Naureen Qasim, an associate professor in health and human services at Clark State Community College, will receive Project Woman’s Chrysalis Award on Thursday night at the third annual Project Woman Candlelight Vigil at City Hall Plaza in downtown Springfield. The vigil begins at 6 p.m. and celebrates survivors of domestic violence.
Project Woman works towards ending domestic violence and sexual assault by providing programs to protect, educate and empower the community. One program is the Chrysalis Program that offers temporary housing at a second stage shelter, the Chrysalis Manor, and counseling for healing survivors.
Like a caterpillar transforms into a monarch butterfly shedding its chrysalis, the Chrysalis Program exists to transform survivors and support them as they reclaim their independence, ultimately regaining their lost freedom. The Chrysalis Award emerged from the program. It is given to someone who personifies the journey of a survivor that has inspired others to survive; is a champion for the cause of ending domestic and intimate partner violence; or, provides a hallmark or social change that contributes to greater awareness.
In 1996, Qasim, a former physician, left her practice, country and family in Pakistan after a bad divorce that left her penniless and unprotected. “In Pakistan we have no laws for women,” she says. “It’s not okay for women to say anything against men at all.”
Once she arrived in the U.S. with her two small children, she stayed with family in Springfield but continued to face hardships. A neighbor helped her seek out the services of Project Woman.
Qasim is not only an instructor at Clark State, but she is a survivor and an inspiration to others within the organization and community, especially students.
“Naureen inspires the belief that a person can overcome whatever life gives them, and not only does she believe that, but she inspires that belief in the young people that she touches at Clark State,” said Laura Baxter, executive director, Project Woman. “She doesn’t wear her scars out on her sleeve, she’s very quiet about it, but just believes in overcoming. This distinction makes her truly a Chrysalis Award winner.”
Driven to teach students beyond classroom studies, she educates them about living a healthy lifestyle, staying organized and overcoming any obstacles in their way. Every student who enters her classroom is reminded of four things: dream, act, plan and believe.
Qasim volunteers at the Project Woman’s shelter offering her support and story to those who will listen. She’s served as a board member since 1999.
“I just wanted to give back in a positive way because I had a lot of anger at the time,” said Qasim. “It’s not easy to leave your practice, country and family when you have two kids looking up and depending on you.”
While the last 19 years have been difficult, Qasim insists on focusing to the future, moving forward and not looking back at those who have harmed her. In fact, she calls herself selfish. “I’m selfish, my goal is to change the world one student at a time, and the only way we can change is through education – educating ourselves, families and communities,” she said.
This year marks Project Woman’s 40th anniversary. In 1974, community volunteers founded the agency as a one-room rape crisis center and it’s only grown from there.
To learn more about Project Woman, visit www.projectwomanohio.org or contact (937) 328-5308. If you or someone you know needs help, call Project Woman's 24-Hour Crisis Line at 1-800-634-9893.