Dr. Sheriff also remembers seva being a family activity since childhood, including helping her parents make sherbet for the Jamat, and her involvement in Early Childhood Development training at the age of 13, with some joking that she was the PIAR junior representative.
After earning her doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Dr. Sheriff specialized in child and adolescent trauma. She spent over 15 years working with young people impacted by poverty and violence, survivors of torture, and individuals with developmental disabilities in crisis. After graduating, she became Kamadianima of Alameda Jamatkhana, and while she underwent a divorce, she says her Jamati responsibilities were sometimes the only reason she got out of bed.
Dr. Sheriff’s dream of motherhood was realized in 2016, but in 2018, Azekiel was placed on multiple life support systems, struggling between this life and the next. She experienced the struggle of seeing her newborn’s life in limbo, but said that her personal support system and her faith helped her through her life’s hardest years.
Living in Dallas, Dr. Sheriff was unable to attend the Diamond Jubilee Didar, because Azekiel was in the ICU. She missed the opportunity that only recently has she been able to reconcile as a privilege not meant for her. Her faith, however, was her solace, and after three months, Azekiel stabilized miraculously.
Dr. Sheriff knows that regardless of how visible, accomplished, and talented a woman might be, everyone experiences dark moments in their lives. How we cope is not only an individual act of resilience, but also a reflection of the amazing community support available to us.
Lessons that Dr. Sheriff hopes to teach her child include that his mother is not only a single mother and Co-Founder of IvySeeds Psychological Services, but also a passionate, strong, independent woman who has ownership over her legacy as an individual, much like Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah had envisioned for all women. She emphasizes that her desire for motherhood means living her life alongside raising a new life, and ‘womanhood’ includes any and all qualities a woman desires.
From her pursuit of a PhD, to serving the most vulnerable of communities, here and globally, Dr. Aliya Sheriff has directed her decisions in the service of others, including as a member of the
Aga Khan Social Welfare Board for the United States for the past seven years. She has led national programs addressing family harmony, furthered early childhood development programming, and addressed youth mental health, together with other Jamati institutions. A flagship program she is proud of is iMentors, a one-on-one mentoring program for youth ages 12-18. Her work with trauma survivors prepared her for her TKN assignment in Nairobi, in 2014, when she supported the holistic health of survivors of the Westgate Shopping Mall attack.
While she has contributed a great deal to the world around her, Aliya believes that her own life has been changed by the work she does, enhancing her experiences, and giving her the reasons to keep contributing - because she can.