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PUM One on One Hilda Pang Fu, Founder & President Luminari 

 



Hilda Pang Fu-Founder & President

Entrepreneurial in nature, Hilda doesn’t know anything about laying bricks, yet excels at building both non-profit and for-profit ventures.  Global thinker, Social Entrepreneur, Communicator, Librarian, Advocate for gender equity, Hilda speaks three languages and is a porcelain painter. Hilda started Luminari because she believes each of us is a citizen of the world, and we all can use a bit of mind-broadening.

Mission, Vision & Values Luminari

MISSION::Luminari is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit founded to foster activities that broaden minds, inspire innovation and promote community engagement.

VISION: The Pittsburgh region will become an even more prosperous, vibrant and harmonious home to its citizens—an environment that nurtures innovative initiatives in the scientific, educational, entrepreneurial and artistic fields.

CORE VALUES: We value knowledge, education and open-mindedness. We advocate that our actions be guided by compassion and kindness toward each other.

 

  

 

PUM: In 2009, you founded the nonprofit organization Luminari to bring a variety of people together and make the region a more prosperous, vibrant, and culturally enriched home to its citizens. Since that time, tell us about your success with the organization.

Hilda: As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary, I am proud that Luminari is still thriving, now serving as a team player to help our region tackle some glaring current issues. Our mind-broadening mission remains relevant. So much has changed, in our region and across the country, since that first summer of camps. More than ever, I am troubled by the incivility and lack of respect in public discussions. Ten years ago, I could not have predicted the urgency we now face to step up our existing media literacy components as a counter-offensive to escalating “fake news” problems. Our democracy depends on the next generation’s ability to discern factual reporting from biased opinion and outright lies.

Our programs started with I Want to be an Ambassador! that was launched in 2010, then slowly but surely, we added three other camps, namely Teen Writer: Fantastic Fiction! Speak and Tell!, and Camp Delicious! And we are proud that we strive to maintain the highest standards possible.

The most heart-warming and encouraging comments on the impact we’re having comes from our alumni and their parents. Here’s just one example from a parent whose son attended I Want to be an Ambassador! camp last year: “This has been the perfect vehicle for our son to quench is thirst to bridge the divide he sees happening around him. You have put together a fantastic team to help our young people see beyond their neighborhoods and see the bigger picture of how we all can and must relate and work together.”

 

PUM: Your organization was founded to foster activities to broaden minds, inspire innovations, and promote community engagement, tell us more about some of these activities, especially the programs you offer that emphasize diplomacy & leadership.

Hilda: I believe the diplomacy camp for teens, I Want to be an Ambassador! is the only one of its kind in our area, designed especially for teenagers. 10 years ago, when it was launched, it was considered a new concept. Some Universities offer summer programs for teens focusing on foreign services and international affairs. Our Ambassador camp is much more than that-it is about the art and skills of every day diplomacy. We want our participants to come away with the skills and to be inspired to implement what they learn in their homes, classrooms and in their communities.

Another camp with a distinct goal is Camp Delicious! going into its sixth season this summer. It’s not just a cooking camp, I’d describe it as a cooking camp with a mission.

After years of talks, books and blogs about various kinds of diets, some of them including misinformation, I think it was high time we brought the focus back to the ENJOYMENT of food – both in the preparation and consumption of food. That’s what life is about, speaking as someone from Hong Kong, a Cantonese culture where people “live to eat.” Well, kidding aside, enjoying food is just a very health thing to do for our mind and body. Camp Delicious broadens minds through the exposure to different cuisines, ingredients and culinary approaches.

Driven by our mind-broadening mission, we work hard throughout the years and across all programs to create group compositions that include teenagers from different backgrounds because it is important to have built-in diversity right among the campers. We want teens to consider different points of view and “walking in someone else’s shoes.” We recruit young people from public and private schools as well as students who speak English as a second language.

 

PUM: Since you moved to Pittsburgh, in the early 70's what is your insight about Pittsburgh and how welcoming is this city? What changes would you like to see happen and what are you most proud of in terms of Pittsburgh's growth?

Tell us more about your journey to give back to Pittsburgh, and why is that so dear to you and your family?

Hilda: Coming from Hong Kong, it was culture shock for me to move to Pittsburgh in 1975 after having spent a year in a college town in Massachusetts. Being young and pliable, I acclimated, assuming that change and adaptation were just a part of life. Soon, I made some friends by joining a volleyball group formed by foreign students from Asia, and everything became a lot of fun from that point on. A few years later, we moved into our first house, and our neighbors, the Binglers, invited us to Thanksgiving dinner. They had practically “adopted” our family for Thanksgiving dinner year after year until everyone moved away, and we remained friends ever since. THIS was our introduction to the city of Pittsburgh. This was the warmth and friendliness that we felt then and still feel today. I always feel that Pittsburgh people have given us a chance. I consider it my home town now. Pittsburgh is a city with a heart.

I am most impressed by the innovative spirit of Pittsburgh. I am not just talking about incredible discoveries and creations that happened earlier on, like the polio vaccine that saved a terrified nation in the 1950’s. I am talking about something like Duolingo, co-founded by two immigrants, that chose to base its headquarters in Pittsburgh. In between then and now, there have been a lot of other great ideas that were implemented right here in this region. For instance, look at our Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and see what it has done for us. Also, have you ever wondered why our parks, public libraries, museums, sports, cultural and performing arts organizations are thriving and accessible to our regional population? That’s because a group of leaders in the 1990s came up with the idea of RAD. – frankly, a pretty “radical” idea of using regional tax dollars to ensure the success of these regional assets. These assets in turn generate huge economic benefits for the county. (Disclosure: I now have the honor to serve on the RAD board)

There are a couple of changes I’d like to see in Pittsburgh. First, I think if we broaden the scope of the word “diversity”, we’d be better served. Progress and economic vibrancy depend on brilliant ideas and solutions to problems, which come from a diversity of perspectives. We need to embrace people coming from different backgrounds and life experiences. We need to look beyond skin colors and appearances and recruit people who can bring a broad range of viewpoints to the table.

Second, Pittsburgh is woefully underserved in terms of its connection to the rest of the country and the world. I don’t want us to put any more pressure on the Airport Authority. The folks there are trying bold and new ways every day to attract non-stop flights to Pittsburgh. While they are working hard at that, why don’t we take a sincere crack at developing some viable high-speed train system to connect Pittsburgh to other major gateway airports and cities in this country?  How about a fast train that takes us to New York or Chicago in 2.5 hours or less? This will be a perfect project for public and private partnership. (The Hyperloop project is exciting.

 

PUM: In 2009 you founded Luminari, a nonprofit with a mission to broaden minds, inspire innovations and encourage community engagement. Your vision began with summer programs for teenagers, inspiring them to get into the habit of putting themselves in other people’s shoes when considering an issue. You also wanted to maintain a small and nimble organization that eventually will inspire people of all ages to experiment with different ways of doing things. Now a decade later, how do you measure your success? What sort of plans do you have for the future in growing your organization?

Hilda: Right now, I don’t have any immediate plans to grow the organization any bigger in terms of staffing and programming. I am more interested in doing it well than growing it big. However, I hope some of our programming will inspire those in other locations to start similar organizations that offer mind-broadening programs for our young people, especially teenagers. What the world needs now are more people with the willingness to consider different points of view, and to resolve differences in a civil and respectful way. And we need to start with the next generation.

PUM: What inspires you to be a change agent, social entrepreneur, and an advocate for gender equity?

Hilda: I never thought of myself as a change agent but I do tend to embrace projects that address some needs. I am quite at home with building programs and organizations from the ground up. I guess I am a social entrepreneur! Indeed, I often find myself in the role of a founding director or founding board member of some program or organization.

Gender equity is one of the global issues that must be addressed. So, 17 years ago, I joined several other brave women in founding the Women and Girls Foundation of Western PA. This will be a long game as we can see with our own eyes the forces against gender equity are alive and well.

20 years ago, Pittsburgh had an image problem, both externally and internally. Therefore, I enthusiastically accepted the director position of a program named Pittsburgh Regional Champions under the umbrella of Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, and brought it to life from a concept paper. We recruited over 800 volunteers in just three years and published three editions of a Brag Book to promote the region.

With similar motivation, I founded Luminari 10 years ago when I saw the need for mind-broadening activities for youths. My vision is that its ripple effect will be far reaching.

 

More Information: https://www.luminari.org/

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