Greenwich Look

Spring 2016

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s amhita Jayanti spent a childhood traveling the world. Then, the sudden and tragic death of her parents and brother left her reeling with her extended family in India. "High School was a blur of understanding myself enough to realize that while my identity and family were very fi rmly rooted in India, I needed to leave to plot my own course," said Jayanti. College brought her back to the United States (one of the many countries she had lived in growing up, including Germany, Turkey, China and Thailand). She attended Harvard College in 1993 and re- mained in the Northeast after graduating. Over the years, her professional career has taken many turns, from CEO of a corporate intelligence fi rm to book editor to the pro- fessional role she holds today at Palantir, a Silicon Valley software company. "The sum of these experiences has given me a fundamental understanding of and fas ci nation with how individuals triumph above their circum stances to grow and evolve," said Jayanti. Today, the Greenwich resident and mother of three is a member of the Board of Directors at AmeriCares, a leading emergency response and global health organization headquartered in Stamford, Conn., and credits her husband for much of her success. "Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have an extremely supportive husband who encouraged me to pursue a career even when I doubted my own ability to do so ," said Jayanti. What brought you to Greenwich? My family honed in on Greenwich in seeking a place to get away from the city. We chose it because of its natural beauty, proximity, diversity and infrastructure. When you are living, working and bringing up children in New York City, being able to leave it is just as important as the time you spend in it. I always feel my shoulders drop by an inch when I cross from New York to Connecticut on the Merritt Parkway. We've made close friends in the community here through the years. Some are families who split their time between the city and Greenwich and others are full-time residents. We love the fact that Greenwich has both an active energy, as well as a very relaxed side. In what ways do you think your youth and career have led to your involvement in AmeriCares? My mother always worked throughout my childhood and was a real role model for me. She worked for UNICEF as an unpaid volunteer in every country we lived in and made a career of this. She always felt the need was obvious. The question was, how many of the needs of local children could they deliver on. I have come to embrace these values as I've grown older—fi rst, the importance of a career, whether paid or voluntary, and second, doing every bit we can to give individuals a chance at a better future. As an adult, I have had the privilege of working with highly motivated and intelligent individuals, many of whom played a mentorship role in my professional and personal development. Thinking back on the variety of places I have lived and worked, a unique and striking characteristic about the U.S., which I love, is the idea of giving back to the community in whatever small or large way each of us can. Tell us about your philanthropic work at AmeriCares and beyond. Emergencies and disasters can come in their obvious forms: the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the Syrian refugee crisis in the Middle East. But the inability of an individual in Norwalk to access the diabetes medicine they need in order to keep working is equally a disaster. The inability of a health care worker treating Ebola patients in Africa to feel safe because of lack of appropriate equipment and health care protocols is equally an emergency. AmeriCares is at the center of all of these eff orts. The Airlift Benefi t is AmeriCares signature event and our most important fundraiser. As the co-chair of the board's Development Committee, along with Greenwich resident Rob Leary, I am involved with fundraising for the benefi t, which draws more than 800 supporters to Westchester County Airport every fall. It not only sustains the organization's programs, it connects supporters in Fairfi eld and Westchester counties to the organization's mis sion. Halfway through the evening, a group of guests board a plane to see AmeriCares health programs in action. The destination changes; in recent years, they have gone to Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. My fi rst involvement in philanthropy was through the New York Public Library (NYPL) in 2002. I had just graduated from business school and was introduced to the NYPL through a friend. I became fascinated by the myriad ways in which the NYPL touches the local community. At the heart of the AmeriCares and NYPL missions lies Samhita A. P. Jayanti Inspired by her upbringing, world-traveled Samhita Jayanti is helping those in need through AmeriCares. A unique and striking characteristic of the U.S ., which I love, is the idea of giving back in whatever way we can. FACES OF PHILANTHROPY [ ] 050

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