February 28, 2006 > Zia!
It is a challenge to encapsulate the thoughts and essence of Zia Oboodiyat. He is a man of high intellect and deep introspection who has been tested in ways that go far beyond what most find challenging in their lives. Yet, there appears to be a calm acceptance of his personal tribulations and a realization that much more remains to be done.
A Persian by birth, Zia immigrated to the United States in 1970 at age 19 with $300 in his pocket and the clothes on his back. In true Horatio Alger style, Zia has epitomized the notion of "strive and succeed." Working in an assortment of menial jobs, the young man learned English, completed undergraduate work at Barstow Jr. College in 9 months and moved on to San Diego State where he obtained an Electrical Engineering degree in 3 years and a Masters degree in 9 months.
A return visit to family members in his homeland was poorly timed and Zia was caught in the turmoil of the Shah's departure. He was detained and prospects were grim. With the help of friends, Zia escaped, arriving in Northern California in 1979 and has been residing in Fremont since 1991 where he actively supports the community through participation in local Kiwanis activities. As a top engineer at Space Systems Loral involved with multimillion dollar projects launching satellites and preparing space ventures, Zia must be exacting and analytical but another side of this sensitive man is filled with a different passion that launches a poetic interpretation of life.
Writing poetry is a natural outlet for Zia who has been expressing his thoughts through this medium since childhood. A publication of his work, Treasures Within (artwork by James Lemon), explores the myriad facets and abilities of human nature. This journey is nothing new for Zia since he has helped raise a family and, along with his son Nathan who has cerebral palsy, faced the challenge of creating aids and a welcome environment for children with special needs. Zia has a dream; provide a place - a sanctuary - that can emphasize the humanity of all including those with special needs while providing a place that focuses on design and creation of devices that will help these children freely integrate within the general population. This facility will be created by a foundation initiated by Zia called Special Need Children Center Foundation (SNCCF). Proceeds from the sale of Treasures Within will help to fund Zia's dream.
SNCCF has become the major focus of Zia's life. An ambitious schedule - would you expect anything less? - outlines completion of this facility by 2009. It is contemplated that the center will include a library, exercise and entertainment apparatus, equipment repair and recycling, a gathering center for social interaction and an employee resource center. A whirlwind of activity, Zia has through consultation with his son and others, developed hardware and software to assist communication and mobility for disabled children (and adults). He is currently working on a device that Zia confidently states, "When finalized, can help anybody who breathes. Breath becomes a signal that, in turn, becomes a mouse that can choose elements of a menu."
Will Zia's dreams become reality? Everyone who has met this man knows the affirmative answer without reservation. His poem, Limits of Life, captures the spirit of this man:
There is no mountain
that we cannot climb
There is no ocean
that we cannot swim
There is no sky
that we cannot fly through
There is no limit
for me or for you
For those who would like to help Zia realize his quest, contact him at:
Special Need Children Center Foundation
C/O Zia Oboodiyat
40087 Mission Blvd. Suite 204
Fremont, Ca 94539-3680
More information about Treasures Within can be found at: