Maryland Chamber Chairwoman Murthy gives back through family foundation

By Erik Furlan

Entrepreneur. Leader. Founder. President. Chairwoman. All these words describe Sheela Murthy of Murthy Law Firm, a world-renowned leader in U.S. immigration law. Another word can be added to this list: philanthropist.

Murthy and her husband, Vasant Nayak, co-founded the MurthyNAYAK Foundation after September 11th. The MurthyNAYAK Foundation is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, focusing primarily on improving the lives of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised members of society.

“Everything in life is all about helping and giving back and leaving a legacy that is more… How we can help people and empower other people, especially those who are disenfranchised in our own society, is the mark of a true person and a true leader,” Murthy said.

The foundation supports organizations that focus on women’s health, safety and livelihood; children’s nourishment, education and wellbeing; and immigrants’ human rights and dignity.

“Our focus is empowerment and education,” Murthy explained, “to make people feel like they are self-sufficient, independent, basically stand on their own two feet. Whether it is helping give microloans to women to start businesses, whether it is helping women in abusive relationships feel empowered—it’s really all about education and empowerment.”

Murthy cited the Girl Scouts of America, the Beyond Bars program that allows incarcerated Maryland mothers and their children to create and maintain a bond, and a program in India called Agastya International Foundation. This year the MurthyNAYAK Foundation built Agastya a new website and produced a book about the first 15 years of the organization, entitled “Wisdom of Agastya.”

“It’s all about education of poor children from villages where they are pretty far away from most of the major cities and they have never in their life seen a laboratory because these are … poor, impoverished villages and towns. So [there are] mobile labs that go around [with] very inexpensive experiments, teaching children about science, and the principles of physics and chemistry and biology and just teaching them about so many cool things—opening their minds and hearts to learning, to education, to a healthy sense of curiosity about the world.”

Along with the support provided via the MurthyNAYAK Foundation, Murthy Law Firm strives to use technology and innovation to disseminate critical cutting edge legal information on complex immigration law issues to millions.  The firm sends out a bulletin weekly to communicate recent developments or changes to the law, while over 196,000 users have become a part of the conversation on the MurthyForum section of their website or joined the Live MurthyChat hosted each Monday. In addition, there is a monthly teleconference for employers of foreign nationals on timely topics so that they can remain in compliance with immigration laws, policies, and procedures (which change frequently). They also have podcasts available on iTunes covering everything from tax form filings to tips for obtaining a U.S. visa.

“Right from the beginning, for almost 22 years, before the Internet was out there, before people knew what this technology [could do], we were gearing [toward] using technology to create a very vibrant and active community, to educate,” Murthy said. “It comes back to educating and empowering people to realize what their options are—ultimately we all know that knowledge is power, so how can you use the knowledge to gain power and feel more empowered … in whatever we do.”

Murthy serves as chairwoman of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

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