Message from the Executive Director
Friends, associates, relations and guests,
As I embark forward on this mission, one that speaks to me like none other in my life, my mind keeps coming back to one word; responsibility. It is one of those words that has so many subtle definitions but so often means a very different thing to each and every person. However, in the last few decades, I feel that this word has come to invoke so much more to me, that I can pull the meaning directly from my heart with absolute clarity.
Over time, I have found myself in so many places where I have been able to claim a certain level of responsibility for that given situation. When I find that I have been placed in charge of a particular group of people in a work type environment, there tend to be parameters such as job descriptions and company policies that I can refer to for assistance. When I am out with friends in a social situation, the conditions are much less formal but people do expect me to be able to take charge when there is something to be figured out. And when I find myself coming upon an emergency medical situation involving actual or potential bodily injury, I can uphold the requirements of my First Aid and CPR training accurately.
Then I look at the responsibility that I have taken on as the Founder and Executive Director of WorldWide Education Partnerships for Nepal.
I would assume that most people have some sort of concept of what it means to “save the world”. We all use that phrase in different ways, some more profoundly than others. Typically, most people would feel that it refers to a person’s ability to make a difference, even a small one, in an urgent and significant issue that affects the health, safety or well being of a group of people. As far as WWEP is concerned, my role in saving the world seems to be a in a similar vein. In guiding this organization forward, I see my pledge here as following through on dramatically improving the lives of a group of people in Nepal born into situations that placed them in disadvantaged conditions from their very first moment on Earth.
It is not our purpose at WWEP to change the native culture of these people nor to lead them down a path that I have determined is best for them. I have made that clear in the first conversation with every new partnership we have forged. Instead, I see our purpose as helping to fulfill a desire for assistance that comes directly from the Nepali people themselves. During my last visit to Nepal, before WWEP had even been imagined, I spoke at length with a large number of Nepali residents of various ages who appeared to need assistance. All very polite and unassuming, not one of them asked me for money to help them improve their lives. Yet each one of them, in their own unique way, explained how educational development and vocational advancement was their key to becoming the person that they strived to be. It wasn’t difficult for me to put the pieces together and I left Nepal that first time knowing what my next move was going to be.
Those people who know me well can confirm that I never do anything halfway. Once I set my mind to undertake a task, it will not go unfinished and certainly will not be done in a slipshod manner. I believe that I get that from my father; a man who spent his entire life teaching his sons the value and importance of doing things properly. Were he still alive today, I know that my father would not be surprised at this quest of mine. In a family of boys who grew up to become teachers, firefighters, environmentalists and social service directors, he would say that I was doing well for the world and that I was making him proud.
As for my definition of the word responsibility, I think back to the words of the executive director of a suicide hotline that I volunteered for in the early 1990s. When faced with a group of phone line trainees who expressed fear in picking up a phone and instantly becoming responsible for the life and death decision of another human being, she summed it up well. “When engaging in contact with an individual in need”, she said, “we are not becoming responsible FOR that person; we are becoming responsible TO that person”. She further explained that there are so many aspects of life that are beyond our control and that we cannot begin to assume that we are the ultimate arbitrator of any situation and certainly not of someone’s life. However, what we can do is everything in our power to affect the outcome of the current situation such that we know that we have made a difference for the better. I often think of her words when I confront any situation that can benefit from my influence. Saving the world does indeed take a great deal of responsibility, regardless of the definition that you subscribe to. I hope that I can earn your trust by making the mission of WorldWide Education Partnerships for Nepal move forward and by ensuring that your contributions will make a valuable difference for the people of Nepal. That, I feel, is my primary responsibility for the future.
Executive Director May 2009
WorldWide Education Partnerships for Nepal has meant a tremendous amount to me over the past ten years. In order to frame my thoughts properly, I will share with you one of the first pieces that I wrote to our donors when WWEP was first created--
Photo: Ashok Kumar