When Farah Surani first arrived in Vancouver, the crisis facing the unhoused community stirred strong emotions in her. Like many others, she initially held misconceptions about homelessness, assuming it was a matter of choice related to substance use and addiction. It wasn’t until later that she realized it is much more complex and challenging.
Homelessness in Metro Vancouver sparked Farah’s passion to make a difference in the mental health field. She recognized there was a significant need and strongly desired to be part of the solution. It prompted her decision to return to school. While searching for careers related to mental health, Farah discovered Stenberg College’s Regional Diploma in Psychiatric Nursing program. This unique program in Canada supports the need for Psychiatric Nurses outside of Metro Vancouver.
I truly could not have gotten through the program without the support of all my peers. I loved the support system we had.
When Farah left her home in Malaysia and arrived in Vancouver at 19 years of age, like many young people, she found herself following in her mother’s footsteps, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition, and Health. As a new immigrant, she faced challenges adapting to a new country, separation from her family, dealing with culture shock, and homesickness. However, she was determined to rise up to the challenges, and soon found ways to adapt to her new environment. While working as a nutritionist, Farah also obtained her real estate license. She saw the best and the worst of Vancouver’s living conditions as a real estate agent. The overwhelming number of unhoused people in unstable housing situations deeply saddened her. Driven by a desire to make change, Farah started by making change in her own life. She followed her true calling, helping others.
AT STENBERG COLLEGE
Once Farah began the Psychiatric Nursing program, she gave it her all. She described it as challenging and intense, but she was determined. “I truly could not have gotten through the program without the support of all my peers. I loved the support system we had.” She graduated with an astounding 98% grade point average and was nominated by three faculty for the Student of the Year award.
Sonum Woit, one of her instructors, praised, “Farah is a rare exception. She has always managed to deliver quality work embedded with integrity, while maintaining a bright and positive outlook on life professionally and personally. Her commitment to her studies in nursing is both commendable and inspiring.”
One of her classmates, Harjot Bassi, says, “Not only has Farah been an amazing and supportive peer, but she’s an even better friend. Farah is reliable. I’m able to confide in her about anything. She radiates a positive attitude and has always shown me kindness and respect. I’m lucky to call her my friend.”
The program helped Farah realize her potential and changed her perception of the world around her. “It professionalized a lot of the qualities instilled in me, such as compassion and empathy. I love helping people.”
It professionalized a lot of the qualities instilled in me, such as compassion and empathy. I love helping people.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
During her clinical rotation, Farah worked with the Integrated Homelessness Action Response Team (IHART), caring for patients with various mental health needs. “I enjoyed talking to individuals and gaining a deeper understanding of their backgrounds.” A memorable experience during her clinical placement was when one of her patients said, “Farah, you have a very soft and kind soul, and you don’t see that often. So many people are rushed and focused on getting through their day, but you are different. Never change. Always be that person.” The heartfelt encounter left a lasting impact on Farah.
In her personal life, Farah is also positively contributing to her community through volunteer work with the Aga Khan Foundation. Most recently, she volunteered with their Future Ready Initiative, a program that assists individuals facing a variety of challenges, from settling in Canada to dealing with mental health challenges.
I enjoyed talking to individuals and gaining a deeper understanding of their backgrounds.
A BRIGHT FUTURE AHEAD
What makes her achievements all the more remarkable is that she completed the last nine months of the program while pregnant. Shortly after graduating, Farah gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Aareez, and remains determined to complete the Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Canada Examination (RPNCE) in October. She plans to start her career as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse in early 2024, excited to positively impact people’s lives.
Looking ahead, Farah wants to deepen her connections with marginalizedcommunities to better understand their needs. Her goal is to address homelessness directly, while also focusing on resource management. “I understand the importance of bridging the gap between the available resources and the actual needs.”
For Farah, the question is not only what she has and will achieve, but “What have I helped others achieve?”