What compels you to get involved in the cause to end extreme poverty?

I’ve known a lifetime marred with tragedies and true hardships.  I have witnessed those same lives blessed because of those tragedies and hardships.  Our lives are intertwined; mine explicably easier because of the trials they have tried and the trails they have blazed.  This is not my story; it is theirs.  And this opportunity in Malawi is an opportunity for me to give back and say thank you to them – my parents.

My parents had a hard life growing up.  I was born a few miles outside a tiny village in the state of Kerala located in southern India, in a tiny room we called our home, my father thousands of miles away studying for his PhD in Leeds (England).  Not too long after I was born, I contracted pneumonia, at that time in that part of the world an illness that spelled certain death.  Medical facilities were sparse and those available were primitive to say the least, especially in rural India .  My grandfather, baby cradled in arms, ran ten plus miles, rushing me to the nearest hospital, just in time to save my life.

A year and a half after I was born, my mother took me on a thousand mile journey by train from our tiny village to Bombay .   From there, we boarded a plane headed for Heathrow.  Upon arrival, without any command of the English language, and my father nowhere to be found, an angel in the form of a Pakistani cab driver drove us two hours to Leeds where to my father’s surprise he met his son for the first time.   Several years later, our family – larger with two more sons – found ourselves in Eastern Pennsylvaniawhere my father, though PhD qualified, had no work for almost two years.   One day, in the middle of his paper route (at that time the only work he could find), he came back from a phone booth to tell my brothers and me that we had a little sister.  We were happy and we were dirt poor.

My parents instilled in me that we can all make a difference.  A group is made up of individuals; but it is upon the individual to initiate change. I refuse to lose that perspective of youth where one person can make a difference. Age has given me another perspective – the ideals of youth are just that – words in a vacuum, unless one acts upon them.  I’ve always wanted to help.  I’ve always wanted to impact lives.  Experience has taught me there are so many ways to impact those around us.  Opportunities are given to each of us every day.

I have helped organize various fundraisers (e.g. A.S.T.R.O. – Arts Striving Toward Real Opportunities; and ACES – Athletes Committed to Educating Students) and given time to various events ( e.g. the Green Tie Ball). I have participated in Habitat for Humanity; and I have encouraged my team to participate in it as well.   I will be participating in the mentoring program at Otis Elementary.

Malawi is another opportunity.  Not only is it an opportunity to better the villagers’ lives, it is an opportunity to better mine – to appreciate what I have and to realize how lucky I truly am – and an opportunity to spread that perspective among my family, friends and colleagues.   On our absolute worst days, it is still a thousand times better than the people of Malawi’s best.

Ending poverty is all about empowerment and self-fulfillment.  My parents had that perspective.   My grandparents had that perspective.  They lived it; and I learned it from them.  Give me this opportunity, and I will teach it to those that follow me.

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