Interview by Dorin Greenwood, Digital Moose Lounge volunteer
Who: Sayona Kahnamooei Freeman
Home Base: Palo Alto for the last 4 ½ years
Originally from: Vancouver, B.C.
Alma Mater: University of Northern BC, Prince George
What she does
Sayona is an advisory council member for the Tahirih Justice Center, a national non-profit organization that helps women and girls fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in the US. The Center provides legal and social services. (www.tahirih.org)
Favourite pastimes and hobbies
She enjoys exploring California. “We have spent the summer and school breaks driving through different parts of the state exploring the National Parks and beaches. If we stay in town we’re usually participating in activities with our Baha’i community.”
What she misses most about Canada
Poutine, sushi, and a calmer social climate.
How often she gets back to Canada
At least once a year, usually in the summers for a few weeks.
How she gives back to the community
Sayona arrived in the Bay Area almost 5 years ago for her husband’s work at Stanford Hospital. She was unable to work under her visa until just recently, so she has spent the majority of her time serving and volunteering. “I started small within my faith community, participating in Baha’i activities in Cupertino and Palo Alto. I taught children’s classes on the weekends and participated in service projects.”
Then one day a friend invited her to a small fundraiser for a non-profit organization, the Tahirih Justice Center. As the founder Layli Miller-Muro explained that night, at Tahirih they “protect courageous immigrant women and girls who refuse to be victims of violence. By elevating their voices in communities, courts, and Congress, we are creating a world where all women and girls enjoy equality and live in safety and with dignity.” Sayona was so moved by the work that Tahirih was doing and the results they were producing (99% court success rate, for every $1 donated they turn into $4 of impact, etc), that she emailed the founder later that week and asked how she could help. “She emailed me back and connected me with a local group of women who were fundraising for Tahirih and graciously welcomed me so that we could raise funds to open an office in the Bay Area.” In October 2016 after 18 months of fundraising, Tahirih opened their San Francisco office. In 2018 Sayona joined the Local Advisory Board and was on the Annual Benefit Dinner committee, where they raised over $200,000 for the local office.
Sayona’s shameless plug: Join us this year on March 28th at the Julia Morgan Ballroom. For more info on their work visit www.tahirih.org.
Her advice for Canadians moving here and how to adjust to their new home
“My advice for anyone that moves here is find your community.” She says there are so many ways through social media to meet like minded individuals. There are so many expats in the Bay Area and lots of Canadians, like those she has met through the Canadians Moms of Silicon Valley Facebook page, or through the Digital Moose Lounge. “But also there is a community feel in a lot of neighborhoods so be a little brave and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to how warm and kind the majority of Americans are.”
Interested in connecting with Sayona?
The best way to reach Sayona is through her LinkedIn profile.