A Message to You


In the early 1970s, I was a young and relatively recent arrival to the U.S., freshly out of graduate school and into my first job. Along with several other eager students and friends at the time, I shared an enthusiasm and a desire to do something good for India. A number of groups in the Chicago area debated and discussed what could be done. Besides just discussing, we wondered, how could we become active participants for the benefit of India? Out of that desire, the India Development Service was born.

As with any immigrant group, we had a tendency to congregate according to commonalities and, in our case, region (Bengali Association), language (Tamil), and local living area (western suburbs). The unique thing about IDS is that people came together with a common goal in mind—to do something of value for India.

I have been involved in IDS since it was founded in 1974. It has been a long and a very satisfying journey. Satisfying from the point of view that I have grown at personal level, have learned a lot about the various parts of India, her people, and, most importantly, learned to have empathy for those less fortunate than me. I wish that many of my compatriots felt the same way.

IDS has been a learning process. In its infancy, the organization believed that the trickle-down theory worked and many of us believed we would go back to India and start businesses; and some did. Therefore, IDS started hosting seminars that provided information on how to set up a business in India and identified resources that were available. Speakers from the India Investment Center, State Bank of India, and the Export Promotion Council of India who, believe it or not, had offices in the U.S. at the time, participated in the seminars.

Then, in March of 1977 IDS members heard the noted British economist E.F. Schumacher, author ofSmall is Beautiful, speak at the regional conference on Appropriate Technology in Chicago. The lecture led to a shift in IDS’s focus from the trickle-down idea to rural development in India. We made a commitment to support one of our own IDS members to go back and work in a village in India. After a tough three years of raising funds to support one family, we decided to continue and expand the work.

Later, we heard Prof. Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and author of Banker to the Poor, talk about his microcredit and microfinance concept. Over the years, IDS met and heard many activists from India, all of whom influenced in some way IDS’s learning, growth, and current approach toward rural development in India.

In short, as a result of my association with IDS, I have grown as a person, made great friends, learned to have empathy for those less fortunate than me, to see the good in people, and learned how tough it is to raise funds. All in all, it’s been a wonderful journey.

Jagjit Jain
Long-term IDS Member