CIANA Board Chair Belinda Roman. Photo courtesy of Belinda Roman
CIANA Board Chair Belinda Roman has been volunteering for CIANA since 2014, when she discovered the organization as she was walking by the offices. Roman says she fell in love with CIANA’s mission and came into the office to meet Emira Habiby Browne, the founder, the next day.
“Emira graciously welcomed me, told me about the work that the organization was doing at the time, and I’ve been here ever since.” Because of her accounting background, Roman first started helping out on the accounting side but was soon involved in many different areas.
Within several months of starting at CIANA, Roman organized the first CIANA fundraiser to take place outside of the office, at a local restaurant called Cavo with now board member Gabrielle Huddart.
After trying her hand at fundraising, Roman was sure that she wanted to make a larger commitment to helping CIANA achieve its mission. Formerly as a volunteer bookkeeper, Roman would come in for only an hour at a time, and so she decided that she wanted to become more involved by joining the board. At first she joined as a junior board member.
“There was three of us, she says, “and it was just an opportunity to get our feet wet as a board member and see if the organization was a good fit and it was, so I decided that I wanted to be more involved with CIANA.”
Today, Roman is hoping that CIANA can expand its core board so that the organization can once again have a junior board for members who want to get to know CIANA before officially joining.
Roman became the board’s chair in 2016, after serving as treasurer and briefly, interim secretary. She says the board looks for members who have the right connections and skill sets to contribute to the CIANA’s needs -but they always look first to volunteers.
“We always think of our key volunteers first. Everyone on the board has been that ‘superstar’ volunteer, and those are our first-picks because we know that they’re committed.”
For Roman, the commitment is worth it because CIANA is unlike any other organization that helps immigrants in New York City.
“CIANA is incredibly special because anybody that volunteers with us volunteers out of total selflessness and a commitment to fight for a larger purpose,” Roman says. “People volunteer, day in and day out, and it’s built on empathy and family; you fall in love with the family that’s here, the clients, board members, and staff. I think that’s why people should support us because we’re a testament to community involvement, empathy, and selflessness.”