Rao Remala grew up in a small village in southeastern India, one of six children living in a mud house with no running water. His family had no money for the basics, but his father was determined to have his children get a good education.
In elementary school, a teacher discovered Rao’s proficiency in math and encouraged him to keep studying -- and he did. He went on to college, getting accepted into one of the few engineering schools in his province. Barely able to speak English, Rao struggled at first but eventually graduated with honors and an advanced degree in computer engineering. In 1981, he moved to the Seattle area as the first Indian employed at Microsoft, working as a lead developer of the inaugural version of Windows. When he retired at age 52, he looked to the future by reflecting on his past.
He and his wife, Satya, wanted to leverage their own family success into supporting education, health and other basic needs for families in India, as well as locally.
“Educating one person from a poor village creates change for generations to come,” Rao said. “I am a prime example.”
The Remalas started their own private family foundation. They soon realized their good deeds would benefit greatly from outside help -- a team of experienced advisers who would really listen and take the time to understand what the family hoped to achieve through its philanthropy. More than anything, the Remalas needed help in identifying high-quality organizations that met their guidelines for giving.
While retaining their private family foundation, the Remalas opened a Family Foundation with Seattle Foundation, finding the experts that would develop collaboratively a thoughtful plan for giving to the causes closest to the family’s heart.
“Seattle Foundation staff has so much knowledge about grantmaking and nonprofits,” Rao said. “They really helped us get started on the right foot.”
By partnering with Seattle Foundation, Rao and Satya also were able to more systematically involve their two grown daughters, Srilakshmi and Srilata, in the family’s philanthropy. The parents gradually are handing over the responsibilities of their giving to their children.
Srilakshmi likens education to a humanitarian interest. “You’re enabled by your education,” she said. Srilata, the health advocate of the family, is fond of saying: “Health is a key to life. You have nothing without it.”
The process of giving has brought the family closer. The daughters have learned more about their parents’ past stories and present passions. The parents are witnessing firsthand that they instilled successfully a sense of social responsibility in their children.
Satya said that the family also is discovering together that “the more we gave, the more fulfilling it was because we could see and feel the difference we were making. We increased our giving, creating scholarships and funding cancer research. We are proud that our daughters are involved in helping to make the world a better place.”
Learn more about family giving at the Seattle Foundation.