In October, we lost someone so magnetic that he’s still pulling us together, even in death. Someone so funny and kind that at his funeral we laughed (almost) as much as we cried. Someone so good to the core that he was donating as much time and money as he could, without fanfare or pretense. Someone who is the only person who would know what to say to during all of these raw times.
I met Naman on my trip to the Dominican Republic in May and June of 2011. He was on my team, Rojo, and immediately became the most distinctive person on the entire trip. As many have said, everyone felt like he was their best friend on the trip, because he treated everyone like the most important person he had ever met. As we rumbled in a hot van with too few cracked pleather seats around that wonderful island country, Naman was always there with a song, dance, or imitation to keep our spirits up. He always took his work seriously, although he never saw it as work.
Everyone grieves in their own way. But for people like us, people who can’t sleep at night because we can’t stop thinking of injustice in the world, people who are no fun at parties because we keep talking about this great new NGO or social business we just learned about, passive or solitary grief is not for us. We have to do something, we have to organize, mobilize, and funderize. We have to do this not just because it’s who we are, but also because it’s who Naman was.
So we have made the Naman Shah Memorial Fund. The fund will be used to send students like Naman, students who are passionate, smart, kind, and want to do good by being good, back to the Dominican Republic to learn what he learned, and contribute to the organizations, people, and country to which he contributed. Today, we will be gathering in the Alumni Center of Northeastern to learn about Akshaya Patra from its President and CEO, Ms. Madhu Sridhar. Akshaya Patra is one of several organizations Naman supported. They provide free, balanced meals for school children, because no child should struggle in school because they’re distracted by hunger. We will also have a silent auction, networking, and an opportunity to donate to both Akshaya Patra and the NSM Fund.
While I would love donations, I would also love non-monetary contributions.
I ask for your connections and talents; if you are able to donate anything to our future fundraising endeavors (a gift card or service from your business, for example), it would help us raise more.
I ask for you voice; if you could publicize the event, the fund, or Naman’s life’s message of living every day to its fullest and helping others to do so as well, it will encourage others to give and keep his memory alive.
And I ask for your presence, which is strangely the hardest thing to ask. Our SEI family has circled the wagons to care for each other and launch this fundraising effort, which sometimes means crying during meetings and other times means pretending I don’t know the person we’re doing this for because that’s the only way to get anything done. But most of the time it feels like no one in the rest of my life has any idea that I’ve lost someone, or any comprehension of how impossible it feels for that someone to be Naman. I would love it if you could join me tonight, to learn about a cause he cared for, to hear his family and friends tell his story, and to support this segment of the Northeastern and Boston communities that is still hurting.
For Naman’s sake, I will try to smile. I will try not to be “so belidge!” And I will try to do a really good job. Because that’s all we can do anymore.