Making a Difference with Human Leadership
This week, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Vauhini Telikapalli.
Vauhini is the president of The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF) Switzerland, an aptly named non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that no child in India is deprived of education because of hunger (“Akshaya Patra” literally translates to “unlimited bowl”).
Though she is Indian by blood and birth, Vauhini is a citizen of the world with roots in India, the United States, and her current residence of Switzerland. Diversity and inclusion are integral to Vauhini’s identity, both personally and professionally. She has a passion and curiosity for science and technology, traits for which she credits her father, a renowned immunologist and bacteriologist in India. Vauhini credits her mother as her moral compass and inspiration for her dedication to helping underprivileged families.
Vauhini’s Dance Through Life
“Compassion, humility, and reaching out to others in need is my motto in life,” Vauhini says.
She grew up watching her mother cook massive amounts of food every day to feed all the families in her neighborhood. To her young eyes (as early as age three), it was the norm to gather as a community and eat together in the backyard. She didn’t realize this daily routine was her mom doing charitable work for underprivileged and marginalized people in her community until she was older, but the value of caring for others stayed with Vauhini—and her family, who even five decades later continues to do this work.
Vauhini’s professional life also revolves around her motto. She has spent much of her career working for the betterment of India, especially underprivileged and marginalized families. One such family she met in 2007 lived in a mud hut with a thatched leaves roof. Despite having little to eat, the mother of this family cooked and served Vauhini food when she visited, bringing her to tears. The memory of this kindness and generosity has stayed with her, and she is always seeking to spread that same kindness in her work.
Using Leadership to Address COVID’s Impact in India
In March 2020, the world as we know it changed. Indian families were devastated by the pandemic and lockdowns. Reports show over 120 million people lost their jobs, with an estimated 100 million being pushed below the poverty line of earning less than $1.25 per day. It’s estimated that 74% of vulnerable Indian households were forced to consume even less food than they already were pre-pandemic. The negative developmental, psychological, and emotional impact of this deprivation on Indian youth is incalculable.
Vauhini knew she had to do something to help. In 2019, she met the CEO of Akshaya Patra Europe and learned about the organization. In March 2020, she spoke with the CEO again and with some help, they soon formed TAPF’s Switzerland branch in Baden, Switzerland. In the two years since, Vauhini has helped double the core team and bring in several volunteers.
Vauhini says, “Built on a public-private partnership model, TAPF has an outstanding track record of combining innovation, science, and systems to create unprecedented social impact.”
Her skills in leadership are a critical part of this. Some of the work Vauhini does with TAPF includes:
- Seeking sponsors and partnerships with corporations, institutions, and other philanthropic organizations for TAPF and other collaborative social impact projects in India.
- Organizing and participating at community and cultural events across Switzerland.
- Building the TAPF brand experience.
- Creating youth ambassador programs to spread awareness, collect donations, and expand the volunteer network.
“Essentially, the story of Akshaya Patra is a story of using precision science and engineering with complex organization and management systems while steeped in a spirituality-inspired mode of service to ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalized communities can dream of a future that offers them food security, health, opportunities and hope,” Vauhini says.
Vauhini and TAPF are proof of the real impact bringing humanity back into leadership can have on the world. Thanks to TAPF’s efforts, over 1 million Indian children receive nutritious, freshly-made meals every single day. To support TAPF’s mission, visit www.tapf.ch to learn more and consider getting involved or donating. You can feed one child for an entire year with just one $20 donation! Be sure to also watch and listen to our conversation below.
I get so inspired when I see great leaders making a positive difference in the world. If you do too, subscribe to this newsletter for more inspiring stories like this one—as well as articles and discussions on how to become an inspiring human leader.
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