As we are celebrating completing our 8th year in Beijing on 1st April 2023, we want to introduce to you team members who are less known to the public. We are very fortunate to have volunteers who stay with us for years and become the pillars of the organization. Nourouz, a face that many have never met, is one of them. She is the coordinator of the mental health peer support group, and here is her experience with us.
Interviewer: Sharon Liu
Editor of CandleX
How long have you been volunteering with CandleX?
I’ve been volunteering since late 2018, October/November.
How did you first get involved?
I first started attending the Mental Health Peer Support Group at a time to get some support. It helped me to realize that I am not the only person with struggles. When there was a need for a coordinator, I happily accepted the role and volunteered ever since.
What made you decide to continue volunteering for this long?
First of all, I like the idea that I’m helping in some way or another. Xiaojie and I became good friends after I got engaged with CandleX, and I really want to help her out as much as I can. Those are the main two things.
Xiaojie and what she’s doing are what I like about being part of CandleX. I’ve come to realize that mental health is really important and we don’t talk about it enough. Maybe in places like European countries and the US, it’s important to them because they can afford it and the culture is different. But I think in other cultures it’s not talked about enough as something important.
I think it should be, and Xiaojie is helping with that in China specifically. I think that if she keeps doing what she’s doing right now it can inspire other people to do the same and have a really good, long-lasting impact (please check out our mental health facilitator training provided by Xiaojie. Sign up open now). Not just on people individually but on the culture in general.
Aside from that, China is not as open as we think it is. Yes, there are support groups for people but they’re mostly in Chinese for Chinese people so foreigners feel isolated if they need that kind of help. I appreciate the fact that Xiaojie does this for foreigners because it could make or break someone’s experience in China. It’s allowing access to a better life for those who aren’t Chinese. It’s nice to connect with people who speak the same language and come from similar cultures.
This model could also be applied to other countries too. Having different resources available in different languages so people don’t feel completely isolated from day one, so they can adapt to different cultures and reconnect with their own cultures at some point if they need it.
How do you see the Support Group project?
Someone once told me after the meeting, “It feels good to know I’m not alone in this. Even if I may not become friends with all of these people in the group, it’s nice to know I’m not alone”. I think the support group brings people together and shows that they’re not completely isolated and that they can reach out any time they feel not so great.
They know that if they ever need anyone to talk to then they’re sure to find someone from Support Group or someone from CandleX in general, and get the support they need. So, I think the Support Group creates a community.
What does your role entail as a Support Group coordinator?
As a coordinator, I answer people’s questions about the Support Group. People mostly ask a lot of questions about the meeting and how it goes. For example, some people are shy and they’re a bit anxious and worried. They don’t know if they have to share their experience on the first day, or if there might be triggering topics. I guide them through what Support Group is and what it entails, and address any concerns they might have.
I also scan for registrations, let people into the group chat so they can attend, and keep track of how many people are attending.
I coordinate with facilitators to make sure there’s someone available on time, and make sure they are okay with facilitating a meeting by checking if they’re not too overwhelmed or not in a good place. Support Group is not just about attendees- it’s also about those who are part of the team. They also need taking care of.
Can you share some challenges you’ve faced while in this role?
The most challenging part is the time conflict caused by having a time sensitive full-time job, a master's thesis to write and having to do most of the work related to the support group during work hours due to the time difference.
Sometimes, I make some mistakes and basic tasks take a bit too long to get done. I forget to publish the article, or do it late. I approve sign-ups a bit late or reply to those interested in the SG late and can't really keep the conversation going, because I have another person waiting for me to answer their questions as well.
It’s especially challenging because my job involves live chatting with customers and requires me to be 100% focused until my break time. I usually spend my lunch on CandleX tasks and try finish them during that one hour, which is almost never possible because people don't reply immediately.
Also, people interested in the support group are asking for help and support. I can't just ask them to read the article. That's just rude and good for no one. I have to take my time and be patient and show compassion and answer them properly- and preferably quickly.
How has being a part of CandleX helped you in your personal growth?
It’s helped me learn to communicate better with people. It’s helped me to better convey my feelings, thoughts, and ideas. I remember struggling a lot in the first few support group meetings. I wasn’t talking or sharing- I didn’t even know how to. Being a volunteer at CandleX helped a lot with that.
It’s also teaching me about time management. With school, volunteering, and work it was and still is quite challenging. But I feel like volunteering has taught me how to manage my time better. It’s taught me how to be better at multitasking and especially on how to better communicate with people, also with empathizing in general.
Xiaojie has always been very supportive in making sure that I am comfortable with the tasks I have. And I always say yes, that everything is okay, because I sincerely believe that it is okay. Even though it’s challenging, with the right mind set and proper time management I am able to keep up.
Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?
I hope that CandleX keeps going and it grows to help more people, to reach them in all kinds of ways, and help them however they need to be helped.