Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy
We just received some additional feedback regarding the Women and Community group that met with you back on March 13th. I wanted to pass this along and thank you again for all your support. We couldn’t do our jobs without strong community members, like you, that volunteer their time to meet with our International Visitors. It’s an invaluable experience for them, and one that we hope is useful for you as well.
“The Visitors found Samira Harnish to be an exceptionally inspiring figure, as she had overcome a number of personal challenges earlier in her life. They listened with deep attention as she recounted how she was brought to the U.S. from Iraq as a teenager via an arranged marriage, struggled but succeeded in getting an education and becoming an engineer, eventually moved on from an unhappy marriage, and then after retirement she founded in 2010 the organization “Women of the World” to help other immigrant/refugee women. The Visitors appreciated that she was frank about the challenges involved in developing and growing the organization, but they could also see how committed she is to the work, which her second husband very much supports, and how determined she is to continue developing these efforts.” -Eileen Maloy, English Language Officer
Thank you for the wonderful presentation! I have received many great comments from my classmates on the excellent insights and experiences you shared with us today. Our class has signed a thank you card for you; if you do not mind, is there an address I may mail this to?
Also, please send me the flyer you mentioned in class. I will forward that to everyone. In fact, I know of two of my classmates who have already posted the fundraiser on Facebook. I hope your organization earns a lot of money! I know my wife and I will be going to California Pizza Kitchen on Friday to support you.
Thank you once again! It’s been a pleasure.
Educational Assistance From: Rebecca Richardson
Subject: Deep gratitude!
I don’t think I can find the words to express my gratitude and thanks for yesterday. Your presentation was touching and inspiring. Even though I am not a refugee, your story of the haunting picture of the girl trapped in the spider web resonated with me. Through your words you showed how this young girl was able to untangle herself and do heroic acts like learn to ride a bike at age 40!!! What a gift your presentation was to my students and me.
I am also so appreciative of the time you gave to working individually with the students. You took your beautiful energy, intellect and passion and shared it with those with whom you spoke. It is hard to imagine, but these brief encounters can be life altering for some.
I love the direction you are working to take the Women of the World organization. I do a lot of work with refugee families and have seen many strong women direct the lives of their families and children in amazing ways. However, I have also seen them shaken and disregarded by the enormous system we have here in the U.S. While I am very busy during the school year, I would love to learn how I can support your organization during the summer.
Once again, I send my deepest thanks for EVERYTHING you brought to the workshop yesterday. I left meeting you feeling like there are friends out there who share my desire to empower our sisters, mothers, daughters, that are being silenced.
With great warmth and respect,
East High School Language Arts Instructor
Inspiration – Rotaract Club
I know you have worked so hard…you are just inspiring to me Samira.
Refugee Service Org – Advocacy for Medical Interpreter Funding
Sorry for the delayed update…but THANK YOU all for your help and with the session over we are pleased to say that we all were able to protect Medicaid Interpreting services. Thank you so much…what a great win for an overall difficult session!
Kimberly Myers – Community Engagement Director
Utah Health Policy Project
Breast Cancer Awareness Seminar Assistance
It was a pleasure to finally meet you this Saturday, and I just wanted to express my gratitude to you for all of your amazing help, time and support! The event turned out to be so great thanks to all of you assistance!!! I really appreciate everything you have done for us to prepare for this conference! If you ever need our help with anything please let me know, it will be my pleasure!!
Multicultural Health Network and Breast Cancer Program Coordinator
Comunidades Unidas/Communities United (CU)
YMCA Nomination – Alaa Ameen
1- How have the Nominee’s life and achievements exemplified the YWCA’s mission ?
When Samira came to the United States as a teenage bride, she started to mix her cultural Arabic background with the role of the American ambition, resulting a unique blend of integrity, proud and ambition. She shone as a woman and an engineer in a male dominated semiconductor firm, and as an advocate/interpreter serving the refugees in Boise, Idaho.
She has always focused on women’s role and started her own organization to empower women through education, employment and building their strength to enable them to give back and serve others.
2- How has the Nominee demonstrated support for other women and/or girls ?
Women are empowered by Samira’s example as a unique modern woman, she supported women from all over the world through her organization, and especially those who face culture and emotional challenges by trying to fit in the new environment . Her organization has various developed programs for all aspects of the daily life. She is a role model to all those who want to fulfill their dreams here.
3- What has the Nominee achieved in her field?
Samira was a semiconductor engineer in charge for development and integration of advance memory modules for Micron Technologies’ Research and developments division for seventeen years. She was also an active participant in women in engineering, advocating for young women to join scientific pursuits and engineering.
Since retiring from Micron, Samira served in numerous positions to assist refugees , first as a medical interpreter, then in capacity building roles with the Iraqi Community of Utah, and most recently, the president and founder of Women of the World. She has served many women in critical care situation and advocating in the Utah Congress for the continuation of medicaid interpreting, an essential role of health benefit and employment for refugee women .
4-How is the Nominee recognized by her peers?
In 2011, women of the world was awarded a Utah refugee office capacity building mini-grant which it has used to assist the ethnic communities of refugees.
Samira has been a key speaker at the annual refugee service conference, the University of Utah and the Westside leadership institute. She has been requested to sit on the board of directors for numerous refugee organization.
5-Where has the Nominee grown personally ?
When first arrived to the United States as a teenage bride in an arranged marriage, Samira faced poverty bigotry and male dominated culture while raising five children. Samira has become seeing circumstances for their opportunities and understands the difficulties facing each individual.
She never abandoned her dream of developing a women’s organization to help others who are going through similar experiences as hers.
YMCA Nomination – James Fullinwider
I have known Samira Harnish for many years. When we first met, she was an accomplished software engineer with an internationally recognized company. At the same time, she was active here in the Boise Valley area in supporting the resettlement of immigrants to our State, especially as it related to women’s issues. She dealt specifically in providing translation services and access to resources for legal and medical issues.
After many years of success in her industry, as well as becoming well known for her civic work, a move to Utah allowed Samira to focus most of her time and efforts on issues specific to the needs and rights of women, again with a special emphasis on immigrants. Whether working with local government offices and officials or heading up Women of the World, she has continued tirelessly and selflessly on behalf of women in her community and in the broader national and global communities.
I’ve witnessed Samira devote time and energy to the acquisition of a sewing machine to help a recently resettled tailor start a new business. I’ve observed as she has sat in hospital rooms and lawyers’ offices giving comfort and aid to those in need. Personally and through her organizational relationships, Samira has sponsored workshops and educational programs for women with topics ranging from small business development to domestic violence.
Samira Harnish is not only a role model for women and men both, but she exemplifies the values and goals that are outlined in the YWCA’s Mission Statement.
James A. Fullinwider
All American Insurance, Inc.
Idaho Insurance Agents Alliance, Inc.
YMCA Nomination – Tami Nord-Taylor
Samira is a beacon of light and hope to anyone that is fortunate enough to meet her. It is my honor to recommend her for YWCA Woman of the Year. When I first met Samira, she was working at Micron as a successful engineer in a male dominated field. She has been an inspiration to me, personally because I had never encountered such a strong female role model like Samira before. She was a big part of the reason why I went back to school to get and electrical engineering degree. I had never been to school before and I was the first in my family to attain a college degree. She made it seem possible. I was amazed to learn that Samira came from Iraq and was forced into an arranged marriage and motherhood at such an early age. When she went to school to become an engineer, she would bring her baby to the lectures since she didn’t have childcare. She was going to succeed no matter what. She is a survivor that has faced and overcome many challenges in her life and I am so fortunate to have the pleasure of knowing such an amazing woman!
I was not surprised to learn that Samira had started a non-profit organization called, Women of the World. This organization focuses on the needs of refugee women. She shares her courage, friendship, advocacy, as well as her personal experiences with women that face hardship and oppression. She has served hundreds of women in many difficult situations like end-of-life requests. She doesn’t shy away from any task that would help these women, no matter how emotionally difficult. She gives them everything in her heart and more to make their lives better by empowering them and showing them the possibilities through helping them find employment and/or education. Often times she is a trusted counselor to these women. Refugee women face so much emotionally, physically and financially by coming to the United States. Having someone there to listen to them and offer advice is priceless. When I listen to stories about Samira’s work it is hard not to become emotional. They are stories of extreme sadness and extreme joy in the same breath. There are so many stories and they continue to have a voice through Samira’s work. She is building a network of women helping women in order to have more enriched life in Utah.
After working as a successful senior engineer in research and development at Micron Technology for many years, Samira retired and began her work with refugee women. She volunteered as a medical interpreter and also helped building roles in the Iraqi Community of Utah. She has also participated in Women in Engineering by encouraging young women to consider a career in engineering or science. This is not to mention being founder and President of Women of the World which, has served and continues to serve so many women who desperately need it.
Samira continues working on ways to make things better for herself and those around her. She tackles challenges head-on. She even learned to ride a bike when she was an adult since she was never allowed to ride a bike as a girl growing up in Iraq. There is no challenge too big or small that Samira won’t give everything she’s got to succeed. Coming to the United States in her teens and coming as far as she has come and continues to go is amazing to see.