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Narendra P. Sharma

Neighborhood Outreach Connection
Purpose Prize Fellow 2013

Sharma operates neighborhood centers to improve the lives of the often-overlooked low-income residents of Beaufort County in South Carolina.

When he retired in 2005 after three decades in finance and economic development at the World Bank, Narendra Sharma moved to the famous resort island of Hilton Head in South Carolina. Retirement gave way to a higher purpose when he discovered pockets of entrenched poverty where few adults have jobs, half of children fail to meet school standards and crime is rampant in Hilton Head and Bluffton.

“I soon recognized that I still had something to offer in helping the poor, and came to the realization that I did not have to go overseas to fight poverty,” he says. “This experience was a game changer in my life.”

Sharma launched his encore career in 2008 with Neighborhood Outreach Connection (NOC), which brings a range of small-scale, low-cost services to Hilton Head and Bluffton through three program centers serving five neighborhoods. NOC offers “bottom-up solutions” including a preschool program, after-school tutoring, computer-based learning, art and music classes, and virtual summer learning programs. Hundreds of students have taken part in NOC’s programs, and their math and reading test scores are improving. NOC also offers health screenings, health education classes and adult education.

For Sharma, his encore career is the natural result of his family’s influence—his father cared for the poor and his mother for people with disabilities—and inspiring people like Mother Teresa, whom he was fortunate enough to meet. “From all of these people I learned that one must have clear vision, a sense of mission and core values,” he says. “More importantly, one cannot lose sight of the end game—making a difference in the lives of the people you serve.”