Category Archives: Volunteering

How Bowdoin College Alumni Saved Me From Becoming Homeless

In my failure biography on this blog, I describe my first psychotic experience in 1999 in New York City. Twenty years later after a lot of psychotherapy, medication, vocational and family support I am very lucky to have not ended up on the streets of New York City without food, clothing and shelter. In this blog post, I would like to share some of the amazing work of the Bowdoin alumni I am grateful to know who swiftly saved me during my medical emergency.

Marc Wachtenheim, Founder and CEO of W International based in Washington DC and a member of the Class of 1997 was the first person to call and alert my father in the early morning hours in The Netherlands when I experienced my first psychotic episode in New York City. Marc and I have remained in contact over the years and he has been a mentor to me and gracious host during many of my subsequent visits to Washington DC. The video below is Marc speaking about human rights at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Eddie Lucaire, Vice President of Brand Partnerships at Copa90 and a member of the Class of 1999 walked me to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan where he assisted in voluntarily admitting me for emergency psychiatric care. At the time I did not know where or why I was going to the hospital but thanks to Eddie’s good guidance I was safely given the treatment I needed. Eddie now lives in Los Angeles working for a start-up in the global soccer business and we have remained in contact over the last 20 years.

Adam Stevens, Principal of PS 4 Duke Ellington School in New York City and member of the Class of 1999 was employed by American Express Corporate Travel Services in New York City. I was about to begin my first day in the same department of American Express with Adam, but did not make it to my first day of work. Adam also reached out to my father and family by sending them a fax in The Netherlands to let them know how things were going. Adam and I are not in frequent contact, but I know he is continuing to serve the common good through education.

While I was in New York city, I had two roommates in Manhattan – Crispin M. Murira and Daniel P. Rhoda – who were working in investment banking for Credit Suisse First Boston. They too noticed the warning signs of my psychosis and helped work as a team with Marc, Eddie and Adam to get me the care that I needed at Bellevue Hospital and later at McLean Hospital in Boston. Sadly, in 2013 Dan passed away due to an unknown reason but I was able to attend his funeral in Houlton, Maine. Today, Crispin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Copia Global which leverages technological solutions for bottom of the pyramid customers in Kenya (see video below). 

The reason I share this true story is not only to express my gratitude, but to assist with fundraising for Bowdoin College and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) both of which I contribute to in meaningful ways. I hope readers of this blog post will feel moved to make a contribution to these mission-driven organizations.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Homelessness, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Poverty, Psycho-Social Support, Rehabilitation, Volunteering

Sports Diplomacy: Effective or Not in Promoting Foreign Policy?

My Bowdoin 20th class reunion will be held in May/June 2019 and as such I’ve been reconnecting with staff, students and alumni at my alma mater. Any former government and legal studies majors and the general public may learn from a Distinguished Lecturer in Government Bradely Babson’s course “The Two Koreas and Geopolitics of Northeast Asia,” class podcast held back in May 2018, by current Bowdoin students Tim Ahn ’19 and Sam Jablonski ’18 on the role of sports diplomacy in the Koreas.

In a larger context, the International Sport for Development and Peace Association has a diverse membership of students, educators, researchers, practitioners and advocates of which sports diplomacy is a component. Increasingly, many scholars are publishing their research findings in books, journal articles and media who are affiliated with ISDPA. While the podcast by Bowdoin undergraduates is just one sample of the debates surrounding sports diplomacy, the Journal of Sport for Development Special Issue on Latin America featured an article titled: “U.S. sport diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean: A programme evaluation.

The recommendations set forth by researchers from George Mason University Center for Sport Management are based on the assumption that the “intent of sports diplomacy programs is to create meaningful change in local communities.” Though the costs of sports diplomacy can be expensive and time consuming, I tend to agree with the GMU researchers’ recommendations, since in my own small way I have lived as a volunteer, coach and administrator to play a role in fulfilling the intent of sports diplomacy.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conflict Resolution, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, HIV AIDS, International Development, Leadership, Literature Review, Olympic, Paralympic, Peace Building, Squash, Volunteering, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Stay Happy, Stay Healthy

Today happens to be the United Nations sponsored International Day of Peace, which prompted me to write this blog post. It relates to the notion of “peace of mind”. Readers of this entire blog, might ponder why the title has the word “explorations.” This is because I have attempted to balance personal and professional lines of thought and action which are outlined by numerous themes. As part of my exploration in physical spaces, I found an exhibit at the MIT Museum on the “Beautiful Brain” which sums up the essence of my exploration in mental health.

At the Santiago Cajal “Beautiful Brain” Exhibit at MIT Museum. Photo credit: Unknown, 2018

The founder of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Nobel-Prize winning scientist, was also a Madrid-based artist who drew intricate sketches of the brain as part of his study of its structure and function. The beautiful hand drawings (for example, see below) are very detailed and helped pave the way for modern neuroscience to make early discoveries about the brain and cognition.

Cajal drawing at MIT Museum, Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

I could really relate to Cajal’s quote below from the way in which psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has helped in my mental health recovery. It has never been my intention to cause confusion (although it does happen unwittingly from time to time), but to seek greater understanding and balance of the boundaries of my personal and professional reflections. Many people (some known and unknown to me) have helped contribute to my health and wellness for which I am grateful. Many of them have reminded in small but simple ways to “stay happy, stay healthy.”

Cajal quote at MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Leadership, Leisure, Literature Review, Networking, Peace Building, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support, Rehabilitation, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering

Honoring My Family Legacy of Philanthropy in Kerala and Beyond

I recently safely returned to the United States from a vacation in Kerala, and learned that today is the International Day of Charity which is observed by the United Nations member states. During my extended stay in Kerala, the state faced unprecedented floods (yes, climate change is real) that caused immense damage to its people, economy and infrastructure. Fortunately, my maternal family members were not severely affected by the flooding. Several cousins did however, mobilize resources with local organizations to assist with the flood relief by distributing food, clothing and care packages as well as organizing fundraising events for flood victims.

Mother Teresa and my maternal great grandmother of the Kuruvinakunnel family in Kerala, India. Photo Credit: Unknown.

I am proud of my Kerala family tradition of leading in social and philanthropic causes, beginning with my great grandmother from the Kuruvinakunnel family (my maternal grandmother’s mother). Above is a picture which Mary Michael, my maternal grandmother shared with me while we were housebound due to landslides. The photo is of Mother Teresa during one of her visits to Kerala and my maternal great grandmother. During the summer of 2012, I was fortunate to make a 3-day visit to the Mother Teresa Center of Calcutta to assist with social service activities.

The purpose of my trip to Southern India, and Kerala in particular, was to visit my maternal elderly grandparents, Michael Kallivayalil and Mary Michael and other relatives. Upon returning to the United States I created a video slideshow to remember my visits to Peermade, Kerala and Bangalore, Karnataka which were among some of the places I traveled through.  Joseph Michael Kallivayalil, (Managing Director of Glenrock Rubber Products Pvt. Ltd), my uncle is an avid golfer so there was a great day spent together on the Peermade Club golf course, despite the calamities caused by the flooding in nearby districts. This visit made me realize there is potential for sport tourism in Indian states like Kerala.

Nonetheless, Kerala faces an uphill task of rebuilding its infrastructure and economy as well as rehabilitating people severely impacted by the flooding. As with many humanitarian disasters the coordination amongst government, business and civil society actors “on the ground” is critical for efficient and effective reconstruction. Building on the momentum of the goodwill shown to Kerala by its diaspora and well-wishers, those ordinary citizens of Kerala who lost everything including their homes, livelihoods and sense of well-being must not be ignored and forgotten by the media, local, state and federal relief agencies and the private sector.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Grant Making, International Development, Networking, Philanthropy, Planning, Poverty, Psycho-Social Support, Rehabilitation, Volunteering

Creating Future Nelson Mandelas through International Youth Leadership

As the world remembers Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, we are reminded of his important impact in the world of sport and leadership. A year after Mandela gave his speech on the power of sport at the first Laureus Awards event in Monaco, 2000, I was fortunate to volunteer as a Facilitator with Civic Concepts International in Prague, Czech Republic. By participating, speaking and facilitating at the 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference, this was not only my first overseas trip as an American citizen, but it was the first time I was an international volunteer in what was to me a new region of the world.

Tariq Mohammed and participants at the 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo credit: W. Webster, 2001.

Our role as facilitators were to create a positive and inclusive environment for cross-cultural learning and dialogue on political and economic crisis simulations. The facilitators also acted as chaperones for the participants on social and cultural excursions. For example, my group (see photo above) visited the Japanese Embassy, toured Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and ate an authentic Czech meal. The combination of activities fostered a genuine exchange of ideas and modes of cooperation. It was not always easy to find solutions during the crisis simulations given different points of view, however by practicing mutual dialogue, negotiation and advocacy skills participants were better equipped to tackle real political, economic and social issues when they returned to their countries of origin.

Embassy Visit of 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference Participants, Prague Czech Republic Photo credit. W. Webster, 2001.

If you are a parent, educator or coach of a recent college graduate, I recommend that you nominate a young individual to participate in forums such as the International Youth Leadership Conference which currently hosts events in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and of course Eastern Europe. In addition to the skill-building activities, there are opportunities to network with leaders from all walks of life and explore a new part of the world to gain a different perspective on your own beliefs and values. If we are to truly create the world that Nelson Mandela envisioned for the future, then today’s youth might want to consider participating in an International Youth Leadership Conference close to you.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conferences, Conflict Resolution, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Peace Building, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering, Youth Development

How Can Civic Media Influence Sport for Development and Peace?

On a recent trip to Southern California, I posted an announcement on my social media account about prepping for travel to the Greater Los Angeles area. In doing so, I expressed interest in meeting with business, government and civic leaders. I knew before leaving on the trip, I would be posting on my blog to share learnings with a wider audience through the lens of sport and culture. What I did not know was, what the content of producing the Youtube video below was going to be and how it might be relevant to sport for development and peace.

Nonetheless, there was history and context behind my visit. My Dad was a salesman in the Middle East and won a competition for selling Uncle Ben’s Rice in his sales territory. Hence, my parents were awarded tickets to watch the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Then in 1993, my parents, sisters and I visited California on a family vacation before we immigrated to the United States in the late 1990s. During the summer of 1984, Miriam, my sister and I stayed in Andover, MA with the Hazarika family. One afternoon, I clearly remember watching Joan Benoit Samuelson on television, become the first American woman to win the inaugural women’s marathon event.

Moving forward, Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics and so there are elements of the video that illustrate the business, government and civic institutions in Los Angeles today. I did not have any official meetings with the representatives that I had hoped for, but still was able to conduct a civic media project for myself through low-budget and low-tech video production. This was done on a day by day basis due to disappointing weather conditions early on in the trip. However things, brightened up both, literally and figuratively, when I reconnected with former classmates from India and the Middle East, discovered new places in California and learned about different cultures, all without leaving the United States (for a change).

What did I learn and how can it help others move forward? Well, thanks to Professor Colin Miles Maclay, a former colleague at Harvard and now Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California for helping me (without knowing it) that I have been producing various civic media outputs on Youtube for the benefit of being able to (a) to practice active citizenship (b) foster greater understanding of the United States vis-a-vis the rest of the world (c) create fun memories for myself and others to enjoy.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, Leisure, Networking, Olympic, Paralympic, Peace Building, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering

What Role Can ICTs Play to Improve Sport Governance?

In 2001, the International Year of Volunteers, Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, stated that “volunteerism is the ultimate expression of what the United Nations is all about.” Fifteen years ago, in 2003, I set forth from Boston, Massachusetts on my United Nations Volunteer assignment in Kampala, Uganda under the auspices of the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) – an initiative envisioned by the Secretary General – to support efforts to bridge the global digital divide. Since returning from my UNV assignment, I continued to be engaged with various volunteer projects in the United States and across the world, with an emphasis on sport for development and peace.

Upon re-reading my 2002 personal statement to the Cisco Least Developed Countries (LDC) Initiative of which UNITeS was a key partner, I am glad to have been asked by the hiring managers to undertake such a writing exercise. Any hiring manager who wants to narrow down their selection of strong candidates, would do well to request a personal statement. Not only does this tool allow for benchmarking but it can also help individuals (and organizations) set future goals. I am making my personal statement public for the purpose of knowledge management to improve education and learning while addressing the challenges of sustainable development, of which ICTs play an important role.

My Pin Collection from United Nations Volunteers (UNV), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Olympic Committee (IOC). Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2018.

In 2018, major news headlines posed big questions about democratic freedoms and the role of the Internet and social media. Through the Kofi Annan Foundation, Kofi Annan founded the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security and recently published an op-ed which addressed the challenges to the integrity of the electoral process for high-income and low-income countries. The findings of the Commission will be released in the coming months. While I have no direct contact with inner workings of the Foundation, the outcomes from the Global Commission can have a significant influence on the political, economic and social systems of international sport governance.

Sport for development and peace is very much at the heart of democratic institutions, such as the International Olympic Committee which strives to promote universal values enshrined in the Olympic Charter. The role of the Internet and social media are often described as tools to provide access to information on programs and projects that uphold Olympic values. I do believe that greater access to information and transparency preserve the integrity of the sport for development and peace sector. However, I also believe in the need for a system of checks and balances in the areas of corruption, terrorism and crime, which the International Center for Sport Security (ICSS) aims to fulfill. ICSS and its partners are identifying weaknesses in systems of sport governance and leveraging ICTs to protect and serve the cause of peace, development and human rights. The Internet and social media will continue to evolve and so citizens will learn to adapt to new ways of living, working and playing.

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Filed under Conferences, Conflict Resolution, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Olympic, Paralympic, Peace Building, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering, Youth Development