You can’t help but be impressed by Raveen Arora’s life story: Born in a refugee camp in India; raised in Calcutta by parents who emphasized education and character above all else; helping Mother Teresa serve the poor; meeting civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
All before age 12.
Now, this continuum of humanitarian service brings even more renown to Arora, a Tempe businessman with his nomination for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.
Arora was recommended by Satish Lakhotia, founder of Alliance International, an India-based global organization that provides opportunities for fellowship, leadership and service.
This year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said 329 candidates — 234 individuals and 95 organizations — were nominated. Submissions come from heads of state and politicians, university professors, directors of foreign-policy institutes, past prize recipients and Nobel Committee members.
Among other 2021 nominees: Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition leader; Stacey Abrams, founder of a movement to ensure that every American has a voice in our election system; Jared Kushner, former Trump administration senior adviser; World Health Organization; NATO; and Reporters Without Borders.
“It’s been very humbling and overwhelming for me,” said Arora, most recently founder and CEO of Think Human, which seeks to humanize communications in the workplace, social settings and relationships across the globe.
“It’s people on the front lines — those working at food banks to fight food insecurity and essential workers who clean surfaces just to keep us safe — who deserve to win.”
Arora earned accounting, finance and business-management degrees and worked as a white-collar crime specialist in India before moving to the U.S. in 1981.
He and his family came to Arizona in 2002, and the following year Arora bought and converted a rundown building on Apache Boulevard into a cultural center, Dhaba Indian Plaza.
His first act of kindness there was giving cold bottles of water to thirsty people on the street on the hottest summer days.
“Water is so basic, and if it can save a life or give someone a second chance, what is that costing me? A few cents?” he said. “It was a small thing that mushroomed.”
Arora gave free space in his plaza to entrepreneurs working in yoga, henna, eyebrow threading and other ethnic services, and he opened a punjabi food restaurant, The Dhaba.
“We gave away 3,600 meals a month after inviting people who’d been dumpster diving out back for food to come in the front door,” said Arora, who is United Food Bank’s chairman of the board.
“You do it because it’s in your DNA. You treat people with dignity and respect.”
Arora is no stranger to the award stage. He received the 2018 Mother Teresa International Service Award; National Restaurant Association Face of Diversity – American Dream Award; National Diversity Council Diversity/FIRST Award; and honors from Tempe Sister Cities and the Lions, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.
Tempe’s most prestigious honor, the Don Carlos Award, received by a person or couple whose commitment to the community has impacted many in need, was bestowed on Arora in 2015.
Dick Neuheisel, himself a former Don Carlos recipient and former longtime president of Tempe Sister Cities, met Arora that year.
“He’s tireless,” Neuheisel said. “The poor, the hungry, anybody who is down and out, he’s there to help.”
Neuheisel gladly supported Arora’s nomination, saying he is most deserving.
“The Nobel Peace Prize is the peak of the mountain for those who are climbing and seeking peace in this troubled world,” he said. “And Raveen is a climber. He’s reached the mountaintop with his lifetime of service to others.”
The Nobel Committee will announce the winner in October, and the award will be presented Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer, inventor, businessman and philanthropist, for whom the prize is named.