Ferishta Stanekzai

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Ferishta Stanikzai

Ferishta Stanekzai

My story is mildly interesting:  I came from Afghanistan to Alexandria, Virginia in 2013 on a special visa given to persons endangered by their work with the United States . The transition was horrible. I was alone in the U.S, and little money in a new country. As anyone can imagine, it was a very traumatic time in my life. For any young woman from a traditional society to find themselves without their parents arriving at an unknown place, not knowing anyone, —it’s unreal. I passed many nights remembering my family, my friends, my work… being very sad and wanting to go back.

However, time has a way of healing, even when we don’t want to heal. I was able to get temporary jobs after five months that kept me going. Applying constantly for professional jobs during this period, I eventually  found a full-time job with Democracy International in 2016.

Today my work there encompasses  advancing good governance and human rights around the world, including in my home country of Afghanistan. I support the organization’s finance office, and recently earned a master's degree in business administration.

In addition to my employment, I also continue to volunteer for community service. With upwardly global, I have helped many Afghan immigrants by helping to conduct job searches and networking training. I have conducted three training so far two at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington DC and one at Holland & Knight LLP. The program was geared both toward first time job seekers and to those who would like to advance their careers in the right direction. The panel of experts included HR and Employment professionals, who guided the participants through the entire employment process.

Due to the lack of economic opportunities, the living conditions of some Afghans as become harsh.  They often live in tents and it is common to see children running around on dusty streets with no prospect of schooling.  From a young age they are forced to earn money for their families, often by begging or stealing.  The near constant wars in Afghanistan have left many widows in its trail who lack any means of support.  Fighting these conditions has been the major reason behind my work on behalf of Afghans both here and back in Afghanistan.  Here are a few highlights of my activities:

During the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak worldwide, I engaged with Afghan-American and Afghan-Canadian young women in a fundraising effort for families who were most in need of food.  The overall effort was very successful.  Needy families were carefully chosen and vetted for the greatest need.  Each family was presented with two months’ worth of food.    Over 440 families in 14 provinces were helped.  Lamia Afghan Foundation and Children Without Borders volunteers, with whom we worked, completed the distribution.

In 2019, I worked again with Lamia Afghan Foundation when we worked to raise funds for flood relief in the western part of Afghanistan.  We raised thousands of dollars to help needy families with food, clothing, and rebuilding their homes.

I have also helped the Lamia Afghan Foundation (a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation) in their efforts to take children who have lost legs to the Kabul Orthopedic Organization (KOO) for custom-made, state-of-the-art prosthetics since 2018.

When I was in South Sudan in April 2017, I noticed that many children are forced to work, beg at streets or at worst run into the garbage to search for leftovers.  Most did not attend school. 

With the support of our Democracy International South Sudan colleagues, I did fundraising and supported the Straight Link Center with some food items. Straight Link Center is an orphanage in Juba that has  more than 1400 South Sudanese children in Juba (orphans, street kids, and needy kids whose families cannot support effort them). This center also has a school for the children but I learned when I was there that they faced a shortage of school stationery.

When I returned, I did more fundraising work in our US office (bake sale and a Thanksgiving fundraiser) to raise money for them. I helped the orphanage from April 2017 to October 2019.

My work is intended to show how Afghans can take care of their problems by making sure the world understands the problems Afghans face after decades of wars in which they had no choice and then by gathering resources to help address some of those issues.  There is much to do, as I saw not only in Afghanistan but also in South Sudan.  By doing this work, I hope to give an example to other Afghan women that progress is possible if we work hard enough.

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