Independence, Dignity and Self-Reliance with Lowell Sheppard

SFGC: Where are you from? Where have you lived? How long have you been in Japan?

Lowell: I am Canadian, but have lived, for the most part, outside of Canada since the late 70’s -- first in Mexico with an NGO and then in Southeast Asia working in the Refugee Camps of Thailand. I moved to Japan in 1995 because I had promised my wife, who was born and raised in Japan, that one day I would follow her there. She called me up on it twenty years ago and here we are now still loving it.

SFGC: What was it about HOPE that inspired you to become involved?

Lowell: I must confess that at first it was a sense of adventure and desire to travel, blended with a world view that the service of others must equal the service of self. I was twelve years old when I suppose I had an epiphany of sorts. I was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the time and through my school I learned of a Miles for Millions Walk that raised money for Development Projects in Haiti. I had no idea where or what Haiti was, but the appeal of walking 35 miles in one day drew me in. The walk was tough, but even tougher was the raising of money. Finishing the walk was fantastic but surpassing my fundraising goal was even more gratifying. It was then that I realized that I could help others while pursuing a personal goal. I have been blending adventure with fundraising ever since.

SFGC: What is your favorite part about being HOPE’s Asia-Pacific Director? Is there one experience or occasion that is particularly memorable?

Lowell: Wow. So many. Overwhelmingly, it is meeting people whose lives have been changed by gaining access to clean water, education, micro credit, etc... as the result of the compassion and generosity of supporters of HOPE, including Pandoo Foundation. It is truly remarkable to observe the ascent from extreme poverty and hopelessness to self-reliance, dignity and daring to dream dreams. The most recent example was Sophi in Cambodia who received her water well four years ago. She now runs a successful noodle business using HOPE well water. She has become very successful as people order her noodles far and wide because she uses the well water rather than river water. A few weeks ago, I was visiting her and she gave my friends and I a 5kg bag of noodles. I asked her how much it cost so I could pay her. Her response, “I do not need your money.” It was a striking display of her independence, self-reliance and gained dignity. Just four year ago she and her family were sick, extremely poor and foraging for food. Now she is a successful businesswomen and her home is full of joy and hope.

SFGC: We are extremely excited about our on-going partnership with HOPE. How do you foresee Pandoo Foundation continuing to impact HOPE’s work?

Lowell: Pandoo and HOPE share the same values and aims. It has been great to collaborate in Cambodia and also raise funds and awareness at the HOPE Gala’s in Singapore. We are becoming family and together I believe we can raise millions of dollars to help more families like Sophi in Cambodia.

SFGC: Global Citizen Crush!?

Lowell: I have so many. Family, friends, distant heroes, historical figures. But to narrow it down to a single person at this point in time? It is my Grandson, Eli Luke Pepito Sheppard. He is four years old, and I am determined to do my part in facing the challenges of today that will affect him tomorrow. Most of all, I want to model for him that a life of giving is a life that is superbly gratifying. Last year, I was telling his parents over dinner (my son, Ryan, is Canadian and my daughter-in-law, Maria, is a Filipina) in Tokyo that I had decided never to retire. But I wanted to continue doing what I am doing and that the primary motivator was their son, my grandson. Eli, who had been on the chair next to me playing (he was not quite three at the time) suddenly stopped playing, stepped onto my lap, put his arms around my neck and said, “Thank you, Grandpa.” I think we all want the next generation to look back at our own and say, “Thank you.”