New country, new community – Haniyeh found more than just fitness at her local park


It’s hard to travel across the world to a place you’ve never been – especially if you don’t know anyone.

So, when Haniyeh Kosari arrived in Australia from Iran to study, she was understandably nervous and nervous as she faced the reality of immersion in a new culture.

The 28-year-old wasn’t planning on staying here after eight years, but the community she created has a magnetic allure.

“The goal was for me to get my degree, but on the way, different things came, and in the end it changed my life,” Haniyeh said.

All those life-changing events began with Parkeron on a humble Saturday morning.

where it all started

The year was 2014 and Haniyeh was in Australia for two weeks.

She was living with an Australian family and had a long way to go, studying for a postgraduate degree in Environmental Engineering at Newcastle University.

Faced with years of computer work, they encouraged her to go ahead with the five-kilometer free jog in a park on the road.

Haniyeh was not interested in running but wanted something to beat the stress of moving, studying and sitting – running is exactly what she needs.

She says the atmosphere was in contrast to what she left behind in Iran.

Haniyeh Kosari's photo.
Haniyeh has developed a wide circle of friends at Parkrun, she can now connect with her community.(Parkron: Glenn Turner)

“It is not usual to see people running in Iran as we see here,” she said.

“It was exciting to see how many fresh people are coming in at 8am on Saturday.

“They were all smiling and welcoming new people, which was great.”

Haniyeh met a lot of people on his first Blackbot race car, but there was someone special.

When he met Haniyeh Rahmat

Rahmat had been going to the park for a year before Haniyeh came to the scene.

He also came from Iran to Australia to study. As per fate, Rahmat attended Newcastle University as well. And it turns out that they have common friends.

“A beautiful couple I met through the owner of the house invited me to breakfast after Parkron,” Haniyeh said.

“This couple also invited my (now) husband to their house.”

Haniyeh holds a red shirt while Rahmat holds a picture of a black shirt.
Haniyeh and Rahmat have completed nearly 200 parkour games.(supplied)

They breastfed her, and the first Haniyeh park kicked off the beginning of a relationship that blossomed, and eventually led to marriage.

The couple got married in Iran and celebrated with their community of parkrons when they returned.

They also now have a one-year-old son named Kian.

Haniyeh and Rahmat are both considered the catalyst for the community that helped them settle in Australia.

“We know a lot of people there now, and this was the beginning of many friendships,” Rahmat said.

“You only have a family there.”

Blackbot Parkron 2
Runners walk along the track at Blackbutt parkrun.(Facebook: Blackbutt parkrun)

‘It’s crucial to stability’

Dr. Michelle Redford immigrated to Australia from the UK in the same year as Haniyeh, and they became friends through Parkron.

As a GP and Parkron’s Ambassador for Health and Wellbeing, Dr. Redford believes that building a community is beneficial to your health and to finding your way in a new country.

“It’s crucial to stability,” she said.

“I think unless you are part of the community, your health will unfortunately suffer.”

Women with numbers on their T-shirts smiling at the camera.
Michelle (foreground) celebrates her 250th party with her friends Lisa, Sally, Suzy, Maggie and Haniyeh.(supplied)

Compared to other health risk factors, Dr. Redford says social isolation and loneliness are often under the radar.

“Loneliness is a risk factor for people who have mental health issues in addition to physical health issues,” she said.

Dr. Redford has completed over 250 parks, volunteered more than 30 times, and built her own community there as well.

Therefore, as part of the Parkrun practice initiative with the Royal Australian College of Practitioners, she is confident to socially prescribe Parkrun to her patients if appropriate, including those relocating here from abroad.

“GPs have the ability to reach some of those hard-to-reach communities that could benefit the most,” said Dr. Redford.

Parkron volunteer with timer for the first time and tourists sign stands and smile.
There is a first-time welcome to Parkrun, which introduces the event and allows people to meet at least two other people.(Supplied: PARKRON)

“Parkron is a welcoming environment. It’s not really about running, it’s about coming over and participating in something on a weekly basis.”

And a lot of attendance could come in week after week.

Job interview, best friends and baby shower

Besides meeting her future husband, Haniyeh credits Parkron with finding the close-knit group of friends that lifts you up.

“I met some beautiful ladies in Parkron, and now they are my best friends here in Newcastle,” she said.

Haniyeh loves that she has the opportunity to gather weekly to get to know them.

She says they were there for her through various closures, and at every step of her childbearing journey.

Haniyeh and Rahmat pushing a pram while on a pram by the water.
Haniyeh and Rahmat met in Parkron in 2014, and they are now married and have a one-year-old child.(supplied)

“These lovely friends I made in Parkeron planned and organized everything for me for a baby shower,” Haniyeh said.

Again, when Haniyeh was looking for work, she even got a job interview through her contacts.

“I was touched to get that interview,” she said.

This “community feeling”

Rod Pickering is the events manager at Lake MacParcrone, another resident of Haniyeh and Rahmat.

With 180 runs and roughly the same number of volunteer hats, he says the Parkrun is a community-oriented event and has been for many years.

A group of people standing in front of a lake to take a photo.
Rod Pickering (far right) is the event manager at Lake Mac parkrun, which he says enhances the community atmosphere.(Supplied: Rod Pickering)

“We’ve seen a lot of new people come in and it fits right in with the atmosphere of the community we encourage,” Rudd said.

“Every theme park I go to, I find the same sense of community.”

Without Parkron, Haniyeh doesn’t think she’ll get the same support she’s getting now.

“I don’t think I can find these wonderful people anywhere else,” she said.

Same goes for Rahmat, who didn’t think he was still living in Newcastle.

“I didn’t know where I would end up,” he said.

Thanks to the parkrun that led them into a community, they both landed in a place they might call home.

ABC Sport has partnered with Parkron To promote the benefits of physical activity and community participation.


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