Iranian newcomer spreads awareness on the importance of healthy eating for other newcomers to Canada

Iranian newcomer spreads awareness on the importance of healthy eating for other newcomers to Canada

Marjan Abasian, 32, opens the fridge in the Immigrant Centre’s Nutrition Services program, where she volunteers to help teach other newcomers important nutritious practices./SHAYLYN MCMAHON

Marjan Abasian, 32, opens the fridge in the Immigrant Centre’s Nutrition Services program, where she volunteers to help teach other newcomers important nutritious practices./SHAYLYN MCMAHON

When Marjan Abasian immigrated to Canada from Iran, she knew she’d have a big transition to make, but she never imagined how big of a role food would play in her move.

The 32-year-old and her husband moved to Winnipeg when her husband was accepted to the University of Manitoba’s Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

Her husband immediately began studying, and Marjan began looking for a job.

“I was looking for any kind of job,” she says. “But I couldn’t find any. The situation is very difficult.”

In Iran, Marjan says, most people can read and write in English, but they rarely speak it. When she moved to Canada, she had trouble talking to others.

Marjan began taking conversational English classes at the Immigrant Centre, but soon she fell in love with one of the Centre’s other programs: the Nutrition Services program.

“First I participated as a newcomer in the Nutrition Services program,” says Marjan. “And then I started volunteering.”

The Nutrition Services program hosts free nutrition and cooking classes for newcomers in Manitoba.

“I enjoy volunteering because I meet people from other countries,” she says. “And it’s also related to my education, so I understand what we’re talking about.”

In Iran, Marjan has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and a master’s degree in toxicology, but neither is recognized in Canada.

Through the Immigrant Centre’s Nutrition Services program, Marjan uses her Iranian education to help other newcomers.

“It’s very important to have a healthy family,” she says. “I like to learn proper diets for everybody, for child, women, men – for every age.”

For Valerie Gonzalez, Nutrition Manager at the Immigrant Centre, having nutrition classes is crucial for newcomers to Canada. “Good nutrition is obviously essential, but is an often overlooked aspect of a newcomer’s healthy settlement process,” says Gonzalez.

Last year, 403 newcomers attended the Nutrition Services program at the Immigrant Centre.

“The act of providing healthy, culturally-appropriate, and affordable food for one’s family, big or small, is not an easy feat, particularly when there are so many other “survival” priorities one may be facing,” adds Gonzalez.

Marjan plans to continue volunteering at the Immigrant Centre’s Nutrition Services program to help mothers provide the healthiest food possible to their children.

“I think we can help make lives better,” she says. “And have right nutrition in all families.”

To find out more about the Immigrant Centre’s Nutrition Services program, visit: http://icmanitoba.com/services/nutrition-services/

Article and Photo by Shaylyn McMahon

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