The light at the end of the tunnel

This testimony was written by Nooshin, a participant in our LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) program.

Like autumn weather, immigration has short and gloomy days. You drown in memories of what your days could have consisted of, and find yourself stuck in what feels like quicksand.

Neither sunshine nor rain could lighten the burden or cleanse the film of sadness clouding my judgment. Just as I was losing my footing, a loved one introduced me to LEAD, the Leadership Education and Development program at PIRS. I registered as an immigrant woman of colour and met ten other like-minded women who, like myself, had left their countries in the hopes of achieving a more fruitful and serene future. Having lost themselves in the process of immigration, they compared their experiences to a labyrinth.

Sandrine, the coordinator, and co-facilitators Sanzida and Anastasia hosted two 2-hr sessions twice a week and asked thought-provoking questions in an effort to spark interest and promote discussion. The three had walked the very path we were struggling to trek and were, as a result, empathetic to our challenges. The sessions were rooted in theory and were planned to slowly re-ignite the flames that had been dimmed in our immigration journeys. With Sanzida’s help, we regained our ambitious nature, and with Anastasia, we found solace. Prior to immigrating, ambition, passion, and perseverance bore little meaning – but thanks to these three mentors, I uncovered a fundamental truth: the sky is blue regardless of where it is that you look up from.

The program came with a series of lessons, each unique and integral – ranging from self-care to career development. Mental well-being, we learned, was pertinent not only for our sanity but for that of our loved ones. PIRS then invited an Elder to introduce us to Canadian Indigeneity. Rooted in culture and science, human beings are tied to their surroundings, we learned. As such, respect for oneself would also require respect for the environment.

Prompts and agendas aside, I gained friendships I know I can rely on for years to come. The women participating in the program had similar experiences to mine, yet they each brought independent bodies of knowledge that they selflessly shared. Without the mentorship of the two facilitators, however, we wouldn’t have been unable to locate the light at the end of the tunnel.

Although not intended to be career-specific, the program enabled my peers and me to fearlessly market our skillsets within the workforce and build an entirely new network. Without the program, I do not think I would have been able to shake off my fears nearly as quickly. And as do seasons, dark and gloomy days are followed by bright and warm days.