By Dan Chalcraft and Lexi Macdonald
Finding a home away from home
For Mehrnoush Izadi, a 27-year-old Pitt Meadows resident, adjusting to life in Canada was difficult due to the fact that everything around her was new and unfamiliar. Along with one of her brothers, she immigrated to Canada in 2011 from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
She gradually became accustomed to Canadian culture, including seeing other people with disabilities living in the Lower Mainland. After two years of living in a basement suite, the siblings were re-united with their parents, who arrived in Canada in 2013. Originally from Iran, Mehrnoush’s parents were based in Dubai for 25 years due to work.
Mehrnoush has mild cerebral palsy, which affects her movement and speech. “When I was in Dubai, there were no supports for people with CP, and I thought that since there were no people with CP that I was the only one which made me feel alone and sad,” she says. She went looking for a locally-based volunteer position and came across the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC. She arrived at the office with her parents and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Executive Director, Feri, also spoke Farsi – making communication easier and beginning a whole journey of involvement with the CPABC.
Carving a career path
Mehrnoush began by helping out with office tasks such as mailing, accounting, deposits and petty cash reconciliation. This administration experience provided her with more insight into what type of career she wanted to pursue. In the fall of 2014 she enrolled in the Accounting Diploma Program at Douglas College. She hopes to complete her education and find a job soon after. Izadi explained that the program focuses on bookkeeping and accounting management but that she personally prefers bookkeeping. “Bookkeeping is going to be useful for a small business owner – so I can do their taxes and maybe someday I can have my own business and be the sole proprietor.”
Mehrnoush has become a well-rounded member of the community by participating in the Cerebral Palsy Association’s yoga, dance, and Pre-Employment programs. The CPABC has provided over 184 adapted yoga and dance classes for children and youth with disabilities in Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria since 2013. The Pre-Employment Program graduated 11 students in 2015 and 50% found employment within six months.
“I have attended both the dance and yoga classes and I think that the dance program is good for children because the environment is better and the activities are more suited for them. [Whereas] the yoga program is better for adults because it helps with flexibility and it helps improve their mind.”
Being involved in the CP Community
In addition to participating in programs, Izadi is a recipient of the Tanabe Bursary. She also volunteered her time to help out at a fundraiser in Chilliwack, the CPABC’s annual Life Without Limits Gala, a Community Connections event on the North Shore, and Healthy Eating-Healthy Life, a monthly community kitchen event.
The accounting student participated twice in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge by walking the 5 km course and raising over $300 for the CPABC. She explains that she thoroughly enjoyed the event as it was a “new experience”. She also raised funds through the annual Steptember campaign and has attended the Youth Without Limits support group.
“It is good to connect people with CP because they are a visible minority and they get to know each other and meet others with CP in the community and they get support” she says about her community-building activities. “I think that they are able to enjoy themselves and feel included because they are amongst other who face challenges. It encourages them to be active.”
Mehrnoush says she feels conditions have improved for people living with disabilities. She believes that people with disabilities are more accepted in society today as they are able to receive an education and maintain a job, both of which increase their independence.
Besides crunching numbers, Mehrnoush likes to ride her horse on the family farm, walk her dog, hang out with friends at coffee shops and hold gatherings with friends at her house. She believes that people with CP are very lucky to have the support they do and hopes to one day go back to Dubai to help people with CP. “I want to set up a small foundation to provide public education to others in Dubai and then hopefully have satellite offices in other parts of the United Arab Emirates”.
We wish Mehrnoush all the best in her studies and future endeavours. We thank her for being such a positive role model and hard worker!