Mahdieh Rezai received funding to participate in a 7-day winter camping trip in Algonquin Park through the generous support of TELUS and the Toronto Foundation. Mahdieh took the “Connecting Cultures” course, which brought together a group of youth from diverse cultural backgrounds to learn more about each other and Indigenous nations in Canada.
Mahdieh shares her winter camping experience:
This course was truly a new experience for me. It was unlike anything I’d experienced: we weren’t sitting in a classroom for 7 hours a day at a desk, instead we were outdoors with our instructors, gaining experience as we learned. We also didn’t have any conveniences, like tap water. To get water, we had to cut a hole in a frozen lake, then boil the water and then wait for it to cool down. This experience got my team and I a lot closer as we worked together for everyday tasks, gaining leadership skills and creating such a strong bond that we became an Outward Bound family by the end of it.
When I went on my course, I was going through a rough time in my life. I grew up in a household with my mom, 10 sisters, and a disabled father. When I was two years old, my father had a stroke that paralyzed him from the hands and waist below. I grew up taking care of my father and had a lot of responsibilities at a very young age. When my father passed away, I was very angry at life and had a negative mind-set and outlook on life. I didn’t really set goals for myself, I didn’t have a purpose — I would limit myself from my dreams because I thought life was very unfair and that I had a bad luck.
This all changed after returning from my course. Being disconnected not only from my everyday life but also from technology, I realized how I should be more careful with tech and social media. My generation constantly checks and compares themselves with the lives of others on social media, getting away from that was a breath of fresh air. I got to disconnect from my regular day-to-day life and reconnect with myself, my goals and find my purpose again. It changed my mind-set and how I saw life. It truly made me realize it was the little things in life that make a huge difference. I learned not to use my struggles as weaknesses, but as encouragement and motivation to become a stronger person. If it wasn’t for my challenges and life struggles, I wouldn’t be the person I am.