“We can learn a lot from each other” - Spotlight Interview with George Al-Aaraj

October 15, 2021 - Defence Stories

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Portrait of George Al-Aaraj.

You won’t want to miss this spotlight interview!

This October for Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month, check out what some of your colleagues have to say about workplace wellness.

You can also participate in a series of virtual activities to support in creating a workplace we all feel good to be a part of.

Today we highlight George Al-Aaraj. The son of Lebanese immigrants, George is passionate about family, sports, and of course public service.

Having started his career at DND as a student in 2017, George went on to work as a Staffing Advisor and has since graduated from the Human Resources Development Program (HRDP). George now works as a Senior Executive Resources Advisor within the Directorate of Civilian Executive Services (DCES). He is an avid golfer, baseball and hockey player, and enjoys long walks in the park with his puppy, Sadie.

We spoke to him about his experience.

1) What would you like people to know about you as someone who identifies within a racialized community?

I would like them to know how proud I am of my Lebanese heritage. Although born and raised in Canada, I have seen and heard the struggles that my parents endured as immigrants who had to adapt to a new life in a different country. I am proud of my diverse background as a Lebanese Canadian.

2) What does wellness mean to you as a member of racialized groups?

To me, wellness is safety. My father was in the Lebanese army before he immigrated to Canada. Hearing the stories of what he went through and the battles he fought gives me great perspective around what truly matters. Being safe in one’s home and being able to express yourself however you choose is so key. This is a large reason why I am proud to be a public servant. Canada took my father in and gave him opportunity to raise a family in a safe place and so it gives me great joy to be able to give back to Canadians across the country.

3) How can colleagues actively help to create a healthier workplace for racialized groups?

Be open and accepting. Know that racialized people come from different backgrounds and have different lived experiences. Don’t assume something but rather don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn about our backgrounds. I often say that we can learn a lot from each other, every day.

4) What is a piece of advice or guidance you received that has stuck with you? (related to mental health and well-being)

Talk it out, don’t bottle things up inside. Like many others, I frequently deal with anxiety that affects my daily functioning. My family often pushes me to open up and communicate how I feel, which has helped tremendously. I’ve always seen myself as a big and strong man and often fell into the stigma around mental health. Being able to talk about it and admit that I’m human helps. You’re never too strong and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

5) Can you please share a couple of resources (i.e., books, documentaries, videos, etc.) that you found accurate and impactful in learning about or supporting your community?

 

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