A Global Paradise of Kindness Inspired By a Single Moment in a Hospice in India
This picture above says it all about Willy Oppenheim, who co-founded Omprakash while he was in college, after volunteering at a hospice center in northern India. I am honored to feature him in my ongoing series on inspiring people and the movements they ignite!
In 2004, Willy met an elderly man suffering from paralysis. “The man told me that he felt like he was living in paradise because of the daily kindness shown to him by volunteers. The man’s name was Omprakash, and my interaction with him inspired me to start a Web-based platform (www.omprakash.org) that works to facilitate immersive volunteer experiences and mutually beneficial relationships within a diverse network of individuals and grassroots organizations around the world,” Willy writes.
While pursuing his Ph.D. as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, Will continues to lead a team of dedicated volunteers as CEO of www.omprakash.org, continuing to travel the world, meeting with educators in India, Peru, Tibet, Pakistan, America and more.
Fresh out of college, Willy and the other college students and their friends started a web-based platform that matched organizations in India to volunteers. Over the years, Omprakash has expanded and continues to grow, connecting over 150 grass-roots organizations in 42 countries to a community of volunteers and potential donors through their online database and resource center. Anyone can use www.omprakash.org to connect to organizations around the world and volunteer! Omprakash is “committed to making international learning experiences affordable and accessible” to all while promoting cross-cultural collaboration and communication, and have helped connect their database of over 14,000 volunteers with their partners that include education, health and environmental organizations.
Another wonderful program that Omprakash runs is the EdGE program where they are partnering with universities to change the ideas about volunteering overseas. This program allows an affordable option that centered on better preparing the students to volunteer and developing the next generation to make a difference through building relationships. The EdGE program is an immersive internship program that is designed to maximize the impact of the intern’s experience to add lasting value to the organization they are supporting while providing an amazing and enriching experience for the intern.
I’m honored to have been introduced to Willy by a mutual friend, who shared how incredibly humble and down to earth Willy is – and interesting! His next-generation thinking, and authentic activism have inspired a volunteer base whose work is based on relationships and the joy of helping, on the openness and interaction between cultures, on trust and loyalty. Willy has skillfully retained these “core values” while also successfully raising funds to create a sustainable organization, with more and more paid staff, continued investment in technology, and innovations that are inspiring other “social entrepreneurs” which is part of the reason I am highlighting Omprakash in this post.
The organization recently published their 2014 Annual Report, one of the most well done reports I’ve read.
Willy studied Religion, Anthropology and Education at Bowdoin College, and in addition to his continued education he teaches through thirty-day rigorous outdoor expeditions with the National Outdoor Leadership School. He is truly an athlete and a scholar – climbing, skiing and competing in triathlons. Deeply connected to nature, Willy lived in a tent while studying all four-years at Bowdoin College.
Please join me in supporting Willy and Omprakash – you can follow their journeys on their blog, “Notes from the Field.” www.omprakash.org/blog