Gulshan Yusufzai, Executive Director
Gulshan’s experience as a refugee from Afghanistan and multicultural exposure was brought about by living in three different countries during her early years. Her early childhood was interrupted by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent displacement of her family as refugees to Pakistan. She came to the United States as a nine-year-old and stayed in New York for a brief period before settling in Sacramento, California. She finished her high school in Sacramento before going to the University of California, Davis to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Government.
It came relatively natural to Gulshan to develop an interest in issues related to community development and social services catering to different underserved groups in the society. To this end, in 2004-2008 she worked for the California Institute for Mental Health, a non-profit specializing in mental health services through training, technical assistance, research, and policy development. In 2009-2012, she was the Deputy Director of the California Network of Mental Health Clients, a statewide non-profit focusing on advocacy and program development for the mental health client/consumer community.
In October 2013, she joined MAS-SSF as an Executive Director. She hopes to increase the representation of the underserved groups in the local Muslim community and enable more resource allocation at the state and federal level as well as within local communities to meet their needs.
Masehullah Stanikzai, Shifa for Today Peer Counseling Program, Lead Peer Counselor
Masehullah joined MAS-SSF on December 2018. He is originally from Afghanistan and has lived in the United States for the last three years. He finished his high school as a refugee in Peshawar Pakistan, where he was able to get his English language diploma in 2000. In 2003 he was able to enter the computer science department of Kabul University through exclamatory exam. He could not complete his bachelors due to family problems and started working with a non-profit organization as a volunteer supporting the Afghan women to build their skills.
In 2005 he was hired by the United Nations as an Executive Assistant to the head of regional office. After working for three years he was promoted and hired as a Welfare Assistant at UN headquarter in Kabul where he was responsible for managing all the recreational events and activities, as well as briefing newly hired national and international staff about the social and culture life of Afghans. In 2010, based on his personal interest in providing psychosocial support to his colleagues, he went through a peer helpers training developed and conducted by the United Nation’s Critical Incidents Stress Management Unit (CISMU) in Turkmenistan and completed the training successfully. He was later offered the position of Counseling Assistant/Peer Helper with the UN Staff Counseling section where he was responsible to provide psycho-social and peer support to the UN staff members and their extended families.
Currently, he lives in Rocklin and is a full-time student of business administration at Sierra College.
Shaista Najmi Jaffri , Shifa for Today Peer Counseling Program, Lead Peer Counselor
Shaista Najmi Jaffri joined MAS-SSF on January 2019. She holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Karachi University. She has served as a peer counselor for MAS-SSF since 2007 and is a member of the MAS-SSF Evaluation Committee. She was a CMMC (California MHSA Multicultural Coalition) Emerging Leader and led a mental health awareness project for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). She has previously worked in education and has previously volunteered with Friendly Visitors and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate).
She recalls informally serving as a counselor to family and friends since a young age and considers counseling to be one of her greatest passions in life. Her hobbies include knitting, sewing, reading, music, and following current events. She has resided in the Sacramento area for over 25 years. She is fluent in Urdu/Hindi and Sindhi and has working proficiency in Punjabi.
Leena Gela Man, Shifa for Today Peer Counseling Program, Lead Peer Counselor
Leena Gela Man joined MAS-SSF on January 2019. She is ethically and originally from Afghanistan. She has a bachelor’s degree as a chemical engineer. She has taught as a professor at the Kabul Polytechnic University.
She has lived in the United States for 4 years. She is a campaigner of preventing violence against women along many other small jobs. She has always had the aspiration to help underprivileged women. She has personal experience to this end being raised around in an environment in Afghanistan and always wanted to help women to stand on their own and gain independence.
Leena looks forward to working at MAS-SSF to fulfil her dream of helping people with adversities.
Laila Barakat, Outreach and Resource Coordinator
Laila graduated from San Jose State University with a B.S. in Public Relations. She is a passionate health and wellness educator with a love of writing, poetry and the great outdoors. A sampling of her many interests include hiking with her family, learning about nutrition and mind-body medicine, and personal development. She serves MAS-SSF as an Outreach & Resource Coordinator and is also a certified Peer Counselor. She resides in Elk Grove with her family, 3 cats and is on a mission to destigmatize mental health in all communities.