Updated: Jan 11, 2021
Torchbearer: Roma Bose — Indian. Iowa, USA.
For someone that didn’t want to be or even consider herself a career woman, Roma has surely blazed a unique path. Without a plan, she and her children had to abruptly leave their home country of India. Yet thousands of miles away, she found herself a new home and a new career she had never planned for. Through her nonprofit career, she’s been able to raise millions of dollars towards improving lives in India — Even being recognized by the government as a “Precious Daughter of India”.
Here is Roma's story - in her own words...
Helping the Underserved
While I have raised funds for charitable purposes for several countries, helping India was always at the back of my mind. What I can do, as anyone can, is give back my talents and skills to help the underserved populations anywhere in the world. And for at least a dozen years, that’s what I have been doing.
My expertise is fundraising, but management has been a big part of my responsibilities. Presently, as the head of a family foundation, I’m in charge of statutory requirements, governance, field operations and grants management. My work takes me to India, and I enjoy this very much. We’re making a huge difference in the lives of the underserved population in regards to their health, specifically primary health care. It’s a very fulfilling job.
The Eclectic Career
Growing up, my sisters wanted to be professional women, but not me. I wanted to be a housewife, a homemaker. My interests were in cooking, embroidery, stitching, interior designing, decorating and raising well-balanced and kind children — that was my interest. But as luck would have it, I have always been a working woman outside of the house and have always balanced home and outside responsibilities.
Before I came to the United States I was in the corporate sector in India. I worked in various fields including advertising and pharmaceuticals. I was even a teacher for a little while. After I came to the U.S., I became an entrepreneur. Then I entered the non-profit world and worked for some very prominent organizations.
Nothing Learned Is Wasted
I never planned to be in a particular position or role. It might be surprising, but I never had a goal to be where I am right now. It just came. A lot of that has to do with just diving into challenges and responsibilities and doing them to the best of my capabilities. I also feel completely blessed that I’ve been given the faculties and talents which I can leverage to make things happen. Nothing has come by design but only with working hard and the many blessings from my parents.
I have realized that nothing that I’ve done throughout my career-life has ever gone to waste.
I’ve been able to use the various skills I’ve learned on this journey at all my jobs. The first few years when I was in the U.S., I didn’t know anything about accounting but I learned and became a bookkeeper. Then when I started my own business it helped me to keep my own records and file my taxes. It taught me that nothing that one learns in life is ever wasted.
Don’t Think, Know You Can
I think the one thing that has been consistent throughout my life is that in anything I do, I want to do the best. Life has put me in situations that weren’t the most desirable. I have taken them on, and I have dealt with them. I’ve never lost confidence about how I am going to do something that was thrown my way. I always had it in me that if I put my mind to it, I can do it, because there are resources available.
Even if I don’t like something, I just have to figure out — Who and where is the right resource? Where should I go to find information? Then I just do it. If I tap into those resources, I have the capacity to do anything that anybody else can do. That has been consistent throughout, starting when I was very little.
Growing Up in the US
The move to the United States (from India) was born out of need for financial security. I was 31 years old when I arrived, but I can honestly say that I actually grew up in the U.S.
I was a very submissive, typical Indian woman of those times — trying to be the best wife, the best mother and the best daughter-in-law. Pleasing everybody at the cost of my own happiness and personal and professional growth.
Once I came to the US and started working, I realized I could be my own person. I wasn’t limited in enhancing my education and career. I started focusing on myself and realized that I was more than capable of using my education, talent and faculties to be successful — especially in the enabling environment that the United States provides.
You Are a Professional
In my first nonprofit job, someone gifted me a petite leather briefcase. These were the early days of my non-profit career and I was an Executive Assistant to the CEO at the time. There were always some documents that I needed to take home so I started using the briefcase.
One day my coworker looked at me and said, ‘Wow, look at you!’ And I said, ‘Yeah! Don’t I look like a professional?’ She replied, ‘You ARE a professional!’
I thought to myself, well I guess I AM a professional. It was quite a realization to acknowledge that I’m a professional. It was a great confidence-builder moment.
This is the Best Time of My Life
Although I did not want to be a career woman, I have no regrets. I think I’m more fulfilled. I was able to reach my potential because of the challenges that I have faced, which required me to be a working woman. It just happened. It was not by design and I’m glad it happened. I’m happy that I’ve been able to use my potential to do good.
I feel I have accomplished so much, and there’s still a lot to do. My current job was an outcome of my previous hard work and commitment. What I can share is that in a job you’re required to give 100% but when you give more, people see it and they realize your potential. The opportunities come because you don’t shy away from your responsibility, hard work, commitment, dedication and honesty. It comes. It’s kind of natural but it comes.
So, this is best time of my life, actually. After having struggled with so many challenges in my personal life. I feel very blessed to be where I am right now, even though it’s a whole lot of work and it seems I can never catch-up — and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good feeling to know that I’m able to contribute towards helping the most deserving populations of the world and I’m able to bring a global perspective to my work.
I live by the advice of this old adage: “Flourish where you’re planted.”
— Roma Bose
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