Emory’s Superwoman

Who: Elizabeth Sholtys
Age: 23
What: Started multinational orphanage in India

Elizabeth Sholtys is doing amazing things at a very young age. The profile and links below speak for themselves. Make sure you check out the orphanage website.

Q&A Profile: Emory’s Superwoman
By Steven Stein
Posted: 05/01/2007

Elizabeth Sholtys, an Emory senior and the director of a multinational orphanage in India, talks about picking lice out of orphans’ hair, speaking to her cat in Marathi and what it’s like trying to save the world.

So when exactly did you decide to try to save the world?
It had a lot to do with Paul Farmer [Emory’s Commencement speaker]. I read Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, in my freshman seminar, and I remember just being struck by what he wrote. Here was someone in college who was working in developing countries to make a difference. The book got me thinking, “Why aren’t I trying to do something now?”

Why did you decide to open an orphanage in India? That’s not exactly your normal class project.
Reading Mountains by Mountains got me. It’s just one of those things, an epiphany. You wake up one day, and decide to do something. And the more I wrapped my brain about it, the more concrete it came, and the more determined I became to do something about it. I formed a board of directors within a week of my epiphany. I returned to India in January 2005, and six months later, we opened up the orphanage.

How difficult was it to complete Emory classes while you were 8,000 miles away in India?
It seemed like I was simultaneously trying to exist in two different worlds. One time, when a friend from Emory visited me for spring break, she actually brought me books from the library so I could finish a project for class.

So, when you’re not trying to save the world, what do you do for fun?
I know it sounds lame, but I work with street kids. For me, that’s fun. I also adopted a kitten, and while I was getting the orphanage home together, she and I spent a lot of time together. I was living in a huge apartment, and lonely, and spent a lot of time conversing with the cat in Marathi [a variation of Hindi].

How ironic is it that, because of your work in India, you’ll be missing Paul Farmer’s Commencement speech?
I’m really sad, but I’m excited that other people will hear him.

What do you miss most when you’re in India?
Bagels, actually, as crazy as it sounds. I can’t find them anywhere in India.

Do you get frustrated when you read about investment bankers making more than $100,000 their first year out of college?
I fully understand the work I do isn’t for everyone. Most people wouldn’t be interested in picking lice out of street people’s heads. I just hope people find a way to contribute. If you’re going to be an I-banker, throw some money to a poor orphanage director.

Twenty-five years from now, what are you doing?
Some people are old, crazy cat ladies. I’m going to be an old crazy orphanage director.

Find out more at the orphanage website: http://www.ashrayainitiative.org/
And more articles: The McGill Daily, Ithaca News, Humanitarian Award

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~ by PJ on October 7, 2007.

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