Zoë Timms, Founding Director

Zoë Timms first discovered the world of grassroots nonprofits as a student of the University of Wisconsin’s College Year-in-India program. Working with child laborers who had left work factories and fields and were studying for the first time, Zoë realized how much she wanted to help these ambitious children. “At this point,” she says, “I knew my career would be in grassroots education.”

After three years of working in New York with the Near East Foundation, Zoë returned to India. During this time, she met young women with dreams of becoming teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs who had worked hard to complete their high school education.

In 2002, Zoë founded Women’s Education Project (WEP) to help women in South India from the poorest backgrounds succeed in college and careers. Together with Kathryn Ugoretz, a founding board member, Zoë envisioned an organization that would help young women from poor backgrounds succeed in college, a goal few nonprofits target.

With the guidance of the local community in Madurai and Hyderabad and the students themselves, Zoë developed the center’s concept: a comprehensive program in a caring, supportive, environment of classrooms, libraries, and computers and gardens. Students receive scholarships to college and attend training sessions to gain knowledge of health, environment, finance and civic issues.

As graduates, WEP students are knowledgeable, capable, community role models – leaders who, with a lively awareness of life’s possibilities, and are prepared to make important change in their own lives, families and communities.