We had the good fortune of connecting with Jida Nabulsi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jida, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Where are you from? Easy! I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, but I have struggled with this question my entire life. Where am I from? Early in my childhood, it was evident that I am from Houston. I am American. But my parents are immigrants from Lebanon and Syria, so when people would ask me where I am from and my response would be, I’m from Houston. Well, where are you ORIGINALLY from? It seemed to me that we as a community had already segregated ourselves as white people are American and everyone else is from someplace else. With two working parents, growing up in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood, and attending A. A. Milne elementary school, I was surrounded by so many different people. Growing up in the 90’s I didn’t think about color, race, or ethnicity. In middle school at Paul Revere, I was a part of a group of students that attended a seminar held at the University of Houston. It was an entire day dedicated to inclusion. That seminar had forever changed me. Injustice angers me. Maybe that is why it is unsurprising that I lead a non-profit organization aimed at providing access to communities that have been ignored. When I moved to Abu Dhabi in my junior year, the question “where am I from” became quite complicated. When you are born in the States, you are American, but in many other countries, if you are born there doesn’t mean you are from there. While attending the American Community School of Abu Dhabi (ACS), many Americans and non-Americans attended school. As the new kid in an American High School in the Middle East, that was the first question anyone would ask. Where are you from? I’m from Houston, Texas. “No, you are not; you are Arab because your dad is Lebanese.” I would constantly hear. But I’ve never lived there or spent any significant amount of time in Lebanon to feel that I am truly Lebanese. So at my American High School, I wasn’t American to the Arabs, and to the Americans, I was Arab. What a Catch-22! At a pivotal moment of my teenage years, I became even more confused about where I was from. Oh and I was constantly teased for always saying the signature word of Texas Y’all! While living in the Middle East I traveled in the Middle East, China, Europe, and India. These experiences opened my eyes to the world we live in and the beauty of each of these places and the privilege many of us live in. As a child visiting developing nations and understanding that the rest of the world doesn’t have access to electricity at the flip of a switch or hot water. A world where many children do not go to school because they have to work. I understood that even though we weren’t “rich” growing up we still had to go to school, had electricity, and hot clean water. Those things don’t leave you. Those experiences made me who I am today. And I am thankful for my experiences that have allowed me to see what is important. We are rich when we have love, family, and support to lean on each other. I am a product of my life experiences and I am determined to keep learning and moving forward.What should our readers know about your business?
We believe that every family should have equal access to opportunities for economic success and social prosperity. Our mission is to empower the most vulnerable populations in the Houston community by offering programs that bridge the gap and help these families better integrate into their communities, building their resilience, resourcefulness, stability, and physical and emotional wellbeing. Amaanah’s Mission To be the leader in providing support for refugee and immigrant families to have equal access to economic success and social prosperity opportunities. Amaanah’s Vision We believe that America is a land of opportunity and that opportunity can and should be equally accessible to all. As a nation of immigrants, it’s our diversity of cultures, languages, and experiences that make America truly beautiful, and we must honor and embrace that diversity to build a better nation and a better world for all of us. We believe that America is a land of opportunity and that opportunity can and should be equally accessible to all. By creating more equitable access to opportunities for New Houstonians, we set an example for communities across the nation to recognize that it’s our diversity of cultures, languages, and experiences that make America truly beautiful. We must work together to honor and embrace that diversity and build a better nation (and a better world) for all of us. The Amaanah Difference In the past, nonprofits have advocated for short term solutions for new immigrants. However, recent studies have shown that these short term programs do not work. Research indicates that newcomers need at least seven years to integrate properly. Unfortunately, after these short-term resettlement programs, we find women are still struggling to find child care so that they can work, and children are still struggling to learn without the educational support they need because of an overburdened and inadequate school system. Changes are happening faster than the system can adapt, and that is why Amaanah is here – to bridge the gaps. Amaanah believes that the best way to help a population develop social and financial stability is to meet them where they’re at and stay with them for the long haul. With language and cultural barriers, and many struggling with trauma and isolation, we believe the priority is to help families develop a sense of normalcy and social connectedness. While most refugee service programs focus heavily on relief and access to social welfare programs, Amaanah takes a different approach, confronting the pervasive issues of social isolation and child learning gaps head-on.Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My parents worked hard their entire life to provide for myself and my siblings. I am thankful for all the life experiences we were afforded together.