We at PAWC are proud to be a continuous source of inspiration for the women of our community.  The following story belongs to one of our 2016 conference attendees, Emilia Kashfian. 

Emilia Kashfian is a Los Angeles based fine art photographer, a winner of the 2020 International Photography Awards (IPA), the IPPAWARDS, and a 3-time Featured Artist on Apple’s Shot On iPhone campaign. She’s been featured on a number of photography websites, as well as several newspapers and magazines across the globe, including VOGUE and GQ. 


With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from UCLA and a background of more than a decade in management, her innate, artistic sense was always what called to her. Her creative expression spans from a private business in floral design to freelance work as a certified makeup artist, but her true passion has always been in photography, dating back to the very first time she picked up a camera as a young girl.  Adding to her accomplishments, Emilia is also a beautifully talented writer and has been published on several websites.  
Of her 8 categories wins this year at the International Photography Awards, Emilia received Honorable Mention for her series, THE FACES OF NEPAL. This photo series provides a glimpse into a volunteer trip she took to Nepal in April of 2017, with the non-profit, Empower Nepali Girls (ENG), a trip that was introduced and inspired by attending the Persian American Women’s Conference (PAWC). Emilia beautifully tells the story of how this life-changing experience impacted her life, empowering her as an individual, as a woman, and as a citizen of the world. 
Emilia writes, “Hearing the testimony and courageous efforts of one woman for a cause as dire as the plight of the Nepali girls, that inspired me to take a leap out of my comfort zone and join the effort to help those impoverished and at-risk in Nepal. The result of which has had a multi-faceted and rippling effect in my life. 
On a personal level, it brought light and a newfound awareness in the depth of one’s ability, capacity, and strength when placed in unknown and unfamiliar situations. It set the intention of valuing one’s independence and capability for a greater good. That in pursuit of my passion, and my civil duty as a fellow human being to pay it forward, I was rewarded with such a profound sense of fulfillment, purpose, and meaning. This in turn provided the fuel and the drive to further expand my goals in life. And the added recognition for both the cause and for my career as a photographer is more than I could have ever imagined. That in the end, it behooves us to push ourselves beyond our limits and that which feels uncomfortable for us. For when we do, the treasures are endless and worth a lifetime.”
To read about her experience, along with some very interesting stories about her trip, please visit her website and blog at www.emiliaphotographe.com


In April of 2017, I traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal, as a volunteer for EMPOWER NEPALI GIRLS (ENG), a non-profit organization providing scholarships to under-privileged girls, who are subject to early marriage and human trafficking. 


Not knowing what to expect, as this would be my first visit to a third world country, I soon realized that I had signed up for something way beyond my comfort zone. As frightening as that thought was, at the same time, I somehow felt such an immense sense of excitement, knowing it would be a life-changing experience. Little did I know then how much it would change me.


Looking out from the plane’s window as we were flying into Kathmandu, I immediately felt a heaviness in my heart, seeing the impoverished surroundings. But once we landed and drove through the city, I was immediately charmed. Charmed by the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people. The busyness of it all was mesmerizing and surreal.


Meeting the team members of EMPOWER NEPALI GIRLS (ENG), I quickly learned I was amongst some truly exceptional individuals who had dedicated so much of themselves to making a difference in Nepal. To be a part of this team was beyond heartening, and, with the amount of time we spent together on the trip, some wonderful friendships were made.


Each day was planned for us, from visiting schools to spending time with the most extraordinary, warm-hearted, and smartest children I had ever met. I can’t explain it, but I can honestly say each day in Nepal proved to be more profound and more meaningful than the day before.


On one of our first days, we had the privilege of attending a very productive and exciting meeting at the US Embassy Nepal, where we met with some of the most intelligent, conscientious, and influential pioneers of my generation, who guided us in navigating and creating more positive changes for the livelihood of Nepali girls. 


Meeting the college girls of ENG, the first generation recipients of these scholarships, was truly another highlight of the trip. These once shy, quiet girls were now confident, educated, and empowered ladies who will soon become doctors, engineers, educators, and life changers of their country. I remember feeling overwhelmed with such emotion as we got to know them. Witnessing the depth of their intelligence, compassion, and determination while learning how far they’d come was indescribable.


What really put things in perspective as to the degree of the kind of hardship these girls face on a daily basis came during the individual home visits we took part in, and for me, the most difficult part of the trip. To see how and where these precious girls live was disconcerting, to say the least, and utterly heartbreaking. But what blew me away even more was seeing how proud their families were with the little they had, inviting us into their homes and holding their heads up high, a testament to their strong will and good nature.


The last part of our trip took place in Borang, a small village located in the Lamjung region of Nepal, where we’d camp in tents for several days (another first for me), visit schools, and participate in a service project delivering water tanks to each family in the village. When we arrived at this beautiful village, surrounded by its majestic views and scenic greenery, I couldn’t escape the thought of whether I’d be able to make it through that week without running water, limited electricity and no bathrooms.


What became apparent, however, was how quickly one can adapt in any situation they find themselves in and how capable one can be outside of their comfort zone when needed. And yet, there was more to it than that. The time we spent in Borang was about giving to a community that needed our help and support. It hadn’t occurred to me then what a lasting impression this community would make, literally fueling us with their deep sense of spirit, heart, and fortitude. That alone held such meaning on a level I never expected. 


A day does not go by where I’m not reminded of or have a memory of this unforgettable adventure. Even now, I still find myself sharing my recollections, wholeheartedly encouraging anyone I know to not only get involved in this wonderful cause but to participate in an opportunity of a lifetime. To see firsthand what an impact ENG is making in the future and livelihood of not only Nepali girls and their families, but for all of Nepal, where the effect of a good education can expand throughout future generations and therein transform the entire country. That, to me, is just priceless.