A series of events led a former Clayton County resident to the love of her life, which has opened doors for the newly married couple to help impoverished children around the world.

At first, Sameera Gokal wasn't sure she would be up for a social outing after an evening French class.

“We had an exam that night, and my friend was having a birthday dinner,” Sameera said. “I kept going back and forth, about going to the dinner, and at the last minute I went.”

Couple alters marriage tradition to donate education to children

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At the celebration, she met a friend who later mentioned she knew a guy Sameera might like.

That week, she received a Facebook message from Kashif Ali. After a week of exchanging messages, the pair, who practice the Shia Ismali Muslim faith, chose to meet at their place of worship, Jamatkhana.

That first meeting was in March 2015.

“I thought, ‘Wow,’” Sameera said. “There was just something unique between us, and I felt the sparks.”

At the time, they were living in Houston, where Kashif was born and raised. Sameera was born in Pakistan and moved to Riverdale as a child. Her parents own a dry cleaning business in Stockbridge, but Sameera relocated to Houston for a job.

Not long after their face-to-face meeting, Sameera received a job promotion and relocated to Washington, D.C.

Kashif said they were willing to give a long-distance relationship a try.

“We were both passionate about our relationship, and we wanted it,” Kashif said. “And I wanted her to fulfill her dreams and wishes for her career.”

In July, Kashif flew to Washington to surprise Sameera for her birthday. But the trip was about more than just a birthday — it was a proposal.

“Honestly, I was just excited to surprise her for her birthday, see her smile and get her reaction when I proposed,” he said.

“Of course I said yes,” Sameera said.

“I knew pretty much immediately she was the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with,” Kashif said. “It was quick, but I knew she was the one.”

Sameera said she, too, quickly started to think about their future together.

“Careers come and go, but getting married and starting a family was a priority for me,” Sameera said.

Sameera came back to Atlanta to start wedding plans and bring their families together to meet.

Sameera explained that Pakistani weddings typically last four days and include multiple ceremonies. Her fairy-tale dream wedding was on the beach.

Kashif suggested that while they were on their honeymoon, the two take a day to volunteer.

“I thought it was a great way to start our lives together by giving back and helping others,” Kashif said.

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The conversation kept coming up while they continued to plan their wedding. Then one afternoon, Sameera and Kashif were again discussing a volunteer opportunity.

“Right then, it hit me,” Sameera said. “I asked myself, ‘What truly was my fairy-tale wedding?’ It was to keep it simple and give back to the less fortunate.”

Sameera was in the midst of making the final wedding arrangements when she turned everything on its head.