Members of the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program show off their flash mob moves

Members of the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program show off their flash mob moves

Heart of our City: Pouyan Mahboubi building a better community

When Pouyan Mahboubi made the decision to stay in Prince Rupert it was because he sensed that he had something to offer the community.

When Pouyan Mahboubi made the decision to stay in Prince Rupert two decades ago, it was because he sensed that he had something to offer the community.

And 20 years later, his gut feeling has proven true; Pouyan has played a vital role in educating countless students at Northwest Community College (NWCC), empowering youth through the Baha’i Community of Prince Rupert, providing outdoor enthusiasts with the Kinnikinnick Campground and RV Park and advocating for the protection of areas of ecological and social importance on the North Coast.

Pouyan’s long list of contributions have been so valued within the community that the City of Prince Rupert recognized him with a Civic Appreciation Award last December, an honour which expresses the city’s gratitude to individuals that have benefitted the community.

“I was flattered to receive the city’s encouragement and appreciation,” Pouyan said.

“But what they don’t know is that it is me that appreciates the wonderful people of Prince Rupert who have been the source of so much richness and joy to me and my family.”

Pouyan was born in Iran, a prosperous country at the time, and was 3 when his parents decided to leave their homeland of many generations.

“The Baha’i writings challenge us to look beyond ourselves and embrace the world as one country, the people of all nations as one family and to dedicate ourselves to the progress of the entire human race. It was in this spirit that my parents left Iran,” Pouyan explained.

The family moved to Vancouver, where Pouyan started school.

“I completed elementary school in the big city, soon becoming accustomed to the Canadian lifestyle, dreaming of one day having a dog like the other kids,” Pouyan remembered, noting it wasn’t until the family moved to a small town in the Kootenays that he got a pet — it wasn’t a dog but a chicken.

Years later, after he had completed high school, Pouyan earned a bachelor’s degree in Plant Biology at the University of British Columbia and felt it was time to give back.

“I had reached my 20s and I felt empowered thanks to the incredibly caring, patient and devoted people in my life: family, teachers, professors and many others. I wanted to give something back. I wanted to contribute some meaningful service,” he said.

This desire led him to the Andes Mountains in Bolivia, to an extremely poor region with the highest child mortality rates in the Americas. For two years, Pouyan worked for a non-government organization setting up and teaching greenhouse production systems in rural communities.

“The production coming from those greenhouses was desperately needed to compensate for extreme nutritional deficiencies; especially among children,” he explained.

“It was the most rewarding and the most painful experience of my life. To see young lives needlessly lost; and others who may have otherwise perished, survive. The experience changed me permanently.”

Before leaving South America, Pouyan received a master’s degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Guelph, which he dedicated to the children of the Andes.

After returning to Canada and completing his master of science, Pouyan began working as a biologist for a forest consulting firm in 1995, which brought him to Prince Rupert on a two-month contract.

Pouyan quickly grew attached to the community and when the time came to leave, he decided against going.

“I felt I could contribute something here,” he explained.

And shortly after making the North Coast home, Pouyan purchased an acreage in Port Edward with the intention of turning it into a campground.

“With a lot of blood and sweat and two long years of reshaping the rugged northern terrain, the doors were opened to our first customers in 1998 under the name Kinnikinnick Campground and RV Park,” Pouyan said.

By this time Pouyan was working at Prince Rupert’s NWCC campus, and has been an instructor of biological and coastal ecological sciences, along with Geographic Information Systems Technology since 1997.

“With the help of an amazing team of brilliant and dedicated instructors, I feel privileged to be part of the education of so many incredible students in this region. I see them become empowered by their education, develop a new sense of purpose and resolve, and leave the college to do great things for Prince Rupert and the world,” he said.

Pouyan is also the coordinator of the Applied Coastal Ecology (ACE) program, which he helped to develop a number of years ago.

“[NWCC faculty] had noted that many bachelor of science grads were really challenged by not having the practical technical skills needed in the employment world. So we created the first two years of a bachelor of science with all of the needed university content as well as amazing technical courses that get students out into the pristine living laboratory of the North Coast,” explained Pouyan.

A student himself presently, Pouyan’s studying for a PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies with his research focusing on the connection between the health of people on the North Coast and the local ecosystem.

Through his research, and with assistance, Pouyan developed a GIS mapping tool that pinpoints sites of social and ecological importance on the Pacific North Coast, and will soon be made available for reference to professionals and the public.

Pouyan completed similar work for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans a number of years ago, which was used during response for protecting the environment when the Queen of the North sank in 2006.

Outside of his professional life, Pouyan has dedicated much of his free time working with children and youth in the Baha’i Community of Prince Rupert, most recently through its Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program.

“I am humbled every week as I see the capabilities of these kids unfold, see them standing taller and finding their voice to speak for justice and for the establishment of unity across the boundaries that divide us,” he said.

But for Pouyan, his children Aaliyah and Jhian are his proudest accomplishment and greatest joy in life.

“They give me incredible hope for the future of this world and, together with my wonderful wife Sheila, we are forging ahead to play our role, however small, to help build a better community,” he said.

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