Zuhra Matkurbanova

SUSI 2015

"When I first arrived in Memphis, I had a goal of helping homeless people but subsequently I met amazing people who helped me with cultural adjustments and introduced me to World Relief, the only refugee agency in Memphis so I decided to change my project. I had never met any refugees before, so that experience was totally new for me and was one of the reasons I chose it as my social project...One of the greatest things about my volunteering experience with World Relief was meeting and building relationships with refugees from all over the world, whether it was having a dinner with a family from Syria or helping with a doctor's appointment for a Nepali family. As I spent time with some refugee families, I was able to hear some of their stories, visit their homes, and learn about their cultures. Moreover, I had $100 for my project from Department of State to implement my plan so I contributed this money for some Afghani and Somalian families. I learned a lot of their stories that touched my heart. I can't even imagine how hard it was to be separated from their family, culture, friends and environment. My experience with meeting and helping them opened my eyes to many different types of people and the difficult circumstances they are facing.

I believe that everyone deserves a better life. I've met refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nepal, etc. All of them are brave, intelligent, good-natured, delightful people who want the same future for themselves and their children as we do.

I assumed before that one person can never make a difference, but now I've realized that changes start with you. Yes! You, me, her, and just ordinary people. You have something valuable to contribute and learn from befriending, assisting, and advocating for people. This is what I've learned from my SUSI experience, particularly from visiting the Domestic Violence Shelter and Auburn Food Bank.

It's really neat to be able to take something and to present it to somebody else who really needs it. It can be just friendship, knowledge and experiences. It makes all the difference in the world. I'm glad that SUSI and Department of State helped me to make some difference."

photo from Zuhra Matkurbanova's Project
Zuhra with some of the families she met while volunteering for World Relief in Memphis, Tennessee.


The Study of the United States Institute (SUSI) on Women's Leadership is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). ECA’s mission is "to foster mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries to promote friendly and peaceful relations.

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Contact Us

SUSI Program Director

Dr. Vivette Beuster
+1 (253) 288-3343 (office phone at college)
+1 (253) 326-1989 (cell phone)

Institute participants may receive mail at the following address:

Megan Swanson
c/o International Programs and Extended Learning
Green River College
12401 SE 320th Street
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This is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Green River College.