While Aida Ghodrati never expected to become a proficient chainsaw operator it fits well with one of her life’s goals: breaking down gender stereotypes one by one.
Just because men usually operate chainsaws doesn’t mean a woman can’t learn how to use one, she decided. Ghodrati is a mechanical designer who spent half her life in Iran and half in Canada. Ever since she can remember she has railed at the notion that girls can’t do certain things because of their gender. Raised in a Bahá’í family, she learned about the principles of the Faith and believed in all of them. But the equality of women and men particularly resonated with her. “I always thought of myself as being capable of doing anything a guy could do,” she said.
And so, she has. The most recent being learning how to use a chainsaw. Through her service at the Bethany Centre for Baha’i Learning, Ghodrati was given the challenge of removing some trees from the property.
“I’d never really seen one before except maybe on TV or in the movies,” she said, “but at Bethany there is no gender distinction. Jobs go to whoever can do them no matter their age or sex.”
Ghodrati jumped at the chance to learn how to operate a chainsaw; but she was scared. “Operating a chainsaw looks easy,” she said, “but when you turn it on it shakes. You have to hold it properly. At first my hands were shaking and so was my whole body. And my cuts weren’t as even as they should have been either. But now I’m very comfortable operating a chainsaw and I use it with a lot more confidence.”
A fast learner by nature, Ghodrati attributes her new chainsaw skills to the fine mentorship she has received at Bethany Bahá’í Centre of Learning. Of course, safety is of the utmost importance; new learners are carefully supervised, says Emad Toukan, Property Manager at BBCL. Ghodrati says her mentors believed in her and her latent ability to handle a chainsaw.
“And,” she added, “they are great at training us to get to the next level of our skill development, which is important because winter is coming and there is still so much work to be done at Bethany.”
Ghodrati has learned how to scout and plan cuts to safely fell or cut down trees. “The goal is to avoid having a tree fall on an obstacle or another tree or block a path,” she explains.
She knows how to practice freeing: to extricate a fallen tree that is trapped between other trees. Also, she is now skilled at limbing: cutting branches off logs; and bucking, which is cross-cutting felled logs into sections, and brushing and slashing short underbrush.
Ghodrati says she’s grateful she heard about the need for volunteers at the BBCL. “During the pandemic we haven’t had much of a chance to serve together,” she says. “The opportunity to learn new skills was very timely and appropriate considering we are working at the Centre of Learning. It has been a true definition of teamwork and a lot of fun.”
A version of this article was originally posted here.