Source: PARSA Community Foundation
For fifty-five years, Shahri Estakhry has found her life's passion in volunteer work and humanitarian causes. How this Shiraz-born tour de force of a woman has become known as the "Mother of Our Community" in San Diego, California, is an inspiring story of how one person with an extraordinarily big heart and determined spirit can make a lasting difference in the lives of many. She is the founder and former director of the Iranian School of San Diego, which has been the jewel in the crown of the community for the last 20 years. Thousands of children have connected with their Iranian identity in the language, dance, and theater classes of this school, making it an invaluable partner to parents struggling to instill a sense of culture and community in their children.
In 1989, Estakhry co-founded the Persian Cultural Center of San Diego, a nonprofit organization increasingly recognized nationally for its high caliber arts and culture programming, its glossy magazine, Peyk, its charitable fundraising through the Iranian Foundation, and its cross-cultural outreach and collaborations. In 1997, Estakhry founded (and continues to be the chair) of the Iranian-American Scholarship Fund, which has to date given seventy-five scholarships to talented college-bound students. She is also the founder and chair of the Dollar a Month Fund, a charity that raises money for needy children around the world
Most recently in 2006-2007, Estakhry initiated and masterminded a fundraising partnership between the Persian Cultural Center and the San Diego Museum of Art which resulted in the creation of a permanent "Arts of Persia" section within the Asian Gallery of the museum. She also holds various advisory and committee positions for several nonprofit organizations, always bringing her vision, creativity and organizational knowledge to the cause, donating endless hours of her time for no compensation, and raising thousands of dollars in the process.
The seed of volunteerism was sown early in Estakhry by her parents who believed wealth was not to be taken to the grave but was to be given to help others who are less fortunate. After moving to the United States as a young girl, Estakhry busied herself with the various charitable and fundraising activities, learning to volunteer before she could even speak English. Upon marrying the late Dr. Mohammad Ali Aghassi, a UN diplomat, her charitable causes took on more of an international focus, including her ongoing thirty-six years of work with UNICEF.
Estakhry, a ten-year breast cancer survivor, says she is humbled by the opportunities for improvement and accomplishments that life has given her; opportunities that have provided joy and personal growth in her life. She credits the continuing success of the organizations in San Diego to the community members, whom she calls "the wind beneath my wings." And those wings continue to soar, inspiring all in their path to similar heights. Estakhry says, "I am so grateful to my daughter who has supported, loved and encouraged me in what I do." In speaking to the youth of the Persian community, she says, "The span of life, as long as it may seem while you are young, in reality is very short...to waste any day is a pity. Go after your dreams with passion, achieve your goals with dignity and honesty, and be a caring, responsible citizen of the world. And remember to forgive, love and laugh."
... Payvand News - 05/11/08 ... --