Like many nonprofit organizations, Tahirih relies on the support of not only our generous donors but also a committed group of volunteers who believe in our mission and the potential to build a world free from violence. In April, as we celebrate National Volunteer Month, we want to highlight some of the wonderful volunteers who make it possible for Tahirih to serve as many survivors as possible.
One of these volunteers is Paul Glist, who became familiar with Tahirih in its early days 25 years ago. We asked Paul to share about his experience with Tahirih, what drew him to the organization, and why he encourages others to get involved. Read on to learn about Paul’s experience with Tahirih! [Note: This interview has been lightly edited.]
How did you first hear about or get connected to Tahirih?
I came to know Layli [Miller-Muro, Tahirih’s founder] as part of the Bahá’í community in the early days of her work with a young Togolese woman seeking refuge in the U.S. from forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Layli took the case, [which] changed the law at the highest immigration court in the land to recognize gender-based violence as grounds for asylum. She then founded the Tahirih Justice Center to accompany more women, children, and other survivors of gender-based violence in seeking justice and freedom from violence. In the Bahá’í faith, we are instructed to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression … be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive …” I was inspired by a nonprofit that delivered free legal and social services based on principles of gender equality, justice, and freedom from oppression and violence, all key Bahá’í principles.
What do you appreciate most about Tahirih’s work?
It is impressive enough that Tahirih has an unwavering commitment to fight for equality between women and men and to obtain justice for those who are among the most-marginalized and least-protected survivors of violence. But I also appreciate how Tahirih does its work by putting Bahá’í principles into practice. It accompanies its heroic clients and empowers them to take leading roles as change agents in creating a better world. It takes the extra time for consultative decision-making that seeks the wisdom of the collective and equity in outcomes. It leverages its resources with pro bono attorneys and other volunteers and collaborates extensively with social justice organizations to transform laws, practices, and institutions. In a world riven with polarization, Tahirih focuses on transcending differences, considering everyone as a potential partner, and its nonpartisan approach has earned widespread trust and crucial bipartisan reforms.
What role(s) have you had as a volunteer for Tahirih?
I started by offering bits of advice through an advisory council, then joined Tahirih’s board of directors for 10 years. I had the privilege of serving as Chair for most of that time, as Tahirih was raising resources and expanding from a single office to a nationwide organization that has now served over 35,000 immigrant survivors. When I retired from 40 years of law firm practice in 2018, I went in-house as Tahirih’s volunteer General Counsel. Like so many General Counsel, I deal with a fire hose of legal, management, governance, and strategic issues. There is no end to variety in the legal issues alone — privacy and security, intellectual property and media, immigration, privilege and ethics, real estate, tax, technology, employment, litigation, regulation, compliance, COVID, and contracts of all sorts.
Why is supporting Tahirih important to you?
I consider it a moral duty to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression.” You will find the duty in all faiths. Let me paraphrase or quote a few: “The human race was created from a single person so that no one might say, ‘My ancestor was greater than your ancestor.’” “In the diversity of your tongues and colors are signs for all mankind.” “Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.” You’ll have to guess which quote comes from which scripture because they are all in harmony as one truth. Or if you prefer to look outside scripture, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concerns beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This … has become an absolute necessity for the survival of man.” By supporting Tahirih, I can use the skills I developed over a lifetime to uphold and defend the victims of oppression and help elevate Tahirih’s capacity to fulfil this collective moral duty.
What would you say to supporters who are considering volunteering for Tahirih?
Tahirih is a rare find. Working with Tahirih, you can serve, accompany, and empower some of the least-protected survivors of violence. You can fight for equality between women and men and for the oneness of humanity. You can fight against the prejudices and racism that interfere with the progress of all people and nations. You can partner with an exemplary and effective nonprofit that serves with excellence, humility, and collaboration. You can serve in so many ways — on the front lines, in the back office, and with client support, medicine, social work, transport, language, and more. You can use the skills you developed over a lifetime for the betterment of humanity and join with an extraordinary group of people who are committed, loving, and inspired warriors for justice.
We are so grateful to Paul for sharing his insights, and we are even more grateful for the time and love he has given to Tahirih and immigrant survivors for so many years.
Thank you to all of our incredible volunteers over the years! We hope you know how much we appreciate your time and energy. And for anyone interested in volunteering, we invite you to learn more and would love to have you join us!