Each year, thousands of families immigrate to this country with the hopes of creating a better life. Once here, the children of these families experience unique challenges with moving to a new country and learning a new language.
Maryam Rashidian, President of Iranian Canadian Teen Club (ICTC) is combating these issues by providing a fun, educational and supportive environment for new youth immigrants to Canada. Based in Richmond Hill, the ICTC provides a safe and inclusive space for youth from all backgrounds to develop leadership skills, connect with their peers and take part in various academic sessions and workshops like art, photography, or cooking.
Working with President’s Choice Children’s Charity, Maryam implemented a new program focused exclusively on food and nutrition based education - providing participants with the opportunity to make healthy meals and snacks and exposing them to diverse cultural flavors without breaking the bank. “I wanted to help kids make better food choices by giving them the tools and knowledge to create their own delicious, healthy “fast foods” at home” Maryam explains. Each program features a tailored menu of fresh ingredients, whole foods, proteins free of antibiotics and non-genetically modified items – while providing the opportunity to experience a variety of cultural flavors from Chinese, Indian, French and Italian backgrounds.
Maryam was inspired by her own experience as a parent, teaching and encouraging her own children to develop healthy eating habits and the positive health benefits it has on the body long-term, “I noticed many kids were gravitating towards foods high in sugar and fat; largely due to language barriers and lack of knowledge…I wanted to create a variety and appealing meals for this age group is to ensure they are inspired and motivated to adopt a healthy lifestyle moving forward – President’s Choice Children’s Charity helped me do that.”
When plans to launch the new program was suddenly impacted by COVID-19, Maryam quickly switched gears from in-person sessions to creating online classes. “We wanted to ensure the program continued, especially now during school and community center closures. I think it’s important that we help young people stay connected and provide them with activities that will give them a sense of accomplishment during this difficult time.”
Maryam hopes her passion for food will help her community as much as it has helped her own family. “I take every opportunity to share my knowledge and connect with my community positively. If I can transfer the information that has helped my family to help my community I feel so happy and blessed.”
If you’ve been inspired by this work and would like to support it, please consider donating today at pcchildrenscharity.ca.