Aruna Rao

She, Her, Hers

Aruna Rao is the proud mother of a transgender child. She serves on the steering committee of API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC and is the founder of Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies, an organization for South Asian immigrants with LGBTQ children. She has developed culturally sensitive and innovative networks for South Asians and is developing training for a peer-to-peer support network. She has spoken and promoted family acceptance at venues such as the Philadelphia Transgender Wellness Conference, Gender Conference NYC, In My Mind: A Mental Health Conference for LGBTQ People of Color and the National Queer API Alliance conferences.

Aruna was the Associate Director of NAMI NJ for 18 years, where she founded SAMHAJ, a program to provide support and education for South Asian immigrants affected by mental illness, an effort recognized with the 2011 SAALT Changemaker Award and the 2002 NAMI National Multicultural Outreach Award. She served on the NAMI Diversity & Inclusion Workgroup and the NIMH Outreach Partner Steering Committee. She developed and led initiatives such as walkathons, conferences and campaigns as well as cultural competence training for health providers and educators. She seeks to bring her mental health expertise, creativity and cultural competence skills to promote PFLAG’s mission.