Purvi Padia has lived life by following her inspiration and intuition. Purvi’s most profound inspirations have always come from her parents – their strength, their perseverance, their humanitarianism and their connection to India.
Purvi Padia is a first generation Indian American, whose parents were both physicians who studied in India and later immigrated to the United States. They came to the U.S. with the dream of offering unlimited opportunities to their future children.
Purvi has without a doubt been able to capitalize on the opportunities set in front of her. She earned her degree from the University of Michigan and moved directly to New York City where she began a successful 10-year career in beauty and fashion. Purvi then decided to re-evaluate what she was really passionate about and she found interior design. Like everything else in her life, she turned her passion into action. She enrolled at Parsons School of Design and opened her eponymous residential design firm after graduating, Purvi Padia Design, which is approaching its 10th anniversary.
Although owning and operating her own enterprise has required an intense amount of time, commitment and energy, it has also allowed Purvi to continue to be inspired daily and to cultivate her other passion – giving back.
Purvi has been motivated to give back from an early age, thanks to her parents, and this desire grew more urgent as she had more life experiences. Purvi says, “As I got older, and especially after having children, that hunger to help others grew, and I spent countless hours trying to figure out how to be most impactful.”
She was always thinking about ways she could increase her impact. She ultimately decided the best way to do this was to narrow her focus and dedicate as much of her time and resources to one cause and one organization as she could. “There are so many worthy causes out there, but for me, improving the lives children has always been my biggest motivator,” she said.
UNICEF quickly stood out to Purvi as the only choice for a philanthropic partner because of both its reputation and the extent of its impact. As a businesswoman, she understood the importance of being involved in an organization where the majority of funding went directly to the cause rather than to the logistics of running it. What’s more, as Purvi puts it, “UNICEF consistently impresses me with their dedication, expertise, breadth, international relations and programmatic diversity.”
What started as merely involvement with UNICEF quickly turned into a board position. As her role grew within UNICEF, she continually explored ways in which she could make a bigger impact in India.
While she is the first to admit it sounds cliché, Purvi’s lightbulb moment came when she saw the critically acclaimed film, Lion. As she puts it, “At that moment a lightbulb went off in my head and I knew that my mission was to help the children of India who were the most vulnerable. To give them a fighting chance at life. To show them that the world has not turned its back on them and to provide them the hope and courage to dream of a better and brighter future.” And so, PROJECT LION was born.
Together with her husband, Harsh Padia, they became seed funder for this ambitious new initiative, to change the trajectory of the lives of India’s most vulnerable children using a multi-pronged approach utilizing both government and NGO efforts. Through PROJECT LION, UNICEF will evaluate and elevate the standards of care for children in institutionalized care to be sure each child’s basic human rights are protected and to ensure each child has legal paperwork, receives adequate nutrition, access to sanitation and consistent health care and education. In addition to this individualized approach, PROJECT LION will be integral in providing vulnerable families with support services to ensure that at-risk children can stay in the care of their families.
It’s clear that the soon-to-be-launched project is already slated for big things. In the first three years, PROJECT LION is slated to serve 200,000 Indian orphans, with a goal of scaling the initiative to serve all 1.5 million of India’s most vulnerable children.
PROJECT LION really comes full circle for Purvi. From a young age, she saw the very real divide between rich and poor in India and it struck a chord with her. “My parents have the craziest stories about how I would approach groups of homeless people when I was a child and we would visit developing countries,” she says. And now, with young children of her own, she is able to share this passion for philanthropy and connection to India with them. “I consider myself very lucky to be able to follow so many of my passions and to have the unwavering support of my husband and children,” says Purvi. It also comes as no surprise that Purvi’s favorite way to relax and unwind is family focused. “My family is my greatest source of strength and happiness, so getting to spend uninterrupted time with them is the best way for me both take a breath and re-energize.”