Interviewer: Since your background is mostly in photography, what first led to your interest in non-profit work?
Linda Pascotto: Photography is primarily about observation without pre-conceived ideas; a different way of seeing what is in front of you. I was often surprised by the best pictures. You take care of the technical side, try for the best light, composition etc, but then there is that magical moment when it all comes together, and something greater than all those things happens. Non-profit work is a little bit like that. This needs to happen, that needs to happen, but then something bigger and more exciting evolves. It feels like a natural progression to me, being involved with projects that work in a very organic way, with the minimum of interference.
I: How has being a photographer and filmmaker influenced your philanthropic concerns?
LP: As a wildlife photographer and filmmaker, I learned how to look at the natural world. I was fascinated by the balance in nature, the strategies that species had evolved to survive, and the way in which there was order in what seemed, at first, like chaos. What I learned from this was that observation is essential. As human beings, we are part of the world too. It is easy to pre-judge or assume, but it is not my place to dictate to others how they should live or what they should do. Philanthropy, to me, is like providing basic blocks, so that people can build what they need to. I’m often amazed observing people’s ingenuity once they have the means to move forward. It is such an exciting and creative process.
I: Why do you think it is important for the average citizen to take part, volunteer or donate in non-profit organizations?
LP: Well, I don’t know if there such a thing as an ‘average citizen’ and I think people know what is important to them. There are, however, many benefits to being involved in non-profit work: it helps people feel connected to a larger community, gives them an opportunity to contribute, and grow as an individual, and feel that they have made a difference. There’s also a lot of enjoyment to be had!
I: How can someone who has an interest, but not necessarily the background, get involved in non-profit work? Are there any college programs you would suggest?
LP: Volunteering in whatever way you can, for a cause that motivates and inspires you, is a good way to get involved. Once you get a feel for what is going on, you can see how to use your capabilities and strengths, whether they are physical, virtual, or financial, or all three. One good thing about volunteering is that you can decide how much time, effort or money you can make available. Colleges provide many ways for their students to experience non-profit work and get involved in local organizations. You don’t need a college degree to participate in non-profit work, but any qualification or skill you do have can be used effectively, whether you are employed or volunteering.
I: How did the teachings of Prem Rawat affect your decision to lead the non-profit organization?
LP: Prem Rawat’s teachings have instilled a great love of life within me, and a passion for peace. The foundation, based on dignity, peace, and prosperity is in complete alignment with my values and passion, which makes it a very natural fit. It is very satisfying to be able to help with something that I feel so whole-hearted about.
I: Are there any upcoming projects or new facilities being planned for TPRF?
LP: A third Food for People facility is currently being constructed in the village of Otinibi, Ghana, on the outskirts of Accra. The first two facilities, one in Bantoli, India, and one in the Dhading district of Nepal, have inspired real change in the lives of the local people. With cooperation of the village elders, culturally appropriate food is prepared (some of it grown on site) which helps to maintain the dignity of the local people, whilst also addressing their nutritional needs. These projects are so exciting, because they bring about hope, change and sustainability, in a very simple and natural way.
Linda Pascotto is the President of the Board of Directors of The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping people around the world discover the words of Prem Rawat, known also as Maharaji, and to improving the quality of life for those most in need.
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