Members of Saskatoon's Iranian community helping those in self-isolation

Bijan Arab says the two have been working with a one-way delivery method, where supplies are dropped off at the families homes without the two ever coming in contact with those who are self-isolating.

'We should really help each other out at this point': Mary Akhgar

Members of the Saskatoon Iranian Cultural Association, Mary Akhgar and Bijan Arab, shop in Saskatoon on March 14, 2020. They say they want to make sure families from Iran who are arriving in Canada feel welcome and have what they need as they self-isolate due to COVID-19. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

As people across Canada flood grocery stores to buy supplies for themselves, some members of Saskatoon's Iranian community are facing the crowds — not for their own supplies, but for others.

Wearing rubber gloves, Mary Akhgar and Bijan Arab stroll through the aisles of a Saskatoon Superstore picking up bananas, apples and an assortment of other groceries.

They're working off lists that were sent to them by newcomers from Iran, who are currently in self-isolation at the order of the government of Canada.

"They literally just landed and I remember as an immigrant, when we first moved to Canada, we didn't really have any friends or family to rely on," Akhgar said. "But because of social media, I feel like we're all more connected and we can help each other out."

Saskatchewan is one of the latest provinces to have COVID-19 recorded in the province, as health officials diagnosed one confirmed and five presumed cases in the province.

As of Monday, all gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited in Saskatchewan, and the government of Canada is advising residents to avoid all non-essential travel.  For those who have been outside of Canada, they're asked to self-isolate for 14 days and closely monitor themselves for symptoms.

Akhgar, who is a member of the Saskatoon Iranian Cultural Association, said the Saskatoon community has always been there for her and her family and she sees this as an opportunity to give back.

"When you move to a brand new place, you won't have groceries, you won't have toys for your kids," she said, noting she has picked up some playthings for little ones who are bored trying to pass the time.

"You're confined to a one-or-two bedroom apartment or an hotel room and I just thought that was the humane thing to do," she said.

Iran has become a hotspot of the COVID-19 virus after it was first recorded in the central-Chinese city of Wuhan in late December of 2019.

As of March 13, the World Health Organization said there are 10,075 confirmed cases in Iran with more than 429 deaths recorded.

Akhgar said she and Arab have been helping three families who are currently self-isolating.

Mary Akhgar and Bijan Arab, members of the Saskatoon Iranian Cultural Association, pick up groceries for families from Iran who are recently self-isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC )

Arab says the two have been working with a one-way delivery method, where supplies are dropped off at the families homes without the two ever coming in contact.

"We keep our distance," he said. ​​​

Bijan said they want to ensure those arriving in Canada feel like they're being accepted and belong when they reach their new home.

"We want them to know that they're welcome here," he said. "And that they can get everything they need."

Both say the families who they have been helping have been grateful to have the support as they get settled.

"They're really happy that there's someone to help them," he said.

The two hope they're act of kindness during uncertain times will inspire others to think about how they can help each other out, as opposed to how they can hoard the most supplies.

"Instead of buying into the panic, we should really help each other out at this point," Akhgar said. "I think people are getting ready for an apocalypse and I'm not saying it's not serious, but it's not just about you, it's about public health."

The Saskatchewan Health Authority's Chief Medical Health Officer, Julie Kryzamowski, said the fact people are helping those who are self-isolating is "terrific," but noted people dropping off supplies should be following social distancing practices. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

Julie Kryzanowski, chief medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said those delivering supplies to people who are isolating should make sure they're following social-distancing practices.

She said the fact people are willing to help each other out is "terrific."

"This is what we need to do as a community," she said. "We need to pull together and help each other out, our friends and neighbours."