Ten immigrant women tell their unique stories at Shoe Project performance

Ten immigrant women tell their unique stories at Shoe Project performance

We have all heard the phrase, never judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes, and that is the essence ofn what this year’s Shoe Project is all about.

The national initiative returns to Canmore this year for the third time hosting an evening of stories from ten immigrant women from the Bow Valley. The Shoe Project is a writing and performance workshop for immigrant women who tell the stories of their journey to Canada, through a pair of shoes.

In the fall of 2018, Canadian author Pamela Clark led the women through a series of advanced writing workshops, which were followed by voice and public speaking coaching with Banff mezzo-soprano, Nan Hughes Poole.

The Bow Valley group is composed of ten women from Colombia, Czech Republic, Japan, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Iran, Peru and Chile.

Project participants tell their stories about how they arrived in Canada from different backgrounds and cultures from all over the world, each unique journey to make a life for themselves in a new country.

“The opportunity to write these ‘shoe’ memoirs while being mentored by Canadian writers and voice coaches amplifies the voices of immigrant women and helps them be heard in their communities, and in the Canadian mainstream,” said ArtsPlace Communications Manager Paula Krupa.

“As my work situation deteriorated, my new suede boots gave me stability on snow and ice, protection from the cold, and an encouraging sense of control over my first Canadian winter,” said Ysabel Laura Hanco who immigrated here from Peru.

“Winter winds in the Canadian Rockies rush down mountain slopes robbing one of warmth and comfort, but they are nothing compared to the feelings of fear and isolation I experienced as a newcomer to Canada.”

Hanco came to Canada in 2012 as a nanny, through the Canadian Government’s Live-In Caregiver Program. In her home of Arequipa, Peru, she was an English teacher. Ysabel loves to dance Peru’s traditional native dances, as well as cook her country’s delicious cuisine. In 2016, she married a Canadian and now lives in Banff, Alberta where she is an Educational Assistant with the local school board.

“Sometimes, we do not choose our shoes. We select them out of necessity and in turn, they teach us something,” said Miroslava (Mirka) Cedidlova originally from Czech Republic.

“Standing on the stage during my graduation ceremony I realized that my too-narrow shoes constrained me. I questioned myself about what to do. I decided to apply for a working holiday visa and came to Canada. Here in the Bow Valley, I broadened my mind and my shoes. I now see that the future will unfold.”

Cedidlova came to Canada from the Czech Republic in 2015 to visit her friends in Canmore and her aunt and uncle in Tumbler Ridge, B.C. She decided to stay in Canmore. She received graduate degrees from Tomas Bata University where she was employed as an International Relations Officer. She has played in a Brass Music Band and has sung with the Bow Valley Choir. While studying accounting and payroll with Athabasca University and the Canadian Payroll Association, she is completing her training as a victim advocate with Bow Valley Victim Services.

The Shoe Project allows the women to write their shoe memoirs while being mentored by Canadian writers and voice coaches, giving participants a voice which helps them be heard in their communities and in the Canadian mainstream.

“I knew that I was not going to stay and live in Iran from the age of fifteen. I loved my family and friends but it was clear that I couldn’t become who I wanted to be there. My brown leather shoes are beautiful as are my memories of that home country of Iran. But when I wore them on my journey to Canada, their hard and inflexible sole felt uncomfortable. I don’t wear my brown leather shoes very much here. Having them on my feet just once in a while reminds me of who I was and how much has changed in my life,” said Neda Madanian from Iran.

Neda Madanian immigrated to Waterloo from Iran in July 2011. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism Management and is interested in social work. In January 2013, she moved to Canmore where she works for the Canmore Public Library. She enjoys living in the mountains and learning downhill and cross-country skiing. Neda is married and has a daughter.

This year’s Bow Valley participants are: Heidy Gaitan, Vladi Hudec, Alma Garcia Gonzalez, Lyudmila Fomina, Miroslava Cedidlova, Neda Madanian, Ysabel Laura Hanco, Akemi Hara-Ogle, Natsuko Watai, and Claudia Cousineau.

The Shoe Project was made possible with the support from the Banff Canmore Community Foundation and through the Town of Canmore’s Community Initiatives Grant, with additional funding from The Shoe Project Canada through the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust and the Sonor Foundation.

The two live performances will take place on February 1 and 2nd at the ArtsPlace.

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