Shama Qureshi finds helping others to be her solace. Public service has almost always been part of her life, first as a teacher and then – after she retired in 1996 – as an advocate and tutor to children and refugees. Her volunteer work became more significant after her husband died in October, she said.
“Because I was a teacher, it’s something that I love to do, I’m not doing volunteer work because I feel obligated to do it,” said Qureshi, 73, “Since I’ve become a widow, it’s what keeps me going.”
Mohsin Qureshi, 79, and Shama were married for 50 years Shama Qureshi, who is known by some as Sandy, converted to Islam after meeting her husband at the University of Michigan.
Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam; this requires the faithful to give 2 ½ % of their financial resources to charity each year. Qureshi said that there is also an obligation to give of one’s time and talent to those in need.
“When I was teaching full time, I did not have time to do very much, but I knew that when I retired, I would do a lot of volunteering.”
A month after she had retired in June 2006, Qureshi and her husband moved from
Qureshi also helped to start
As part of her work with Noor, Qureshi visits several refugee families each week to provide tutoring and support.
Right now, Iraqi and Bhutanese represent the largest groups of refugees coming into
“There is something really satisfying and wonderful about helping someone else to be happy,” she said.” It changes your energy level. It’s a breath of fresh air to get away from yourself and do something for someone else.”
This is the story of Narguzel "Babushka" Safarova. Her face wreathed with
wrinkles, her eyes a filmy blue, Safarova, 94, Arrived here in June of
2005 from Russia following a lifetime of upheaval.
"For the first time in our life, it's like we belong," says Babushka's
daughter-in-law, Mekhribon Safarova, 55, speaking through an interpreter.
The two women share a small Midtown apartment with Mekhribon's two sons,
Rashid and Yusuf, daughter-in-law, Safiya; and Rashid and Safiya's young
daughters, Maral and Farida
The Safarovs - males do not use an "a" at the end of their names - are
Meskhetian Turks. Originally living in southwest Georgia, more than
100,000 of these Turks were deported to Uzbekistan in 1944 on the orders
of Josef Stalin. Many died of starvation or cold on the way.
In 1989. An outbreak of ethnic violence forced yet another uprooting,
with the Maskhetians scattered across Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine,
Azerbaijan and Turkey.The Safarov family wound up near Moscow. Only
Babushka remembers life in Georgia.
Her husband was in the army when she and her two children were deported
to Usbekistan on a freight train. "It took 23 days to get there," she
says. Life was hard for Babishka, long a widow, who was forced to work in
the cotton fields. Though the family lived in Uzbekistan for almost 50
years, they never felt it was home.In 1989, they were uprooted again, this
time to a village outside of Moscow.
Mekhribon, by then a widow herself, worked side by side with her
mother-in-law in the fields, as well as at the local granary. "The
Russians did not like that we were there". Says Mekhribon. The family lived
under one roof, keeping old traditions and worshipping as Muslims.
They did not make the decision to come to America. America did. This was
explained by the Luther Social Services representative, who sponsored
the Safarov family. Like the Somali Bantu, the USA identified this
particular group of people who had endured long-standing persecution.
About 15,000 Meshketian Turks have been settled in the USA.
Even though these people had no place to call home, they were unhappy to
learn that they were moving yet again. To them it was another forced
It got no better when they learned they were coming to Tucson. "We thought
we would be left out in the desert," says Mekhribon. Instead they were met
at the airport, settled in an apartment and initially helped with
assistance from the state's Department of Economic Security.
Today Babushka, Mekhribon and Yusuf, who is disabled, receive SSI federal
income supplements, while Rashid, who works full time in in the
housekeeping department at the Westin La Paloma, supports his family.
A few other members of the family have also settled in Tucson. Still
others remain in Russia. Even so, no one longs for their former "home".
"I don't even think about it," says Babushka with a dismissive wave of
her hand. "We have no plans to go anywhere else," says Mekhribon. "It is
so amazing to go out and people smile and wave and say "Hi" to us. That
was never done before."
by Bonnie Henry
(The following is only a portion of the original published article.)Suraia Ehrari, 44, came to Tucson alone, a political
By Sheryl Kornman