Portrait Project


Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Umaimah Mendhro

My home-village, Akri, the place my father was born... is where I slept under mosquito net-covered handwoven beds and rode on ox-carts to nearby barren fields. Most in my village in Sindh, Pakistan are not literate. None know a place called Harvard.

My life in exile in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia... is where I first felt alone. And thus appreciated the need to form, rather than absorb, beliefs. It's where I first dreamt of leaving a mark on this world. And living a life that tens of millions know of... that feels relevant, anchored and found.

Crossing some deserts, weathering some storms, I led my way to Harvard to be amongst you. You who helped me build a school in my home-village... a place for children to craft and realize purposeful dreams. Where they can learn to reason and judge for themselves. And do not what everyone does but what anyone should. A place that not only brought Harvard and Akri but also our respective countries together. A place where I found a future in my past.

I want to live a life that compels people who do not seem to share a common thread to see if, at a raw human level, we really are that different. A life that gives people reason to reason for themselves... to pause and question the comfortable assumptions. To form and inform beliefs. And never give up common sense for common opinion.

— Umaimah Mendhro