Dr. Vinod Prakash: Founder and President of India Development and Relief Fund

IDRF is a platform that allows individuals to donate to a cause of their choice in India. IDRF partners with various nonprofits who work on the ground in India. They focus on issues like women empowerment, climate change, education, healthcare, and water quality. IDRF’s partners work all around the country and tackle every angle of poverty, helping to lift up the people of India.

Breaking the cycle of poverty is a daunting task. What are some steps IDRF is taking to create tangible change?

When talking about ending poverty, we are focused on a specific target group, not society at large. Multiple objectives are achieved with each program at IDRF. For example, 25 years ago, my wife and I visited northwest India to start a project to reduce female feticide and improve the sex ratio at birth. We succeeded in reducing the natural birth rate in the area, which has helped stabilize the population and is a big step towards bringing about Gender Parity in the area of predominantly poor villagers. In this case, gender parity and women empowerment are the objectives achieved. Our work has a high impact because of the NGOs we choose to work with. We have very strict standards to work with us, the NGOs have to continue to fight the cycle of poverty.

Can you tell me about your mission to put “power, not charity, in the hands of the poor”?

We never send only money to people, there needs to be an operational component. I have gained insight from my life experience and learned that we need to give people skills and not just provide money. As an example, Uber has taken over the USA and is in India as well. We received a proposal to give girls 18+ years old driving lessons so that they can drive for Uber. Many of them, however, cannot afford a car when they finish the lessons. An NGO we work with helps them buy used cars at very low prices so that they can drive for Uber and earn money. We work with educational/skill training institutions as well, and they are required to send us progress reports and fund allocation reports so we know that our money is making a difference in these programs. We keep our overhead costs low to barely 5% and keep impact high.

Your programming is very holistic. How do you identify what areas to focus on?

We divide our work into categories including developmental, relief, and rehabilitation. Our NGO partners do all kinds of important work across India. For example, there are areas in India where women have to carry water on their heads because there is not good quality, reliable water. With the help of one of our NGO partners, the women are given access to a water wheel, which gives the women time to focus on other things like education and employment. We are supporting the construction of small hospitals and medical clinics. Reliable medical care in India is much needed right now. Another example is climate change. One of our NGOs has succeeded in transforming cow dung into gas. Instead of using firewood for fuel, Indian families can use cow dung. If a family has 4 or 5 cows, it utilizes what they already have and conserves the environment.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I’ve been with IDRF for more than 30 years and it’s nothing short of my passion even at 90 years of age. I lost my complete eyesight about 12 years ago, but despite that, I along with donors, are able to help the downtrodden and deprived in India. I make sure our donors’ hard-earned money is used properly. It’s amazing to see the impact that we have, and it’s because we give donors the opportunity to choose where their money goes. To date, IDRF has raised over $47million and in 2021 alone we raised over $6 million. We are very transparent about our use of funds to maintain legitimacy. IDRF has earned top ratings from around the industry including a Platinum Seal of Transparency from Guidestar and 4 out of 4 stars for 9 consecutive years from Charity Navigator. We are so proud of the NGOs we partner with and the work they do. We expect that people who overcome poverty will help fellow humans who are where they once were. When we help one person to be self-sustainable, that person can help others.