Although she first came to Lodi from her home country of Pakistan at the age of 13, farmworker advocate Rehana Zaman would not make Lodi her permanent residence until after she graduated from high school in Pakistan in 1990.
“I’ve been here for the last 20-something years,” Zaman said.
Circumstances at the time did not allow Zaman to pursue higher education in Pakistan, she said, and after returning to Lodi, family matters forced her to drop out of San Joaquin Delta College after only one semester.
“That is one of my biggest regrets, not having the opportunity to seek higher education,” Zaman said.
In 2010, Zaman was a single mother looking for employment when she learned about the services that California Human Development (CHD) provides for farmworkers. Seeing that CHD was looking for volunteers at the time, she signed up and soon learned that her ability to speak Urdu, English and Punjai was useful for overcoming language barriers.
After “six or seven months” as a volunteer, Zaman was hired as a receptionist and worked her way up to administrative assistant and eventually to case manager helping farmworkers find training for more stable employment in fields such as truck driving, welding, building, construction and more.
“Whatever is in the area and is in high demand for training,” Zaman said. “We get them out of agriculture and we put them into stabilized jobs so they can better their lives.”
Based out of CHD’s Lodi office, Zaman now manages between 80 and 100 cases each fiscal year.
“Not to mention universal walk-in clients that we assist on a daily basis,” Zaman said.
When she’s not helping farmworkers improve their lives, Zaman spends her free time searching for opportunities to give back to Lodi in any way that she can.
“I love Lodi, so that’s what I do,” Zaman said.
One way Zaman has found to give back is through the Lodi Improvement Committee, which she has done since 2015. The former chair, she currently serves as vice chair of the committee’s board.
“The goal of this committee is to improve living conditions in Lodi,” Zaman said.
According to Zaman, the committee works to accomplish this goal by finding ways to address various issues facing Lodi including social problems, gangs, employment and homelessness. She has also worked with Tree Lodi, she said, finding families in Lodi’s east side who want trees planted in their yards or on their property and who agree to care for the trees.
“Anything that can beautify or better conditions in Lodi,” Zaman said.
Those wishing to pursue careers in case management similar to Zaman’s must have compassion, she said, and be willing to work beyond the traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule.
Whether she is shopping for groceries or on her way home, Zaman is ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice to help those in need.
“You need to be open and willing to give back, no matter to whom or no matter where you are,” Zaman said.