An interview with Harleen Toor and Haleena Parmar
HARLEEN: I was born and raised in Surrey and had a fantastic childhood. My parents and my grandparents are the most influential people in my life. My parents have always been supportive of all my decisions and guided me through all obstacles. I am hearing stories of how my dad came into this country and worked many jobs to provide for his family have always been a massive inspiration for me. Every time I hear him talk about his experience and what my family had to go through, I am motivated to do so much more. My mom has demonstrated what it means to be independent in a world where women are taught to depend on men, and she proved what strength could do during tough times and the importance of both partners to be in sync to tackle hurdles. They have built a better life for all of us.
HALEENA: I was born and raised here in Surrey. The most influential people for me have always been my parents, who have been my backbone throughout my life. Growing up, they had ever let me make my own decisions and carve my path in life. In essence, this molded me into the strong independent woman that I am today. When I was younger, I saw the struggle and adversity my parents had gone through starting themselves from the ground up to give my brother and I the privilege of the life we have today, and thus I internalized the opportunity that I was gifted. My parents never forced me into a career path of their choice. They encouraged me to try different things, and what I enjoyed would come to me, and emphasized that I would come to learn what brought me joy, precisely which is what I did. As a child, relatives would often describe me as soft-spoken, quiet and shy, which followed me into my adulthood as well. Many times, I felt this was one of my most significant flaws, which created a lot of doubt for whether this career path would be right for me. Over the past year with the help of my professors, as well as my loyal friends and family, I realized that I could embrace it and use it in my career. I came to realize that being a soft-spoken introvert had many strengths, such as creating deep, meaningful connections, and being a fantastic listener.
Being a part of the South Asian community, and witnessing the violence in Surrey for many years, we often hear people blame the South Asian youth. We feel that people fail to see the bigger picture, such as the upbringing, the influence of parents, friends, and extended families. Although they can choose a different path if they are not exposed to any opportunities, how is it fair for society to set these expectations? We are currently attending school to pursue a profession as therapists and wish to one day work with the youth and young children. Through the support of counseling, we have both learned about different methods of sharing and talking about experiences to prevent future consequences both for youth at Kidsplay as well as Moving Forward Family Services.
How would you describe Kidsplay and Moving Forward Family Services?
Kids Play Foundation is an integral part of our lives. We have been volunteering with the organization since its inception in 2015. It is a second family to us. We have made lifelong friendships, and have garnered an extensive network that has benefitted us along our journey. We both decided to work together as a result of our commitment to the organization. We have worked with hundreds of young kids and had the opportunity to run our youth mentorship program starting in 2019. It is a weekly program with the Langley School District. We have been working with students in the Surrey School District since 2016. Our team at Kids Play has over 500 members has helped over 50,000 kids through free programs. Mental health is always something we have been passionate about, working with Moving Forward Family Services has been rewarding. Seeing how much of a difference therapy can make, and how grateful some people are for the services that we provide makes us so thankful to be in this position of giving.
Based onyour personal experiences, as well as your experiences with Kidsplay, What would you like to say to South Asian children, youth or their families?
A message that we would like to give all the parents is to spend more time with your children, and taking the time to listen to them is incredibly important. As humans, we are social creatures, so we often want meaning and connection with other individuals, which is acquired from outside resources if not given by the family. We have also seen many kids who take failure or rejection very hard, which we are guilty of doing ourselves. In life, it is always important to remember that failure and refusal are a necessary part of life, which will help you grow and change as a person.