role in creating American India Foundation. As the program grew, it also took another large step in 2011 to include youth from both the US and India, creating a bi-national force to make a difference at the grassroots through emphasis on localised solutions and exchange of ideas. At the cusp of the program’s third decade, AIF is seizing the moment to rebrand the program to reflect the organizational mission, vision, and values moving into the next decade of action, which will focus on accelerating impact and supercharging ideas to solutions.
Announcing the new name— the AIF Banyan Impact Fellowship, Lata said, “The ‘banyan tree’ is a symbol of strength, resilience, and interconnectedness – a powerful metaphor for mobilizing a collective force towards sustainable impact”.
Ajay Shah said, “We are building young leaders who will be able to sustain development throughout their entire careers. The relationships and bridge-building go well beyond the one year fellows stay on the ground.”