No one every begins a journey to the next chapter in their life with a truly empty suitcase. There is always a lifetime worth of experiences already packed away.
As 26-year-old Sant Kumar of Hayward packs to head off to medical school in Washington, D.C., one life experience still looms larger for him than all the others: the sudden death of his father from leukemia when Kumar was just 17-months old.
"He didn't have any symptoms beforehand," Kumar said. "He was diagnosed. Three weeks later he was gone."
Kumar's mother then made the difficult decision to send him to live with his grandparents in India for the next three years. To this day, Kumar says, he still remembers the lessons his grandmother, in particular, taught him.
"She was always involved in the community, especially in the under-served areas," Kumar said.
His grandmother was the reason why, Sant says, he decided to travel back to India to volunteer with a medical organization. While there, one child, suffering from Spina Bifida touched Kumar so much he started a fundraising campaign so the boy could get a life-changing spinal operation.
It turned out to be life-changing not just for the boy but for Kumar, too.
"A kid from Hayward, California can have an impact in India on someone's life. I think that is what drove me to continue," Kumar said.
Kumar used money left over from that fundraiser to start IndoRelief, his own non-profit helping poor communities in India with whatever the locals say they most desperately need.
In just over a year IndoRelief has helped hundreds. The organization has provided medical supplies and run clinics and shelters for the homeless. Their biggest endeavor yet and one that Kumar is most proud of is an orphanage for former child laborers.
Kumar says their success in such a short time is a result of hard work on the part of him and his all-volunteer team.
The inspiration for it, though, rests firmly with his grandmother.
"What she did for me with when I was barely two years old transformed my life," Kumar said.
The next chapter in Kumar's life will be a busy one, for sure. It is medical school, after all.
But he vows to keep on with IndoRelief. It is work too important no to.