Long long ago, and in a land far away, I was born. I lived in Mumbai and my earliest memories are of visiting Akanksha with my father. The Akanksha Foundation is a non-profit which helps low-income children receive a holistic education. From my father, I inherited the altruistic gene and loved being able to help those in need.
When I was 6 years old, we moved to Singapore- a country with no visible poverty or strife. I was grateful to have seen a more imperfect society in Mumbai to put the world in perspective. Even though I was just 6 when I left, my memories from my time in India have always been strong, especially since we would also visit every year to meet our extended family.
Over the years in Singapore, I have always participated in community service activities; including but not limited to helping with beach clean-ups, starting a food drive for my school, joining a fundraiser for the Singapore Association for the Deaf, being the Marketing Director for the UN Women Youth team, and marketing for the 24 Hour Race, a fundraiser which aims to help reduce human-trafficking in Asia.
Young and naive, I wondered why I would see so many people doing nice things for the world, but problems would persist— bad things would still be on the news. Then one day, I saw an amazing Ted Talk by Dan Pallotta, which changed my life forever. I started to see why even big names in the non-profit industry were limited in their scope of positive impact because they were held to unfair standards. The talk showed me that frugality does not equal morality. (A must watch, check out the talk if you can!)
Fast forward to 2020, during my final semester of undergraduate study, I registered for a great class at the University of Southern California with one of the kindest professors. The class was an introduction to social entrepreneurship. I appreciated this class because it was a roadmap for me from wanting to do good in the world to knowing how to do it. I valued learning about the industry terms, how to balance trade-offs, and tactics to help improve social impact.
However, by far the best moment for me was when our professor, a middle-aged white male, asked us if we thought he was a white savior. For a little context, our professor had been heavily involved in helping people of color in a few low-income neighbourhoods within Los Angeles. I was amazed at his candidness about a controversial topic. This was an incredible learning moment for me- I saw that to be truly altruistic, you need to be a truly good person, and to be a truly good person, you need to be brave enough to reflect on yourself and listen to others even when they’re saying things you may not want to hear.
I’m not able to put it in words perfectly, but that moment will stay with me for a long time. It is an act that inspires me to speak-up even when it is not easy. As a Gen-Z person of color, it is not hard to find friends and acquaintances promoting racial justice and calling out white supremacy on social media. It is, however, harder to find people that are able to put digital proclamations into real action, real reflection, and apply it to themselves. This observation comes from a place of no judgement, because I myself have a long way to go on this journey. But it was nice to see someone, who really had no stake in the game, make a genuine effort. The fact that he was willing to put himself on the line to encourage important conversations is, to me, a truly good deed.