The Breathing Room, providing a safe place for Muslim Youth in Surrey
While I’m mindlessly scrolling through my news feed I get a good dose of everything that causes me fomo, motivates me and inspires me. I love catching up on articles, photos, videos of my friends chasing their dreams. Me, being as curious as I am, I always want to know more about what inspires them to create. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to sit down with my good friend Nidha Yaqub and pick her brain about the safe space she is creating for marginalized Muslim youth in Surrey. Find all about The Breathing Room below:
What is The Breathing Room?
“The Breathing Room is a space where we work collaboratively to create dialogue, share perspectives and address some of the social causes of mental health issues by holding a regular meet up once a month. This space works towards providing a non-judgemental, confidential, respectful space for vulnerable and marginalized youth. It’s a space for someone to come and share their hopes and heartaches with the aim that they will heal and thrive.”
What lead you to create this movement?
“On March 19, 2016 we held the 2nd Annual Symposium on Mental Health & Addictions in the Muslim Community and I was one of the co-facilitators for the youth workshop. The workshop was about mental health and the stigma attached to it. From that session I realized the need for a space where youth could come and discuss personal hardships without the feeling of being judged was needed. We have so many resources in our communities however not all of them are able to meet the needs of marginalized Muslim youth. My number one motivator was the fact that as a community we were still struggling to accept the realness of mental health. I also met a few youth during my workshop that said they wanted more opportunities to come together to share perspective, a place where people would listen to them. That’s when my team and I pitched an idea to the Muslim Food Bank Community Services founders, that we needed a safe space for our youth. We weren’t sure what it would look like but we had a vision. I had a vision. In the future I want to open up a space for youth to drop in. Not necessarily a rec centre; just a place where they can just come, be themselves and breathe. “
Nidha Yaqub, Founder of The Breathing Room
How has The Breathing Room influenced you?
“I have always been ambitious about working with children and youth. The Breathing Room opened up another outlet for me to pursue that dream. I have become a part of the most inspirational team where we all are working towards one goal and that’s to create a safe space for youth. The Breathing Room has been going on for seven months; that itself has been influential to me. A few years ago I joined the HOPE team and one of the questions they asked me was what was my long-term goal. My long-term goal is to create a space for youth to come. This goal is slowly coming to life through the Breathing Room.”
When did you know The Breathing Room had influenced someone else?
It’s hard to say whether or not the Breathing Room has influenced someone since it’s only been eight months. However, I can say that participants are thankful for the space that we create. I remember one session where we all did art. You could slowly see everyone easing into some form of art. Whether it was writing, painting, calligraphy or mindful colouring. The session was called the art of letting go. We created an atmosphere of positivity and genuine connections. Everyone got some breathing room that day. Our new participants asked when the next Breathing Room session would be. That to me shows that in some small way those few hours were beneficial for them.
What’s the best way to support your community outside of this movement?
From a Canadian-Muslim-Pakistani that has spent her entire life in this community, I want to see more collaborations between resources for youth that are marginalized. We live in a beautiful city that is full of diversity and is growing each day; what we lack is a sense of community. I know that it will take a lot for everyone to come together for one cause but mental health is one that we need to address. Let’s start by supporting initiatives that work towards alleviating the stigma on mental health.
What do you hope to see for The Breathing Room?
It might not happen in a year but my hope is that the Breathing Room will become a centre for youth. Not just a space we rent out once a month but a sustainable space that is accessible for all youth. We plan on doing a fundraiser in September but as of right now we are struggling to find funds to host it. I’m hopeful that the community will support the Breathing Room.