The Powerful Impact of Lived Experience

The Powerful Impact of Lived Experience

I was reminded again of the power of personal stories last week. I listened to four women from Kenya, the Philippines, Iran and India tell their stories of coming to Canada at a conference in Calgary. Some were fleeing from persecution in their country. Others wanted to make a better life for their children. Some were highly skilled workers who came for employment for themselves or their spouse. All of their stories were touching.

The women spoke of leaving behind their families and homes to come to Canada. Some had difficulty securing housing. Some worked multiple jobs to secure a future for their children, while others attended bridging programs to help them find jobs in their field. All of the women used various programs available at the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association — programs such as employment bridging, counseling, the HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) home visitor program, childcare services, cross-cultural parenting programs, and others. The Association is one of many organizations in Alberta that provides support to newcomer women and their families.

I was invited to a two-day conference on Gender, Immigration and Integration: Exploring Innovative and Best Practices. This event was hosted by the Association and funded by the Federal Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

People came from across western Canada to see examples of programs for newcomers to Canada, and to hear about challenges and successes. We at the NWT Literacy Council attended this conference because we are exploring ways to better meet the needs of newcomers who come to our Family Literacy events.

I attended presentations on family violence, mental health, best practices, innovation, services across age groups, and the powerful Lived Experience Round Table with its personal stories of struggle, challenges and success.

In the NWT, currently three organizations provide services to newcomers to Canada: Aurora College, CDETNO and La Federation Franco-Tenoise. These groups provide language classes, settlement services, employment assistance and integration assistance for students in the school system and their families.

— Kathryn Barry Paddock

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