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Everyday Heroes
Jean Being fearless was the greatest treasure I had. I could withstand having nothing but water for days and I could jump into a friend's car and travel to wherever he/she took me, to know more about the world.more ... ]

Everyday Heroes 

Valeri Shah -- 'The Road Less Travelled'
-- by Percy Monteiro

Poet Robert Frost once wrote, "Two roads diverged in the woods, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

CharityFocus volunteer Valeri Shah epitomizes those words.

Valeri began her volunteer work as a high school student, as a way to improve her resume for college applications. Today, she volunteers because she truly believes in serving and because it helps her achieve her goals of being a better person, in terms of living in the present and being less self-centered.

Valeri was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and lived in Sacramento for 15 years. She went to college at prestigious UC Berkeley, to study biology and now lives in the Bay Area.

She has worked in nonprofit organizations most of her post-college years, from working with troubled teens in San Francisco, to a company that is trying to bridge the digital divide in developing countries. "My vision with working is to allow me to put my efforts with a company where my goals are aligned with the organization," she says.

For Valeri, being in the present means being real in every encounter. "I am still struggling to be in the moment, but as I see it, if I can succeed, every action will be selfless. To volunteer means to serve others. Not until one is selfless is real service taking place," she explains. "So ideally, I see living in the present to extend to any action, where we can really be there for others, whether at work or volunteering."

Valeri has been influenced by the different people at CharityFocus. "People like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and the Peace Pilgrim are great," she says, "but I have met people that are equally as great in my mind, and much more real because I actually know them."

Valeri ventured into starting a meditation class at a Youth Detention Center, but it didn't pan out. She still hopes that it will someday. She considers herself an optimist and her friends think that she's a good listener, though at times a bit "off the wall."

Many times she feels alone in her views, she explains. "I guess my idealism overcomes my practicality sometimes. For example, many of my friends would say that my going to a meditation retreat is a waste of time, that if I really want to help others, I should just go do it. I see the need for self-improvement to be vital in being able to help others. "

In case you get the impression that she's all volunteer, forget it. She loves outdoor activities like hiking, biking, volleyball and hanging out with friends. She's traveled around the world to India, Costa Rica, Peru, and Japan, and enjoys being in remote locations. She even climbed Machu Picchu, just not all the way.

She likes making people birthday presents. She claims to have a good sense of humor, adding that her peers might find that debatable.

One of her goals is not to seek any reward from volunteering. She would like to be able to get the work done, even without getting any appreciation. "The journey is the reward," she says.

[ email valeri ]

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