I love doing things that make a difference in a big way. I depend on my education and experience in business communications, journalism, philanthropy, advocacy, organizing, and real estate to help me achieve this.
Business Communications | Business Communications services through my virtual company, Bloom Five LLC.
Journalism | It was while watching the film, “Dead Man Walking” based on a true story about a death row inmate in the US, that it dawned on me how powerful the media could be in communicating with a large number of people. So a career in investigative journalism for a nationally broadcast network news magazine show like Dateline NBC was a perfect fit for me. In this role, I was able to share the stories of real people and situations to inform or inspire people to action. Having the insight into what it’s like to be on the other side of news in a production capacity has been helpful in all areas of my life from social media content creation to campaign strategies. Learn more about where I worked as a journalist here: www.NBCNews/Dateline.com. Stay tuned for some possible documentary work coming soon.
Philanthropy | I feel lucky. I have been able to accomplish a lot. My heritage includes two incredible countries – the US and Iran. I have experienced living comfortably with my mother and father – as well as living lean in a single-parent family after my parent’s divorce. My parents were both generous and empathetic to others in need and taught me to do the same. I have seen firsthand how giving wisely can become something far greater than myself. I am most passionate about philanthropy and projects that are related to cancer which has taken so many in my family and also those things that help people help themselves – like education and my business communication services.
Advocacy | As an Iranian-American, I strongly support diplomacy between the US and Iran. It’s important to me to help promote the great things about America while helping people understand the same about Iran. I base this on my experiences from having lived in Iran during the Shah’s era and several years post-revolution. I am passionate about sharing information about Iranian or American culture to hopefully foster better relations between the two countries.
I have seen first-hand how sanctions against Iran have affected innocent people, primarily in the health sector. Not having access to life-saving medicine and devices to diagnose or treat major illnesses is hard to accept. It is because of this experience that I support the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). NIAC helped me amplify my voice about these issues on Capitol Hill – opportunities and connections I could not find through other organizations representing the community. I also support NIAC’s position to promote diplomatic relations between the US and Iran – which simply means to settle their differences without war, respect the will of each country’s citizens, and without outside interferences by foreign governments or special interests.
I am also very active in supporting refugees and immigrants in their quest for “americanization” including learning English, transferring their skills to the American workforce, and cultural conditioning. My company Bloom Five LLC participated in President Obama’s Call to Action to help refugees in the area of workplace readiness. Through the process relationships with the Tent Foundation, Accenture and International Rescue Committee have been created.
Organizing | When I was around 21 years old, I saw a report on TV by 20/20 news magazine about loneliness and that it was an “epidemic” in the US. It was a very powerful report which inspired me to learn how to bring people together. I joined the local Junior Chamber of Commerce and regularly organized social, fundraising, and charity events. They taught me how to organize effectively and bring people together. These skills have helped me tremendously in creating friendships and campaigns to influence policy or create social change. Today, I am well known for regularly organizing opportunities to strengthen ties between people with common interests for good. Currently, I am the founder of the popular Meetup, Montclair Media Alliance.
Real Estate | Affiliated with EXP Realty, LLC. Real estate locally in Northern NJ and globally using EXP Realty’s referral network of partners and offices around the world. I have experienced firsthand how real estate can determine the quality of life for individuals and families and also inspire the community, encourage philanthropy and create meaningful legacies. Both my paternal and maternal grandfathers were real estate investors on different sides of the world and I grew up in a family who directly benefitted – and still do – from their investments. I have also experienced being a renter, landlord, buyer, remodeler, or seller of numerous properties, in the US and overseas. As a real estate professional, I value having the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds, learn what’s important to them, to provide the best information to help them make related informed decisions. I believe real estate is not just about finding a place to live or invest in. There are so many variables to consider when making a decision about real estate – unique to each person. These factors can include new beginnings, downsizing, growing families, life changes, health, investing, cash flow, security, independence, values, instincts, prestige, space, work, convenience, commutes, hobbies, fitness, education, community, hopes, dreams, development – just to name a few!
Born in Shiraz, Iran, Maria spent her early years growing up in Tehran with her American mother, Iranian father, and younger sister. The Shah of Iran was in power and Tehran enjoyed seemingly good relations with the US and the world. With a comfortable home life, she made many friends while attending the International Community School. Unfortunately, her parents divorced when she was 10 years old. Upon completing the 4th grade she left Iran with her mother and sister to relocate to her mother’s hometown, Lubbock, Texas.
Meanwhile, her father stayed in Iran as an Engineer for the National Iranian Oil Company. Soon tensions within the country began to escalate, which later evolved into the Islamic Revolution. Although she wanted to travel back to Iran for a visit, her father insisted it was unsafe. So she settled into her life in the US, made friends, finished high school, ran a highly successful resume and career service, and graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Communications.
After graduation, she traveled to Washington DC with her father during one of his visits to the US and fell in love with the city – and decided to move there. She was able to find work at USA TODAY national newspaper headquarters. Simultaneously, she took film and TV classes at The American University and Montgomery College, which led to an internship and then a paid position with Dateline NBC’s Washington DC bureau. Over the next several years, Maria contributed to Dateline NBC and its media partners in a variety of roles such as researcher, production manager, intern coordinator, booker, producer, field producer, associate producer, assistant producer, etc. Earning credits on over 60 stories in several genres including consumer, investigative, celebrity, and breaking news. She is the recipient of several prestigious journalism awards including national Emmy awards.
With a busy life in the US, Maria never imagined returning to Iran. But in 2005, her father traveled to the US from his home in Shiraz, Iran for cancer treatment at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. Although he died only 3 short months later, the experience of being by his side throughout his hospitalization had a profound effect on her. She followed through on the promise she made to her father to return him to Iran for burial. But what was meant to be a short trip for his funeral turned into a 7-year quest to make a difference for cancer patients inside Iran. Determined to turn the painful experience and lessons learned from watching her father go through cancer treatment – she devoted her time to finding solutions for cancer care in Iran. She quickly was able to adapt to the culture in Shiraz with the help of her family who lives there.
Because of US Sanctions on US citizens in Iran, she couldn’t start a charity or spend money, but she was able to make things happen by convincing MAHAK Charity Organization to establish its first-ever social worker office outside of Tehran in Shiraz, Iran. This was a tremendous victory for children and their families battling cancer in Southern Iran. MAHAK Charity Organization is the most well-known, loved, and trusted pediatric cancer charity in Iran. Before the Shiraz location, MAHAK was only accessible to people who were in Tehran (12 hours north of Shiraz via car). Very few could make the trip there, in particular for those children whose families are economically challenged. Today, MAHAK Charity Social Workers Office in Shiraz is solely supported by the charity and serves hundreds of children in Southern Iran.
Maria also met many others working in philanthropy in Iran, including domestic and international organizations like UNICEF, UNHCR. She learned a lot about how those who built schools and addressed literacy, social entrepreneurship projects, created jobs for women, helped refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq, assisted orphans, single parents, AIDS patients, substance dependents, physically disabled. etc.
In 2012, Maria moved back to the US to Montclair, NJ, where her family lives, in the New York City area. She is very active in the Iranian-American community and has established a strong network of friends and contacts around the world. Inspired by the hardships she saw in Iran that ordinary citizens experienced as a result of living under sanctions, she volunteers to promote peace between the US and Iran through the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), serving as NJ Captain and NE Regional Chair (NY, NJ, PA, CT).
Currently, lives in Montclair, NJ. She provides business communications through her virtual company, BloomFive, LLC, and works in real estate as a Broker Associate with Exp Realty, LLC. In her spare time, she is an active member of the Iranian American Women Foundation NY Chapter and runs a successful meetup group, the Montclair Media Alliance.
She continues to travel back and forth between the US and Iran.
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Facebook : @MariaAfsharian
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