Sarina Prabasi calls herself “a citizen of the world”—and rightly so. She was born in the Netherlands and raised in Nepal before moving to the U.S. for college. She’s built a career working with international nonprofits and currently serves as CEO of WaterAid America, a nonprofit dedicated to helping bring the world’s poorest people access to safe water, toilets and hygiene education. Her job description includes everything from visiting project work sites in the remote Caribbean coastal communities of Nicaragua to speaking at the United Nations about the sanitation crisis.
The magnitude of the job isn’t lost on her—she saw firsthand how access to clean water is a matter of life and death while working for WaterAid in Ethiopia—and even at home, she’s conscious of her resources. “I am incapable of defrosting or warming anything ‘under running water,’” she laughs. “More than feeling guilty, though, our access to clean water is something I truly appreciate.”
As a mom to a 5- and 1-year-old, she’s determined to help her daughters grasp the importance of the issue as well. “I try to talk to them about my work in terms that they can understand,” she says. “I want my girls to have an understanding of the world they live in.”
Although her work at the office is important, Prabasi knows her job at home is a big one, too. “Because I am away from them during the day, when I am with my daughters, I try to give them my full attention,” she explains.
In the mornings, she and her husband, Elias, co-founder of their organic fair-trade coffee brand Buunni Coffee, guide the girls through breakfast, teeth-brushing and getting ready for the day. “Sometimes the smallest step feels like a huge achievement,” remarks Prabasi, who admits to being surprised by how much patience the day-to-day routine requires. “There’s a lot of negotiation and teamwork as Elias and I do the morning ritual dance.”
The choreography to that dance became more advanced when their new addition, Muna, joined the family last year. “It was an adjustment —and an emotional roller coaster,” Prabasi recalls. “We immediately fell in love with Muna, but I was so worried about the transition for her older sister, Juneli. Mama and Papa are probably the hardest things to share.”
Despite her impressive resume, Prabasi argues “Mom” might be her most challenging job title to date. “It makes everything else look easy,” she claims. “As a working mom, I suffer from the feeling that I’m working too early and getting home too late. I hate it when I’ve missed the window of time I have with Muna before she goes to bed or when Juneli clings to my legs as I’m trying to leave for work.” Still, she goes confidently to the office each day. “I think that the best thing I can do for them is to be happy and fulfilled in my own life.”
Name: Sarina Prabasi
Residence: New York, New York
Occupation: CEO of WaterAid America, co-founder of Buunni Coffee
Children: Juneli (5) and Muna (1)
Favorite place: The mountains (because they remind her of Nepal)
Strangest pregnancy craving: Spinach—lots of it
On her bucket list: Take dance classes with her husband