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ATMA SEVA, Ambassadors Program director and co-founder
After returning home from a semester abroad in Australia, everything seemed muted to David Poppe ’08. During a three-week leadership excursion to Singapore and Thailand that semester, Poppe had witnessed Third World conditions firsthand. He then made it his mission to help those less fortunate. So when a Peace Corps assignment fell through after graduation, he wasn’t deterred. He signed on with grassroots NGO, ATMA SEVA and is now the program director and co-founder of the Ambassadors Program, based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
“I was confused. I took for granted small things like food, water, and shelter. Seeing people without access to these things bothered me in a profound way,” says Poppe, who earned a degree in business management. “We visited a hill tribe that had no running water, people sleeping on the floor, and unfit bathroom facilities. The amazing part was that they were the friendliest people and had the biggest smiles on their faces. Seeing the village impacted me and started that chain reaction of questions and thoughts.”
Poppe has developed the entire Ambassadors Program from the ground up. The main project brings volunteers to live with and teach English to Buddhist monks. What started as a project to improve conversational English has now grown to include remote village stays, government school teaching, sponsorship packages, and the creation of a local Foundation. Poppe sees a bright future for the program with ideas such as scholarships for the children and exchange programs for the monks to travel overseas.
In addition to his time abroad, Poppe credits Daniel Jasper, associate professor of sociology, who conducted extensive research in India, with encouraging his desire to serve.
“Hearing from someone else who has a similar mindset and has traveled before and lived abroad was inspiring,” says Poppe, who also spent six weeks in Rome studying Italian. “He was a role model and someone I wanted to be like. I look up to and really admire him.”
"Hearing from someone else who has a similar mindset and has traveled before and lived abroad was inspiring. Professor Jasper was a role model and someone I wanted to be like."