Baker, realtor, musician, lawyer, counsellor, soccer player, writer – in any conversation with Afghans in Greater Toronto, they will say, “The first thing you have to remember is we are a resilient people.”
Such a conversation will invariably be accompanied by a glass of tea. Afghans are also hospitable people. Farid Asghary was renowned painter in Kabul but in the past seven years has build up the successful Arya Home Bakery & Sweets on Danforth.
After a generation of steady, sorrowful immigration to Canada, as one war bled into another in their homeland, the Afghan community in Toronto is coming of age, producing a homegrown band of young professionals.
Despite their accomplishments, they are mindful of just how damaged the newest émigrés are, the ones who arrived in the post-9/11 third wave. (The first wave came after the Soviet invasion of 1979, the second from 1991-96, during the civil war eventually won by the Taliban.)
When Dwajid Taheri arrived 23 years ago, he was 14, alone and spoke no English. Now he’s one of the first Afghan-Canadian lawyers in Toronto, wearing monogrammed shirts and Burberry ties in an office with a fireplace and leather chairs.
But he knows how to play hardball with today’s high school kids from Afghanistan, who run with gangs, fight, skip school and get arrested.
“The newer arrivals, the young people, have been raised in violence. A full generation has had no schooling. They’ve been back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan (refugee camps) two or three times. And they are so angry at everything. When I was in high school, I was like that. I have a heart-to-heart chat with them.
“I am more than just Afghan. I have a deep loyalty to this country. I owe it to these people to help.”
Like his compatriots here, Taheri appreciates the intentions of the Canadian troops in his homeland but wishes Westerners had a deeper grasp of its history.
“My heart goes out to those soldiers. These deaths are not necessary,” he said. “Talk to any Afghan. I have not found one person who believes the military option is a solution.
“It is a misguided assumption that the Taliban are in Afghanistan. They’re not. They’re in Pakistan. You can kill as many as you want and the door is still open for more.”
There were 14,000 Afghans in Toronto in the 2001 census and 23,230 in the 2006. On average more than 2,000 have arrived into the GTA every year since 1996, with a peak of 3,934 in 2001.
Mariam Mahbob fled Afghanistan 15 years ago. She started the first local Afghan newspaper, Ar Zarnegaar, and has published a book of short stories about women and their lives – a sort of Afghan Alice Munro.
She and her husband, a poet, are financing an association in Kabul to help writers and poets.
“Democracy means nothing for people who have nothing to eat,” she says. “If I have the money, I will help them.”
James Hussaini, who arrived with his family in 1997 at age 20, says adapting to a new country is not easy. He would rather have been a lawyer, but as the eldest son, he had to help support the family. Selling real estate pays the bills.
“No matter how hard I try, I can’t think, talk, walk like I grew up here,” says Hussaini.
His passion is to bridge the gap between young Afghans and their parents, “who are physically here but mentally still in Afghanistan.”
He’s hopeful. He named his new daughter Tamana – “hope.”
Neelofer Hajran, a customer service manager at TD Canada Trust, knows well the tug-of-war between old and new world values.
“It was very hard for my family to accept so much freedom here,” the 26-year-old said via Facebook. “My family still doesn’t like seeing their kids going out with friends or watching a movie in theatres.”
Then there’s Roain Satarzadeh, gelled hair and leather jacket but sporting a keychain with a photo of his 8-year-old brother. His solution for the damaged, angry teen immigrants? Run them ragged.
Last year, in their spare time, Satarzadeh, 22, and two friends created the Canadian Afghan Sports Association for soccer, volleyball and basketball. They staged the second Canadian Afghan Cup at the Hershey Centre last December.
On March 14, they launch the first Afghan Chess Tournament at the Habib Banquet Hall in Scarborough.
Satarzadeh’s organization has the advantage of being able to draw upon former professional soccer stars in the émigré community as coaches.
“The level of stuff that used to happen is down,” Satarzadeh says. “Support is the main thing.”
A seminal 2005 study found nearly a third of Afghan teens in Toronto reported experiencing war trauma and nearly two-thirds said their families had. Three-quarters said they had problems adjusting at school; 21 per cent reported being suspended or expelled from school, most often for fighting.
Three years ago, Zarsanga Popal, 30, helped write a report on how to help Afghan youth.
At the time, she was a social worker affiliated with Sabawoon – a community organization created several years ago after a wave of suicides among alienated Afghan youths in Toronto.
Married now with a house in Oakville – “the immigrant dream is the 905” – Popal is more determined than ever to fix misconceptions about Afghan immigrants.
“A lot of people portray us as a poor-victim, suffering community. Yes, we’ve been disadvantaged, but a lot of people miss where this community is going, its strengths.”
Social life revolves around weekly worship at the mosque and big weddings – big, as in 500 or more and guests. (They have come to appreciate Italian wedding halls.)
“Everybody gets invited, your next-door neighbours, business acquaintances, family, friends,” says Maryam Alesi, who is on maternity leave from the Afghan Women’s Organization but does bookings for the Afghan Women’s Catering Group.
“In times of instability and devastation and sadness and loss, a wedding is the start of a new life for a couple,” says Popal, who has a newborn daughter. ” Weddings are a big part of our culture.”
Farid Asghary makes the “very fancy” five-tier cakes for those weddings at his Arya Home Bakery & Sweets, at Danforth Ave. and Main St. In seven years, he has built up a broad multicultural trade, offering Afghan bread and sweets, Indian sweets, and Greek and Turkish pastries, along with his own creations.
It’s an outlet of sorts for a man who, when he arrived in Toronto, was renowned in Kabul as an artist who staged exhibits, before he realized he couldn’t make a living here as a painter.
Unlike Asghary, Vaheed Kaacemy can still make a living with his art.
Kaacemy was a high-profile musician in Kabul who fled the threat of death at the hands of the Taliban. “They didn’t like music,” he notes.
He played stadium concerts in 1984 and still writes songs, teaches and performs around the world.
He used young local voices to record 16 songs in four Afghan languages. The songbook and CD, funded in part by the National Geographic Society, were launched at a gala in 2006 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Thousands of copies have been distributed to children in Afghanistan.
He would love to do more to preserve a musical legacy at risk of being obliterated by war.
“There is a musician, a singer, who is very old, 107 years old. He lives in Baluchistan (lying partly in Afghanistan). If we could spend five, six, seven hours with him, recording what he knows, we can preserve our culture.
“If he dies, we have nothing. If we wait for war to end in Afghanistan, it will not get done.”
It may seem to be an oxymoron but by imposing limits on yourself you can actually free yourself to greater accomplishments.
The things you need to do:
• Avoid distractions
• Schedule realistic time periods for the task at hand
• Work in a quiet environment
• When time is up evaluate your progress
Reaching goals requires planning but even more importantly, it requires perseverance to actually follow through.
When you sense yourself being pulled in a direction that isn’t fundamental to your goals, impose a limit to the time and resources you will dedicate to that particular task so you can get back to your main goal quickly.
If you need a break, make it count. Stretch your body to free your mind. Even a small amount of exercise will help you regain focus. Remember, a break isn’t shifting gears or moving onto another task, it’s a breathing room for your thought process.
It’s fair to say that maintaining contact with your past, current and future clients is of utmost importance. Keeping an open channel of communication, coupled with regular contact, keeps your products and services foremost in their minds.
You have plenty of choices of preferred channels to keep the conversation going which should reflect the methods that are in use by your clients. Social media, direct email messages, phone calls and in-person visits will all benefit you when you have a plan to use them that does not consume all of your time while still allowing you the flexibility of being in several (online) places at one time.
Consider using a social marketing service such as HootSuite.com or Bufferapp.com [hyperlinks] to schedule your social media messages and combine your efforts across several channels.
The next question is: what should you say?
Your messages should not only be about your products and services because that will quickly tire your audience.
Surveys show that your promotional messages on social media should be less than 20% of your total message count. Understanding your target client will lead you to understanding their focus and interests and you should invest some time to research the types of messages they post for ideas on how you can cooperate and share with them online.
A quick idea to having readily available content to publish and invite comments is always the ever-changing world around us. News happens all the time and the events of the day affects us all in many ways. Share your favourite news stories and how you feel they affect you and those around you.
Now go forth and communicate!
James Hussaini, President of Business Point, appears as a Guest Speaker at a Real Estate TV
Obtaining a green card — a permanent residence permit — to both the US and Canada is not difficult if you are financially fit, said Jamshid Hussaini, managing director of the American Investment Fund.
Together with a representative from North American Real Estate or Remax, a Canada-based company, Hussaini talked at a seminar in Riyadh about “one of the easiest ways to get into the US.”
He said the EB-5 visa program allows immigrant investors an easy route to invest in the US. The program’s added benefit for the investor is that his immediate family (persons under 21 years of age) can become US citizens without the usual restrictions of prior experience, ethnic background or the requirement to be tied to his business.
“If the money you invest into your own business could create at least 10 jobs, it would qualify you for citizenship in the US,” Hussaini added.
The necessary amount, which he estimated between $ 500,000 and $ 1 million (SR 1,875,000 and SR 3.75 million), is invested in three different business sectors: real estate, fitness centers and hotels. “We are not investing this money in new projects,” he said. “I have a colleague who has been managing a chain of fitness centers in the state of Florida for the past 25 years.”
Investors would get their temporary green card within six to nine months. The permanent residence permit would follow within two years from the date of initial application.
Zia Abbas, a Remax sales representative, came to the seminar to introduce Canadian real estate properties to Saudi Arabia. “We can see a lot of potential in this market as far,” he said.
“Property investment is not just for the wealthy. It doesn’t take large sums of money to get involved in real estate. Banks will lend you up to 80 percent against the security of residential property. Most Canadians with a steady job and a little capital behind them can afford to buy investment properties.”
According to him, the Canadian market is safe and secure. “In the last ten years we have witnessed a tremendous increase in population. More than 200,000 people come to Toronto every year and they all need a place to live.”
Investors explore the market, which is doing so well with a very low down payment of 20 percent of the capital investment for booking and paying the balance within three years.
Abbas said Toronto is the best market to invest in. “There is a large influx of Saudi students in Toronto, making it possible to invest in real estate as a business proposition. It is also a great place to raise kids and take advantage of our good family system.”
On the 22nd day of September 2012, two of the respected Afghan Business individuals in Canada, Mr. James Hussaini and Mrs. Neelofar Ahmadi hosted an enjoyable and successful evening celebrating the Grand Opening of Business Point.
The event started off with guests being welcomed to the Center and given an opportunity to network with members of the business community. During the Networking session guests were given an opportunity to visit booths of exhibitors who were sponsors and supporters of the event. Some of the exhibitors included: CIBC, TD Canada Trust, APPFY, CABC (Canada Afghanistan Business Council), Sozmon Designs, Crystal Group, Taheri Law office, Small Business Development Academy and many more. Exhibitors had an opportunity to provide valuable information to guests regarding their products and services, while everyone enjoyed refreshments and networking.
After the networking session, guests were welcomed to the conference room where the Ceremony and speeches began. Neelofar Ahmadi was the Master of Ceremonies of the evening. She began with welcoming all the guests and introducing herself and providing her biography. She than welcomed her business partner, James Hussaini, President of Business Point onto the stage, who gave a heartwarming speech regarding his journey in the business world and how he came to be the President of Business Point.
Following his speech dignitaries who attended the event were welcomed onto the stage to give speeches to the guests. Amongst the dignitaries who graced the guests with speeches were; Mr. Barna Karimi (Afghanistan’s Ambassador in Canada), Dr. Reza Moridi (MPP Richmond Hill), Mr. Joe Daniel (MP Don Valley East), and Mrs. Lori Cimmerman (wife of Founder and CEO of Homelife Realty Services). They each gave outstanding speeches, recognizing the hard work of James and Neelo. James and Neelo in turn expressed their gratitude and recognized the Business Point Team and Volunteers for their hard work and dedication to the event.
At the conclusion of the speeches, all guests were invited to take part in the ribbon cutting ceremony for Business Point. The guests proceeded to take a tour of the complex and took part in the cake cutting ceremony of Business Point.
At the conclusion of the cake cutting ceremony, guests were invited to enjoy a delicious Afghan Cuisine and delectable desserts prepared by Chef Riaz Ahmadzai, one of the top Afghan Chefs in the Greater Toronto Area. During the dinner hour draws were done for the guests, courtesy of the sponsors and supporters of the event and guests were again given an opportunity to network.
At the conclusion of the event guests were asked to express their observation of the evening, the overall event and the complex. The feedback and testimonials guests provided was a testament to the success of the first event hosted by James and Neelo at the Business Point Complex.
The Business Point Team would like to thank everyone who came out to the event and took part in the celebration. This event was the first of many more to come and look forward to seeing everyone there.