AsSalamu Alaikum, my name is Shomaila Khan and I am a Muslim woman of Pakistani decent. I grew up in Saudi Arabia, moved to Canada as a teenager with my family who still lives there and then I moved to the USA as a young adult and called this place my home. As many women I too wear different hats. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, a mother, a Health-care practitioner by trade, a founder and executive director of a local non-profit organization. I am honored to be part of the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s Leadership Institute class of 2020 which consists of a group of exceptional leaders who are already making such a great difference in their communities. I feel that by working together towards a similar goal we achieve it. I live by this quote by Mother Teressa- “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” I truly benefited from the ISBLI’s partnership with CIFAL Atlanta, the United Nations training agency housed at Kennesaw State University since it provided us with opportunities to engage with some of Atlanta’s most respected leaders, Influential Speakers and Professionals that helped us develop skills and gave us confidence to do more in our community.
Growing up I have had so many positive influences in my life that have inspired me to engage in community/charity work beginning with my parents. They inspired me at a young age to help others by assisting relatives going through hardships and through their volunteer work at the local masjid. In high school I started volunteering at hospitals and elderly care facilities. My passion to help others influenced me to pursue a career in health care. I worked as a Respiratory therapist at Emory where I was exposed to many challenges; since we are the First Responders in a critical care situation. It seems the stage is always being set for you to move on to your next role and so with the health care background I didn’t hesitate to avail the opportunity to volunteer at Icna Relief’s Shifa Clinic. My task was to help assist in running the clinic, manage and train new volunteers to triage patients. This wasn’t the first time I was pushed to take a leadership role. At the same time another great project Apna Ghar a Michigan based home health care for elderly was established in Georgia. The idea came while I was volunteering at ICNA Relief Shifa Clinic every Saturday for a few years. I noticed the elderly population was struggling to get some help at home because their families work full time. I felt that the Muslim community in Atlanta could benefit from elderly care based on traditional values where their cultural background, language and religion are understood by the trained and certified caregivers.
I was also inspired by Abdul Sattar Edhi, a great philanthropist from Pakistan who started the Edhi Foundation. Due to learning about Mr. Edhi’s successful charity work, I started volunteering for projects with various organizations. This eventually led me to utilize social media by starting a charity Facebook page called Helping the Community in 2013 to post about the events and fundraisers that were going on in the community both locally and globally. Helping the community began as an informative page posting anonymously about families in need facing hardships so others could help. Once I got a stronger following, I started posting about small community events. Soon this page became a platform where people got informed, volunteered their time for various projects/events, or sent monetary donations. By God’s grace and my team’s dedication the page continued to have an impact and grow its following. Helping the Community is a Muslim woman led, non-profit Organization which got its 501c3 in 2015. Now I have a wonderful team of board members and advisors who share the same passion and have similar goals. I make sure my team knows I value their input and efforts. We have a relationship of trust and we resolve any conflicts that come our way in a group setting. As a leader I wanted to become better and decided to learn from wonderful leaders around me! My intention was to network and do more collaborative work to have a greater impact in our community. I decided to join the ISBLI program because I always admired the work that ISB does to change the narrative by being involved in the community making a difference by educating and leading by example. I was hoping to achieve skills to polish my leadership abilities. Especially now in the midst of covid-19 pandemic we need to look at the world’s problems and focus on the solutions to overcome them together. There have been enormous shifts in power to benefit humanity and it can happen again! Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it is done!”
Over the past 11 months, the Islamic Speakers Bureau Leadership Institute (ISBLI) Blue team was tasked with developing a sustainable mentorship program for the Al Falah Academy’s High school students. The aim of the program is to support the high school students to transition into their post-high school careers of college or trade school by having a mentor in their area of interest and possibly having the opportunity for an internship. The developed program embodies the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: quality education; decent work and economic growth; and industry innovation, and infrastructure. This group experience has helped us to understand that leadership isn’t a profession. My team for this project is a group of amazing leaders that are serving their communities and collectively bring to the table and meet United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) of creating sustainable cities and communities, no poverty, no hunger, helping build infrastructure, education, vocational training, and receiving good health care. What helped break the ice working with this new team was the behavioral analysis. Behavioral research suggests that the most effective people are those who understand themselves, both their strengths and weaknesses, so they can develop strategies. Great leaders are able to envision the end goal. They are able to see a clear picture. Al-Falah Academy and its guided learning activities gave us the opportunity to discover this first hand, and this has been the epitome of our experience.
The one thing I took advantage of being part of Islamic Speaker’s Leadership Institute program was to build bridges by networking and asking organizations to collaborate and join the efforts as a community. We appreciate our Hero’s during Covid-19 as I led a 10-week long initiative called “Curbside Hot Meals” that served over 5000 Hot Meals to the 1st Responders & Families in Need across town who have been affected by covid-19. This initiative was possible due to several organizations, our sponsors, participating restaurants and non-profits. the ISBLI program has showed me a step by step process for a successful, effective team. How to build and manage a team is an important skill to have and what helped was the DISC assessment.
The Islamic Speakers Bureaus Leadership program’s opportunity could not have come at a better time for me. ISBLI was quick to adapt to the current changes in the world and successfully make this program virtual after reassessing the critical skills necessary to succeed and lead authentically, helping provide resources that will assist me in advancing my own organization’s goals. This has been challenging yet one of the most rewarding experiences I have had from the comfort of my home! My time at ISBLI has been very constructive. ISBLI has taken on the task to produce driving leaders all over the globe especially when leaders are faced with decisions and situations that are testing what good leadership looks like! My experience at ISBLI will help me better myself and any organization I am affiliated with, leadership is about service; to ourselves, our families, and our communities! We need to rise up and take the lead and tackle the issues we are facing as a community!