Friday Feature: Lara Kalwinski

This week: my quirky, quippy lawyer friend, Lara Kalwinski, talking about her work in both Indiana and India.

Lara Kalwinski, Esq.
Photo courtesy of Lara Kalwinski

So Lara, what are you doing for work right now?
I am the Vice President of Legacy Foundation – the community foundation where I grew up.

That’s kind of a change! Weren’t you in India last year?
Well 1.5 years ago now. I was working with a congregation of nuns “providing education and health care with a focus on women and girl-children and the goal of social justice” – a mouthful no doubt. I was able to see parts of Jharkhand, Uttrakhand, and Madya Pradesh that I would never see as a tourist. I stayed at farms, leprosy colonies, boarding schools, and hospitals. I met the most wonderful hopeful and upset individuals. I was inspired to see families working with any and every local resource available to them to break the cycle of poverty.

(I do not have the capacity to appropriately caption this image. Yikes, Lara!)
Photo courtesy of Lara Kalwinski

Lepers? Really? Tell me more about the work you did there.
For two years, I traveled from site to site and worked with country leadership problem solving programming challenges, building collaborations, putting together communications and fundraising plans, and mentoring leaders in nonprofit management – or at least lay the foundation for those processes and ensure they were appropriately adapted to the work environment.

Why this outfit? “I was driving through tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh during Holi and we didn’t want to draw attention to me because our car was frequently stopped as is usual on Holi (This doesn’t seem to help that). The mask was because the window was down and it was dusty. The sunglasses were because it was sunny.”
Photo courtesy of Lara Kalwinski

What was the most challenging aspect of your social justice work internationally?
I loved researching and working abroad in India, Liberia, and Ghana but I constantly dealt with one very troubling fact: I spent more of my time experiencing and learning how to understand and internalize the localized needs and management of meeting those needs than actually fixing the problems. I could complete a task or create a measurement system but I didn’t actually feel like I moved the dial on any outcomes. I didn’t feel I was contributing to life-altering or life-saving changes to service delivery for those who need it most and unfortunately, that’s why I was passionate about international work, so I faced quite the internal dilemma.

I think that challenge is always present (and discouraging) when you chose to grapple with complex, troubling issues. Thank you for being so honest and open. What can people do to find out more about your work?

1. Like Legacy Foundation on Facebook,
2. Check us out on
3. Check our the India work at
4. Read about the LCRW investigation, in their own words, at

Other General Enjoyments of Mine:

About Tara Sullivan

Author of GOLDEN BOY (2013), THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET (2016), and TREASURE OF THE WORLD (2021). Published by Penguin Books for Young Readers Find out more at Or, follow me on Twitter: @SullivanStories
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