We had the good fortune of connecting with Pavel Reppo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Pavel, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse 110% changed my life. My early teenage years were dwarfed by feelings of insecurity and obsessive-compulsive disorder. My family was tearing at the seams. My parents were newly divorced, and my brother couldn’t quite fit in. I isolated myself and went silent. The first time was in 9th grade. I was assigned the book in my English Pre-International Baccalaureate class. The summer left me hollow. And, although I had muscles and a contoured exterior thanks to the many years of judo, on the inside, I was empty and scared. Siddhartha is the story of the Buddha, but perhaps more generally, a young man dissatisfied with his life, yearning to get his hands muddied in the world. The brilliance of the book was that it didn’t exempt the protagonist from turbulence, heartbreak, loss – it wasn’t the absence of pain. Siddhartha’s courage rubbed off on me. About that same time, an interesting opportunity presented itself: to work at a hot dog vendor on the corner of Colfax & Broadway. I was 14 years old, and I needed to ask my mom. She said yes. And, I said yes to myself. I owe a lot to Siddhartha.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have the great privilege of running Finemind, an organization that provides community mental health services in Northern Uganda. I’d like to think that I didn’t find my calling, but rather that if found me. I’ve struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation – a fine charcuterie board for any mental illness connoisseur. Nonetheless, I still stand firmly in that my living in the USA is the silver lining. Those who live in other countries aren’t as fortunate; struggling with mental illness is much more unforgiving. My mental health challenges trampolined me to do something about it. I’ve long believed that our greatest resource is our people and an overreliance on specialists leaves us barren, dependent, and at the whim of somebody else. The sweet sauce to Finemind are every day, unassuming people who listen, check their bias, empathize and are willing to give back. We use peer counselors to drive sustainable change. We have 18 incredible community mental health workers who serve their community with gusto and pride. They offer basic talk therapies to treat depression and anxiety. And it works. Something I’m still learning is that doing the next best thing is always in reach. The overwhelm of looking too far ahead can be paralyzing. But, looking immediately in front, albeit challenging, is manageable. I ask myself this question daily, “What’s the next best thing I can do?”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
No week is without a lap around Sloan’s Lake and then a lobster arepa at the Edgewater Public Market. I’ve dabbled a bit with stand-up comedy. Go to an open mic night and revel in the silliness and creativity of Colorado.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My girlfriend and partner, Paige. I love your adventurous spirit, your cackle when you really find something funny, your affinity for ramen, but mostly, for your love towards me when I have nothing left. We’re building something special. Thank you for being willing to drink tea with me in the mornings and evenings.
Kabanda Raymond, Benjamin Nsubuga