Meet the inspiring women—newcomers, staff, and volunteers—creating change at the IRC in Northern California.

Faces of women at the IRC.
“I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine." - Nadia Murad

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate the remarkable strength and resilience of women across the globe. We stand in solidarity with all women building a better future for themselves and their families.  

Want to support women and their families planting roots in your community? Make a donation to the IRC in Northern California today.

Amina, a passionate advocate

"No matter where we come from or what obstacles we face, we all have the power to shape our destinies. Anything is possible with perseverance, courage, and a little hope." 

As a resettlement coordinator at the IRC in Oakland, Amina’s journey from Iran to Pakistan and eventually to the U.S. shaped her into a compassionate advocate for newcomer women. As a refugee herself, she knows how challenging it is to live in a new culture and learn a new language. In fact, one major factor driving her to empower women is the childhood memory of her mother being unable to get an education due to language barriers.  

Despite her challenges, Amina’s motivation to achieve her goals and advocate for others started long before she arrived in the U.S. She started a non-profit in her home country helping widows launch businesses and become self-reliant. She went on to receive a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at Pavia University in Italy and later worked with a USAID-funded project promoting economic opportunity for entrepreneurs. Today, she balances being a wife and mother of two while continuing to help women create positive change in the face of adversity. 

Arifa, a symbol of resilience

"Seize every opportunity that comes your way. The U.S. is a land of boundless possibilities. Language barriers and initial struggles are just stepping stones on the path to success." 

Arifa’s journey to the U.S. from Afghanistan is nothing short of extraordinary. As a mother of three with a disabled husband, her family faced many challenges here. From language barriers to cultural differences, every day felt like a daunting obstacle. However, Arifa's determination helped her confront these barriers head on to pave a better future for her family.  

With the help of the IRC, she found work as a security guard so she could provide for her family. At home, she’s committed to supporting her children so they can learn, grow, and thrive, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. Her son, a hardworking athlete, recently won a local fitness competition and her youngest daughter's impressive artistic abilities have won accolades for her paintings. Meanwhile, her oldest daughter recently graduated high school with honors and is pursuing a degree in dentistry.  

Reflecting on her early days in the U.S., she recalls struggling with basic tasks like finding a grocery store. Today, she has the confidence to navigate her community, care for her husband, and support her children’s dreams. 

Najiya, a champion of education

"If you try and try and try – like I did, pushing myself so much – then you can achieve anything. And once you get it, you feel so good – and motivated to do more." 

Najiya was in high school when her family was forced to flee their home in Pakistan. For the next 10 years, they sought safety in Indonesia, but work and educational opportunities were extremely limited for refugee families like theirs. Driven by her passion for education, Najiya helped open a school for refugee children, eventually growing to more than 200 students. She volunteered to teach some of her favorite subjects, including math, science, and English.  

Upon arriving in the US, she worked hard to overcome unique difficulties navigating the higher education system. When a local college wrongfully denied her admission and access to financial aid, Najiya persevered, advocating for her rights along side our dedicated staff at the IRC in San Jose. Today, she is pursuing her dream of becoming a therapist so she can help others facing similar challenges. 

Christina, a dedicated volunteer

"It's truly a labor of love. It's not just about helping newcomers find a job – it's about setting them up for success."  

Moved by the anti-refugee and immigrant rhetoric during the 2016 election, Christina began volunteering as a job readiness instructor at the IRC in Sacramento. As a retired corporate executive, Christina knows the challenges women face in the workplace. That’s why she’s spent the last seven years leveraging her experience securing high-level jobs, hiring, and helping others advance professionally to help newcomers navigate the U.S. job market. 

Christina's dedication makes a real difference in the lives of those she teaches. She is constantly impressed by all her students, but especially the young women committed to learning new skills. She’s even willing to multitask during class, tending to a young mother’s toddler so the student could focus on the lesson! 

In addition to her volunteer role, Christina has mobilized her faith community at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church to support the IRC financially and with donations of essential items from their annual garage sale. Her passion demonstrates how one individual’s actions can create ripple effect that benefits many women and families rebuilding their lives in Northern California. 

These stories are just a few among the countless women contributing to their communities worldwide. We stand in solidarity with all women building a better future for themselves and their families.  

Together, we can create a world where all women can thrive, regardless of their background, immigration status, or circumstances.   

Click here to donate and empower newcomer women in your community.