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Bow Valley Shoe Project empowers, teaches valuable skills to immigrant women

"This is a program that enables immigrants and refugee women in Canada to enhance and strengthen their skills both in the English language written and spoken."

BOW VALLEY - In its 15th year, the Shoe Project returns for immigrant women to share their stories and learn important speaking and writing skills that can help with their life in Canada.

“This is a program that enables immigrants and refugee women in Canada to enhance and strengthen their skills both in the English language written and spoken. So, they can thrive and succeed in their life in Canada, either at their workplace or through their life in their community,” said local coordinator Elia Lopez, who is a previous participant of the Shoe Project. 

Founded by Katherine Govier, the Shoe Project has spanned across Canada sharing stories from around the world while also helping to educate immigrant women since 2011.

The Shoe Project is free to those who would like to share their story and participants will receive an honorarium at the end of the program as a token of appreciation for their commitment to the program. They will also have support for those who need babysitters to attend the workshops.

The program involves a two day a week commitment starting Sept. 18 where they will learn how to put their stories to paper and eventually tell them in front of a live audience.

Participants will be working on their writing skills with Helen Rolfe, a published author and writing coach, and for their speaking skills they will learn from Nan Hughes Poole, who has been with the project since its beginnings.

Lopez said that it aided her in becoming more confident, develop stronger social skills, and helped her develop a feeling of sisterhood with other participants.

“I call it magic,” said Lopez. “Because at the beginning of the program, we are shy. We don't know what to say and how to say it. And the magic is that at the end of the program. You can see the growth in terms of confidence, self confidence and in terms of even social skills.

“The fact that you can turn a story of struggling into a written story and present it in front of a live audience. That, for me, that's how your challenges and your bravery as a woman become a form of art. So, to me, was a very beautiful experience.”

This year, women from India, Ukraine, Chile, Mexico and Czechia are attending

Kusha Devi, a previous participant, was unable to showcase her work due to being stuck in India during the COVID-19 pandemic, but this time around she will be able to join this generation and tell her story.

The stories will be about 600-words per person and the performances will last one to two hours combined.

They are still looking for one or two more women from places like Korea, China, Jamaica, and the Middle East to share their stories. Applications can be sent to [email protected].

Participants will be sharing their stories in person at artsPlace Feb. 24-25, 2024 and at the Banff Whyte Museum on Mar. 2, 2024

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