Local Roots, Global Impact


This week, we at Darien-based VolunteerSquare.com are excited to introduce you to a pretty amazing local man who is using his skills to help those in need – all across the globe.

After high school and before college, New Canaan native Willy Oppenheim wanted to take a year to spend time helping others and expanding his own horizons. He searched for a place to teach English and found the Louisiana-Himalaya Association (LHA) in Northern India, where he helped to teach English to Tibetan refugees in 2004.

Later, while volunteering at a hospice center in India, where six nuns cared for three-hundred physically and mentally disabled residents, Willy met Omprakash. Omprakash was an older gentleman who had been living at the center ever since suffering a severe stroke thirty years earlier. The conditions at the center were far comfortable, but Omprakash said that he felt like he lived in paradise, simply because the nuns treated him with such kindness.

Willy’s experiences abroad helped inspire him to start his organization. Aptly called Omprakash. The group is “built on the idea that positive social change must begin with human relationships. Our primary goal is fundamentally educational: by forging connections within our network, we want to “lead out” the citizens of the world towards an awareness of the human and ecological community from which they are indivisible and within which they can enact change.”

Now, Omprakash builds partnerships with grassroots health, education, and environmental projects - and connects them with volunteers, donors, and classrooms that can learn from and support their work. And what began with six partner organizations has now boomed into 120!

Today, Willy is a Rhodes Scholar studying for a doctorate in education at Oxford. His journey in life, and particularly with founding Omprakash, is a bold one and we salute him and those like him who are able to take a leap of faith to make a difference. Some final food for thought…The Omprakash symbol is an empty bowl, which represents " the endless potential that emerges when we open ourselves to new questions, new ideas, and new relationships."

To learn more about Omprakash click here .