An exciting new project is looking to recruit immigrants and newcomers to share their stories of immigration to Fredericton.
Promise of Home is a community-based research project focused on the inclusion of immigrants and newcomers.
The project’s team studies participants stories to focus on affirming and supporting newcomers, immigrants, and second-generation Canadians in a space where they are unequivocally invited to
share their lived experiences.
One of the ways in which barriers to community building can be overcome is through facilitating participants’ stories, with a long-term goal of restructuring settlement policies.
Dr. Gül Çalışkan from St. Thomas University’s Department of Sociology is the project leader. She describes the project as being “built on the premise of ‘nothing about us without us.’”
What that means, Çalışkan elaborates, is that the project “strives to cultivate a space of dialogue, community, and friendship. It is committed to reveal the demands in those stories. It is those demands, whether explicitly or implicitly conveyed, that should inform policies impacting lives of immigrant background Frederictonians.”
The four phases of the project will aim to do just that. So far, the team has sought to understand youth immigrant participants’ hopes, plans, and experiences in the Fredericton area as well as at their schools.
Sebastián Salazar, a Community Liaison at the City of Fredericton–one of the partners on the project–notes: “The City is partnering with this initiative because it sees a great importance in centering the voice of persons who have made Fredericton their home, and who have something they would like to share with the community about if expectations have been fulfilled. It is a way to realize the challenges that community members may be facing and the personal stories of immigration that we may not know about.”
Aaron Beaumont, a recent St. Thomas graduate and research assistant for Promise of Home, has been working on the project for over a year and was involved in collecting and sharing the stories from Phase 1 participants.
St. Thomas student and new research assistant, Emily O’Donnell-Shaw has had a learning experience : “I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying the narrative pieces that the youth participants created and every time I re-visit them, different themes and quotes from their stories stick out to me. These stories focus on topics such as family and friends, defining freedom, faith, losing autonomy, loss and grief, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.”
Reflecting on the first phase, Beaumont has been impacted by the power and courage of the youth who shared their stories: “the messages they crafted are long lasting and it is so important for them to be heard by anyone who wishes to make Fredericton a welcoming and inclusive city.”
Currently, the team is focused on starting up the project’s next phase which will include stories of immigrants of all ages. In this phase, they will also work to be more inclusive through the use of various languages, since team members are able to communicate with participants in English, French, and Spanish.
Sophie Lavoie, a professor at the University of New Brunswick and collaborator on the project, notes that “contacting potential project participants in a variety of languages or the languages they might speak is crucial to its success. As a language teacher, I joined the project to help facilitate that part of the process.”
The broadest phase of the project, the third, will include people from all origins sharing their hopes regarding a more inclusive community, including Indigenous participants and people at risk of exclusion.
Finally, in the last phase, an analysis of these stories will be done to inform effective grassroots policies that can be implemented in the community to make it more inclusive.
For O’Donnell-Shaw, “the value in taking the time to listen to people with different lived experiences than myself, along with my own privilege when it comes to existing in my community” is a significant result of the project.
She adds: “I believe that conversations like these are crucial for making Fredericton a safer and more inclusive community for everyone who calls our city home.”
Promise of Home will be holding two upcoming information sessions for people interested in participating in Phase 2 of the project.
These sessions will be a drop-in format, and will be held at the Fredericton Public Library on the following dates: Saturday, July 17 (10:00 am to 1:00 pm) and in front of the library, on Carleton Street, on Thursday, July 22 (4:30 to 7:30 pm).
For more information about Promise of Home, or to inquire about participating in one of our upcoming workshops, please contact us here:
Phone: (506) 452-0518
Our website: https://wp.stu.ca/promiseofhome/
Emily O’Donnell-Shaw is a research assistant on the Promise of Home project who studies sociology at St. Thomas University.