My grandfather Jikaka moved from a village in Gujarat to Mumbai with little money. He had no formal education. Raising a family in a city of millions was difficult, but he made a living by opening and running Jagdish Convenience Store. He did not know about profits, but he knew that left over money translated to food on the table. He did not know what operational synergy meant, but he understood he could save money by recycling and cooperating with other vendors. He approached life’s challenges with resourcefulness and dedication. If he gave up, my grandmother Ba, my father, and my two aunts would struggle.
Jikaka and Ba lived with me growing up. They were my second parents. My bedtime tales were their life stories. Jikaka inspired my ideas about entrepreneurship and education coupled with a sense of initiative and responsibility.
When Jikaka passed away, I wanted to honor his life and legacy creatively. I started a non-profit called SeniorLink. Determined to empower community elders, I applied for and received a grant from Youth Venture to start SeniorLink in Philadelphia, PA. I helped create a sense of belonging and confidence among senior citizens by introducing a new world to them via technology, a passion of mine. I advertised in the community, collected used computers, and donated them to senior homes, where I designed lessons and organized a team of volunteer trainers. By the time I left for Harvard, SeniorLink had connected a dozen senior centers. Eager to not only be a “do-er” but also an “enabler,” I launched the concept of a SeniorLink chapter, whereby SeniorLink funds and supports social entrepreneurial high school students who want to start SeniorLink chapters in their own communities. To date, the organization has collected over $50,000 in equipment and cash value through fundraisers, and most important, SeniorLink has touched hundreds of lives, young and old, in multiple states. These achievements are a wonderful gift linked with the memories of my Jikaka and the desire to do meaningful work throughout my life.