I recently sent a mail to a dear friend, staunch supporter and incredible human being informing him about amongst other things my recent award. I his usual gentle and unassuming manner he sent his heartfelt congratulations and a link stating simply: In fact I've been getting some press lately as well--In fact I've been getting some press lately as well! When I opened the link I feel off my chair: Willy has been selected for the Rhodes Scholarship!
If anyone ever deserved if it Willy.
I have know Willy for two years now but it seems I always knew him as he is what I would like every young person in the world to be like. He slipped into our lives via an email offering help. It sounded like no big deal. But Willy Oppenheim is one of a kind. When I first interacted with him via emails, I never would have imagined Willy was what we call just a kid, the kind who go pubbing and hand around with friends and have just barely grown out of GI Joes and Ben Tens! At the age when young people actually do that, Willy and his friends were busy finding ways to make a difference and boy they did. They set up the omprakash foundation and began reaching out to the less privileged the world over.
When I first met Willy in the very early hours of a summer morning in Delhi, when I had just woken up and he was still not asleep having just landed, I was deeply moved. Though we had never met and though almost 3 decades separated us in age, we hugged as old friends would. It seemed just right as we both knew how to see with our hearts.
Today Willy is not only a friend, but someone I turn to when I need a sounding board for new ideas, when I need reassurance, when I feel a little low and need to be uplifted and also when I need help and he has always been there for me. Thanks to the omprakash foundation we at pwhy have weathered many a storm and also own a great library with thousands of books.
I will end this post by quoting the opening para of Willy's application essay for the Rhodes Scholarship: I spent my adolescent years idolising the men with whom I worked in construction in rural Maine. The chasm between this environment and my affluent Connecticut hometown made me self-conscious of my privilege and determined to forgo college until I felt that my elite education could benefit someone other than myself. As an eighteen year old volunteer teacher in India, I was suddenly invigorated by the idea that i could use my relationships with local educators to amplify their voice before a global audience an d help avid the tendency of development efforts to patronize and disempower those they intend to serve...
Willy has already done more than that! The children of project why join me in sending their congratulations to their Willy Bhaiya!