2020-2021 Cohort

Our Past ACII ChangeMakers

ACII’s past ChangeMakers are visionaries, change makers, and ambitious leaders, who through their projects mobilized others to take action on refugee rights, provided space for youth to engage with Afghanistan’s history, provided a platform for Afghan creative voices, and supported and increased access to resources for Afghan youth education, financial literacy, and mental wellbeing, to name a few. They are youth leaders who form the backbone of a strong and engaged Canadian civil society.

Clicking on the project title will take you to their website or social media page

Afghan Youth Book Club: Lina Rahguzar, Fakhriya Qasimi, Marwa Saleem, Ali Hofioni

Afghan Youth Book Club (AYBC) is an Afghan youth-led grassroots mobilizing to invest in youth today in order to empower the next generation by providing an accessible space to critically read and collectively reflect on culturally relevant literature. We led an 8-week virtual program where we addressed cultural, economic and knowledge barriers to support Afghan Canadian youth and young adults. Participants and organizers initially planned to come together every Thursday for one hour to discuss the book “Games without Rules” by Tamim Ansary. Due to the high level of interest, half of the group stayed for an extra 30 minutes to further discuss the book. Committed participants received the book contactless via mail and a gift card via email at the end of the program.

The Afghan Collective - Financial Literacy Series: Samira Basir, Sahar Halim, Naween Rostayee

The Afghan Collective is a volunteer-led initiative that works to connect, empower, and educate Afghan youth within the diaspora. Our initiative was founded on the belief that Afghan youth and newcomers living in Canada lack dedicated resources to help them reach their full potential. Our first workshop series offered free online Zoom workshops led by subject matter experts (i.e.; a senior financial analyst and a senior mortgage specialist) from the Afghan community. These workshops served to teach Afghan youth within the diaspora about financial literacy and were held on January 20th, 2021, February 17th, 2021, and March 31st, 2021.

Afghan Higher Education Action Development (AHEAD): Sahar Popal, Hadia Rafiqzad, Faraaz Rafiqzad, Ahmad Popal

AHEAD aimed to equip Afghan-Canadian youth (newcomer, refugee, and immigrant students in grades 8 to 12) with school kits designed to support academic success. 30 school kits were prepared which included the following school supplies: notebooks, highlighters, pens, pencils, rulers, erasers, scientific calculators, protractors, journals, and agendas. In addition, we printed 30 booklets which provided information addressing topics including (but not limited to) mental health and addiction support, volunteering and job opportunities, and guidance on pursuing post-secondary education. We personally delivered each school kit to the desired addresses of youth who applied and were eligible. Ultimately, AHEAD aims to take on initiatives that encourage vulnerable Afghan youth to pursue higher education and ease their journey towards achieving their career goals.

The Afghan Leadership & Reconciliation Summit - Unpacking the Hazara Experience: Moska Rokay, Madina Siddiqui, Masood Parwani, Mehdia Hassan, Zahra Hussaini, Sayedi Akbary

The Afghan Leadership & Reconciliation Summit: Unpacking the Hazara Experience was a one-day summit held on Feb. 13, 2021. The summit had three 1-hour sessions (with respective Q&A sessions): the history of Hazara genocide, current events and issues in Hazara communities within Afghanistan and the diaspora post 9/11, and finally a session on how non-Hazaras can be allies to Hazara Afghans. With the help of a Hazara Advisory Team of Experts, we identified Hazara speakers and non-Hazara allies that were experienced in speaking to the three topics. With the summit at capacity, we realized interest was high and so we created more ways that the public could educate themselves on these important issues outside of attending the summit: a PDF package of further resources that is also hosted on our new website, livestreaming during the event to reach a wider audience, and adding a recording of the entire conference on our YouTube channel.

A Journey to Healing: Asna Mirzad, Hossai Sharif

Afghanistan has been through five decades of war and is continuing to face more violence every day. As a community, this pain has been felt by Afghans within Canada of which a majority are refugees and newcomers. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are just a few of the mental health illnesses that members of our community are facing. As Afghan-Canadian youth from Toronto, we want to address this pain and void that many of us have been feeling but do not know how to address. Our community needs healing and support. We organized a conference called “A Journey to Healing” where we invited Afghan-Canadian community leaders and experts to speak about mental health services and culturally competent emotional supports that can be found and easily accessed in Toronto, as well as to facilitate a discussion about grief and coping mechanisms. We discussed how the current political climate in Afghanistan has impacted the mental health of Afghan-Canadian community members. The event was targeted towards Afghan youth and parents. In the beginning, we had a moment of silence for all Afghans that have passed away during 2020, and afterward. We had three wonderful guest speakers who were willing to share their experiences and motivational advice. At the end of the conference, we had a little Q&A session where our participants had the chance to ask questions from the guest speakers.

We Are Afghan: Sania Bahman, Nilufar Bahman, Asina Hussainy

We Are Afghan primarily focuses on the voice of Senior Afghan Canadians. We interviewed 7 Afghan seniors about their life in Afghanistan, the process of immigrating, and their life in Canada as an immigrant. We intended for people to connect with the seniors of our country through the short video. Over 1000 people watched our video. Many Afghans, who we did not know, shared our video, which was a very big success for us.

Afghan Rising Magazine: Banin Abdul Khaliq, Homira Haqani

Afghan Rising Magazine is an online platform dedicated to engaging, empowering, and connecting the Afghan diaspora in Canada – the first of its kind. Through ACII, we launched the inaugural issue of the magazine and featured the work of 20 Afghan-Canadian creatives, artists, writers, advocates, thinkers, and interviewed rising Afghans who are making an impact in the community and abroad. We published essays, videos, opinion pieces, artwork and interviews that reflected the voices of Afghan-Canadians and celebrated their achievements. We also held a successful virtual launch event that featured a guest performance by a prominent Afghan-Canadian spoken word artist followed by an interactive discussion on what it means to be living with a hyphenated identity.

Acting Workshop for Afghan Youth, Refugees, and Newcomers: Hirra Farooqi, Marwa Saleem

The Muslim International Film Festival presented their first ever FREE Acting Workshop for Afghan youth, refugees and newcomers. This nine day acting workshop facilitated by actor and filmmaker, Noaman Rahin, has equipped Afghan artists with tools and training to step foot into the realm of theatre and on-screen acting. The acting workshop brought together Afghan youth twice a week. The impact that we had on the quality of acting on our students was remarkable. As a project lead, I sat through most of the facilitated workshops to ensure that operations run smoothly. The difference I saw from the students first audition tape compared to the last audition tape they submitted was massive and incredible. It's crazy to see how nine hours of intensive training could shape our students into talented actors.

Your Yoga Journey: Zahra Hazara, Maryam Hazara, Zarghoona Hazara

Your Yoga Journey is a Free Virtual Yoga class. The classes were held on Sunday mornings from January 3, 2021 - May 16, 2021, for Afghan Immigrant and Refugee Women in Canada. The class was led by a Professional Yoga instructor, Zahra Mardanyar. She led the classes in Dari and taught the participants different yoga moves to help them mentally and physically. This initiative helped women break through language barrier and have a significant impact on their ability to access health and social services. We had participants message at the end of every class via zoom thanking us for holding this event, and how it has held them mentally and physically.

ZABAN Institute: Ghazal Farkhari, Masoud Farkhari

ZABAN Institute held a series of Farsi language classes every Tuesday and Thursday for 8 weeks through Zoom. There were classes available for both beginner and intermediate level students, and covered reading, prononciation, vocabulary, and grammar skills.

The School Bag Project - Bloom: Maryam Mahjoob, Feridha Mahjoob, Mona Fakhry, Naghy Valizadeh, Farah Naaz Noori, Bahar Amani

The School Bag Project: Bloom’s mission was to promote mental wellness and discussion in the Afghan community. Aside from the regular stationary and health items (i.e. lined paper, notebook, binder, pencils/pens, erasers, calculator, glue, comb, soap, hand sanitizer, tooth brush, tooth paste, water bottle, menstrual care, personal protection equipment), project bloom school bags were equipped with mental health resources (based in Toronto) for Afghan youth and other mental-health related items based on our participants needs. To complement the mental health awareness provided through these school bags, Project Bloom ended off with a mental health seminar led by Afghan-Canadian Mona Fakhry, child development consultant & psychotherapist in training.

Financial Literacy Series: Manzora Nero, Rohina Kabir

We created a series of crash courses taught by financial experts on various topics to promote financial literacy. We were able to create 10 crash course videos to cover a range of financial topics and expertise levels, from beginner to intermediate levels of understanding. We were able to help youth get an understanding of topics within finance, including taxes and beginners. We received great positive feedback that our videos were interactive and our viewers were able to learn at least one thing from each video.

Afghan Youth Wellness Conference: Muska Sadat, Marwa Saleem, Baseer Yousufzai, Sadia Kocan, Hilla Jamal, Ausef Yousof, Marhaba Moohammad Salim, Saarah Furmli, Ferozan Nasiri

On February 20th, 2020, Supportistan held the Afghan Youth Wellness Conference, which aimed to introduce role models from the community as well as the resources and tactics needed to promote wellbeing during the pandemic. Experts from the Afghan community held virtual sessions which included a toxic masculinity discussion and bootcamp, a presentation on branding, a roundtable on community wellness, and a panel discussion on mental health during COVID. At each of the sessions, participants gained insight, resources, and solutions to topics such as toxic masculinity, safe spaces in our community, and struggles with mental health. Additionally, the “Building Your Brand” workshop touched on what it takes to run an online business, exploring the link between wellness and finances, and applying marketing techniques in real life scenarios. The conference reached 34 Afghan youth between the ages of 14 and 24 from the Greater Toronto Area, who were presented with a care package including items from BIPOC and Afghan-owned businesses following the conference.

COVID-19 Relief Initiative - PPE Distribution: Tahmina Afzali, Tamim Afzali, Farwa Naimpoor

The project donated personal protective equipment to small Afghan-owned restaurants in the GTA with the aim of easing some of the financial burden on these businesses and helping to slow the spread of the virus among employees, customers and our community at large. The funds were used to purchase disposable face masks, disposable gloves and hand sanitizers from suppliers, which were distributed by my team to the pre-identified local restaurants in February 2021. Our project was successfully completed and met with positive feedback from the donees.

Skills for Afghanistan: Sara Mehraban, Nazow Tarakai, Raihana Sherdil, Rumsha Latif

This will be an accessible forum/network for Afghan students in Canada and in Afghanistan. The website will have (free!) courses and a forum for networking between students to share skills, knowledge or resources.

The Hazara Collective: Derakhshan Qurban-Ali, Gul S, Halima Bahman, Ali Froghi, Zakir Moradi, Javed Najafi, Stephen Watt

This project aimed to raise awareness about the experiences of Hazara refugees and mobilize action from everyday Canadians to get involved and support refugee rights. The awareness video was developed in collaboration with refugees in Indonesia who are personally experiencing the aforementioned challenges. The Hazara history video-series aims to further educate the public on the history and present persecution of Hazaras in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the NationBuilder site offers a platform to connect and mobilize in order to address the refugee crisis in Indonesia. The goals of the Hazara Collective are to educate the public about Hazara persecution/refugee issues, offer tangible steps on how to get involved/help, and develop a toolkit of resources and educational material to keep the conversation going.

Immigration, Cultural Differences, and Family Challenges: Canadian Hazara Humanitarian Services - Ahmad Mesbah Mohebi, Ibrahim Mohebi

This project consisted of online workshops and counseling sessions were run by a professional psychotherapist for parents and youths for the purpose of promoting multiculturalism and integration for Afghan youths and their parents. The workshop promoted multiculturalism and acceptance among the community. It was a helpful tool for mental well-being of the parents who are socially isolated.

The HOPE Project: Ramiz Bakhtiar, Samandar Mahmodi

The HOPE Project was aimed at supporting Afghan newcomers in Canada to strengthen their networking potential, identify opportunities and contribute to building a better, stronger and more inclusive Canada. Sharing personal story and experience, mainly with people that are just like us, have a great impact, because when people get inspired, they think, and when they think – they act.

Miras-e-Farhangi - Learning Traditional Afghan Needlework: Shuhiba and Maryam Mohammad

The Canadian Afghan diaspora community is losing its traditional practices, such as needlework, that are usually passed down from generation-to-generation. Our proposed workshop series, “میراث فرهنگی Miras Farhangi: Learning traditional Afghan Needlework” , will give Afghan youth the occasion to learn traditional Afghan needlework from community elders virtually via a webinar platform. The objective of this project is to reconnect Afghan youth with artistic traditions allowing them to establish a bond between themselves and their Afghan heritage, increase their sense of belonging, and enhance their mental health. Funds will be used to deliver a series of lectures and workshops (1 lecture and 2 workshops hosted virtually over the course of 5 weeks), including honoraria for a guest speaker for the lecture and an Afghan elder to teach participants how to create Afghan cultural designs using needlework, food vouchers and supplies for participants, and marketing and promotion of the program online. At the end of the program, we will be hosting a virtual symposium for participants to share their artwork with all interested parties.

Afghan Youth Association of Montreal: Nigah Awj, Diba Khawajazadeh, Sayed Hashimi, Farooq Nassimzada

Members of our community are very isolated, and even more so during the pandemic, and are unable to create or rely on resources available within the community to advance in society. The objective of this project is to create an online Resource Center that will engage Afghan Canadian youth and centralize information about the community to help create a stronger and more reliable network within the community and one that can be used to support one other during this time of crisis.