Black History Month means a lot of different things to a lot of different people but to Community Care Durham’s Ayaan Mohamed it’s about conversations, specifically those she’s having with her three young daughters, all under the age of seven.
Racism is real and it’s something that doesn’t just happen in the United States, Ayaan said.
“Most people think it can’t happen in Canada or other places, but it’s just as strong in Canada as it is in the United States,” she said.
Growing up in Etobicoke, Ontario Ayaan said her parents did a good job shielding her from racism when she was young. But she said you can’t shield your children from the world as they get older. That’s when she began experiencing racism in all its forms.
She remembers one incident when she was in nursing school doing her clinical placement. A patient refused her as their nurse because of her skin colour.
“I didn’t know how to deal with that. I wasn’t prepared for those conversations, but here I am in the field of healthcare to help people and they don’t want my help because of the colour of my skin. That was a huge eye opener for me,” Ayaan said.
That’s why she’s doing her best to educate her three daughters, all of whom have experienced racism in their young lives.
“Instead of me shielding them from that, like how I was growing up, I try to educate them on the history and the culture and how to tackle those uncomfortable conversations when that does occur,” she said.
Her husband is also getting an education in racism. The couple were married in November. He’s white but in the time they’ve been together raising their family he’s witnessed racism indirectly.
“He sees it (racism) in a different light as well. He’s seeing it first-hand, not experiencing it directly himself,” Ayaan said.
The family resides in Whitby, moving here from Etobicoke six years ago. Ayaan said when she lived in a city as diverse as Toronto, you wouldn’t expect racism to be prevalent. But it was. She hoped it would be better in Durham Region, but she still experiences racism.
“I realize that no matter where I go, it (racism) follows me everywhere,” she said.
Ayaan became a nurse to help people. She said she knew since she was a little girl that she wanted to work in the healthcare field. She worked as a Personal Support Worker before going to Georgian College where she studied nursing. It was during this time while she was doing her clinical placements that she witnessed the disconnect with regards to the community and hospital sectors.
“I’ve always wanted to support clients in the community, and this is why I love respite so much because you’re able to provide that caregiver relief for families and the clients as well,” she said.
Ayaan started as a Service Coordinator at CCD in April 2022. She was promoted to Supervisor – Respite and Home To Stay in August. She said working at CCD is important to her because she enjoys making a difference in clients’ lives. Recently she collaborated with the ALS team and PSW to provide respite care to support an ALS client, supporting both the client and family until her passing. Later, the family called to thank them for their help.
“They notified us about how grateful they were after the passing of their grandmother,” she said. “It was important to have somebody come in and help them during the last few moments of their grandmother’s life.”
Away from work, Ayaan is busy trying to keep up with her young family who are in cheerleading and ballet. There’s never a quiet moment!
“I’ve been focusing on family, my daughters are in cheerleading right now so we’ve kind of been dabbling every weekend with their cheerleading competitions and ballet.
“It’s just following where their extracurricular activities take them,” she said.