The mission of the Tahirih Justice Center is to create a world where all may enjoy equality and live in safety and with dignity. To move the needle forward on this vision, we are dedicated to supporting immigrant women and children fleeing violence on their journey to justice. For Tahirih, this journey begins long before a woman or child seeks our help. It begins with securing the critical funds and external support needed to put our plans into action, providing legal, social, and community services to those who need it most. Tahirih’s nationwide development team of more than two dozen staff works each day to ensure Tahirih’s ability to amplify the voices of immigrant women and families who come to the United States seeking safety. One member of this team is Tahirih Baltimore Development Associate, Nataly Karimi.
Nataly’s mother emigrated to the U.S. from Iran at the height of tensions between the two countries. Although a difficult move for many reasons, she worked hard to integrate into American society and retain pride in her heritage. Throughout Nataly’s life, with her mother’s example, she was able to enjoy an American upbringing while also learning about her Iranian culture. She would soon come to realize her aspiration to create this same environment for all immigrants: embracing the opportunities of a new country, while maintaining the values and memories from their family’s history.
In college, Nataly quickly gained an interest in issues surrounding immigrants and refugees, especially after interning with the Resource Development Department of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Dallas, TX. By helping to compile and sort in-kind donations, planning a school supply drive, and assisting in the execution of community events for clients, Nataly saw the impact a strong foundation of support can have on a nonprofit’s ability to do the work they were designed to do. After Nataly graduated from college, she started working in the AmeriCorps VISTA program at Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment (RISE), an ethnic-community based organization in Syracuse, NY. There, she developed a love for development work.
“The clients I had the privilege of interacting with fiercely supported one another, hungrily sought opportunities to advance in a foreign environment, and uninhibitedly expressed an interest in sharing their stories. By listening to the stories of the immigrants I worked with, I learned their hardships and their dreams, their pasts and their new beginnings, but most importantly, I learned about the unadulterated hope they’ve bestowed upon American ideals. I knew I wanted to work to ensure that this hope was fulfilled.”
While searching for job opportunities, Nataly came upon the Development Associate position at Tahirih Baltimore.
“The job of fundraising, which is what the development department really encompasses, is all about being an ardent champion for a cause. I knew if I was to be not only the best candidate for a fundraising position, but feel the most fulfilled in my everyday life, I needed to dive in to a cause I really cared about. Through my research about the organization, I learned that Tahirih truly utilizes all its resources for its clients and reinvests it tenfold within the community. Ultimately what brought me to Tahirih was the realization that I could be an ardent champion for the Tahirih cause and make a tangible impact in the community.”
As Tahirih Baltimore’s Development Associate, Nataly’s role is to be an advocate for Tahirih in the Baltimore community, whether this be by representing Tahirih at outreach events, cultivating individuals who themselves could serve as supporters within their community, or by researching grant opportunities to help support Tahirih’s work.
“The Baltimore office is staffed by eight incredible women, most of whom are working in direct services as attorneys or social workers. They do an incredible job of advocating for our clients, and I see my role in the office as supporting them and the amazing work they do. By working to increase our resources and visibility in the community, I’m helping increase our staff’s ability to serve all women and girls who come to Tahirih in need and to amplify our clients’ voices.”
For Nataly, each day brings something unique. She works with many different stakeholders, including Advisory Council members, donors, foundations, corporations, partner organizations, and more. Each has a unique story or life experience that led them to Tahirih and passionately support Tahirih’s work. Nataly keeps stakeholders engaged, motived, and thinking creatively about how they can become more involved in Tahirih’s mission.
“Many people believe that we’re just interested in monetary donations, but in Baltimore we’re also interested in in-kind donations, those who can volunteer their time or pro bono with us, or those who can connect us to even more people in the community. This job is always keeping me on my toes with how many different avenues people can contribute!”
But the job is not without its challenges. For Nataly, one of the most challenging parts of her job is getting people to care. Whether it’s because of compassion fatigue from the never-ending news cycle, the feeling that individuals can’t generate change, or simply misunderstanding the immigrant story, Nataly believes that people can have a hard time connecting to Tahirih’s mission and accomplishments in their community.
“My job is to show people that the immigrant women and children we serve aren’t hidden figures, but in fact are etched into the fabric of our city. They are our neighbors, our colleagues, our peers, and everything in between, and by helping them succeed, we ensure Baltimore’s success for generations to come.”
Nataly firmly believes in continuing to fight for a world where women and children live in safety and with dignity alongside their peers and recognizes that this requires holding our country to the principles and laws that are already established.
“The work our attorneys are doing isn’t to redo or change the laws that already exist—it simply asks that our courts and government uphold the laws that already exist and that immigrant women and children who are fleeing violence are able to access them. By communicating this to our network of supporters and beyond, we are engaging in the long and arduous but meaningful work of demystifying the myth of the ‘other’ when it comes to immigrants and debunking the belief that the immigrant experience in this country is a burden rather than a meaningful boost to our communities.”