Meet Sunal: Fueled by a Desire to Connect with People

Living in a new country, Sunal missed the connection he had at home in India. He found companionship as a Papa Pal.

Meet Sunal.

Sunal is a Papa Pal in Oregon who sought friendship and connection.

Sunal grew up in India, where he told us neighborhoods are like giant families. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all live on the same streets, intermixed with friends and neighbors who are like family. In fact, Sunal referred to everyone who lived on his street as an aunt or uncle, even those who weren’t related to him. 

Sunal was always surrounded by older adults. He spent time with the people who lived near him, hearing their stories, their advice. He learned from their experiences as they shared nuggets of wisdom about life. In return, he would help them by running to the store to grab groceries, or helping them to figure out how to use a new phone or device.

Sunal spent his entire childhood in a tight-knit, connected community, where he had close friends and family. Sunal also had a sense of adventure and wanted to see the world, so he decided to go to graduate school in the United States. He loved his new country—and dove into life and work—but he missed the community that he had grown up in. He missed hearing people’s stories, connecting with others, helping others. 

So he joined Papa.

He told us he wanted to bring what he had in India to the United States. He wanted to feel like he was part of a community, and to help and serve others, to have friends who are like family. He wanted to hear stories, to glean wisdom, to connect.  

As a believer in Karma, he also hoped that if he helped others here, someone in India would help his parents, his friends, his aunts and his uncles.

It worked.

Sunal found that people have so much to share, so much to say. He says every Papa Pal visit is like meeting a new friend. People pour their hearts out to him, sharing wisdom and stories. These conversations lead to friendships and connection.

Sunal says his favorite Papa visits are ones when he can just talk to members about abstract topics. Sometimes he drives a member to an appointment and as they drive, they talk and learn about each other. He goes on walks, to grab coffee, on grocery runs. Other times he helps members with technology, just like he did in India. 

To Sunal, being a Papa Pal is about connection. It’s about allowing himself to know others, to see who they are. 

He has connected with people he never imagined he would connect with. He told us how one of his closest friends is now an 80-year-old man from Mexico. There’s a language barrier. They are nearly 50 years apart in age. They are from different cultures, different communities, different worlds almost. 

But Sunal believes there is no boundary to connection if you desire to be a friend and to know people. You just have to find common ground.

Sunal has found it as a Papa Pal.