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North Shore non-profit brings immigrant youth together

While there are other non-profits that serve immigrants, it is important for young people to find support from other young people
Anita Movazzafi, a 20-year-old resident of North Shore, founded ANIMO, a non-profit that serves immigrant youth. | Hamid Jafari / North Shore News

In Spanish, animo means encourage.

It’s also what Anita Movazzafi came up with when she combined the three letters of her first name and the two letters of her last name to choose a name for the multicultural society she established.

Movazzafi, a 20-year-old resident of North Shore, is in her third year of political science studies at UBC. Although she was born in Canada, Movazzafi said she is well aware of the discrimination immigrants may face when they arrive.

ANIMO was officially launched around July 2023. Before that, Movazzafi began volunteering with a local non-profit organization.However, as a young person working in the sector, she noticed a lack of a youth-to-youth model for immigrant, refugee, and youth communities.

“It was mainly adults who were dictating these programs for youth. I thought it would be a lot more impactful in its own way if there was a youth-to-youth model, someone who knew and was a youth firsthand. That’s what inspired me to establish ANIMO.”

The purpose of the society is to provide services for immigrant, refugee, and minority youth and cultivate meaningful community connections rooted in inclusion. The society also aims to provide a space for learning and teaching equity, diversity, and anti-racism principles.

Movazaffi and her 15-year-old sister recently conducted a four-week youth leadership program through ANIMO.

“It felt like a dream come true,” she recalls. “Reaching out to the North Vancouver District Public Library’s youth department was a significant moment for me. When I received the email with the poster featuring my face, the logo, and details about the leadership program, I felt like I made it. It was like my Oscar-winning moment,” she explained.

The program, held at library was a collaboration effort focused on teaching leadership skills rooted in equity, diversity and inclusion. The core participants were 14 to 18 from various ethnic backgrounds, including minorities, immigrants and refugees.

Movazzafi said she considering hosting a women’s gala in the spring.

She believes she has gained valuable lessons through her experience and journey with ANIMO. “I think everything is a learning moment. Every single thing is a learning moment, and yeah, that’s my biggest thing: stay persistent, and don’t take things personally,” she added.

Movazzafi hopes ANIMO will continue to grow and evolve in the future, becoming very self-sufficient.

“I want it to attract people on its own and be sustainable in the long run. When I turn 30, I won’t be able to run this youth-to-youth model. Maybe I’ll do administrative work, but I want youth to step up, come in, and cultivate this network across generations, passing it on to one another. I want it to stay fresh,” she said.

When asked what advice she would give other young people passionate about making a difference in their communities, she said the most important thing is gaining experience.

“I started my non-profit eventually, but I owe a lot to the experiences and connections I gained from working with the local non-profit. So, start volunteering. Focus on organizations that align with your goals. Take the leap once you have some experience and feel financially and mentally prepared. I was 19 when I decided to start my non-profit, and although things progressed slowly, I’m proud of what we have achieved so far and the youth involvement,” she said. “Create a strong foundation, gather information, and then take the leap. Just do it, and you’ll find your way.”

Hamid Jafari is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist who writes about the Iranian community in Canada, art, culture, and social media trends. His work for the North Shore News is supported by New Canadian Media.