Our History

Outside of Nukanti’s community center in Cazucá

Nukanti was launched as a non-profit organization in the United States in 2009 by founder Niousha Roshani, driven by her conviction that our society needs to realize the need to evolve from the individual to the collective.

As Baha’is, Niousha’s family had always been persecuted in Iran, so they finally decided to go to Cote d’Ivoire and do social work with children there, when Niousha was only one year old. Thus Niousha grew up in a shantytown where she learned the meaning of deprivation, marginalization, discrimination, and lack of opportunities. She realized that education was the key to her freedom and her passport to reach all the dreams she had, even if she came from a limited environment. This is when she started dreaming of implementing social projects with other children who did not have the means to study, and of one day traveling the world. In fact, she started working with children and women at a very young age, accompanying her parents on different missions across the country during weekends, holidays and summer breaks.

“So, as I held the old lady, from Colombia’s Choco region, hands in mine… I remembered my own story and the stories of all those I had come to know closely. It was then that I made her the promise that I would give a visible voice to those who had been silenced in Colombia.”


Later on, during a backpacking trip to Colombia, Niousha had a life-changing encounter with an exemplary older woman in the Chocó, one of the most affected regions of the Latin American country. Listening to her story, Niousha was able to feel her pain for all the injustice she had endured in forced displacement and massacres as a result of the decades-long war. It was then that Niousha promised herself that she would give visibility and a voice to those who had been silenced in Colombia, and decided to found Nukanti as a tool for transformation and empowerment of young people. (You can read more about Niousha’s story here.)

One of Nukanti’s very first programs was Playing for Freedom, which uses Capoeira as a tool to provide psychosocial support to children and youth affected by extreme poverty, violence and forced displacement in Colombia. It was born in 2009 when Niousha met current Project Coordinator Cristhian Casallas, and both as passionate capoeiristas recognized the martial art´s potential to empower children and youth. The program is ongoing at two different locations in Colombia, and so far it has benefitted more than 200 children and youth.

Since its formation, Nukanti has grown significantly and broadened its scope to integrate various educational and leadership initiatives using the arts/media, sports and education, always focusing on the most vulnerable target groups of children, youth and women.