“Home is Where the Heart Feels”

BY NQ

July 2017

How do newcomers see Newfoundland and Labrador? A photography exhibit featuring work by young new Canadians shows us what their new homes look like to them.

Every year, Newfoundland and Labrador becomes home to newcomers from across the world. The Association for New Canadians, or ANC, is often the lifeline for these individuals as they tackle the difficult process of adjusting to life in a new country. Recently, NQ sat down with Sarah Thompson, EASE coordinator for the ANC, to discuss this year’s photography project, “Home Is Where the Heart Feels”, which debuted at St. John’s City Hall on June 20th, and runs until July 11th.

Background.

Sarah: My position is as an educator in employment and pre-employment skills for clients entering the Canadian workforce. A lot of clients arrive as refugees and with limited employment skills, so the aim of a lot of our programs is to develop soft skills that they can take into the workplace, such as communication or teamwork.

I was introduced to PhotoVoice while doing a course out of Ryerson. PhotoVoice is a needs assessment for people who are marginalized in the community, and it offers them a way to communicate the issues in their lives. All the participants are either in or have been in the language school, and photographs are a way to get around the language barrier, so this seemed perfect.

The program was a lot of fun. Bojan Fürst did the session in classroom, instructing them and showing them how to use the cameras. Then, we went out and did field trips in the community. We went around the city, to the Quidi Vidi Plantation, Bannerman Park, down the Rennie’s River Trail. The clients were also tasked to go out themselves and see their community. That way they became acquainted with their new home.

Working with a new generation of Canadians.

Sarah: Last year we did the program with very low-level English speakers. They titled their exhibit “My Eyes, My Voice.” The youngest in that group was in their early twenties, and then the ages ranged up into the seventies. This time, we chose specifically to work with young adults. They’re very energized. They’re all looking forward, making plans for their future. Some are in school, working, or both. Sometimes they’re the sole breadwinner in their family. They all have these underlying pressures that most of us have been sheltered from. A lot of them, if they’ve come with their parents, they are the only ones who will learn English, and they’ll support the whole family.

At the same time that we did the photography sessions, we also ran a work placement program that a lot of the photography students took part in. There was a lot of crossover for them that helped them to build their confidence. Since the launch of the exhibit, a lot of them have started jobs through that program.

Help in their new home.

Sarah: ANC and the City of St. John’s work closely with the Local Immigration Partnership, and through this the city helped with promotion. City Council did a proclamation, our participants got to talk to councillors, they even gave us their walls and the opening launch. City Hall is a great venue because it’s open to the public. It’s fitting that this is their new home and that City Hall welcomed their exhibit.

The takeaway.

Sarah: These young people really want to be here. They’re so happy to be in Canada and to have an opportunity to make a life and home here. They’re going to work really hard to be participants in this community and they should have every opportunity to do that. That’s one thing I like about the photography project; the public can see that these are people looking to make their way here, and they can see that if they succeed, we all succeed.

NQ’s Ellen Curtis is interviewing some of the photographers involved in the project and we’ll be sharing their stories with you. You can read the story of one Naomi’s photographs told in her own words here and read a Q&A that tells how Naomi came to Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Home is Where the Heart Feels”

BY NQ

“They’re all looking forward, making plans for their future. Some are in school, working, or both. Sometimes they’re the sole breadwinner in their family. They all have these underlying pressures that most of us have been sheltered from.”

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