Along with tackling an important but often taboo subject within Ottawa’s Muslim communities, mental illness, the conference also marked an unprecedented collaboration between members of Ottawa’s Sunni and Shia communities.
Serenity Islamic Mental Health Awareness was founded last year as a way to address the stigma and common myths associated with mental illness in Ottawa’s Muslim Communities. It is led by Berak Hussain, a practicing counsellor and graduate of the University of Ottawa’s Masters’ in Counselling Program, and a number of university students. At present they have organized a few presentations on mental health by qualified mental health service providers who come from Muslim and non-Muslim backgrounds.
Muslim Link interviewed Berak Hussain about the initiative.
For the first time in Ottawa, Muslim business women got a chance to come together to network, share ideas and learn about each other. This networking event was organized by the Muslim Women’s Business Network of Ottawa (MWBNO) on Saturday April 12th, 2014. The event was a huge success and was attended by a total of 28 women which consisted of beauticians, lawyers, professional consultants, etc.
The Muslim Women’s Business Network of Ottawa was established in March 2014 by two women entrepreneurs: Jessica Keats and Mahwash Fatima. They wanted to create a platform where Muslim business women could come together to network, mentor, and share their ideas and experiences.
Berak Hussain discovered her passion for counselling back when she was a student at Gloucester High School.
“I was always listening to my friends' challenges and problems and doing my best to offer them support,” she says.
But like many second-generation immigrant students, she decided to study what was expected, not what interested her.
“It was either I be a doctor or I be an engineer.”
So when Berak started studying Psychology at the University of Ottawa, it wasn't because she was planning a career in counselling.
“I was told that it was a good undergraduate degree to have if I wanted to get accepted into med school,” she says.
But when the young woman discovered that people could actually get jobs listening to people and helping them with their problems, she decided to do the unexpected and pursue the University of Ottawa's Masters of Education in Counselling instead of medicine in order "to help people through the soul rather than the cell".