THE ROOTS OF MY INSPIRATION
"Prerna" in Sanskrit means inspiration and the motto of my non-profit is "Live 2 Inspire", categorized truly to its name. Well, here are some roots to the beginning of PRERNA, which was officially established as a non-profit organization in the U.S. in July 2015.
I’m one of the few lucky people to have the most amazing parents that one could ever ask or hope for. They have filled my life with unconditional love and raised me with incredible values that I can only hope to live by. From a very young age, watching their acts of generosity and compassion was something that became natural for everyone around them to see. Most importantly, my parents didn't have much as we were a very simple middle-class family and they worked extremely hard and long hours to make ends meet. Despite that, they lived with pride, dignity and lots of love to share. For them, helping people and making others live comfortably without any expectations was part of life.
Growing up with this attitude of "living and helping live" became second nature as I spent time with the poor and homeless. (I’m referring to Indian standards of poverty and destitution.) My father’s income was impossible for a family of four to survive in a city like Mumbai, but my mother was an incredible woman who always managed the impossible with a smile that was so infectious that nothing mattered. Basic needs were met and that's all was required as we were thankful to have each other. I knew that if I could acquire even a small percentile of my dad's perseverance, determination, honesty and meticulous attitude for life and combine it with my mom's sense of sharing, forgiveness and love for life, I could be successful someday as a good citizen and make a difference for my family and myself.
Because my parents sacrificed so much to get me into this country [the U.S.], I never forgot that blessing. I knew I had to pass it on and pay it forward. (I hope to write a blog for "my journey into the U.S." someday soon). As years passed by while I explored my career, I never failed to volunteer my time no matter how busy work-life in the U.S. became. It was always a conscious decision to remember to give back and stay in touch with my roots. This is when the refugee situation intrigued me while I was living in Phoenix, Arizona.
There are colonies of people who arrive as refugees into this country and live in low-income housing. Most of them have food stamps for some food (temporary), receive donated furniture from Salvation Army or Goodwill and accept used clothing of all sizes for all ages. This is more than what a refugee could ask for, especially when some of them grew up their entire life in a refugee camp.
It’s awesome that the U.S. supports the number of refugees it does from multiple conflict-afflicted countries, but there is not a very strong system available for them to rapidly integrate into society and become sustainable. If left unattended, the youth of these families can resort to quick money, drugs, violence and other activities that we want to avoid for maintaining prosperous communities. The impact of living in a new country with freedom can be so addictive for them as a strong contrast to how they lived in their home country or a refugee camp. This change might backfire if not nurtured in a healthy manner.
This awareness helped me establish a lot of the goals when I created PRERNA. It has been a dream come true after volunteering and working with several of these refugee families on an ad-hoc basis with programs to help children, women and men. I truly hope we can continue making an impact. With every happy, well-integrated family, we make a difference both for them and for us. The focus in the past has been the "Prerna 4 Sherpas " and "Prerna 4 Refugees" programs. I hope to see these projects and services grow and many others to follow so we can empower more refugees.
Take a moment every day when you sip your espresso or are toiling through your Silicon Valley day to remember everything we have to live and be happy for.