“I am approaching work issues and problem-solving these days with a newfound zest. If my sustainable paddy project were to succeed, can you imagine the impact we would have on the whole world?”

Thaddeus, Malaysia

Growing up on a rice paddy farm with a family of farmers, Thaddeus Lee saw the negative impacts of Malaysia’s rice farming industry firsthand. Overuse of pesticides and fertilizers on crops decreased farm yields and deteriorated the land, causing farmers’ incomes to diminish over time. With hopes to focus his career on improving working and land conditions in his country, Thaddeus centered his academic research on sustainable land cultivation.
After completing a business management program, Thaddeus became one of the first employees of Yayasan Knotika, a small, Kuala Lumpur-based nonprofit that shares his vision for improving rice farming in Malaysia. Raising sufficient funding to challenge embedded practices in an industry largely controlled by agrochemical supply companies and the international rice trade proved difficult, though. Thaddeus searched for answers online and discovered Philanthropy University, completing all seven courses this past December.

“I was in a state of not knowing what I did not know,” Thaddeus said of his experience in the program. “After beginning the courses, I realized that there are so many things I still had no knowledge of and no skills in. I left Philanthropy University with a desire to keep on learning.”

Inspired by his coursework, recently-promoted Thaddeus, now a program director, is working to develop a corporate social responsibility (CSR) mobile fundraising app that will raise the money needed to help farmers rehabilitate their farmland and switch to sustainable farming practices. If crop yields on the plots are high and environmental impact lessened, Thaddeus believes more funders will be interested in expanding Yayasan Knotika’s work nationally, and perhaps even internationally.

“I am approaching work issues and problem-solving these days with a newfound zest,” Thaddeus said. “If my sustainable paddy project were to succeed, can you imagine the impact we would have on the whole world?”