Hosting events in the community precipitates essential discussions about diversity and inclusivity.
Promise of Home recently hosted a reading at the Fredericton Public Library with Wendy Speirs, an author, illustrative artist and retired speech/language pathologist.
Led by Gül Çalışkan of St. Thomas University’s Department of Sociology, Promise of Home is a narrative research-based project collecting stories from immigrants to make policy suggestions about attracting and retaining immigrants in Fredericton to create a stronger, more inclusive community.
The study’s framework creates an opportunity for immigrants, newcomers and second-generation immigrants to have a designated space to voice their experiences in the community. Their experiences must be shared in the larger collective, as the goal is to bring awareness of those whose voices are not heard.
On July 16, Promise of Home held a public reading and discussion open to the general public. A United States author connected to the Bahá’í community in Fredericton, Speirs read two children’s books which matched the theme of the Promise of Home research: home and belonging.
Published in 2022, Speirs’ book Vanished. The Case of The Missing Adjectives touches on the importance of belonging and diversity using a beautiful metaphor.
The story is deceptively simple. In a town there are families called Verbs, Nouns, Adverbs, etc. Each group has a role in the town. The Adjectives’ family felt they weren’t as meaningful as other families and left the town. The once beautiful town turned gloomy gray. The town realized that without the Adjective family, it is no longer lovely. The lesson from the book emphasizes inclusivity and belonging: a community is much more beautiful when it is inclusive and diverse.
After the reading, there was a question and answer period with Promise of Home participants and community members. During the discussion, Çalışkan asked attendees, “What attracted you to Promise of Home and what does home mean to you?”
One participant answered, “I wanted to feel connected to people that understand the struggles of what it means to be an immigrant. One of the biggest struggles is the language barrier—the challenge of dealing with bullying and not knowing English to defend myself.”
Charles Pan, the project’s graduate research assistant and videographer, said: “What drew me to Promise of Home was the words themselves ‘Promise of Home.’”
Another community member said, “I came to the event because it’s about diversity and inclusion. I feel like an immigrant, even though I was born here, because I didn’t belong.”
Belonging is what most people seem to want, to be part of something.
Promise of Home project staff declared: “Hosting events like these to the community invites essential discussions about diversity and inclusivity. Culturally, Canada is known for being a friendly and welcoming country. However, there is a limited space for newcomers to voice their experiences in Fredericton and Canada generally. Thus, we are looking forward to having more public discussion in the future.”
Promise of Home is currently recording participants’ stories in phase two of its project.
Phase one focused on collecting stories from high school-aged immigrants. In phase two, they are collecting stories from newcomer families. Phase three will include everyone in the community “who wants to share their hopes and aspirations for a more inclusive community” and phase four will make policy recommendations.
The Promise of Home team includes people from various backgrounds. The Project lead, Dr. Gül Çalışkan, is originally from the Republic of Türkiye. Charles Pan is the graduate research assistant and videographer; he immigrated from China and is currently doing a PhD in Education at the University of New Brunswick. Project manager Sebastián Salazar is from Peru. The event was held in collaboration with the Bahá’í community and in partnership with the City of Fredericton.
Originally from Romania, Bianca Prăjescu is a third-year St. Thomas University student and Promise of Home’s research assistant.