When it comes to the culinary arts, Tamana Tajik ’23 acknowledges that her strengths lie more in tasting than cooking. “Everyone has their gifts,” she says with a laugh. Tajik’s particular set of skills lies not in chopping, seasoning and sautéing, but in organizing, leading and uplifting others. Yet she recently found herself standing in the kitchen of the With Love Restaurant in downtown Syracuse, alongside her sisters, Soniya and Raheleh, surrounded by pots, pans and ingredients, helping to prepare authentic Afghan food. She was there to raise funds in support of charities benefiting a nation she’s never had the opportunity to visit, but which she will always call home. And in doing so, she truly lived Saint Ignatius’ credo: “Love is shown more in deed than words.”
Tajik’s parents fled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, before she was born. They lived in Pakistan and Iran before eventually settling in the United States. Today, though, as she goes about her daily life as a transfer student studying biology at Le Moyne and working in a variety of roles at Crouse Hospital, she says Afghanistan is never far from her mind or her heart. She closely followed the news reports of 3.5 million Afghans forced to flee their homes due to insecurity and violence, including an estimated 600,000 people displaced inside the country this year alone, and knew that she had to do whatever she could to assist in humanitarian efforts to provide them with the basic necessities – food, clothing and shelter.
“Helping other people gives me strength,” says Tajik, who also spoke at a recent a candlelight vigil in honor of the people of Afghanistan. “If someone falls down, I can’t just sit back and watch. I have to help that person stand up again. That makes me happy. That gives me the strength. It lets me know that I am capable of making difference in the lives of others.”
Tajik and her family made this commitment to the people of Afghanistan even in the midst of their own profound grief. This spring her father, who returned to the nation and was a member of the Afghan National Guard, was killed by the Taliban. His memory, and his commitment to his fellow countrymen, serves as a source of inspiration to Tajik. So does his belief in the power of education. Tajik recalled his enthusiastic support of her dream to become a cardiovascular surgeon, particularly given that, according to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Afghanistan. Today she is a member of the College’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program and stays closely connected with Le Moyne’s Health Professions Advisory Committee, both of which play a vital role in preparing students for graduate program in the health sciences.
And as the nation prepares to welcome more Afghan families to the United States in the coming weeks and months, Tajik knows that her work is not done yet.
“I know that things look messy in Afghanistan and around the world, but knowing that there is a tomorrow gives me hope,” she says. “Knowing that I have the power, the strength and the ability to help others gives me hope. Being a doctor or being successful at anything in life is not about the grades you get in class or how hard you study. It’s the challenges life throws at you and how you respond to them.”