Award-winning filmmaker Alex Kruz Rojas was recently honored by U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer with the Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award. The Congressional Award was received on 30 July 2018, on the World Day Against Trafficking Persons, to commemorate Kruz’s international humanitarian work. On the same day, the U.S. flag was flown over the Capitol Building in Washington DC.
The Award Certificate states, “In honor of Alex Kruz Rojas, founder of Samarpan Foundation, for Outstanding Humanitarian Service, in remembrance of World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Your dedication to serve, care and protect survivors and victims of trafficking is truly a noble act, a testament to your extraordinary leadership and great humanity, with the desire to change the world for the better. Thank you for your military service. You are a hero and an inspiration to us all.”
Inspiring Leaders: NY Elite Interview with filmmaker and humanitarian Alex Kruz Rojas
NY Elite: Congratulations on receiving the Congressional Award for “Outstanding Humanitarian Service” for your work with Samarpan. Can you tell us a little bit more about your organization Samarpan, its creation, mission and history?
Alex Kruz Rojas: Thank You! “Samarpan” means “Selfless Service” in the Sanskrit language. Samarpan Nepal was formally created in 2014 for the day to day operations of maintaining an orphanage in Goldungha, Nepal of 12 blind orphans who teach other disabled children and provide a warm family like environment for children discarded by parents due to their disability. In terms of mission, we seek to serve children who do not have a voice due to their situation. This includes disabled children, children affected by human trafficking, and those in war torn countries.
NY Elite: What projects have you focused on primarily?
Alex Kruz Rojas: Traditionally, we have focused on projects affecting abandoned disabled children and victims of human trafficking. When needed due to natural disasters such as earthquakes or flash floods – we’ve stepped in to organize and provide emergency relief in rural areas to families and children without shelter, food, or resources.
NY Elite: What three social issues are most important to you and why?
Alex Kruz Rojas: Why important? They all have their beauty, innocence, and divinity. Different cultures in our society exploit them without thinking as an endless resource, a commodity to make a profit from. If you cannot change a bad situation directly at least make others aware of it.
NY Elite: What was the most significant change you brought about with a project / organization? Can you tell us about some of your humanitarian work?
Alex Kruz Rojas: I am small, but if I try to do something good everyday, maybe it will inspire others to do the same and then that is real change – when a good action echoes throughout creation and causes other good actions –we make our world more beautiful this way. I can go into specifics, but how do you quantify lives saved, children kept together, victims of traffickers rescued, or helping those in need when their need is greatest – I can’t quantify which is most significant other than the cumulative towards the greater good. Think of the saying in the Talmud – “He who saves the life of one saves the world entire.”
NY Elite: What is the long-term goal of Samarpan?
Alex Kruz Rojas: We have a two-fold goal: One would be to maintain the orphanage for the blind in Goldungha and have those children teach other blind children which have been abandoned, which is what we originally formed Samarpan to do. Second, is to continue to carry out more anti-human trafficking initiatives to rescue, prosecute where we can, and help deal with the trauma survivors face. This includes spreading awareness of behaviors and choices which contribute to this atrocity.
NY Elite: What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
Alex Kruz Rojas: You can get things done and still be kind. Titles, honors, awards they all come and go. The seeds you plant in others do not.
NY Elite: What are the most important values and ethics of a leader?
Alex Kruz Rojas: In short, a good leader seeks to make the experience better for others before himself/herself. If I was to list out a few important values though: They lead through example, seeking to unify, and motivate people to action when something is unjust or for the greater good. We are stronger together than alone. They speak to the heart and universality of all living things. They communicate and are clear in expectations as well as responsibilities. In terms of ethics, beware those who seek to divide by fear, manipulate a situation for their own gain, and appeal to the basest instincts of our animal nature. That is not a leader that is an immoral opportunist.
NY Elite: What is your advice for those who would like to reach higher in their career?
Alex Kruz Rojas: You usually have to rise to the level you want to achieve before you are recognized as being worthy of that higher achievement. Keep shooting for the moon, even if you don’t make it, the stars aren’t half bad and at least you got off your butt to try. Most people are so afraid of failure, they fail by default by never trying.
NY Elite: What are you an advocate of? What are your life passions?
Alex Kruz Rojas: I’m an advocate of living for your purpose. One of the greatest moments we have here is when we discover what we are here to do, if you align yourself with your purpose you cut away self doubt and illusion. Life is short, we often get more done by removing more than doing more, and doing what we love and enjoy. My life passion is helping others, if I can’t change it through direct action, I’ll make others aware of the situation. Those who are quiet in the face of evil are complicit.
NY Elite: What/who inspires you?
Alex Kruz Rojas: What – I’m inspired by simple things, the beauty and strength of a tree for example – it gives so much yet says nothing. It gives us oxygen, building material, fuel for fire, fruits, shade, and other products. Who- My Mother, my mother has been the greatest inspiration for me. She taught me to love, and to love even greater in the face of violence, in the face of unfairness, health failures, and life’s ups and downs. It requires great courage, composure, and control to do this. Often times we celebrate super heroes but forget those in our life who show us what we value most 🙂
What are your future plans/goals/projects?
Alex Kruz Rojas: Plans- expand Samarpan to have a structure which is self driving and self sustaining. Establish an hydroponics installation at the orphanage and have the children grow and sustain their fish and vegetables through it. Goals – continue to be of service to those that need it most.
Projects- I recently was involved in an event to honor Native American War Veterans and it made me happy to see how that event and exhibit gave many veterans back their purpose and warrior spirit in the living years rather than posthumous. We even got Wes Studi involved and visiting to give the keynote – it inspired us all. I’m currently working on a TedTalk for October 8th to help share my knowledge and experience of human trafficking and how we can all do something to help through awareness, behavior, and ways to get involved.
NY Elite: How can others get involved in your organization?
Alex Kruz Rojas: My organization is small so usually just reaching out to me or one of the other founders is enough. Usually “qualified” volunteers are always in demand. By qualified I mean doctors, nurses, health professionals. Whatever your trade if you want to volunteer we can check to see if there is a need for it in our projects and initiatives and match you up with an opportunity to help. Otherwise, a donation goes a long way as we don’t have any operating overhead and we are all donating our time and talents at Samarpan. Also as the Buddha said in his secret teachings sometimes a kind word has as much good karma as the action it is being used to describe. Give as your heart feels. It is never wrong.