The HEAL Blog

HEAL Spotlight: Siddhi Aryal

Your story

I thought I was destined to go into business. I was 17 years old when I set up a successful advertising company, employed seven people and bought my first car when I was 19. But I wasn’t cut out for business. I applied to college while still running my company and was accepted on a full-ride scholarship into an undergraduate program in social sciences. After graduating, I worked at Salomon Smith Barney as an equity associate in Chicago for a few years but ultimately wasn’t happy and returned to Nepal. This speaks to the larger quest within me to be happy with my career. In this case, I was making decent income and had a good life in Chicago but was still drawn to Nepal. I constantly reflected on what it was that I wanted and how I should spend the rest of my life.

A young Siddhi in conversation with a Roopavahini TV official during his first international visit to Colombo, Sri Lanka as Nepal’s SAARC Quiz team member (1993)

Growing up in a middle-class family in Nepal, a developing nation, the challenges I faced weren’t unlike the ones that millions of young people face around the world. However, hopelessness began to envelope society, especially as the Maoists began terrorizing the country with their bloody war. As someone who wasn’t able to verbalize my own emotional issues while growing up, which led to substance abuse and depression, after I returned to Nepal from the US I decided to work with young people to avoid substance abuse, help them communicate, seek help, and learn life skills. I worked on life skills-based development with the government, USAID, FHI 360 and UNICEF. After working for five years or so, I felt the need to get a more advanced public health degree. I received a scholarship to study public health in Europe as part of the Erasmus Mundus scholarship program, where I went to universities in the United Kingdom, Scotland, Denmark, and Germany to obtain a master’s in public health. I also pursued a PhD at Tulane University in health systems management. While in my PhD program, I traveled to Thailand and did some consulting assignments with UNDP/UNAIDS and worked with USAID-funded programs across the Greater Mekong sub-region. My work in public health stemmed from introspection about how growing up as a young person in Nepali society affected me, and that made me want to look at public health in a more holistic, broader way about how I could make use of my life to improve other people’s lives.

Every day, even now, I still question what I’m doing with my life. One may not be 100% satisfied by how one’s living, but overall, to pursue your inner voice and lead yourself or allow yourself to be led to a path where your inclinations take you is extremely important, especially for young people. Life is full of possibilities, especially now. There are so many areas one could go into—don’t let yourself be constrained with the constructs of what a “perfect” life should look like.

Discussing drug resistance in South East Asia with technical team members and Cambodia country team (2017)

Inner Lantern glow-up 

Siddhi with his motorcycle at the Bodok pollution check facility in Singapore (2021)
Siddhi with Ambassador Veena Sikri in New Delhi, India (2019)