May 23, 2016 – Vancouver, BC
“I had never met anyone with cerebral palsy, so when I came here [I was] so surprised, many people [are] like me,” Mehrnoush Izadi admitted over coffee at a café in the United Kingdom building, where the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC’s office is currently situated. Born in Dubai, Mehrnoush immigrated to Canada in 2011 with one of her brothers. It was very hard for Mehrnoush to adjust to her new life in Canada as “everything was so new.” After two years of living with her brother in a basement suite, her parents joined her in 2013. She eventually became accustomed to aspects of Canadian culture, including seeing other people with disabilities in the Lower Mainland, an emphasis on leaving the family home after the age of 18, and the number of dogs and dog parks – this is especially delightful since her family has adopted a dog named Felix.
One day last year Mehrnoush happened to come across website for the Cerebral Palsy Association online when she was searching for volunteering opportunities. She wrote down the address and visited the downtown office. She was pleasantly surprised to discover that Feri, the Association’s executive director, also spoke Farsi. Not only could Mehrnoush comfortably speak with Feri but Feri could also answer Mehrnoush’s parents’ questions and concerns.
Mehrnoush began helping Feri with mailing, accounting, deposits, and petty cash reconciliation. In the fall of 2014, she started the Accounting program at Douglas College. The financial burden of studying was offset by a $500 Tanabe bursary, one of the numerous bursaries the Cerebral Palsy Association makes available to its members over the years. Mehrnoush has become a well-rounded member of the association has participated in the yoga, dance, and the Association’s first ever pre-employment program in addition to volunteering her time to help support a Meat draw fundraiser in Chilliwack, the CPABC’s annual Gala, a Community Connections event on the North Shore, and the Healthy Eating-Healthy Life program, a monthly community kitchen event.
This past year has been an important year for Mehrnoush. The bursary funds and her academic pursuits have helped those around her see what she is capable of. She hopes to develop her accounting skill set more, frequenting the office 3 days a week instead of 1 day a week in the future. Her involvement at the Cerebral Palsy Association has helped her reach and realize both her personal and professional goals.
Last year Mehrnoush raised over $300 and walked the 5km route on behalf of the Cerebral Palsy Association for the Scotiabank Charity Challenge. The 2014 challenge was a first for both the CPABC and Mehrnoush – it was the first year the CPABC took part in the event, where all funds raised go directly back to participating charities – and it was the first major mixed abilities fundraiser Mehrnoush and her family had seen. Her family was amazed by the diverse participants and the scale of the event. She is so excited to be a part of the Scotiabank Charity Challenge for a second year in a row. This year, Mehrnoush and her family plan on walking together, “although I think my dad would win if he tried,” she jokes.