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Alum Shares Life Lessons with Upper Schoolers
April 4, 2013
“Can’t be done.” “Won’t work.” “Not possible.”
Time and again over the last several years, Principia alum Ian Anand Forber-Pratt (US’98, C’07) has disregarded and disproved such assertions in his efforts to make a difference in the lives of others.
And that’s why he was in Ridgway Auditorium earlier this week, sharing an inspiring and motivating message with Upper School students: The spiritual abilities required to make progress and overcome obstacles are innate to each one of us. Giving in to the idea of failure is not!
Readily admitting his own “fails”—falling short of personal or professional goals—Forber-Pratt explained to students that such instances are not a reason to give up.
Against all the odds, and after nearly three years of effort, Forber-Pratt recently founded Foster Care India, the first such institution in a country with 1.2 billion people and an estimated 80 million orphans (according to UNICEF). An adoptee from India himself, Forber-Pratt feels strongly that every child needs a family and that the large, state-run institutions in much of the developing world are not the answer to caring for orphans and abandoned children.
In 2009, having completed a master’s degree in social work at Washington University in St. Louis, Forber-Pratt sold all he had and moved to Udaipur, a city in an arid, very poor, and very traditional area of western India. Establishing relationships with local officials as well as influential residents, he put together an advisory board and navigated the labyrinthine bureaucracy—often coming up against red tape, disinterest, or outright dismissal. But persisting in prayer and convinced of the power of a right idea, he has made headway.
Last year, for instance, he partnered with Harvard University, which sent research students to help undertake the first evidence-based research on the situation of orphans in the Udaipur area. But just last week, he noted, he learned that his application for a substantial grant was rejected. Should that effort be considered a failure, he asked members of the audience? If not, how could one look at it?
Several audience members stood up to share their thoughts on how every step one takes is building towards the goal, and that good is always within reach.
Exactly, agreed Forber-Pratt. “I want each of you to connect with this fact in your own lives,” whether it’s a setback in academics, relationships, or other areas of achievement. The point, he stressed, is that despite “fails” along the way, as long as one keeps trying and stays true to a high ideal, there is no failure.
With that can-do spirit, Forber-Pratt returns to India in a few weeks to continue his work.