Aruna Rao

She, Her, Hers

Aruna is the proud mother of a queer and transgender young adult. She is passionate about advancing LGBTQ+ rights and is dedicated to creating a loving, inclusive world where LGBTQ+ people are an integral part of community spaces. Aruna is the Founder and Executive Director of Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies, a national organization that supports South Asian families with LGBTQ+ children. She serves on the PFLAG National Board. Aruna has created the first virtual support and education network for LGBTQ+ South Asians and their families that serves the South Asia diaspora in multiple continents, and is engaged in the pioneering work of developing allyship resources for the Desi community.

Before founding Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies, Aruna was the Associate Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of NJ where she led the organizations diversity and inclusion efforts to receive the American Psychiatric Associations Advancing Minority Mental Health Award in 2014 . She is the founder of SAMHAJ, the first program in the USA to provide support and education for South Asians immigrants affected by mental illness. She received the 2014 Agraj Seva Kendra Notable Indian Americans of New Jersey Award, the 2011 South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) Changemaker Award, the 2003 Leadership Award from the NJ Asian American Association for Human Services, and the 2002 NAMI National Multicultural Outreach Award. She has served on the NAMI National Diversity & Inclusion Workgroup and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Outreach Partner Steering Committee.