Webster student Fahima Band Ali fundraises for Afghan refugees

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Fahima Band Ali said moving to the United States from another country is difficult. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2017 and is now working to fundraise for Afghan refugees.

From Gen-Ed’s to generosity, Webster student Fahima Band Ali doesn’t rest until her goals are met. In 2017, Ali immigrated to the United States and now she is fundraising to help 1,000 Afghan refugees access needed resources to start fresh in the United States.

“I have a lot of family connections in Afghanistan,” Ali said. “I wanted to do something bigger and this was something I could manage more quickly and efficiently.”

Ali’s desire to help was not only family-driven. She said her own personal experiences from immigrating inspired her to start the fundraiser.

“Moving from a different country to the United States is hard, especially when you have faced this trauma of the war,” Ali said. “They have left everything to come here.”

She knows firsthand how difficult it can be to leave your entire life behind in exchange for something foreign.

“I remember when I was in the airport in 2017 and the airport announced that we will be landing soon,” Ali said.“I was thinking what should I be expecting from the future because I had no idea what to expect.”

Ali landed in the U.S. with limited resources and a lot of questions. Her anxiety surrounding her new environment did not shed right away. She had to quickly learn the English language in order to keep up with her classmates. She says her school did not provide any extra counseling or staff to help with her transition.

Fahima Band Ali speaks at a discussion panel on Sept. 7, 2021. She is fundraising for Afghan refugees. Photo by Morgan Smith.

“I was going blindly, but the funny thing is at the end of my freshman year I got a certificate for having the highest GPA in my class,” Ali said.

Despite the odds being stacked against her, Ali was focused on succeeding in order to make her family proud. She graduated from high school in 2020 and went on to her next journey at Webster University in the fall.

She is an active student on campus participating in Student Government Association, speech and debate and Amnesty International. When she is not in class or participating in extracurriculars, she is working at her on-campus job.

“I don’t have a habit of sharing things with my family because I don’t want to let them know about things that I am not sure I am succeeding in,” Ali said. “As a first-generation immigrant, I want my family to be proud of me.”

She expressed that her family is always supportive of her no matter what. She has recently made local news and was thrilled to share in the excitement with her loved ones.

Her brother shared his overjoyed sentiments under an article posted about her on Facebook.

“Today I think and I am sure that I am the proudest brother of yours,” brother Omran Karimi said.

The unwavering support does not stop there. Ali credits her success largely to the support she has experienced on and off-campus. She said that the support from Webster and local St. Louis media took her by surprise.

She highlighted Warren Rosenblum and Ann Rathert as two of her biggest support systems on campus.

“My first meeting was with [Rosenblum] and saying all of these ideas to him and he was the first person who told me to do this [step] next and to do this [next],” Ali said. “This whole thing started with his support and I really want to thank him for all that he did to me”

Rosenblum met her as a freshman in his world history class and she is now taking his course in 20th-century European history. He describes her as someone who knows what she wants and will do everything in her power to make it happen. He emphasized that this is her project and her vision.

“Fahima is incredibly energetic, curious and attentive,” Rosenblum said. “She has a hunger for learning and wants to get out in the world and do something important.”

As of Sept. 7, her fundraiser has collected nearly $2,200 and is still climbing by the day. The support from her friends and colleagues on campus helps her keep pushing for her goal of $10,000.

Her efforts are being noticed by far more than just TV stations. Her goal was to help others become involved in a way that was not intimidating and her classmates would agree that she is doing exactly that.

Ali’s former Connections Leader, Garrett Dohlke says he is deeply inspired by what she is trying to accomplish.

Fahima Band Ali, stands next to Soiel Mansouri, Arrey Obenson, Igho Ekakitie and Carlos Suarez (left to right) at a discussion panel on Sept. 7, 2021. Photo by Morgan Smith.

“Her ability and drive to put on an event like this and bring awareness to important issues and world events is admirable,” Dohlke said. “When she wants something, she does everything to get it.”

Ali has no intention of stopping after this fundraiser. Once she has reached her goal, she plans to start again with a larger goal in mind.

“After I am finished with this fundraiser, I will go and visit with the refugees once they arrive,” Ali said. “I will go and speak their own language and tell them, ‘Hey, how can I help and make you feel like you’re at home?’”

She hopes to later start a fundraiser to gather materials for head coverings for the refugees coming to the United States. She is looking forward to using her newfound platform to make positive change for the people here and the ones still in Afghanistan.

“I also want to do a bigger fundraiser since I have a good audience now and this fundraiser will go to the people who are desperate in Afghanistan,” Ali said.

Her plans for the future are never-ending and with the right support she will continue to work hard to accomplish her goals.

“She seems like someone who is making up for lost time,” Rosenblum said. “She never wastes a minute: Every day is precious.”

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Managing Editor | + posts

Abby Frye (she/her) is the managing editor for The Journal. She was previously the lifestyle editor in the fall 2020 semester. She writes news and lifestyle stories and works outside of Webster, but enjoys her cats and getting tattoos.