Built On Respect



Q. What has resonated the most with you in your trips to India?

I think that depends on how much you have traveled — there is an immense amount of poverty, but there is also an overwhelming amount of culture. Everything is different— the smells, from fruits on the street to spices.  Colors — bright pinks and lavender on shrines.  But really the culture and traditions.  There were nights in the Spring when there were so many Indian weddings in Dharamsala, the drumming, dancing and singing that would continue ‘til almost 3 in the morning, then start again the next day.  There really is a love of old traditional music.  Within the Tibetan communities, my friends would sing any time they could, whether we were working, driving in a car, or just walking to the river.  I think growing up in such a young country; it’s fascinating to see such ancient cultural elements everywhere you look.

Q. Was there any particular reason that drove you to work within the Indian/Tibetan communities?

I’ve studied Mahayana Buddhism for almost a decade, I wanted to be closer to the roots of the teachings.  In addition, I think it is beyond reprehensible that such MASSIVE human rights violations have been happening in Tibet for over 50 years.  I wanted to do whatever I could to offer support — too many nations have failed to support Tibet and its refugees.  When the governments fail, I think it is the responsibility of the people.

Q. In founding Built On Respect what was your mindset for both the short-term and long-term?

Short term was to enable donations for some small Tibetan-run nonprofits working in the Dharamsala community.  The long term is to continue to offer support to small groups in communities that are working to improve education and other areas of life.

Q.  Thus far what has been your greatest challenge?

Managing anger. I try to be as peaceful as possible — and to work to find constructive solutions, no matter how small they are.  But, I have always believed firmly in justice.  Seeing something unfair or unjust is really upsetting.  Some things are just beyond upsetting; I read a book on China’s one child policy on my last trip, and it recounted stories of Tibetan women who had been forced to have abortions with no anesthesia — or deliver at 9 months, but the child was injected in the brain with a syringe as it was being delivered, and killed.  I was devastated.  That has really been the biggest challenge.

Q. What has been the overall response to Built On Respects efforts?

I’m really happy – people are really embracing the DIY approach – I have artists that have donated creative time, donated websites, helped make introductions to other companies who are providing goods — really, are seeming to offer up what they can – whether it’s a dollar, reposting bulletins, taking fliers to shows, using their voices — donating skills, it’s really amazing.

Q. As a community built on the DIY mentality how important is it for people to become socially aware?

Honestly – whether the world wants to realize it or not, everything we have done has been built on DIY — everything at some point has been one person’s idea.  But that aside — it is IMPERATIVE for people to be socially aware.  If you REALLY think that one person on the other side of the world has no influence on you, you are greatly misled.

Whether it’s a child that may one day create a treatment for your child — or politics setting the future precedents for international policy.  I watched recently on a TV documentary that the teachings of the ancient Indian ascetic Ashoka became the basis for the principles of the United Nations.

Q. Using your skills, both as a business woman and as an artist how were you able to implement them in a way that was relatable to Indian and Tibetan youth?

It’s not hard at all, people who have never met before become friends every day.  You listen you talk, you share — you find common ground — and it really is the same for all people, everyone has hopes, has relations with family, wants to be happy…. Communication is the great equalizer.

Q. Has there been anything both working in India and in NYC that has surprised you about starting a non-profit organization?

I was fortunate, and am fiscally-sponsored by a friend’s non-profit that has been supporting the arts for over 20 years. He is working with me to get my non-profit status, it takes about 1-2 years.  But in the meantime, I work through his to make donations tax-deductible.

Q. Are there any upcoming projects that folks at home can look into to either get a better idea of Built On Respect or become involved?

I travel back and forth now — spending about three months in NYC, and three in India.  My blogs and website are most active when I’m in India.  I really suggest going to the site.  I put up TONS of video, pictures, and write blogs as frequently as I can!

Q. Any advice you can give to the youngins of today who are interested in becoming involved in non-profit organizations or even starting their own?

If you are under 25, check out DoSomething.org — they offer grants to start projects in your community.


Post comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.