Joseph McKeen
Center for the Common Good

Willy Oppenheim
current Rhodes Scholar ~ Class of 2009

Posted March 28, 2011

As a student at Bowdoin and in the time since his graduation in 2009, Willy has worked to make international volunteering a more accessible option for young people who want to broaden their education and their sense of global citizenship.

While volunteering in India before coming to Bowdoin, Willy noticed that grassroots NGO's working in less-developed contexts often struggle to make themselves known to a global audience of potential volunteers, donors, and students that might learn from and support their work. Meanwhile, many of these potential supporters -- especially high-school and university students -- are eager to connect with such organizations and become more engaged global citizens, but are stymied by the proliferation of 'pay-to-volunteer'€™ organizations that make international service a privilege of the elite.

In response to this dilemma, Willy founded Omprakash: a free web-based platform that enables over 130 grassroots health, education, and environmental projects in 30 countries to represent their work to a diverse global audience of learners and prospective volunteers.

While at Bowdoin, Willy worked to help students on campus and in the greater Brunswick community use the Omprakash network to plan their open volunteering trips in Costa Rica, South Africa, India, and beyond. He helped develop Bowdoin's Global Citizen's Grant and also served at Brunswick's Tedford Shelter. Today, Willy maintains his role as Director of Omprakash while he pursues a PhD in Education as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford.

"I squirm at the thought of 'doing good,' but I'm comfortable saying that my commitment to education has something to do with creating space for others to think more critically about what 'doing good' might mean."

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“I hesitate to claim that anything is 'good' for everyone, but I think we are obliged to find out what might be best for most - and that means we are obliged to learn about the world.”