Founder & Executive Director Nahla Kayali

Nahla1Nahla Kayali serves as the Founder and Executive Director for Access California Services (AccessCal). Since the inception of AccessCal in 1998, Kayali has been described as a leader in the Arab- and Muslim-American, immigrant, and refugee communities in ensuring individuals and families receive access to quality services that encourage linguistic, economic, community, and civic integration.  Under Kayali’s leadership as executive director, AccessCal has expanded its budget from only $2,000 to having the capacity to serve over 11,000 community members annually in 16 languages delivered by 38 staff including 10 AmeriCorps members.

Kayali serves on national and international boards including the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, Community Action Partnership of Orange County, the Orange County Food Bank and the Public Health Board at the Department of Health Sciences at California State University, Fullerton.  Kayali also currently serves as the Chairwoman of the Refugee Forum of Orange County and holds the State Refugee Forum Seat for the State Advisory Council on Refugee Assistance and Services. She is also a member of the Community Health Council for Covering Kids and Families.


Nahla Kayali has received recognition for her work and commitment to uplifting her community. Recognitions received  are from the White House, U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the California State Senate, the California State Assembly, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, and the Orange County Human Relations Council. Recognitions and awards include:

  • The White House Cesar E. Chavez Champions of Change Award for demonstrating nationwide leadership in supporting immigrant communities
  • The Community Incubator Award from the University of California, Irvine
  • The Community Service Award from the women committees of the Islamic Center of Irvine
  • The Community Award from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and The One World Human Creativity Award
  • The Community Service Award from Blue Cross of California
  • The Women Who Make a Difference in Orange County Award and the Founder Recipient Award for the National Philanthropy Day 2004

Notable Accomplishments

Nahla Kayali is a strong community leader and the driving force for initiative and projects that support refugee and immigrant communities.

In the State of California on June 12, 2009, Kayali was appointed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to serve on California Complete Count Committee 2010 by an Executive Order S-10-09 ( In 2004, Kayali was the driving force behind the first Arab-American and Muslim Summit held in Anaheim in the spring of 2004. Sponsored by Richard Chavez, former Anaheim Mayor Pro-Tem, the summit brought Arab and Muslim community leaders together to discuss their role and visibility in city government.

Community Involvement

Nahla Kayali has always been involved deeply in the community. In Orange County, Kayali was appointed by the city of Anaheim’s former Mayor Curt Pringle to serve on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Orange County Transportation Authority. She has also served as a member of the Community Action Planning Group for UCI’s Institute for Clinical & Translational Science (CTSC). Kayali is a former member  of the United Way Health Council and Health Consumer Action Center of the Legal Aid Society, and she is a current Steering Committee member for the County of Orange Mental Health Services Act (MHSA).

Furthermore, she is active with local organizations, providing technical support to her community in cases of discrimination and social support to local causes. She has worked closely with  the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), and she supports bills that benefit the refugee and immigrant “New American” community. She is a member of the California State Coalition for Covering Kids and Families under the Community Health Councils.

On the international level, Kayali was one of the co-founders of the Palestinian American Women’s Association (PAWA) in 1976 and has conducted many fundraising programs to aid Palestinian children for over 25 years.

In the Press

Nahla Kayali and the AccessCal mission have appeared in many newspapers, magazines, television and radio shows. On January 10, 2007, her story was published on the front page of the Orange County Register. In the Arab American Yearbook of 2009/2010, Kayali was interviewed as one of the few prominent Arab Americans of the year, and she was also featured in the Arab American Almanac, 5th and 6th Edition in the Who’s Who chapter. Refer to our media section of the website to see all the different articles AccessCal has appeared in.

Courage Beyond Borders

Even though Nahla Kayali left school when she was only sixteen years old, her determination and her perseverance have enabled her to accomplish the impossible. She is self-educated, passionate, dedicated, and loyal to her family as a single mother of three children and to her community as a leader. Kayali is a prominent and powerful  cultural figure and has her finger on the pulse of her community locally and nationally because she believes that immigrant and refugee communities deserve the opportunity to thrive as hardworking, diverse, skilled and contributing citizens in this beautiful and welcoming nation.