In 1975 at age 16, and a student at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, Rob Rose spent eight months in Calcutta, India as a Rotary exchange student. That “formative experience…opened up my perspective, my world view,” Rob says.
It also laid the foundation for his current avocation, helping disabled kids in Nepal through The Rose International Fund for Children.
“It gelled in my mind that I really had an obligation…to give back to those who don’t have…basic needs met,” Rob says.
While he’d always been an active community volunteer, in 1997 he read a Seattle Times travel article about the Nepalese Youth Foundation and its founder, Olga Murray. Inspired, he called Murray to volunteer as a photographer — his profession. It turned out they did need someone to document their work, so Rob took his oldest son, then 11, first back to Calcutta and then to Nepal. One very cold night he had an epiphany: “I thought, if I just direct my life in a way that’s focused on helping other people, I can really leave a footprint and have an impact,” he says.
Already a Rotary Club member, Rob knew grants were available for projects overseas. Olga introduced him to a Nepalese Rotarian and they started doing projects with Rotary and Rotary International.
That partnership — expanded to Rotary clubs all over Nepal — continues today with grants growing close to $1 million. There’s even a disabilities-awareness campaign designed to prod Nepalese into shedding their prejudice against the physically handicapped, often regarded as cursed or having bad Karma. Projects have included fixing a drainage problem at an orphanage or teaching disabled people to manufacture wheelchairs.
“Around 2003…I thought I wanted to have my own non-profit,” Rob recalls. He was collecting donations for TRIFC and wanted to be a legitimate charity, and “I didn’t want to monopolize my own Rotary Club’s funding.” (Thanks to his success, more and more club members were submitting projects.)
TRIFC got 501(c)3 status in 2006. While he continues to work on the Rotary projects, the “macro,” TRIFC focuses on the “micro.” Their best-known project is providing waterproof backpacks full of supplies for blind children, including a Braille watch and ruler, a folding cane and books. TRIFC has expanded into projects at a variety of institutions, and you can read more at their website, www.trifc.org.
Rob travels to Nepal about once a year, sometimes with his wife, Gina, and makes a point of visiting children they’re helping, many of whom, he says, are in need of attention.
Back home, he continues to run the family business, Brandt Photographers, the oldest continuously operating business in Bellevue. The studio has moved to his home and his mom, Arlene, still helps out a few hours a week. He belongs to Temple B’nai Torah where fundraising efforts have helped purchase Braille books for Nepalese kids.
• • •
If the name David Shuster rings a bell for readers, it’s probably because David ran the Federation campaign for a couple of years ending in 2006. In fact, he left the Federation three months before the tragic shooting there in March that year.
“I was a colleague with all the people who were there…I heard about it on television as the shooting was unfolding” he recalls, “I went straight to Harborview.”
Pam Waechter, who was killed in the attack, had worked alongside David as assistant campaign director, and took over his job when he left.
“She was very, very vital,” to the work of the Federation, he says.
Before working at the Federation, David was the major gifts relationship manager for United Way of King County. He left the Federation for private-sector work, first at Charles Schwab and now he’s started a new position as managing director for investment advisory services at IMS Capital Management. He notes some similarities between his work in the two sectors where he’s asked to “build relationships, establish credibility,” and to “make a cogent argument for what you’re asking for,” he says.
Born in Israel, David was raised in L.A. after age 5. He got much of his religious training attending Chabad camps in California, and while not affiliated with any particular synagogue, “I’m tied to the Jewish people,” he says. “I’m an advocate for the state of Israel, I give philanthropically to Jewish causes,” including, of course, the Federation.
“Wrestling with God” is what defines his Judaism — you won’t be surprised to learn that he has an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Antioch (and an MBA from City University). Married for eight years, he has two small children who basically occupy his free time.