United Voices Committee Chair, Fiza Rajput, and Co-Founder Hanne Brahim in front of event signage. PHOTO: KURSTANN MAST

Calgary youth from different backgrounds gathered at the United Voices Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit on Oct. 22 to hear from speakers and share their own experiences surrounding mental health and immigration to Canada 

Leading up to the event, the chair of the United Voices committee, Fiza Rajput, was busy working with the logistics, activities, promotions and funding committees to organize the summit. Planning included preparing a venue, planning activities and finding guest speakers. 

“It feels rewarding. It feels exciting,” said Rajpurt as participants began to arrive at the venue. “I’m just super honored to be part of this and be able to lead the committee.”

Navigating the weather, however, was not a planned part of anyone’s morning. 

“It snowed,” said Rajput. “So welcome to Calgary. Welcome to Alberta.”

Calgary experienced its first snowfall of the season the morning of the event, making winter apparel and snow shovels an added part of the day. 

Crystal Manyfingers is welcomed to the stage to perform an elder blessing and land acknowledgement at the United Voices Youth Wellness Summit. PHOTO: KURSTANN MAST

Participants arrived at the Kerby Centre to find a breakfast waiting for them once they had removed their winter coats. 

The first speaker of the day, Crystal Manyfingers, is an Indigenous landscape strategist for the City of Calgary, who performed an elder blessing and land acknowledgement. 

After the introduction of Rajput and her vice chair Thompson Luu, the event moved forward to the guest speakers.  

“They have amazing inspirational stories, and real life experiences that I think are going to really touch the youth who are coming. They’re all just so accomplished in their own ways,” said Rajput. 

Sabrina Singh, president of the Business Pride Club at the U of C, spoke about her experience moving to Canada from India. Singh then talked to participants about finding their passions and pushing themselves forward. 

“If you’re not scared doing something, you’re not pushing yourself,” said Singh. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t capable because if you believe in yourself you can really make anything happen.”

Singh closed her presentation with a remark aimed at inspiring others. 

“Be so authentically you that someone else can look at you and say wow, he or she can do that, maybe I can do that too,” said Singh.

University of Calgary Student Sabrina Singh presents to participants at the United Voices Youth Wellness Summit. PHOTO: KURSTANN MAST

In addition to the speakers and discussions surrounding mental health, the event featured several cultural dance performances. Among the performances was the dance group Mad Society which represented the Philippines, while the Yalenka Ukrainian Dancers Society represented Ukraine . 

Participants also listened to a youth panel discussing their own experiences involving mental health and being an immigrant to Canada. United Voices co-founder Hanne Brahim mentioned their excitement for this portion of the event. 

“Just to see how we can all relate to the experiences of immigrant youth that are coming to the event, I think it’s going to be really inspiring for all of us,” said Brahim.

The United Voices Youth Wellness Summit opened up the conversation on mental health for immigrant youth in Calgary which was Brahim’s hope for the event.

“My greatest hope is that we can make a difference in people’s lives, that they feel more comfortable to reach out to their families, to their friends, to their doctors, and they’re able to also share this message with their close ones,” said Brahim. “It’s okay to talk about mental health. We all have mental health, and we need to start talking more about it.”

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