MEET THE TEAM

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FERESHTEH GANJAVI

FOUNDER

Fereshteh Ganjavi came to New Haven, Connecticut as a refugee in 2011.  From her personal experience, she knows that it can be a long and arduous process to adapt to a new country. Many people helped her start her new life, a fact that she never forgets.

 

Program Development

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Varsha Jorawar

DIRECTOR OF PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT

Varsha is a senior pursuing a degree in Political Science at Southern Connecticut State University. She is a prospective law student who found her passion in helping Refugees. As a Guyanese immigrant herself, Varsha understands how it feels to be catapulted into a foreign country with nothing but hopes and dreams. By working with Elena's Light, she is able to have a direct impact on the immigrant/refugee community and ease the burdens that come with having that status.

 
 
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Sadikshya Ghimire

PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR

Sadi is a junior at Yale University majoring in Political Science and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. She is an immigrant from Nepal, and her experiences have shaped her passion to advocate for migrant and refugee rights. She is especially interested in the question of citizenship and belonging and how that relates to race and ethnicity. She is involved in other organizations that serve migrants, including IRIS and Migration Alliance at Yale. As an intern at Elena’s Light, she hopes to advocate for refugees and consolidate various resources to ease their transition and experiences in the U.S.

 

Health Team

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Rachel Schaffer

DIRECTOR OF HEALTH & WELLNESS

Rachel is working towards her degree in Social Work at Southern Connecticut State University. Having spent five years of her career in childcare and within schools, Rachel saw the disparity between the extensive needs of families and the lack of resources made available for their success. She is now committed to working on implementing actionable change for those who are in need. With a strong emphasis on social justice, Rachel has taken on many leadership roles within her university, including helping to publish research on the impact of COVID-19 on the New Haven community and its people of color. She is honored to be a part of Elena’s Light and help make a difference.

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Minahil Gilani

HEALTH & WELLNESS COORDINATOR 

Minahil was born and raised in Pakistan. She completed her BSc in Biology from Southern Connecticut State University in May 2021. She has been a peer academic tutor at Southern for three years which provided her with a diverse range of experiences when it comes to helping students. She has been a research associate for the department of chemistry at Southern for two years, where she worked on the project of antibiotic resistance. She wrote her honors thesis regarding the quantitative research she performed there. Being an immigrant herself, she understands the struggles of residing in a different country and adapting to its culture. The aspect of connecting with people and helping them by being a resource attracts her immensely. Now she plans to embark on the journey of exploring public health and its diverse specialties and pursuing an MPH in the future.

Social Media Team

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Emily Gordon

EVENT SPECIALIST

Emily is a longtime editor, writer, and marketer who works in the communications department of the Yale School of Management. She's proud to host live online events and fundraisers for Elena's Light that showcase the important voices of former refugees and other experts. She attended Barnard College and New York University and lived in New Haven.

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Ammar Al Zouabi

SOCIAL MEDIA ORGANIZER 

Ammar is a second-year pre-med student at the University of Connecticut. He and his family are refugees from Syria. By working at Elena's Light's Social Media team Ammar hopes to bring a closeness and awareness of the optimistic impact refugee culture brings to our community.

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Carlamary Santiago 

SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIST 

Carlamary Santiago is a social media volunteer, as well as Elena’s Light Artisan Market Coordinator. She is currently pursuing her bachelors in Human Behavioral Science with a focus on trauma at Grand Canyon University online. She looks forward to a future of helping others build brighter futures for themselves.

Community Engagement 

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Yasmeen Abed

Program Development Coordinator

Yasmeen is a sophomore at Yale University majoring in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. She is passionate about refugee rights, particularly the education of refugee women and children. She is the co-president of the Refugee and Immigrant Student Education organization which provides tutoring services to refugee children in the New Haven area. She hopes to bring this experience to her role as a Program Development Coordinator for Elena's Light. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, trying new foods, and exploring New Haven.

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Sumaira Akbarzada

Community Engagement  Coordinator

Sumaira Akbarzada graduated from Yale University with her Master of Public Health (MPH) in May 2021. Her concentration was on Global Health. Her passion lies in building a bridge between the public health realm and refugee communities. Her family was refugees from Afghanistan in the 1990s. She grew up in San Diego, California. Prior to attending Yale, she worked in breast oncology clinical trials, many of her patients were women of color from low socioeconomic backgrounds. She hopes one day to return to Afghanistan and work in the Ministry of Health and improve the maternal and infant mortality rate in the country. 

Interpreters

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Mahboob Sharafi

Information Technologist

Mahboob is born in Afghanistan and has worked with USAID-funded projects for Afghanistan both primary and higher education for 16 years. He feels honored to work with Elena’s Light as he is largely motivated to play a role among a group of people whose works with immigrants allow them to get closer to their dreams and goals.