SAN ANTONIO – The World Affairs Council of San Antonio will present Waheeda Thawerbhoy Kara with the 2023 International Citizen of the Year for her humanitarian and civic work on Wednesday at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
Kara has been fighting for social justice for over 35 years.
Born in Chittagong, Bangladesh, she fled with her family from their homeland amidst war and genocide. Kara left behind all earthly possessions, relatives, a multigenerational family business, and life-long memories to take refuge in a foreign land.
This move left her with a strong sense of culture shock when she first came to the United States and attended public school.
After voicing her discomfort, her family helped her find her place in a small Catholic school where the spiritual teachings and conservative dress code were much more aligned with her own. It was at this young age that Kara gained an understanding and strong appreciation for interfaith unity, a huge part of her work today.
“Here I am, you know, a young Muslim girl, feeling right at home in a Catholic school. That made me think about how important interfaith unity is, dialogue, and how important it is for us to do things together,” Kara said.
Years later, she moved to San Antonio, and she used her past to inspire her to take action.
Her experience as a child refugee had a profound effect on her adulthood today. She is a part of more than two dozen organizations, projects, and committees across the San Antonio area.
She currently serves as president of the National Inter-organizational Collaborative, vice president at Intellica Financial Services, Interfaith Committee member at San Antonio Food Bank, and Advisory Board member at UTHSC Mays Cancer Center.
Over the years, she has served as a national board member for FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, as vice chairman for Aga Khan Foundation Southwest USA, as President of Abode (Contemplative Care for the Dying), President of the Staff Organization at Our Lady of the Lake University, Chair of SOL Interfaith Center, on advisory boards of Awaaz – Victims of Domestic Violence, McNair Scholars Program and as board member for Musical Bridges Around the World, Our AIM Foundation, D4D Daughters for Detection and San Antonio Cancer Educators Collaborative.
“Whatever happens locally always has a global effect. We have to remember that,” she stated.
Her major work with the City of San Antonio started in 2008 when she co-founded the Muslim Cultural Heritage Society. She brought the first-ever city-sponsored Eid Festival in collaboration with multiple organizations, including the San Antonio Museum of Art.
She was then tasked with bringing the Aga Khan Foundation’s Partnership Walk to alleviate global poverty to San Antonio, which started in 2012 and runs annually to this day.
Most recently, she was appointed by the Mayor of San Antonio to serve on the Mayor’s Council on Police Community Relations.
“Never underestimate the time you can give to service. Your 30 minutes could actually have a ripple effect and actually, change somebody’s life,” she said.
The World Affairs Council will present the award at the 2023 International Citizen of the Year award dinner at the Tobin Center at 6 p.m., Wednesday.
To purchase tickets for the event, click here.