Aastha Mehta, a Program Manager for NEO’s Donor Services and Special Projects, shares her most influential role models, what fuels her focus on social justice and shares advice for other social justice warriors.
Who has been the most influential role model/hero in your life thus far?
My parents have been a constant source of inspiration for me, providing support along my journey. My mom is a scientist who runs her own lab, and has dozens of patents to her name. On top of that, she is an amazing cook, artist and grandma to my little one. I am lucky to have her and my dad as role models for living a healthy and fulfilled life, both personally and professionally.
What fuels your focus on social justice issues?
It is difficult to live in today’s world and not be affected by the inequities that exist all around us. I came to NEO from the international development space, where I worked on U.S. government funded programming all over the world. Seeing how much money our government spends on development in the rest of the world made me wonder why we were not seeing this kind of change at home. Bringing that global perspective to issues that affect me and my friends in America is what keeps me motivated do to social justice work.
Give us a peek of Aastha outside of the office. What are your favorite things to do when you aren’t at work?
I love exploring New York City, spending time with my husband and my amazing 2-year old daughter, Kaavya. I have a not-so-secret love for books, cooking, baking, travel, and crafting, and a secret love for scrapbooking and knitting. I also enjoy watching and playing tennis, and right now, I am looking forward to attending the U.S. Open where my all-time favorite Serena Williams (I had posters of her in my room in 1999!) will be playing.
What advice would you give someone beginning a career in social justice?
Self-care! It is easy to get burned out in this fast-paced environment where it feels like the work never ends and there is constantly a new battle to fight. Take the time to process your feelings and emotions, take the time to go to the doctor, cook for yourself, do what you need to do to get fueled up for the fight.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled and why?
I love animals, so my favorite trips are those that allow me to see animals in their different habitats. So far I’ve done safaris in South Africa and Kenya, traveled to the Galapagos Islands to see fish and penguins, and gone on a birding tour in Colombia. I’d love to go to Australia one day and see the Great Barrier Reef, but it’s disappearing at an alarming rate, and I don’t want to contribute to any further damage to our ecosystem.