Awarded Apple’s Show of the Year in Canada last fall, The Hopeful podcast explores the story of Amir Omidvar and his incredible path to citizenship. Here the co-creator and host Shayda Omidvar—Mr. Omidvar’s daughter—reveals what led her to share her father’s inspiring journey, how his story fuels her creativity and her plans for a second season.
What inspired you to start the Hopeful Podcast?
“When the Syrian refugee crisis erupted in 2015, I happened to be in Bodrum, Turkey for the summer where a majority of the refugees were entering. It was eye opening to be faced with it and not just seeing it on the news. And when I had returned to Canada there were so many news stories about Canadians angered by the government’s initiative to welcome 25,000 refugees by December. I took this personally. Knowing my dad’s story as a refugee, everything that he went through for a better life here, and everything he did to contribute to the country he felt so grateful for, I knew that if people could hear his story, then they would empathize with our newcomers. After that I did everything I could to get my dad’s story out to the public. It took a few years, but the conversation around migrants is as relevant as ever.”
How has your father’s journey impacted your creative pursuits?
“I feel a great sense of duty to honour my father’s journey, and the legacy he created for his family. I’m not alone in this as a first-generation child of immigrant parents. I’ve had many conversations with friends about this and we feel indebted to our parents’ sacrifice. For us, being successful in life is crucial and that adds a lot of pressure as well. I don’t resent it in any way. This pressure has made me an incredibly ambitious and driven person and I’ve achieved a lot of goals because of it. It drove me to make The Hopeful and get it out to the public. Ultimately the effort my team and I put into the production paid off because Apple named our podcast “Show of the Year for 2020”.
What was the most challenging and rewarding part of working on this podcast?
“This sounds unusual but there weren’t many challenges. Not to say that this was a breeze, but I had an incredible team behind The Hopeful. And there are two rewarding parts of working on this podcast, firstly I got to work with my best friend, Portia Larlee, whom I’ve known since elementary school, as my co-creator and writer. There are a handful of people in my life who trust in me 1000% and she is one of them, so to have her alongside me to create such a personal body of work was not only motivating, but inspiring—it helped me push the boundaries of what we were creating. And then getting one-on-one interviews with my family was also so meaningful. I don’t often get the opportunity to spend time with them on an individual level because we all live in different places. This podcast created a beautiful sense of connection for me with the ones I love, and I’ll be forever thankful for that.”
Given the positive reception you’ve received, will you be exploring other immigration stories in upcoming seasons?
Yes, absolutely—a second season is in the works! We plan to bring other immigrant stories to the podcast, and something that is really important to me is creating conversation between generations. I learned so much from my family through this experience and it’s something I will hold on to for the rest of my life. It’s shaped a new future for me and I want to help share this experience with others.”
Canada is a nation of immigrants—how do you hope your father’s story will inspire others to share their own journey?
“I hope immigrants feel a sense of connection and belonging, and that they feel a bit more comfortable to share their story. Our listeners have connected with my dad’s story in such a deep way, and our audience isn’t exclusively immigrants, they are really diverse. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve had, especially messages from non-immigrant Canadians letting us know how much this story inspired them, opened their eyes to their neighbours, and made them feel proud to have someone like my father be a part of their community. I hope that other immigrants can see this and be encouraged to follow suit. The immigrant story is the Canadian dream, and we need to hear more of them.”
What is your biggest takeaway from creating this podcast with your father?
“About a month after the last episode aired, once I settled out of production mode, I realized how profoundly rewarding it is to speak from the heart. Maybe that just speaks to me personally and shouldn’t be advice I give out without a warning disclaimer (expose heart at own risk!). The overwhelmingly positive response from our audience has been such a reward for being vulnerable. Ultimately, The Hopeful was meant to be a gift for my father, a way for him to get his story out to people outside of our family and maybe inspire someone along the way. The day before episode 1 aired, my father called me to let me know that at the end of the day, the reviews don’t matter and that he is proud of me. He said ‘you have moved the world for me,’ and that is all the validation I’ll ever need.”