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Learning How to Dream

Following the massive earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015, YPO member, CEO and Co-Founder of Special Aerospace Services LLC Heather Bulk and her husband Tim wanted to help children there regain a sense of normalcy and opportunity. When Pemba Sherpa, owner of Sherpa’s Restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, USA, told them about a remote primary school in Charikot, Dholaka District, Nepal, that had been destroyed, they knew they had found a project that would allow them to do both.

The Bulks had discussed starting a foundation for years, but it wasn’t until they decided to take on Mission Nepal that they established the Who Dreams Wins Foundation, which supports those who are committed to achieving their goals and dreams. Not only were they able to successfully build a school but they also replaced the knocked-out hydro plant, providing the community with two essentials — education and power.

“A project came up and I knew that was what had to happen,” says Bulk. “I clear the way and make sure there aren’t any barriers to getting things done.”

The foundation provides opportunities to those who would not otherwise have access through project-based missions and STEM education for underprivileged children and adults alike. After Hurricane Irma annihilated most of Jost Van Dyke, the smallest of the British Virgin Islands, in September 2017, Who Dreams Wins found its second project-based mission. Bulk organized two trips — one in June 2018 and another in August 2018 — for volunteers from Special Aerospace Services and her family, including her 6-, 11- and 13-year-old children.

“We were able to accomplish the mission of having impact doing cleanup on the island,” says Bulk. “But the unintentional success was the rallying of the morale on the island and having people there get engaged.” In December 2018, Who Dreams Wins will return for a third time to rebuild the school in partnership with Convoy of Hope and The Richardson Foundation.

The Bulks have found they are most effective when they are giving back in similar capacities to their work — when they are able “to leverage relationships and vision with folks.” At Special Aerospace Services, Bulk leads a diverse and highly experienced team that provides competitive and unique engineering and manufacturing solutions to clientele in the private and government sectors within space, aviation and energy industries.

“Like in our business, we go in and solve problems or we help people or groups with urgent needs,” says Bulk. They don’t take on more than they can successfully manage nor are they trying to compete with larger organizations that are already fulfilling a need.

In addition to specific project missions, Who Dreams Wins provides educational opportunities for aspiring individuals to achieve their goals. The foundation has given numerous computers and scholarships to students learning Solid Works, a drafting software used in the aerospace industry.

Take Dania, a 13-year-old student who aspired to be an engineer and was the daughter of a single mom who cleaned the offices of Special Aerospace Services. After her teacher accused her of lying about knowing someone who worked for NASA, she took a brochure from Special Aerospace Services as proof. Who Dream Wins stepped in, providing classroom education to Dania’s class, a laptop computer with a student version of Solid Works, as well as one-on-one tutoring and instruction from one of their aerospace engineers. Dania is the youngest person to have received a Solid Works certificate in the U.S.

“That story resonates with me because of the barriers of entry in the aerospace industry,” says Bulk. “The constant barriers of not just being a woman in aerospace but the navigation of government requirements. It’s real, it’s intense and it’s overwhelming.”

As a member of Aerospace Industries Association, Colorado Space Business Round Table and Colorado Space Coalition, Bulk has noticed that companies and universities alike talk about helping students get the tools and apprenticeships they need to succeed. “The conundrum is that only certain people are aware of the opportunities, have access to that data and can navigate that data,” says Bulk. She has turned her attention and project skills to this issue of “how to give opportunities to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to or even be aware of those opportunities.” The first step: increase awareness among teachers at elementary schools, high schools and universities who have direct contact with potential candidates or students who aspire to aerospace careers.

“We’re going to have the biggest impact with those individuals who don’t have the ‘how’ figured out,” says Bulk. “It’s good for others and it’s good for us. In any business, things start to flourish when you have a younger generation interested in that industry.”

Melissa Fleming has previously worked for Catchafire, Fast Company, Harper’s Bazaar, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Time Out New York Kids, Town & Country and Vogue, among others.