Pau-y Chow never envisioned becoming a part of Humanity in Action. As an engineering student, he did not know that activism would play as large a role in his life as it does today. Pau-y grew up as a child of immigrants in Portugal, where many people refused to speak to him in Portuguese, despite knowing the language. This and other experiences with discrimination led him to Humanity in Action. When a friend confronted him and told him that he “was Humanity in Action,” Pau-y decided to find out more and ultimately applied for the Berlin Fellowship in 2006.
It was only when I met Humanity in Action Fellows, each one with a unique personal background, and we as a group discussed issues related to racism, cultural identity, education, multiculturalism, rights of minorities, etc. that I found many answers to the questions that had “haunted” me during my personal development.
During his Fellowship, Pau-y particularly remembers lectures on racism and social integration, which caused a realization for him. Suddenly, his perception of many experiences from his past were being challenged. He began to see and understand the effects these discriminatory and racist experiences had on him and how he could combat them in the future. Reflecting on this process, Pau-y notes, “we are constantly evolving and learning and that the past should also constantly be re-interpreted from a wiser and more actual point of view.”
For his Action Project, Pau-y created a volunteer program for Erasmus Exchange Students. As the Erasmus program is meant to foster cultural exchange between European Union countries, Pau-y wanted to make sure that this dialogue went beyond the classroom, putting students in touch with local organizations to expose them to the larger community. At first, Pau-y was worried that the language barrier between students and the organizations might pose a problem, however after a few moments the participants began to successfully exchange ideas and experiences. He was amazed by the connection between them that was fostered so quickly.
Pau-y also participated in the Lantos Congressional Fellowship, a Humanity in Action Professional Fellowship, in 2007 and looks fondly upon his memory of meeting with the Portuguese president, who asked him, “Promise me that one day you will go back to Portugal and shape the society there with your story and life.”
“Social activism has never been as important as now because only we can demonstrate what really is important for us and future generations.”
Following his Fellowship, Pau-y began a career in the corporate world using his engineering degree. He finds it important to keep in touch with his Humanity in Action community as it gives him what he can often not find in his work: a space for balance. Pau-y is concerned with the gap between corporate goals and the values of a sustainable society, wanting to change the corporate world from within to aid people in speaking out for diversity and social issues that concern us all.