Let me take a step back and explain the context. I was born and raised
in Canada to parents who immigrated from Kenya but are of South Asian
descent. When I was very young, during a trip to visit relatives in
Kenya I saw firsthand the contrast between the poverty there and my
relatively privileged upbringing in North America. And after seeing my
uncle, Anjam, denied an education due to a physical handicap (there were
no wheelchair-accessible school buses in Nairobi in the 1960s), I became
especially passionate about making access to education a basic human
right for all.
But after finishing university I got sucked into following the path of
so many other graduates: I put my dreams on hold and went to Wall Street
instead. “But once we graduated, we both went back to finance. It was
obvious and easy to return to a cushy job, and we honestly believed we
would do some good somewhere… someday. Just not yet..”
As the years passed, the itch remained: I wasn’t doing what I really
cared about. So I took a year off to do an MBA, and while there I met
Michiel Lowenberg, a Dutch classmate who had also worked in finance but
shared the same passion for using these skills to improve the world. We
became close friends and later on were roommates.
Worldwide, 60% of adolescents faced barriers to quality learning — and 54%
of adults needed skills training to adapt to a changing job market. And
that was before COVID. Now, the need is even greater.
But once we graduated, we both went back to finance. It was obvious and
easy to return to a cushy job, and we honestly believed we would do some
good somewhere… someday. Just not yet.
Then something changed: in 2010 Michiel was diagnosed with late-stage
cancer. When someone close to you goes through a rough period, you often
live some of it vicariously through them. And I saw that for Michiel,
“someday” was no longer good enough; it was now or never. He started the
charity Join for Joy, a wonderful organization that uses play to
motivate children to learn – in the very same country where my parents
While battling stage 4 cancer for two and a half years, Michiel showed
me clearly what I too will care about when I know my time is
approaching: making a difference.
And so, standing at his grave in Amsterdam in 2013, I decided to follow
his example: “someday” would no longer do for me either. I was
passionate about a very big problem, I had a very big idea that could
provide a game-changing solution, and it was time to stop thinking about
it and just jump off the diving board and give it 110%. And so the Rumie
Personally I do this because I’ve been lucky in life – and I know it.
And if you’re reading this, chances are so are you. Let’s together build
a revolutionary movement to level the playing field for those who are