This post is part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who are making a difference in their communities.

Tahmina Martelly, Resiliency Programs Manager, World Relief Seattle


What inspired you to start giving?

I have been given many things. My health, my journey to the United States and the many people along the way who helped me learn a new language, navigate the culture, and gain wisdom and education. I have to pass on all that was given freely to me so that others might benefit. Giving back is the best payment to those who have invested in me. I like to think that I can change the world by helping one person at a time.

What does giving mean to you? Why do you give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?

Giving to me means being generous with my gifts, talents, resources, and connections. My gifts and talents are not for me to hoard. It can only be multiplied when freely given away. Over the years, I have learned that giving is not only monetary resources but leveraging social capital, influence and skills to benefit those who cannot speak up or advocate for themselves (yet).

What would you tell others who are looking to start giving back?

My advice would be to give what you have. Many of us think that we have to have lots of money, time, or skills in order to begin giving back. When in fact, it is the little things that count. If you have a few extra hours to help a new English learner by having tea with them and practicing basic conversation or helping a child with homework to cutting back invasive blackberries at a local community garden, all are impactful. None of these things take a lot of skill or money. It merely takes a little time and mindfulness. The rewards are immeasurable. The person giving always gains more in return than they imagined.

Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.

I work for a nonprofit refugee resettlement organization (World Relief Seattle). Often many parts of my work involve managing volunteers, but even in the midst of that, it’s important to volunteer myself. A few months ago, some refugee youth asked me if I could help them with their personal statements for college and how to write prompts for scholarship applications. Many of the kids naturally gravitate towards me because I went through this process myself. So I set up times after work when I’d meet with 3-4 kids at a time to help them craft their personal statements. All of these kids will be the very first in their family to ever attend college. Many of the parents of these kids did not have any formal education and could not help them through this process. As I was helping one young man finalize his 500-word personal statement, he looked at me with a shimmer of tears in his eyes and said, “Ms. Tahmina, my life is like a movie, it is so compelling but before you worked with me I never saw my experiences like this.” This young man just received early admission to four universities and has a full-ride scholarship to one of the schools. Just a few hours of my life had such an impact. He was already brilliant, he just needed someone in his corner to navigate the complicated process of scholarships and college applications. I know that a good education, the first in this young man’s family will give hope to his siblings who are watching him and will change the legacy of his entire family. This is why volunteering is so important. It’s bigger than all of us.