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This article was originally published on July 17, 2013.

2012-2013 Bahá’í Service Fellow Miranda Hansen reflects on her year of service as a paralegal in Tahirih’s Greater DC office

As a Bahá’í-inspired organization, Tahirih Justice Center annually offers year-long Bahá’í Service Fellowships. The Fellowships were created to enable the Fellows to engage in service to humanity and learn from the work of a well-established, Bahá’í-inspired, non-profit organization.

Full-time Fellows are Bahá’ís who work as paralegals, social service case aides, or Public Policy program assistants, supporting Tahirih’s clients to achieve justice while also becoming involved in the local Bahá’í community. Fellows also spend their year living with a Bahá’í host family.

Q: Why did you apply to the Bahá’í Service Fellowship at Tahirih?

A: I applied to Tahirih’s Bahá’í Service Fellowship during my last year in college. I wanted to start my career with a meaningful job experience where I could learn new skills and be able to serve others.

I was extremely interested in learning how non-profit organizations operate, especially since Tahirih is one of the few and most successful Bahá’í-inspired nonprofits.

Q:What did your time at Tahirih teach you about working towards the equality of women and men?

A: Working as a paralegal at Tahirih helped me to recognize a deep strength that is inherent to women. I realized this especially working on a case with a client where I had to write out her story. Hearing from her firsthand about why she refused to be subjected to violence, including her motivation to protect her children, sincerely moved me. Many clients told me how they are educating their sons to treat women with respect. Throughout the year, I witnessed the potential and power of women and how they can influence the world if they are allowed to be a bigger part of it.

I also learned to value the role of men in helping achieve this goal. I saw the outstanding amount of work and compassion that our male pro-bono attorneys dedicate to our clients, as well as the law-makers and supporters who are invested in ending violence against women. While we have a long way to go to see the true equality of women and men, I now see that there are many people whose hearts are truly tied to this cause.

Q: As a Bahá’í, what was it like to work at a Bahá’í-inspired organization?

A: Tahirih Justice Center strengthened the lessons I learned from my faith to serve others and to dedicate all aspects of my life to the advancement of humanity. Every day, I experienced such coherence between work and service and at Tahirih, it’s as if they are one and the same.

My work was also proof that clarity of vision and purpose guided by spiritual goals can achieve high quality results and attract like-minded and hard-working individuals to be part of the process. I hope this model will carry over to all of my future career experiences.

Q: What did you not expect to learn or do during your year?

A: I did not come into this position anticipating to go to law school. However, after my time here I have come to see how valuable being a lawyer can be and the incredible impact you can really have on the lives of others. I admire the ability to be able to stand for justice for a fellow human being.

Q: Describe your experience living with your host family.

A: I don’t know how I would have survived this year without my host family. Working with women facing violence is stressful and emotionally difficult. It was so comforting to have a supportive and kind family to come home to. I felt safe and like I had a support system while I was here. They were extremely kind and generous in welcoming me into their family and were a major part in providing the opportunity for me to work and serve at Tahirih.

Q: How did the Fellowship experience affect your professional development and what will you do now?

A: This year, I was fortunate enough to work with amazingly talented and accomplished supervisors. I have learned so much from them about how to be efficient when problem-solving and when working with others. I also gained invaluable critical thinking and analytical skills and know how to better use consultation to make decisions.

For the next two and a half years I will be working at another Baha’i-inspired NGO in Colombia called FUNDAEC. I will be doing program coordination for a project in rural schools developing classroom libraries and training teachers and parents to foster a culture of reading and literacy development in schools and homes, along with moral character development and gender equality.

Q: What would you want others to know about Tahirih’s Bahá’í Service Fellowship?

A: The BSF program was the perfect opportunity for a young Bahá’í professional to learn and grow. I feel like I can contribute so much more now in my service and career thanks to the amazing experience I’ve had. I was so lucky to be able to start my professional career with such an innovative and positive experience.

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