Fereshteh is a refugee from Afghanistan who founded Elena’s Light in 2017 with the goal of educating and helping other refugees in Connecticut. She is a passionate advocate for the most vulnerable communities and works tirelessly to help others. She is a mother of two girls, Elena & Diana and enjoys spending time with her family
FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
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 essential voices of former refugees and other experts. She attended Barnard College and New York University and lives in New Haven.
HEALTH & WELLNESS COORDINATOR
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 work 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.
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 for 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.
HEALTH SUPPORT SPECIALIST
Yalda is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and a second year MPH student. She is originally from Afghanistan and comes from a family of refugees. By working at Elena's Light she hopes to bring a cultural perspective and help to ease the transition to life in the United States for refugee families.
LEGAL ADVOCACY SPECIALIST
As the daughter of Afghan immigrants, Asma is attuned to the corrosive effects of impunity—her aspirations, therefore, revolve around the imperative of prioritizing human rights within transitional justice initiatives. Asma is currently pursuing a double baccalaureate in political science and philosophy, as well as a minor in English literature, at Southern Connecticut State University. She is president of SCSU's Muslim Student Association, the Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society, and Pi Sigma Alpha. She is also a representative-at-large for the Student Government Association, a member of the Multicultural Leadership Council and the Interfaith Council, a writing, philosophy, and first-year research tutor at the Academic Success Center, and an associate editor for Society, Justice, and the Law, the Pre-Law Society’s student journal. She has advocated for increased bilingual literacy support, facilitated interfaith dialogue, and organized SCSU’s first Refugee Thanksgiving in conjunction with Elena’s Light. Asma intends to pursue a joint JD/PhD with the goal of practicing international human rights law and fortifying the rule of law in Afghanistan. She is the first Rhodes Scholar, as well as the first Truman Scholar, in both SCSU and CSCU (Connecticut State Colleges and Universities) history.
Hillary is from Fredericksburg, Virginia and is currently attending Yale University. She is studying the History of Medicine and Public Health along with Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. As a child of Haitian immigrants, she is incredibly passionate about amplifying the voices of minority communities and advocating for HealthCare rights. In her free time she enjoys listening to podcasts, painting, and traveling.
GRANT WRITING SPECIALIST
Shaya is from Long Island, New York, and is a senior at Wesleyan University studying English, Environmental Studies, and French. On campus, Shaya works with Wesleyan and the Middletown Sustainability Team to support municipal efforts combating the climate crisis. Shaya's senior essay is about how war and imperialism in the Middle East cause long-term environmental degradation, resulting in climate-based displacement and increased refugee populations. This interest in the environmental and societal health of the Middle East, as well as a desire to remain close with family heritage, is what prompted Shaya to become involved with Elena's Light.
WOMEN'S HEALTH & WELLNESS INTERN
Najow is from Saudi Arabia and currently attending Southern Connecticut State University. Sheis a senior student majoring in public health. After she has been living five years in the US withdifferent communities, she saw the need for health education, especially for vulnerablepopulations. By working with Elena’s Light, she hopes to contribute to making a differencethrough informing, educating, and empowering refugee women about health issues to havepositively influenced their health behaviors.
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.
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.