My sisters and I have always been actively involved in the various communities that we belong to. The community that has perhaps had the greatest impact on my life is the Ismaili (Aga Khan) community, which I have been volunteering for since I was 8. The Ismaili community has given me my identity and has helped establish my fundamental values and beliefs. This space has provided me with a firm foundation and platform to simply be who I am.

When I came Tufts University this past year, it was the first time that my sisters and I had been separated for a long period of time. There was one particular Skype video call in which they were updating me about their lives.

A question they were receiving a lot from their peers and other parents came up: What makes you want to get involved? Why do you do it? The three of us had talked about this before and came to an agreement that one word could answer that question: our values. One’s values define a person—they are what make every individual unique.

When I was in 10th grade, I was given the opportunity to be a Big Sister within the Ismaili community. I was very excited to become involved with my community at a leadership capacity. As a Big Sister, I was responsible for training, guiding and motivating the junior volunteers in their duties and to encourage their participation. Now, as a mentor with SWSG, I have realized that my role as a Big Sister was pivotal in instilling my values – many of which are directly aligned with SWSG.

It was because of my positive experiences as a Big Sister that I decided to look into Strong Women, Strong Girls. The values promoted by SWSG are responsible for bringing out the good in every girl and woman involved with the program. The underlying love and support leaders provide are substantial in creating positive change. They create a diverse female community, in which mutual respect, understanding and empathy thrives. By setting out to discover that everyone has their own talents and abilities, it allows people to realize their passions and meet great people along the way.

I know that the girls I have both been a Big Sister or a SWSG mentor to, have not only influenced me, but they have allowed me to grow as a person – in the same way that I have helped empower them. So when people ask what makes those sisters tick? I would say that we do what we do because we like it. It’s simple as that. It’s not for the end reward, even though that can be the cherry on top. It’s more about getting to know others. Every new person we meet, young or old, has a lesson to teach. By delving deeper to the core of one group, whether it is SWSG or the Ismaili community, one can see that all so-called separate communities are actually integrated within larger communities.

Safiya Nanji is currently a SWSG mentor at Tufts University from Toronto, Canada. She aspires to be a broadcast journalist and loves to swim in her spare time. She has loved being a part of Strong Women, Strong Girls and is very much looking forward to the upcoming year.