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John E.

Nonprofit Samurai
Edison, NJ, USA


I always knew I wanted to help people, but I was never sure how to do it best. I come from an immigrant community and so there was only ever three career options; Health sciences (pharmacy and medicine), Law, and Engineering. So, without really knowing what else to do I started studying biology at Rutgers. Then I switched. And switched. I changed my major a total of five times before a dean suggested public health.

It was one of those perfect moments where a life experience fortifies a change in yourself and you really find your path; I was away on a retreat and really started to think hard about how lucky I was to have what I have.

Overcome by a combined sense of guilt and duty I was ready to take the first volunteer opportunity to come my way, and sure enough on my ride home from the airport after the retreat my friend let me know about feeding the homeless in New Brunswick. There is a long story after that, but that's the beginnings of ARM.

Basic aid is great! But, for me, I had to do more. I was lucky enough to get an internship with one of the most prominent non-profit experts in the country and since then I have balanced my time between community endeavors like ARM, national endeavors like the wounded warrior project, and my own professional development. In my opinion, the non-profit world faces a lot of problems: trust, professionalism, prioritizing outcomes, funding, and efficacy, and the amazing work Catchafire and its volunteers are doing are positioning the industry for a bright future!