CIANA Board Member Spotlight: Zahara Kassam


Zahara Kassam with her twin sister and parents on graduating with an MBA from Harvard University. Photo courtesy of Zahara Kassam.

Astoria, NY -Zahara Kassam first discovered CIANA at a Harvard non-profit board recruitment fair where Emira Habiby Browne, CIANA’s Founder and Executive Director was presenting the organization’s work.

“Given that my husband and I both come from immigrant backgrounds, and Emira’s passion for CIANA’s work, the opportunity was compelling,” she says.

Kassam’s family is from Kenya and Tanzania, while she herself was born in Canada. Her husband is from Pakistan and moved to the US recently. Kassam herself moved to the US as a child, and has been trying to naturalize since then. This gives her an acute understanding of how difficult it can be to immigrate to this country.

With CIANA, Kassam has found an organization that works to provide its clients with holistic services. She was inspired by the historical success of the organization and impressed overall by how CIANA has services for the whole family, from civic courses for parents to tutoring for children.

Having recently moved back to the US from the UK, Kassam has seen first-hand, both here and abroad, how attitudes towards immigration is changing.

“The current climate and attitude towards immigrants concerns me – and, by the way, not just here. The language around Brexit was also about immigration, restricting the inflow of people and taking away benefits, just as it is here.”

A large part of why Kassam chose to join CIANA comes from the gratitude she has for the opportunities she and her family have been able to pursue in this country.

“I would love to do whatever I can to help make it easier for newly arrived families to settle in the US, after building up the courage to make such a difficult move in the first place.”

Kassam believes that the integration process is likely to become harder over time, making the role that organizations such as CIANA play that much more significant and necessary.

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