Development, Donor Impact Report, Faces of the J

Finding a Home, Far Away From Home

Peymaneh Mollazadehherisi + Amin Bashirinahanji

When Peymaneh Mollazadehherisi and Amin Bashirinahanji moved to Seattle from Iran in September of 2022, their first time in the U.S., they didn’t expect to stumble into an entire community. But that’s exactly what they found at the J.

Peymaneh has a background in children’s art education, so when she saw a job opening at the J’s Early Childhood School, she eagerly applied. The first time she walked into the J, she knew she’d found somewhere special.

“Ever since my first interview, I feel like I’m at home when I’m here,” she said. “I knew this would be a good place for me.” Peymaneh joined the ECS faculty as a support teacher and has seen her own journey mirrored in the children. “I feel like I’m a student too,” she said. “I learn so much from all the others teachers who are so patient and helpful, and I learn from the children too. I’m learning about U.S. culture and customs, I’m learning English—just like the children.”

Amin noticed an immediate change in Peymaneh after she started working at the J. “When we were first here, we didn’t know anyone and we had no family around, and Peymaneh was so homesick,” he said. “But when she comes home from the J, she’s happy at the end of the day. And that makes me happy.”

Amin started joining Peymaneh for early morning workouts in the J’s Fitness Center before heading off to his job in home renovation. He quickly felt the same connection that Peymaneh felt. “The J’s slogan is ‘everyone is welcome,’ and it really does feel like that,” he said. “Everyone is accepted here, no matter your beliefs or religion. I have never felt labeled as ‘an immigrant’ or ‘someone who can’t speak English well.’ Everyone is always friendly, respectful, and kind.”

One of the first people Amin connected with was Fitness Manager Austin Williams. “He always greets us with open arms like we are old friends,” said Amin.

One morning, Austin noticed that Amin seemed unusually upset. When the two started talking, Amin expressed frustrations with his current job and told Austin he dreamed of finding a career that he enjoyed. Austin, who knew that Amin had a fitness background, suggested he look into personal training. Although Amin has always been an active person, it hadn’t occurred to him as a career and he didn’t know the steps to take.

Austin, who began his own personal training journey after encouragement from the J’s former Fitness Manager Josh Cross, was happy to pay the support forward and offer Amin guidance through the certification process. Austin said, “One thing I love about the J is that people can be their authentic selves. I’m really happy that the J and I have played a small part in helping Amin discover a new path that’s going to be great for him.”

Now Amin is just a few months away from earning his personal training certification and excited for the future. “Austin changed my life direction, and now I can start a new career that I love,” Amin said. “I never expected when I came here that I’d meet somebody who would guide my way in the U.S.”

Amin and Peymaneh feel lucky that the J has become an anchor in their lives as they create a new home in the Seattle area. They may be far away from their families and community in Iran, but they’re slowly finding a new community here, thanks to the J.

“The J changed our lives and brought happiness to my family,” Amin said. “What more could we ask for?”