Brooke in ArchaleA rush hour traffic jam is about as desirable of an experience as scuba diving with a school of piranhas. But one afternoon, while traveling from Lancaster to Annapolis, a gridlocked Baltimore beltway became the setting for Joe to chat with Brooke Laura, founder and director of Saprinu, a nonprofit organization that works to transform communities in rural Nepal by providing the Nepali youth access to education. Over the course for their four-hour-long trek, the pair discussed Brooke’s inspiring journey, her work in Nepal over the past three years, and how every person has the capacity to change the world.

Joe: What is Saprinu?

Brooke: Saprinu has a school in Archale, Nepal. Our school helps the people of Archale help themselves. We set up our school as a learning hub in the community, educating the youth because I believe they are going to go on and solve the big problems that Nepal is facing today. A better Nepal for the future needs to start today. And the whole community is involved in the school – it is important to us, it is important to the kids who go to our school, it is important to the families of the kids who go to our school.

Joe: What is the meaning of “saprinu”?

Brooke: Saprinu means to flourish. The whole idea was we really just want to enable not only the individual, but the community as a whole to flourish. You know, the belief when individuals are strong and capable they are going to contribute to their entire village. When things are going to bloom they are going to prosper, they’re going to flourish. When you build up an individual, you build up a community. Better education. Better communities. Better Nepal.

Joe: Why did you choose to go to Nepal?

Brooke: I realized that my life, the one I was living in the U.S. … [Brooke takes a long pause to think] … was just … [Another pause. You can see Brooke is thinking why did she go to Nepal and how do you put it into words?] It was fine and it was OK, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I had a job and I had a life but I didn’t have a purpose in life. So that was the element that I was missing and I began this seeking out. What would give me that purpose? I realized that I want to dedicate my life to helping others. I didn’t know then that it was going to be Nepal and I didn’t have any idea it was going to be in education. But for whatever reason I chose Nepal – or maybe Nepal choose me. I chose an orphanage there and one thing led to the next. Three years later this is where we are at; this is where I am.

nepalkidsJoe: What have you learned from living in Nepal?

Brooke: Core values are really important to the people here. Family and community are really important to the Nepali people, those genuine quality human relationships. I started to realize this. I realized you can live a life that’s much more minimalistic. I realized that it doesn’t detract from my happiness. In fact, it does the exact opposite – it makes me happier. I think all those things had a tendency to distract me from what I am really here for. We created these things and they are just a façade.

Joe: So if you tear down the façade, what’s left?

Brooke: Just honesty. Who I truly am. I think I got to learn what are my true values. I turned the focus inward. Before I went to Nepal, I was focused so much on all these things that happen around me. When I took them away, I didn’t have all of those things to distract me. I turned inward and I really started to look at myself – the way I act in life and the choices that I make. I started to make the steps to let me change.

Joe: Who truly is Brooke Laura?

Brooke: Who am I? I am someone who seeks truth. I want to treat every single human being with respect and compassion and unconditional love. I want to help others and have no limits to that. I want to enjoy life. I want to live it to its fullest and I want to inspire people to do the same, to follow their heart. If I don’t know, I search and continue searching. I don’t have to live a life of mediocrity – I can have the life I want. I realize I hold the power to make this decision.

nepal5Joe: So are you still searching?

Brooke: I think maybe I will be searching for the rest of my life. I never want to stop learning so I am searching for knowledge and expanding my horizons. But I’m really happy at the place that I am at in my life as well. There is always the next step; there is always something more out there yeah I think the search continues.

Joe: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Brooke: I’ve been given so much wonderful advice by so many wonderful people over the last few years, but I often remind myself of what a friend once told me:

“Start each day being fearless, completely let go of all fear! Start each day this way because I believe when you really break down all the things in a day it can be scary. When you analyze why you are procrastinating, why are you not doing something it all comes down to fear. I am afraid I don’t know how to do it, I’m afraid I’m not good enough to do it, I’m afraid you can do it better, I’m afraid I’ll fail. Everything that has a negative impact when you break it down is all based in fear. So to hell with it just go for it, don’t let it be your fault.”

Joe: So why do you do what you do?

Brooke: As one person, we can change the world for the better. It’s about realizing where we come from, that we are given so many opportunities, and I believe it is our responsibility to pass it along. The people of Archale desire it – they want a quality education, they want to be respected, and they want opportunities. It starts with education, knowledge, skills, making people active in their community. For me to see people’s lives change – that’s why I do it and that’s why I will do it for the rest of my life. I really do have the power to change the world.

Read the full series here.