- Helen Keller
Throughout this time, Shaista had also been pursuing a dream of starting her own catering business. Her husband supported her dreams and her work outside of the home by sharing in childcare duties and encouraging words along the way as a true partner in life and work. She put herself and her business idea through rounds of presentations and feedback through the program, Start:Me, which also paired her with a mentor to help her towards becoming a successful entrepreneur. Just after giving birth to her third child in 2019 - a beautiful, healthy-sized boy! - Shaista worked incredibly hard to get access to a commercial kitchen for her business, Amani Catering. Shaista pumped at work for her newborn and began to grow a team of seven women who found true joy in their work together - cooking, community, and success.
When COVID-19 suddenly forced entire nations and their businesses and infrastructure to shut down, Shaista realized she would have to do the same for the safety of her customers and community. Although she unfortunately had to close the doors to her business in 2019, she never closed to the doors to working with and serving women in her community. Shaista continued to help others figure out how to file paperwork for appointments and Medicaid and navigate the various systems in the U.S. throughout the pandemic.
It is no surprise that her resilience, skills, and positive attitude were noticed by leadership, and helped her secure what soon became a full-time caseworker position at Refugee Women’s Network (RWN). To this day, Shaista has helped over 100 families in her community with things like rent assistance, social adjustment needs, ESL classes, and finding employment opportunities through her work at RWN. She is also a part of RWN's "Chef's Club" program, where she is able to help other female entrepreneurs who want to start their own catering businesses, which she understands more thoroughly than most due to her experience before and through COVID. Yet Shaista still has more contribute to the community - she also works with Georgia State as a Safe Care Provider to help provide training and education to families around improving parenting skills. If that weren’t enough, she also works with a program to share laptops with families and train them how to use them, an incredibly empowering experience she says, “because you don’t have to know English to be able to use a computer.”
Shaista exemplifies the word resilience - she has bounced back stronger, more creative, and more capable of supporting and empowering women throughout her community in spite of the pandemic that shut down her small business. Not only does she continue to cook delicious meals for people in her family and community, but she also continues to dream of re-opening Amani Catering so that she can provide work opportunities to "other women who are struggling to find a suitable job due to language and other barriers."
When invited to share any words of encouragement with other mothers, Shaista notes, “Mothers are so, so strong. Motherhood is a challenging phase, especially when you are an immigrant mother. But always remember that motherhood doesn't have to limit you from any opportunities - working gives you strength and helps you feel powerful about yourself. A mother can do any job she chooses!"
“My hope is that the people in my community that I help will become independent someday and then they can go on to help others in our community as well,” Shaista says. She cannot help but share the love.
Shaista, we see the power you hold within you, as it shines and encourages all those around you in your family, workplace, and community. You are a true Shero, and we thank you for sharing your story of resilience with us!