Public figures such as Bono and Bobby Shriver are among the founders of ONE, an international organization that uses advocacy to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases.
Right here in Salt Lake City, Naresh Kumar is a Congressional District Leader for the ONE campaign who oversees district one with the motivation to get Utahns advocating for needs around the world.
Recognizing Kumar’s knowledge and efforts toward foreign aid, Hillcrest High School student Akbar Khan sought Kumar’s advice for Khan’s own advocacy initiative, Letters for Lives.
“Naresh is awesome,” said Khan, “[We] became really close through Letters for Lives…He is such a friendly, really open, really nice guy.”
Unlike the prominence of ONE’s founders, Kumar is an international difference maker whose good deeds are not driven by public expectation.
Kumar was born and raised in the Salt Lake City area and attended Judge Memorial Catholic High School.
He went on to study anthropology and psychology at the University of Utah and received a master’s of public health with an emphasis in health planning from A.T. Still University.
However, Kumar links his passion for helping others back to his childhood years.
Kumar’s parents, Nimal and Leela Kumar, are natives of India who, as children, were forced out of their homes and into poverty by political conflict.
His parents’ experience with poverty influenced his view of the world, Kumar said, a view that even as a child was well-informed.
“As far back as elementary school, my teachers would write in my report cards that I was well-informed about world events,” Kumar said. “I guess that always mattered to me.”
Kumar said knowing that he is making the world a better place for people born into harsh living conditions is motivating for him to be active in the ONE campaign.
As he grew up, Kumar’s motivation to reach out to parts of the world most desperately in need for aid developed with him.
His history of community service began as a preteen when Kumar’s father facilitated working with the Greater Salt Lake Chapter of the American Red Cross.
In his teenage years, the focus on service learning in his high school’s curriculum further developed Kumar’s compassion for others.
Now at age 30, Kumar has amassed a history of approaching extreme poverty and preventable diseases through his time volunteering with ONE.
“In over six years of volunteering with ONE, I have seen AIDS change from a death sentence into a manageable disease,” Kumar said. “We can now see the beginning of the end of AIDS in our lifetime.”
Like the reduction in AIDS infection rate, improvements around the world are not removed from necessary actions that citizens in the United States and even Salt Lake City can take, Kumar said.
He recalled speaking with a legislative staffer on the issue of food security in regards to teaching farming techniques for improved crop yields in places of hunger. The staffer remembered hearing that in Russia, potatoes were larger and more abundant after a friend of the staffer’s had taught farmers there new farming strategies.
“I really enjoy seeing people make that connection between what we’re talking about doing and their own lives,” Kumar said in reference to the staffer’s story.
“Even though we are a land-locked city in the middle of the desert, we have to recognize that we…are not untouched by the rest of the world, nor are we powerless to influence it in a positive way,” Kumar said. “As we’ve seen with the recent economic decline, the world is more interconnected than it used to be. What we do here can impact what happens across the ocean.”