By Jason Banrey

Pursuing the American Dream can be a long and arduous journey. Many of the immigrants who arrive in this borough often lack the adequate educational, social and technical skills necessary to seamlessly integrate themselves into American culture.

Tamanna Yasmin of Jackson Heights understands that predicament all too well. After arriving in the United States from Bangladesh in 1996, she said she had no choice but to embrace the challenges of assimilation head on.

When I came to this country, I was facing the same problems as immigrants today face, Yasmin said. I figured if I can get through those [challenges] I can help others who are going through what I did.

Yasmin firsthand experience is now becoming second-hand knowledge for those eagerly seeking to assimilate at a time when they need it the most.

When Yasmin successfully received her MA in Applied Sociology from Queens College, she began to gather with area residents, conjuring up ideas about how to provide adequate services to Jackson Heights growing immigrant community.

As the group numbers continued to grow, the concerns of the community immigrants became clear – and Yasmin decided to turn talk into action.

We started gathering in my living room at first, said Yasmin of her early quest to help others in need. Then, there were so many people coming in we needed a new space.

That new space became the headquarters for Sheba USA, a Jackson Heights-based nonprofit organization dedicated to educating borough immigrants.

Since then, and for nearly two decades, Yasmin has kept her commitment to Queens immigrant community, forever changing the lives of many who will eventually call themselves Americans.

As executive director of Sheba, Yasmin has helped hundreds gain the essential ability to overcome the difficulties they face during the process of assimilation.

Offering English lessons, computer literacy classes, job training programs and citizenship preparation courses, Sheba gives immigrants the opportunity to acquire the skills they need, helping them overcome cultural and customary traditions which may have presented psychological barriers.

The grassroots organization not only provides services to everyone within the immigrant community, it also shares a special focus on empowering women over the age of 40 –a small demographic that Yasmin said she believes is one of the most vulnerable.

If I can change one woman life, they will be able to enlighten others within their own circles, Yasmin said of Sheba recent efforts to reach out to the female Bengali population in Jackson Heights. Empowering these women is important and we aim to make that happen.

In February, the grassroots organization was recognized by the City Council for its efforts and is anticipated to receive $25,000 in Immigrant Opportunities Initiative funding, a grant dedicated toward providing nonprofit organizations with the financial resources necessary to educate immigrant New Yorkers.

With the IOI funding, Yasmin believes the organization will be able to reach out to more than 100 immigrants each year, nearly doubling the amount of participants who walk through Sheba doors.

Yasmin said she believes her tireless work ethic and passionate drive to help others will become contagious – a healthy condition she hopes each individual in the borough will contract so they can also help others.

We are all human beings, Yasmin said. “If we can create this purpose where people feel compelled to help, others will take up the struggle too.

[copied from old website. posted by TY]