This is Part 4 of my blog series that describes my background.  To learn more about the personal and professional experiences that shaped my life and led me to serve on the Rukmini Foundation Board, please access Parts 1-3 of my blog series below:

Part 1: ”The only way out of poverty is through continuous education…”

Part 2: The Rescue Center Peace House

Part 3: CHANGE, Kenya

Part 4: Lessons learned

While reflecting on the lives of my grandparents and parents, one thing is quite clear to me.  If I am blessed with a long life, I do not wish to look back and regret anything I did, or any decision I made.  I want to be able to say I lived a good life and did my part to make someone else’s life better. I have, on numerous occasions, had conversations with family and friends regarding what I want out of life and what type of career would bring me the greatest satisfaction.  Most people are driven by money, and others by praise, admiration from others, titles, or achieving seniority within their work environments.

While I do appreciate the convenience and comfort that comes with a “fat” paycheck, I’ve quickly learned that money does not drive me.  What drives me is discovering my true passion and skills, and figuring out what environments to apply both in.  I have two requirements for my career:  (a) it must be something that I love and look forward to doing every day, and (b) it must be something that will much improve the quality of life for someone less fortunate than me.

Needless to say, my experience with the Rescue Center and CHANGE significantly impacted me in different ways.  First, my whole perception on life changed.  I was overwhelmed to learn that those things I had come to expect (education, healthcare, and a home), and that I took for granted on occasion, were an unachievable dream for many other children.  Based on this realization, I started to re-shape my entire value system.  I also started learning how to look at life through several different lenses, in an attempt to understand my own life journey, and the life journey of others.


www.surfingsisters.com

I also learned that while money is an important part of philanthropy, it is only a fraction of what it takes to address and solve many social problems.  I firmly believe in teaching people not to become passive recipients of assistance, but to become active proponents for change.  I believe in becoming involved, encouraging local citizens to fully engage in finding solutions to issues within their communities, preserving the dignity and worth of those in need, and providing tools and resources that promote long-term sustainability in any community.

My experience with these two organizations greatly influenced my decision on majors in college and graduate school, as well as my decision to work in areas that involve research, development, and philanthropy.

I was very excited when I was invited to serve on the Rukmini Foundation Board of Directors.  The opportunity to serve in this role presented an invaluable opportunity for me to use my education and skills to make a significant contribution to a very worthy cause. The president, Bibhuti Aryal, was looking for an individual who had experience with locating and applying for external sources of funding, as well as experience with program planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Raising funds to support girls education through fun events like bowling in Columbus, OH.

Raising funds to support girls education through fun events like bowling in Columbus, OH.

Working with CHANGE significantly built my skills in research, proposal development, planning, implementing, and evaluating workshops and programs, as well as managing staff.  While in graduate school, I was fortunate to secure a Graduate Assistantship that allowed me to manage a federally funded grant, geared toward substance abuse and mental health.  My work experience in Sponsored Research and Programs after graduate school equipped me with invaluable skills in research administration, all of which I have been able to apply in my current role with the Foundation.

My primary responsibility is to locate and apply for external funding.  I am also responsible for creating the the Mission, Vision, Goals, and Objectives for the Foundation’s Grants Committee, which I currently chair.  In conjunction with other members, I also created the Vision, Mission, Goals, and Objectives of the Health and Wellness Committee, which is focused on promoting lifelong health awareness for our students.

Proud Board Member of Rukmini Foundation

Proud Board Member of Rukmini Foundation

  1. Most people have a desire to help, but refrain from doing so because they think their contribution is really small, and is therefore not significant, as compared to what other people give.  But no matter how small a contribution we make to society, it goes a long way in making someone else’s life better and could even save another person’s life.

  2. The problems affecting the political, social, cultural, and economic structure in different parts of the world all require a different solution.  The “one-size-fits-all” approach to resolving such challenges can never be applied the same way in different countries.

  3. The problems the Foundation seeks to address in Nepal surrounding poverty, gender inequalities, lack of access to basic education and healthcare (particularly for girls and women), child marriages, and human trafficking, are very similar to those faced by girls and women in Kenya, and many other countries.  The approaches that Rukmini is using to address these problems are similar to those used in Kenya.  However, in both countries, the complexities surrounding politics, economy, culture, tradition, and religious beliefs must all be taken into consideration when finding solutions to these issues.

It will take a tremendous amount of work to create a world where girls and women live free from persecution, inequalities, and discrimination.  But this is a challenge that many have undertaken and will continue to undertake.

At the end of the day, I believe that when we all get up in the morning and look at ourselves in the mirror, we need to say with confidence that we are happy and okay with what we see.  We also need to be able to say that we lived life well and helped those in need.

If someone were to tell your story, what would that story be?  Will you be an ordinary person, who did ordinary things, or will you be an ordinary person, with extraordinary blessings, who made an extraordinary difference in the life of every person that you knew?

Thank you for reading!

Linda Githiora-Olweny
Member of the Board of Directors, Rukmini Foundation
Grants and Research Manager

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