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How being an ambassador helped mold my personality and resilience

May 10, 2022

Written by Abirah Chandraraj, Social Media Intern

The vaccine engagement project is not only positively affecting the wellbeing of our community through increasing the vaccination rates but it is also impacting our ambassadors at different levels and providing them with a good network where they feel supported and safe.

Malala is an ambassador from Afghanistan. Lately, she has been mentally exhausted from seeing her country in chaos and her people begging for refuge. Here’s her story of how being part of the Vaccine Engagement team has made her feel supported and strong enough to overcome what her country is going through.

Hi, my name is Malala Sharifi, and I am a Community Health Ambassador. I came to Canada five years ago from Afghanistan. I started going to school here and began learning the language because one of my biggest concerns was not being able to communicate with others. When I came, I did not know any words in English but thankfully, I learned the language and I am fluent enough to express myself.

I am currently working and still studying, and soon, I will be finished school. Being in Canada is not like being in Afghanistan. It is totally different but, I eventually got used to my routine of working, going to school, reading, and cooking. During my free time, I enjoy biking, watching movies, and sometimes even dancing.

It has been a couple of months since I have been working with Afghan Women Organization (AWO) as a community health ambassador. So far, I am in love with my job. It gives me more opportunities to connect with our community and help many community members dealing with difficult times. 

Our team and I are trying our best to reach out to as many individuals in South Scarborough to get them vaccinated. It is extremely important for everyone to get their vaccines for their health, families, and our community.

During this time last year, I did not have a job because of the pandemic. I was home all day since school was online. I was bored and started looking for a job. I went into AWO and asked, “Are there any volunteer or job opportunities available?”. They mentioned that they needed volunteers so that is when I started volunteering with them once per week for the food bank. Aside from that, I also had connections with people that worked with this organization. I told them I was looking for job opportunities and they mentioned this role. I applied for the job, finished my interview, and landed the position!

Personally, I am a social person. Whether it is talking on the phone or reaching out to people on the street or plaza, I enjoy talking with others. I love this job because it is one where I communicate and connect with others to help keep them safe.

As an Afghan, the latest events in Afghanistan have really affected my mental health. I am not physically there in Afghanistan so sometimes people say, “if you’re not there, you might not feel the pain of what is going on there”, but it impacts me very deeply physically and emotionally. It is not easy for me to see our Afghans in Afghanistan fleeing, being displaced, being killed, and children being orphaned. It really hurts for me to see this through social media and not be able to do anything.

I was unable to focus and concentrate on my work. Although I was here physically, emotionally, I was in Afghanistan. I was thinking about what might be happening to my nephews, relatives, and classmates that I studied with for so long. It is an extremely hard time for all Afghans!

I was able to cope with the stress and feel much better through the help of my colleagues and my friends. I came to know that by being sad, depressed, and crying all the time, it was not going to change anything. It is not just me going through these feelings. It is everyone that sees what is happening in Afghanistan. Even though my colleagues are not Afghans, I can see how worried and concerned they are. It is not just about me worrying for my family. It is about humanity! We are all human and we should care for each other and be there for each other. It has impacted me very negatively and thank God for the help of my colleagues and my friends, I am now able to get back to my work and be strong enough to fight for Afghans that cannot use their voice right now.

Being an ambassador helped mold my personality and resilience. Within this job, I feel more active and motivated. I see seniors that are 60 or 65 years old that have not received their first dose yet. By helping them get their vaccine, I am proud of what I am doing for my community and for those in need of help, especially for those that have no family or friends that can help them. I would have never thought that I would face these types of people, but we came across isolated people that are not able to go by themselves and do not know where to book their appointments or how to go get their vaccines.

I am currently also supporting the settlement of Afghan refugees in Toronto. In this role, I translate to some of the Afghan refugees in Toronto who do not know the language. I try to get them to understand why they should get the vaccine. Any activity, related to my job or not, I like what I am doing, and I like the experience that I get from there. I like meeting new people because it is a new experience and I learn so much from them.

By helping our Afghans and Afghan refugees, I am happy that they fled their country at such a difficult time. Meanwhile, it hurts when I see some Afghans, their family, and their children say things like, “I miss our neighbours, I miss my friend, there is nobody I can communicate with here”. It is during those times I remember how I was when I came to this country, and that helps me feel and understand them better. I know that there is nobody else you can communicate with and even if there is, they do not know the language. It is a new country, new people, and new culture. It is kind of hard to see them go through a hard time, but I am happy to see that they survived from Afghanistan and came to Canada.

I knew what was going on in Afghanistan, so I was really trying to avoid social media. It bothered me knowing that I could not do anything. Seeing Afghans through social media and then working with them in real life was not that easy. I am trying to be strong enough to handle all of this because I know that this is not just me. There are many Afghans out there in a similar situation as me.

Since my job in South Scarborough is more involved with newcomers and refugees, it connects me with Middle Eastern such as Pakistani, Afghans, Iranian, and more that do not know the language. I am glad that it connects me with my community, society, and Afghans more!

Our vaccine engagement ambassadors have been determined and working hard to help as many Scarborough residents get vaccinated despite challenges in their personal lives. It is with the help of our amazing vaccine engagement ambassadors that we can look forward to a healthier life!

Let’s stay safe! If you have any questions or concerns and would like to contact one of our vaccine engagement ambassadors, email vaxsouthscarb@schcontario.ca or call 416-736-9372. If you do not have your vaccine passport, make sure to click here to find out how you can download yours.