Neighborhood: The Lake Club
Neighbor since: 2008
Maria Cora Gaffar has always had a strong sense of identity.
When she immigrated in the 1960s to the United States from the Philippines, she says that she was often met by stares and ignorance because of her ethnicity. Those reactions motivated her to earn a Ph.D. and rise to director of clinical research studies for Johnson & Johnson.
“I was one who always took work home,” says Gaffar. “When you are Asian, you have to work harder to prove yourself.”
Now, Gaffar shares her cultural identity with the community through the Asian Women’s Club of Lakewood Ranch, which she founded in 2011. The club boasts 20 members, including women from India, China, Japan and Sri Lanka.
Gaffar started the club not as a social hub, but as a place to educate and share Asian culture and identity. The club’s monthly meetings feature educational seminars from different guest speakers.
“It’s to emphasize and make the community aware about Asian culture, foods, art and tradition,” says Gaffar. “The need wasn’t being served here. And the club isn’t only open to Asians.”
The Asian Women’s Club will host the 2013 Asian Cultural Arts Festival April 27, at Sarasota Christian Church, to benefit the Food Bank of Manatee and the Women’s Club’s student scholarship fund at State College of Florida.
IN HER WORDS:
On the highlight of the 2013 Asian Cultural Arts Festival: “There will be a demonstration of a Japanese tea ceremony. It’s all authentic.”
On what her Asian heritage means: “We are very proud about it. In America, you can be anybody you want if you have a positive attitude and don’t let anybody bring you down.”
On her neighborhood: “We (Gaffar and her husband, Abdul) spent two years looking for a place to retire and this was it. It’s a master-planned, green community. It has all the features we want in a home.”