Category Archives: Community Building

We have to learn to work in groups and appreciate one another.

Tips For Being a Part of Your Community

For being part of your community you need to care, to be willing to share ideas, to move beyond what interests you or what might be about you. For being part of your community you need to know what benefits are coming your way. We will be part of a community because we need to belong, we need to be with others, and we need to survive.

Being part of a community is an unknown idea to most people in countries where superiority complex and inferiority feelings are big of problems.

I acknowledge the concepts such as community feeling, superiority complex, and inferiority feeling are terms that Adlerian Psychology owns.

Having earned a master degree in the Adler School of Professional Psychology, I cannot think of the concept of “community” without thinking of Adler’s pragmatic ideas about how we need to belong.

With this brief introduction, I will go back to the idea of being part of our communities.

Being an Iranian woman, I know and I am sure that most of us Iranians have experienced the lack of partnership in our communities. How can we partner if we are constantly discouraged and inhibited?

We are born and raised in cultures where there are always “superiors’ who are supposed to know everything and therefore anyone wanting to be part of any community is doomed to hardship and misery.

However, now with the new world we live in, we have a chance to part of our communities from various angles and create our own communities if we like. For being part of any community or any cause, we need to care enough for the welfare of others. Being careful and responsible is all you need to do to be part of a community. How hard is that?

Note: This article was also published in EzineArticles October 7th, 2010 by this author.

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It Takes a Village to Welcome Hope

During past couple of months, I have heard of several incidents and news about death of individuals in our Iranian – Canadian community that unfortunetly have gone unnoticed.  This note intends to raise awareness and explore ways in which we can do more in future to help those who are in pain or those having difficult times.

We should be concerned and be willing to rise above and beyond to discuss why there is silent suffering within our community.  We should feel sorry for how we as a community could be doing more, yet at times we are all caught in details and superficialities.

Out of respect for these people,  no one should be allowed to disclose their identity or feel sorry for them.  Each one of us goes through life differently and individually.

Just two months ago, I heard about the sudden death of a young Iranian woman who lived in Vancouver.  Many of us must have passed her by and some of us may have known her.   She was in her mid-40’s.  She died in silence.  She was a single mother, divorced, depressed, unemployed, ill, and in grief for many unknown reasons.   She was found dead by her relatives.  The  autopsy showed that she died of natural reasons.  Her heart had just stopped beating – I am sure her heart was broken because of many issues that many of our fellow Iranian women and men are dealing with.

We can only imagine how she have felt or what she experienced in her young life.

Besides this incident, there have been many suicides in our community during past couple of years, including a young mother who jumped from a bridge just last year.

We all hear these stories.  Undoubtedly, there are too many of these stories we constantly hear about, things that are happening for  our fellow Iranians either here or elsewhere.

This is devastating to witness this much of pain and suffering among our people.

However we can help one another more, at least for those of us living in resourceful countries like Canada.

The most recent suicide was by a male, someone many of us know.  Again we are focused on the circumstances that led to these exhibitions of helplessness, hopelessness, and pain.

Suicide is one of the areas we never want to hear about. It is hard to contemplate how someone can get to that point.  People who get into this destructive path, they go through a wide range of emotions such as guilt, shame, anxiety, confusion, anger, depression, isolation, pain, and loss.

If we add the couple of shooting incidents in which our young Iranian (mostly male) individuals have been involved, then we can realize that the list goes on and on.

It is important to know that help is available and we can help those who are suffering in silence.
There are enough researches proving how mental health influences our physical, spiritual, and social life.

Challenges in personal, interpersonal, and social relationships do not need to cause us this much of emotional distress.   Divorce, parenting problems, domestic abuse, bullying, dating problems, and harassments are only few areas where individuals and families are affected by without seeking proper help.

Depression is a normal reaction to many abnormal situations.

Therefore, we need to promote help and hope.

Reaching out and asking for help should be encouraged more in our community. It is up to all of us to promote hope.

Help is available.

November 30,2009
www.middlepeace.com

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Iranian Educators Society for Families

In promoting new skills for our Iranian community, we are forced to discuss a prolonged migration that has direct impact on our lives.  In our Iranian community, we have  numerous professionals who do challenge the status quo by asking the mainstream services target more specific populations.  In that sense we are creating our new immigrant community.

We Iranian know this metaphoric paradigm: “No one scratches your back but your own nails”, meaning no one helps you but yourself.  This is how it feels when realizing the overwhelming amount of issues and problems that our communities face.

We can not afford to let go of our own power and wait for someone else do something for our community.  For years we Iranian have asked all authorities to provide for an “Iran’s House”, however we can not organize our own resources towards something like that.

Now, it is time for action and we have to understand that the solutions to our problems are in our hands.

I will tell you more about what I mean.

Having one epsilon of care for the cultural-political-social-historical and psychological dilemmas we Iranians live with,  we have to think large.  We have to be wishful in our thoughts.  We have to imagine the best we can do in order to anything gets done.

We are all suffering from the constant repressive forces that are worsening the human condition in our communities inside our home country.

However problems do not stay in one place, they move.

They come here with people who are leaving Iran due to the unimaginable hardships.  We have dilemmas here, in our communities where we reside.

The only difference is the degree of problems, however relationship issues, divorce, parenting problems, depression, anxiety, confusion, and family problems find new shapes in our immigrant communities.

We need to  gather our strength and optimism to help our communities in best possible ways.

For this reason, we have established a non profit society to offer our clinical expertise to our people here in Greater Vancouver.

Iranian Educators Society for Families is the result of a wishful thinking and hard work.

Now that we have a society in place, we need support for the delivering of our services.

Yet, we hear some government funded programs being concerned about “duplication of services.”

It is interesting that now that we have for the first time created a place of our own, a place we can use our cultural expertise and clinical support for our people, then we hear about some “concerns.”

It is well perceived that in the North American culture we live in a large competition filed, those who run faster will win, yet not necessary those who run faster always do a greater job.
To those who are concern about our growth and our Society, I would like to say: Sorry, competition is a fact.

At times we have to look at the quality of the services we offer.

This is where my paradigm shift comes to place: No one scratches your back besides your own nails. We got to do it by ourselves.  we can not let our deprssed or abused women be in the long waiting lists for counselling. We can not let parents who do not know how to handle their young children suffer alone. We can help them.

Iranian Educaotrs Society for Families have clinical counsellors and we do not have any waiting list. We like to offer our best practices to those in need in a clear concept: Care.

We have the knowledge and expertise. More wishful thinking is to receive government funding for what we believe is a unique set of ideas and programs.

November 17,2009

www.middlepeace.com

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Peaceful co-existence

Don’t you ever wish to live in a peaceful place where you know there is no war or conflicts going on? In that imagery place people could live their life without anyone violating their rights. Now listen to this.
The City of Tale or Shahr-e-Ghesseh was a story and a play written and directed by Bijan Mofid back in 1960-70’s. This play was shown in the Iran’s national T.V. back then and it was viewed by millions of us.  Still today we Iranians have this story is in our collective mind and we can sing the many beautiful songs from this play.  This story was a taste for how a peaceful society works and how members of this society should co-exist.  In this city individuals are animal figures working in various jobs that are indeed matching their characters.  The story teller begins with a thorough presentation of every character.  The clear diversity in this city tells you how each one of these characters live their life without any harassment or conflict.  Listening to the roles and responsibilities of each character you figure out how they in their own little way contribute to the bigger society.  The politic context of the story made it possible for some critiques of the lack of personal and political freedom of the time.
The conversation among these characters explores love, loss, identity, and also shifts of roles.  Some of the figures live on the society’s margins while others are quite productive members.
This is a dynamic story of characters that could be found in every community in our world; however the story is still relevant to our Iranian life.  The rhythmic songs and descriptions of the characters roles are not only amusing but quite entertaining.  A clear respectful interaction exists among sexes, a phenomenon that could be real challenges for an old patriarchy like our society, then and now.  Female figure in this story has freedom, choice, and a place in the heart of every member of this society, while she is respected and accepted.

I guess Shahr-e-Ghesseh was the notion of a free society or a peaceful society that Bijan Mofid pictured for our Iran, a place for co-existence and respect.
Don’t you ever wish that we could create our Shahr-e-Ghesseh, yet now in the hindsight of history? We need our peaceful co-existence in our human life agenda, very soon.
July 7, 2009
www.middlepeace.com

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Observing a Community Grow

It is exhilarating to notice the growing need for creating a community in the midst of our large population of Iranian residing here in British Columbia.   In Vancouver similar to every other place, Iranians work hard to find a meaning for their life.   For this reason, there are now several groups who engage individuals to get together and to learn more about themselves.   These groups invite guest speakers who talk about various topics related to anything from women, parenting, marriage, history, philosophy, physical health to literature and poetry.
In the past couple of years there are an increasing number of grass root community groups here in our city.   In the event sections of our Farsi-language newspapers and magazines, we can read about several weekly meetings or community groups who are all inviting people to participate and to take part of what is going on.
In a way we can see t hat there are several forums for healthy interactions that are just developing because of a greater need.    Our fellow Iranian men and women get together in weekly or biweekly and in some cases monthly get-together s and programs to discuss topics important to the community.
Those who are attending these groups express a sense of gratitude for having the opportunity to break the cycle of isolation and alienation.   These simultaneous groups are a forum for the Iranian residents of Greater Vancouver to build trust in one another.    On the front of trust building we still have to work hard in order to meet, interact, and work together beyond the concept of ideology, politic, or religion.
Among all groups, I have had the chance of observing the great effort of three specific groups, all started developed due to a call for a community and an idea for communication.
It is to emphasize that individuals attending these groups are from all walks of life, various social status, and all kind of ethnical backgrounds.   The significant characteristics of these groups are the idea of raising awareness, increasing tolerance, and creating space for practicing democracy.
The experience of group work is new to us Iranian.  Now realizing the depth of our Diaspora, we realize that we can socialize on the basis of our human relations.
These are the three groups:
•    Puzzle of Life: A weekly group of women only who get together to share, learn, and to find friends.  This group is run with the hard work of one woman who believes in the notion of empowerment, education, and socialization.  This group has a philosophy that compares life to a puzzle that has to be solved and in the least only understood.

•    Rooyesh Cultural Society runs as a non for profit society, has biweekly meetings and has a primarily goal: Practicing democracy and growing as individuals.

•     Iranian Women Cultural Society:  A monthly group of  woman who started 3-4 years ago as a in house gathering of women who wanted to break the cycle of remoteness.  Now this group has developed to a non for profit society and has a membership number close to hundred.  This group have now for three years in a row organizes celebrations to honour the International Women Day (Mars 8th) as a way to honour women in general.

I guess it is just to hope for more groups and more sense of community, somewhere we all feel pride of belonging to.

Poran Poregbal
February 22, 2009
www.middlepeace.com

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We are Doing It

I have good news.  I am talking about the growth of a new community.  I will explain soon what I mean.
Many years ago I started to talk about the importance of community building among us: Iranian. I did not know how, however I was sure we could do this.
This is exciting that we are now building a community.  We Iranian immigrants are creating our own community, not that we were not part of the greater Canadian community. No, what I mean is that we were looking for a sense of belonging to a cultural community.
The idea is new to all of us, we are learning, and we are sharing.  Our goal is to practice democracy, meaning listening to one another, meaning respecting one another for whomever we are.  We have learned now that we need to grow by being support to one another.
I have been involved with a community group of Iranian who started to meet regularly for many good causes.  It is important to emphasize the initial formation of this grass root society was structured and shaped with the initiative of few individuals early 2006.
The need for exploring a new life style became the major point for regular meetings and sharing experiences. The idea of a non for profit society was a natural and gradual development of ideas and interests that were shared by the involved members.
As per Dec 9, 2008, this group is registered as a non for profit society called:
Rooyesh Cultural Society, our weblog is: http://www.rooyeshgroup.blogspot.com/
We have biweekly meetings and we advertise in the Farsi speaking newspapers and magazines.
I believe we need to get our young people to get involved. We like to encourage Iranian students and individuals who are like to share their views on life in general o join us.
This Society is a non religious, non political group and the main goal for our society is to Practice Democracy.
The purposes of this society are:
•         To promote a community spirit and sense of belonging among Farsi-Speaking population here in British Columbia
•         To enable healthy dialogue with emphasize on practicing Democracy
•         To encourage diversity and social responsibility
•         To offer a place of significance and cultural identity
•         To facilitate change by being an example of how we can break the cycle of isolation, finding new friends, connecting to services, and integrating with our new Canadian home
•         To create a regular meeting space and communication forum for women and men, individuals and families, young and seniors
•         To offer educational seminars, workshops, and discussions about areas of culture that impact our new identity as newcomers and immigrants
For more information contact us.  Everyone is welcome.
Poran Poregbal
www.middlepeace.com

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Canada Day

Canada Day Celebration is day of learning for many of us. A day to experience and to feel the feelings we have about this national day for connections.

July First is the official birthday for Canada. This day has a different meaning for every one of us; we celebrate it because:

· We live in this country,

· We belong to this community of “Canadian Citizens,” and

· We identify ourselves with the place in which we live.

I guess for us new immigrants, we are learning to feel connected to our new home country, we gather ourselves under this new identify as Canadian-Iranians.

It is certainly invaluable to go out and check the celebrations out, something that usually brings some tears to our eyes.

All colors, all different people with any and all religions and ideologies gather together with mutual respect, dignity, and pride!

I hope that one day we can have such days in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, where people can celebrate who they are and how they are!

Thank to Canada and Happy Birthday!

July 1, 2007

www.middlepeace.com

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Vancouver May 6, 2007

Vancouver, May 6, 2007 was the Marathon day.

There is so much to learn from Vancouver, the cheerful people of Vancouver, and beautiful British Columbia. The Vancouver Marathon/half-Marathon on May 6, 2007 was an extraordinary phenomenon for me as a first time half-Marathon walk-run participant!

It was joyful. More than 15,000 people were sharing a rainy day and making it sunny by just by being out there.

Young and old were jogging for a better body and a greater community feeling. People were out there without their masks on: they were who they were, enjoying Nature, and the run, becoming better people than they were before.

Health is an activity, an action, something to be achieved by doing things, going out, walking, running, or just breathing deeply. Health should be a goal and a desire for all of us to work towards and not just something for which to hope. Healthy bodies provide the basis for healthy minds—at least that’s what we know!

The cheerful men and women who came to watch the Marathon are all my heroes. They did not run, but came out to encourage, to inspire, and to cheer on the participants despite the rain. We could learn from them! We can always cheer on others! That is part of being human.

May 10, 2007
www.middlepeace.com

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Imagine!


Imagine…Just try to imagine…

WE Can Build If We Can Imagine…

Imagine a world and a Middle East in peace. A place where all people, regardless of religion, race, class, gender, or ethnicity had a chance to live their lives without any problem!

Just for a moment:

Picture Iran being a country where we have a huge wall of protection in place for our children, our women, our men, and even for our animals and for our enemies! By wall of protection I mean having laws in place, where nobody and I mean NOBODY, could violate others’ rights, and everyone’s rights are protected!   ESPECIALLY OUR CHILDREN.

Imagine, instead of focusing on having all people alike, we could respect all people being not alike!

Imagine, having an Iran with no “fight for this and that” ideology, an Iran where we could respect people’s choices for religion, whatever they may be!

Imagine, having a world and a Middle East where communities of people could have parades, carnivals, parties, and gatherings and without violence and hatred finding a place in that respectful atmosphere!

Just picture a Middle East and an Iran where human beings would be respected and valued as they are in the Western cultures! Are we not worth it?

Imagine our home country and our culture encouraging charity, hope, faith, and acceptance of different people and different cultures.

Imagine, an Iran to where Iranians from around the world can return. They could build schools and universities and hospitals based on the latest technologies of the world, and our children could speak all the languages they have learned. Iranians reside around the world and they are successful everywhere they go. Imagine the day they could freely move back to Iran and feel safe there, not fear any hatred or exclusion, and could build up a national platform again!

Imagine Iranians, us, practicing democracy by letting go of old labels and names and instead focusing on community building and creating hope.

We need hope more than anything else!

Imagine, a world where we value life instead of death!

Just imagine…

April 27, 2007

www.middlepeace.com

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Hard questions

Questioning our own belief system is a positive way of evaluating ourselves.  We need to do that.
Why our Iranian culture is in need of a “community” center?

We keep saying it.  However we are not sure what a real community center is about, as much as we have not learned about having a communal life.  It is not our fault, that is for sure.
How do we deal with our family problems and our individual inferiority?
What is our view on cultural barriers in dealing with the hard topics in life?
How are we doing as a group of people who are in constant move?

Today, an estimated 4 million people from Iran are spread around the world (Farsi net, 1996).
Canada is after the united state the home for second-largest Iranian immigrant community in the world (Cooper, S. 2006).  Statistic Canada estimates a number of 88,220 people with Iranian heritage living in Canada including a number of 21,910 for British Columbia (Census 2001).

Considering the statistic being five years old and knowing that there is an increasing number of Iranian still moving to B.C, we have an estimated number of 40,000 people with Iranian origin residing in Greater Vancouver.  A recent statistic must show even greater number for 2006, as Iranian is the biggest number of new immigrants landing in British Columbia.

We constantly have new families in need of resources and settlement. Where do these new immigrants go?  Mostly they are being send to Multicultural society on North Shore and some few other organizations who do settlement work around the Greater Vancouver.  However, the services are being provided are not even close to the real need of this growing community. Funders and service providers have to be willing to evaluate what is being offered and who is doing what, because there are many talk about lack of support in form of  lack of competence of some individuals as front line workers.  Many new families face the frustration when they find services in level of helping with resume and some phone calls.

Counselling by professionals with proper education is absolutely a needed service for Iranian women and men who are coming to Canada after they have left Iran with all the issues around immigration.
Service providers on the North Shore are either not really sensitive to the problems or not understanding the gravity of this subject; being new immigrant.  It is this writer’s experience and knowledge that there is misconception caused by our community about what are our needs. We ignore the anxiety and pain of losing the resources back home while struggling to make a new life here.
Leaving Iran to reside anywhere else for a better life is a common shared reason for choosing to come to Canada and other western countries.  Families and individuals search for success and happiness that was not found in the place of origin.  Iranians are losing hope for a secular change in their home country.
There are numerous studies about how tragedies caused by terrorism, hurricane, and extra ordinary events threaten the underlying assumption of a safe and meaningful world (Doka, K .J . 2003).  But what do we know about the level of trauma in each one of us due to the circumstances that are beyond conceptualization for all of us.  Where is that discussion about what our needs to heal are and how we even want to find a healing? 

We as a community are traumatized.  On individual basis, tragedies come to the light when we are away from the source of trauma; our home country.  It is hard to make a general theory about how Iranians in general would define and share experiences of suffering.  This writer challenge all professional in the field of research to challenge their believes about why Iranian are here and how they make their lives in silent and in pain.
Iranians leave Iran because there is not much hope left that a peaceful life would be possible. Families are tired of all the promises and talks.  People depart from Iran and come to Canada because the Canadian Government encourages immigration.  This part is positive, however, people mostly do not have any concrete idea what immigration is about and how to deal with the loss and the challenges of becoming what they become when they arrive here.

The decision to leave Iran is equal to leave behind or “fleeing” from the trauma inflicted by the system on individuals and families, the loss of a meaningful life and general anxiety also caused by the system in Iran.  What little we know that what we flee from will not leave us until and unless we deal with it in a proper way.  It is a shame that families and individuals all have to go through immigration just because the socio-cultural and political life in Iran does not provide any safety and security.   People should be able to live in their own environment safe and sound.  Although immigration to Canada cost a fortune and families mange to handle this flow of cash to the Canadian Government, still, the reason for leaving Iran is under question and inflicting pain on many families.

As there is not real discussion about immigration and no forum to talk about the reasons behind such mass immigration, many families are left out to deal with their own issues as they had to do the same back home.  Here, we have managed to think about the need for a “community”, yet we have no idea what this “community building” means as we do not have proper education and experience of being a group.  We have always been forced to take care of our own issues and “mind our own business” because every system governing life in Iran has discouraged group work and labeled people as this and that.
Becoming an immigrant means losing jobs, losing homes, falling apart as individuals and groups. Upward and downward mobility are both sides of the same coins.  Meaning some people are able to access services, utilize opportunities, and finding success, while some other people go down and never find their “dreamed job” again.

Many women coming here testify not having the pressure of the hard life back in Iran what concerns the personal choices and personal life, however, here these women have hard time to let go of the internalized oppression to find their “real self.” it is also to be addressed that the type of life here in Canada is very different from the life in Europe for many Iranian.  Why, mainly because, back in 1980 and 90’s many Iranian fled to Europe and also North America and settled down as “refugees”, however, here in Canada, mostly families come with landed paper in hand and they can travel back and forth between Iran and Canada. For the first group as refugees, the idea of one day going back to Iran was just a dream in those two black decades after the Iranian Diaspora.  Now, with the prevalence of technology and the impact of Internet on our way of learning, communications are much easier and that feeling of nostalgia for many families and individuals can be helped by “being on line.”
People have more choices, many Iranian residing in Canada and also elsewhere in the world, are constantly visiting their home land and the transfer of services and knowledge has made a huge impact on the quality of life as new immigrants here in Canada.  However, these factors are all not even some of the multifaceted factors why life as new immigrant has its own challenges on some individuals compare to some other people.
There was a very interesting article in Vancouver Sun last year: (just remembering) that it was talking about 51 percent of Iranian starting their own business here in Canada and B.C.
All the success stories have to be shared with others who are new comers and find it hard to know where to go and how to start even looking for jobs.

Iranian shares a common characteristic; everyone likes to find a safe place to live, to find good education for their children and to fulfill their dreams.  Immigration becomes the new challenge that families and especially many women have to deal with in order to fit in.  Although many families have proper financial resources, however, many families are isolated and find it hard to integrate.  There is a second generation Canadian-Iranians who are being in-between the two cultures.

Being a new comer in this country and province, arriving with all those dreams, hopes and desires to “find a better life” and facing the real life here is definitely causing problems for many families who are not able to adjust to the challenges.  Many families are dealing with anxiety, depression, and adjustment issues which are more and less a result of the new life struggles and challenges.  Having mental health problem is extremely stigmatized and having problems in general creates other form of shame, guilt and blame.
Considering many new situations families find themselves in, divorce, death of loved ones, losing financial resources, not finding “the ideal job” added with anger, resentment, and fear, all forms a circle of negativity and hopelessness.  However, as it is mentioned before, other side of this coin is a life in freedom which every one appreciate, at least we are not forced to live our lives in certain way due to this or that religion and world view.

Conflicts, tragedies and trauma inflicted by the Iranian government on families, are being passed down and carried with to the new communities these families move to.  It is writer’s experience that Iranian women who are fleeing abusive husbands or living in violence have a hard time to access services or know about the services out there.  Many families, specially women and children suffer multiple pains due to loss and separation.  These women, men, children and families are in huge need of a healthy discussion, education, and services to learn how to make the cultural integration without losing one or another.  We do not have to deal with the burden of immigration, separation and confusion individually.
There are opportunities here to get together and learn from those who are in charge and those who have experiences.  Many programs do not find funding or even support by Iranian because we are hesitant to get into groups, to learn from others and to let go of our egos.  Iranian community, if there is such thing, would afford creating own community center, in order to offer culturally sensitive services, to educated our fellow men and women, and also to take care of our youth who are in danger of not finding their own identify.

Those of us who have lived in the western culture longer, we know that seeking Counselling is much easier in western cultures compare to our culture.  Asking for Counselling does not come naturally to us.   Many men call their women as “crazy” and threaten them to be in need of “Counselling” or seeing a “mental doctor” s soon as women are complaining.  This way of approaching Counselling means; pathalogizing family problems and avoiding dealing with issues. In schools, Iranian youth who are being send to the Counsellor office, have no idea how much help they could receive.  School counselor need to be educated about the stigma and pain attached to the Iranian way of looking at Counselling.

Families make it harder by fighting school many times and avoiding the real problems.  There are many Iranian youth who are doing extremely well, and many who are challenged by the cultural and language barriers.  What do we do then when we grief, we go to see a doctor, we ask for medicine, or in best situations we see a psychologist. How do we handle our family problems? Well, we blame each others to death; we put a mask on our faces and try to avoid the real conversation.  We blame our past, we blame this and that authority figure hundred years ago or yesterday, but we avoid looking inside our own minds, our own way of thinking and acting.  We have to find the cure within ourselves, within our culture of guilt and blame, culture of hiding conflicts until it shows from somewhere else.

What is the solution?  We need to talk; we need to talk about how much we need to talk.  We need to discuss family problems, youth issues, and elder anxiety in our community.  We need to talk about the strength and weaknesses of being a new comer, to help each other to succeed and to help our children to grow to a whole person.
Our Iranian culture is used to solve such problems within their “own group”, in silence!  There is a huge stigma attached to have “problems” or “disagreement” in our new born “community.” What do we know about “building community” more than having some people try to create an “Iran house.”  what would this place do for us?  How are we going to be to the service of our people with a multifaceted problems and conflict?

Let’s admit that we “Iranian” are not used to the concept of “group work” or even close to the idea of “cooperation.” such thing has never been encouraged by any government or any system in Iran.  We have learned that we are lonely species, have to live in our groups and classes, can not involve in politic because we face executions and jail, and we have to “mind our own business.”
In the dialog about Iranian women, we might want to remember that mental health is associated with healthy family life, provision for children and interpersonal relationship.  Education is the key for Iranian family; main reason for almost every single Iranian family coming to Canada. Culturally, mental illness is being considered to be a deficiency which has to be kept secret and concealed.  Sexual education for children is a hard topic for many new comers specifically and even for them who have lived here forever.

Women tend to adhere to the social norms of their culture in various ways.
Belief in faith and destiny will sometimes keep many women to seek help outside their social network.  Due to huge impact of tale-communication services, women are more aware of the basic need for community building.  Distrust to authorities and distrust to human kind seeded by the system of coercion back home, has for a long time created a sense of not-trusting anyone. Navigating through the Canadian mental health services is not easy for many families, when they are new and immigration itself has created many walls around them.  Suffering happens when many women due to language barriers, internalized guilt and shame for disclosing the problem outside home, stay silent.  We have a culture of silence thinking about the patriarchal hierarchy many women may live in, meaning living with men constructed roles. We have learned to obey rules that are male oriented.

Women have to participate to create those rules; otherwise, those rules would become enemy to democracy and friend to oppression.

The social construct of mental illness for Iranian women has same pattern as other women everywhere else.  Stressed women who want to pursue divorce, or higher education or leave the traditional role as wife and mother, will many times face the psychopathology and diagnosis of various kind.

Many times we have no idea where to take our problems.  We know where to go when our cars are broken, or when our roof is leaking, but we do not know where to go when we have the anxiety, pain, stress, pressure, feeling of guild, fear, and many other scary things that are bothering us to death.
I have met many Iranian women here in Vancouver who have gone to this and that person who were calling themselves as a counselor , but the result of that meeting was devastating.  We can not pretend being a counselor or a therapist when we just have a position of helping with information out there.  Please be genuine, help people find ways and do not give advice!
I am talking to those, a number of people in the Iranian community who call themselves “Iranian Counsellor” or pretend to be a “therapist” without having proper education.

It is time to talk about what Counselling and therapy is about. It is time to learn having ownership of our needs, in form of creating a community, if we believe we are a community.  We can not own this community if we are not contributing to its growth, we need to talk about our problems and our needs. We may need to create that forum for us.
Seeing a Counsellor or therapist is not the first or even the last idea that cross our Iranian minds when we are dealing with family problem, divorce, relationship abuse or even parenting problems.  In any case, we have to define our strength and weaknesses in dealing with our problems by using our strength and strengthening what is weak.
We have many professionals out there, who are not visible, let’s invite them to come on-board and help.   Let’s challenge everyone to show up and give their platforms of how to build a healthy, open, and collaborative community.

Whoever you are and what you do; please be real and help your community to learn, to grow, and to be part of the rest of bigger Canadian community or the global community.

Poran Poregbal, MA, RSW, RCC
www.middlepeace.com

References:

Census, (2001). Statistic Canada. Topic based tabulation. Ethno cultural portrait of Canada, table; 97F0010XCB2001001.
Cooper, S. (2006).

Middle East meets north. In North Shore Outlook. December 7. Doka, K.J. (2003). What makes a public tragedy? In Marcia Lattanzi-light & Kenneth J.Doka (Eds.), Living with Grief: Coping with public Tragedy (pp.3-14). Hospice Foundations of America.
Farsi net, 1996. http://www.farsinet.com/pwo/diaspora.html

Note: This article was published by Goonagoon, a biweekly Persian newspaper in Vancouver. April 27, 07 paper, Page 56.

www.middlepeace.com
April 23,2007

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