Shanta lost a pioneering member of our community this year. Co-founder and former executive director, Mike Karpfen, shared a touching tribute honoring Jeff Markel’s life and spirit.
Jeff Markel stepped into my life at a very important juncture that not only changed the course of my life but also helped set Shanta Foundation on a sustainable future. Shanta’s work in Myanmar was growing quickly and I began to feel somewhat overwhelmed with managing all the changes and responsibilities. As the executive director, it felt like the key responsibilities for expanded programming, increased numbers of Myanmar staff, larger fundraising requirements, and future planning were laying heavy on my shoulders. Instead of ‘going with the flow’, I was trying to hold back the gushing waters. In my mind I was planning to limit Shanta’s size and growth.
Jeff was a visionary, a big-picture thinker, who had helped dozens of small businesses grow and thrive. He was instrumental in shepherding the Vitamin Angels organization into a $100 million, worldwide public health organization changing the lives of millions of women and children. And he could also see Shanta’s potential to make a significant impact in the world and in the community development field. His confidence was refreshing and contagious. He didn’t just believe in Shanta, he believed in me. He respected the enormous drive and commitment it required to launch and maintain an endeavor like Shanta and he wanted to help us set that energy free.
Jeff nudged me to dream, to envision what was possible, and even desirable, and led me to recognize that apparent obstacles were really just my own personal fears and insecurities about ‘crashing and burning’. He always believed that anything was possible, if it was what we wanted, and there were unlimited means to accomplishing our dreams. And, Shanta’s leadership, the board, the Myanmar staff, and our donors responded powerfully to this expanded vision of Shanta’s future. A vision that is now actively blossoming in Zambia with Shanta’s first three new partnership villages.
I will always be grateful to Jeff for the compelling man he was, for the legacy he left in his wake, for enriching me personally, and for elevating the Shanta Foundation.
Mike Karpfen, Shanta Foundation Co-founder and former executive director