Q: What has inspired you to commit yourself to Sakhi?
I had the great fortune of coming across Sakhi’s work while I was studying at Columbia Law School and learning about the Violence Against Women Act and its intersection with the South Asian and immigrant communities. Inspired by their great work then, I started supporting Sakhi when I started working as a lawyer and have continued to do so for more than two decades. I’ve admired the dedication with which the board and staff have been working towards fulfilling the mission of Sakhi to the best of their ability and am honored to try to contribute towards it.
Q: What opportunities do you see on Sakhi’s horizon?
I would love a horizon where Sahki’s services aren’t needed, because that’s the ultimate goal. Until then, I do think expanding to where the need for our services is greatest will make us far more accessible and effective. As such, I am excited that Sakhi’s next office will be in Queens, where I live. The high percentage of South Asians, including Indo-Caribbeans, in that borough will no longer need to travel as far, a burden of essential time and resources, to take advantage of Sakhi’s services when this site is launched. This is a great opportunity to test how this model works and potentially expand on it.
Q: What goals do you seek to actualize as a board member?
I hope to add value in working with the board and executive director’s already considerable work, conceptualizing how our programming can better align with our goals more efficiently and effectively, proactively expanding institutional relationships with other service partners, and ultimately helping to develop more stable long term funding for programming.
Q: What does it mean to you to be the first male member of the board? How do you see yourself as an ally and champion of women’s rights?
I was surprised and honored to learn that I would have that honor, so I particularly take my responsibilities as a board member even more seriously. I was fortunate to go to a college where there were many opportunities to learn about women’s rights outside the classroom, in addition to within it. One of my biggest takeaways from those lessons was that the women’s rights movement, and frankly all civil and human rights movements, required allies for them to achieve their goals. I realize that I am constantly learning what it means to be an ally and when using my voice can be helpful not just in itself but as an ally. It requires active vigilance to stay informed and to use that knowledge for the benefit of others, and knowing that I am path-breaking in a sense strengthens my resolve to do so even more.
Q: Sakhi is currently in the midst of a period of immense growth; what are you excited to see transformed within our work and how do see yourself approaching this transformation?
Well, in the immediate future, I’m very excited that Sakhi is launching its Youth Mental Health Counseling Program. Having supported work for immigrant youth for many years, I know how essential mental health services are to helping them thrive. This is especially true for those who are survivors. This program is also exemplifies how Sakhi has identified gaps in their services and responsively cultivated relationships to help close said gaps. For example, this Youth Mental Health Program is made possible by a gift from The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation, in direct response to Sakhi’s efforts to respond to a need for such a mental health service.
Q: How do your legal expertise and experience inform your plans for Sakhi?
I have learned the many ways that law affects policy and how hard it is to navigate those laws in general and particularly when one is at their most vulnerable. Remembering who we are serving and what they are facing is central to acting effectively as an advocate.From my experience with other nonprofits, I know that bearing this in mind will be invaluable as a board member. Drawing on the learning of Sakhi’s experienced staff and fellow board members provides the opportunity to not only learn from precedent but also to help harness that knowledge to adapt to the ever changing environment within which Sakhi operates and to advocate for necessary change.
Q: Which of Sakhi’s values do you see yourself as being most aligned with or drawn to?
Sakhi’s value of harnessing survivor leadership is the value that most speaks to me. I believe all individuals can have the ability to be their best selves if given the opportunity. This principal reminds survivors that they can do so too at the time when they are least likely to believe it, with the support, safe space and training to get them to a place where they can realize fully their incredible potential.