Sudabeh Shoja, 2005 Hoover Medal Recipient
Sudabeh Shoja has achieved national and international recognition as an engineer, philanthropist, educator, and executive, demonstrating that one person can make a worldwide difference. She is the co-founder and President of Children’s Hope International Literacy and Development (CHILD),as well as the Assistant Director of Engineering and Public Works for the City of Vista in California. In addition, she serves as the Secretary of the Board for International Orphan Care (IOC), and is involved in numerous other charity and humanitarian causes.
Shoja started her humanitarian work at an early age. At the age of twelve, she became a Girl Scout Leader, helping with the distribution of food in various orphanages in the western region of Iran. In the early 1970’s, relations between Iran and Iraq were severed. Her town became host to thousands of Iranians who were forced to flee Iraq. She volunteered with the Iranian Red Cross, helping thousands of refugees walking across the border, without belongings and speaking a different language. During this time, she learned her first lesson in human tragedies. Working at administrative tasks such as clerical work, meeting with visitors, and interpreting for foreign charity organizations, she saw firsthand the needs of children. While still attending high school, she arranged and organized translation sessions for refugee children, helping them transition into their new environment. Moreover, she recruited other students to tutor these children.
In 1976, Shoja came to the United States to study Civil Engineering at Purdue University. She graduated with a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 1984 and moved to Los Angeles, California soon after. As an Iranian-American woman, she has worked relentlessly to become a role model in the field of construction management.
As a successful engineer, Shoja has a personal passion for improving the status of women around the world. Her experience as a single mother led her to start an outreach program in her community to prepare immigrant women for interviews and to help them develop job placement skills. Today she continues to reach out to single mothers on an international scale, and also focuses her efforts on implementing projects that allow disadvantaged children to continue their education. She believes that it is not just the girls who need to be educated; an educated boy will also help make changes. By providing food, shelter, school supplies and for their medical needs, her work allows the continuing education of orphan children to become a reality. Her favorite service is researching and identifying areas of need in various countries and developing and implementing new programs that will benefit children. She has been directly involved in developing programs for children that are blind, hearing impaired, disabled, abused, fighting cancer, or in child labor, so that they can attend school and enjoy the basics of life. Under her leadership, successful programs such as Hunger Relief, Wheel Chair Program, Building Shelter Projects, Community Work, Computers for Blind, Adopt-A-School, University Student Program, Disaster Relief, and back-pack and toy drives for children in earthquake stricken areas have benefited thousands of children in Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mexico, Turkey and the United States.
As President and co-founder of CHILD, she heads an organization that furthers educational opportunities and self-sufficiency programs in Iran, Afghanistan, Mexico, Turkey, India and Belarus. CHILD has modeled its programs after the needs identified by the United Nations as the Millennium Goals. According to Shoja, CHILD offers and implements programs that provide a solution to the needs identified by the UN. She continues to make significant contributions in promoting international projects to benefit children. The philosophy of the organization is “To bring a joyful childhood to every child.” Her focus for the next decade includes the continuation of the existing programs, the expansion of international programs, and providing a sound administration to support them all. Her vision for the growth of this organization is to become an umbrella organization for many grassroots charities worldwide. Shoja has been a board member and active volunteer of many organizations. As the Secretary of the Board for International Orphan Care (IOC), she has been involved in programs and fundraisers to support schools for orphan Afghan children in Kabul, Jalalabad, and Herat. Children receive daily meals and attend special trade schools. Classes in computer, embroidery, bicycle and radio repair are some of the most popular. IOC also supports two clinics with a professional staff that provide free treatment and medicine to benefit the communities outside Kabul. People walk from surrounding villages to receive medical treatments in these two clinics.
She has a strong belief that immigrants need to get involved and give back to their host community. Her efforts have led to organized programs to help the local charities by volunteers of the Iranian-American community. Her emphasis has been on getting high school students involved so they can develop a path for helping others in their future.
With more than two decades of professional engineering experience, Shoja is a well- respected member of the engineering community, and is currently the Assistant Director of Engineering and Public Works for the City of Vista, CA. She is a pioneer for women in construction and has been responsible for the construction of several landmarks in Orange County, CA.
Shoja was nominated for the Hoover Medal by Mr. Hasan Nouri, the Past President of International Orphan Care, and the 56th recipient of the Hoover Medal. Her nomination was endorsed by Mr. William J. Carroll, the 54th recipient of the Hoover Medal. Mr. Nouri cites “her excellence in engineering and her compassion for the children of the world regardless of where they were from.”
She owes her success to her loving and supportive husband Mr. Mehdi Saberi, an engineer and an active humanitarian, and to her children, Salma and Sahand.