Shabana Rahimi

shabanaELD Navigator
Shabana Rahimi was an important hire for Highlands because she speaks five languages and can help to translate for many in our refugee populations escaping war.

In fact, the reason Shabana can speak so many languages is because she was once escaping war herself. Growing up in Afghanistan forced Shabana and her family into Pakistan, where her father made sure his children were able to continue their education.

“Even though it was too hard for us, my father was a gentleman, and he knows how important it was,” Shabana said. “He made the possibility to send us all to school and university.”

Unfortunately, she said, not all women were awarded this right in Afghanistan, and because of this Shabana feels very passionately about sharing her education with those less fortunate.

In fact, others saw this teaching potential in Shabana before she had even graduated from high school. In 10th grade, she was asked to become a teacher at her school, and eventually, she was promoted to principal. Throughout this time she also completed her high school studies and got her Bachelor’s in Pakistan.

Once more her skills were uncovered when she worked for USAID Project in Afghanistan empowering women and teaching uneducated, rural communities about the formal justice system.

While her skills were definitely evident at Highlands right away, her road to employment was much different. In fact, Shabana began at Highlands as a student herself.

“When we moved here everything was very hard for us including language and culture, but really everything,” Shabana remembers. “We started again from zero, but one day I was walking with my husband and I saw a Highlands’ billboard. I was the only person who could read English well so I told my husband let’s go so we can have something better in our life.”

Shabana and her husband immediately began attending classes at Highlands, but were sad to find that the class was discontinued shortly afterwards.

“The class moved to another location and I was unable to attend anymore because I didn’t have transportation. I saw other people in my class, who lived near me, were just sitting in their homes all day like me, and then I realized how this is like my work experience that I did in Afghanistan and that I had to empower these women.”

Without a promise of a job offer, Shabana began to collect signatures from these women. She would walk door-to-door each day in her community and explain to the women, who were alone at home, why education is so important for them.

Once she had collected 35 names, she brought her list in to Executive Director Murdock Smith and Site Administrator Michael Roessler. Doc and Mike were immediately impressed by Shabana’s initiative and dedication to educating herself and those around her.

Within several months, the class opened up again at the church near Shabana’s neighborhood, and now the church is home to hundreds of students.

“Because of the war, Afghanistan has been suffering, and I feel it is my duty to help bring awareness into certain situations to help my country to heal from that,” Shabana said. “It was a little crazy on the first day of that class opening back up, but we did it, and it kind of exploded.”

Shabana accredits a lot of her success in her life to her father – a doctor, who cared deeply about his children’s education.

“Sometimes I think that I must’ve done something good in my past life, because I ended up with this job,” Shabana smiled. “Highlands is like a family for me. I am so happy here and I want to be a teacher in the future to help more people.”

Even though the classes at her location are bursting at the seams, Shabana still goes out into her community most days to recruit more students, and on weekends she opens her doors to anyone in the community who may need her help.

“I am busy all the time, but it makes me feel good because they know that I can help them,” Shabana said. “My father always told me, ‘In the future, you will do good things for our community.’ And I believe that.”