“My interest in the M.S. Swaminathan Foundation stems from the vision of humanist and scientist Professor Swaminathan himself. His ideas and projects appeal to me greatly because by empowering people they are all aimed at the elimination of poverty. Swaminathan’s focus has the potential to bring about real, sustained growth in South Asia,” said Kylie Schuyler.
This foundation was not the first cause to captivate Schuyler’s active support. From an early age, she learned from her mother the importance of giving to others. Her parents, of German descent, grew up in a small farming community in Nebraska.
She studied economies at college in California. “My father was a corporate businessman in the lumber industry,” she said. “I had aspirations to go into corporate business as he had done. He traveled the world, and brought home a love of all things Japanese. It seemed like fate that I would some day live here.”
Instead, at first, she worked in corporate banking. “Then, in bond trading, I worked in New York and London. I met my husband, also a bond trader, in London, and we moved to California.
“Business and trading didn’t develop a strong hold on me and I decided to change careers and find a profession that suited me better,” Schuyler said.
While she was working for a doctorate in clinical psychology she had five children. “Because of them, I didn’t practice professional psychology full-time,” she said.
“However, I did find that my new field opened opportunities for me to serve others. As a volunteer and organizer I have been continuously involved in various local community service projects and charitable activities for 14 years.”
After the family came to Tokyo in 2002, all the children attended Nishimachi International School. Due to the efforts of philanthropist Bernard Krisher, Nishimachi cooperated with building a school and helping support an orphanage in Cambodia.
Schuyler allies herself with the Cambodian projects, raising funds and familiarizing herself with the country. She also contributes to the Room to Read program, which covers a wider area in Southeast Asia. At the same time, she said, “I have a special desire to cultivate giving, service-oriented hearts in my own children and others.”
In Tokyo, Schuyler met local residents Krishen and Geeta Mehta, credited with setting up the M.S. Swaminathan Foundation here. Several years ago, Time magazine selected Swaminathan of India as one of the most influential Asians of the 20th century. The magazine called him “a green revolutionary who helped half a world get enough to eat.”
Studying and experimenting, with genetic engineering he improved the yield, quality and stability of wheat, rice and potatoes. As his methods were acknowledged and approved, he set up a research center in Chennai. Its aim was to promote in remote areas economic growth strategies obedient to ecology and genetic equality.
“I like it that MSSRF has a pro-nature, pro-poor, and pro-woman focus,” Schuyler said. “By supporting MSSRF I put my efforts into one of the clearest, most effective ways of helping us achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals of eliminating poverty by 2015. I am driven to help reach that goal.”
To that end, she says, she does something every day toward organizing events and fund-raising. “The truth is that I can’t rest knowing there is more that I could be doing. Against long odds at times, I fit everything and everyone in.”
Schuyler is currently chairman of the dinner-dance known as The Festival of Colors. Now in its fifth year, the festival is sponsored by MSSRF Japan and Shinsei Bank. In part, it helps celebrate the 2007 India-Japan Friendship Year.
“The festival will feature Indian food, Indian dances and music,” Schuyler said. “There will be auctions, both live and silent, of items and trips. The money raised will go towards new Swaminathan projects of micro enterprises for rural young people.”
The MSSRF Japan, she says, helps set up micro-credit banks, which allow village groups to begin their own small businesses. The Japan group also supports the MSSRF initiative of Village Knowledge Centers, which provide information to remote districts on subjects vital to their well-being.