The Shoe Project is a writing and spoken word performance workshop where immigrant women tell the stories of their arrival in Canada – through a pair of shoes. They are mentored by veteran Canadian writers and theatre professionals along with a voice coach. Now in its fifth year, the Shoe Project was created by renowned novelist Katherine Govier and incubated at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. As quoted by her “shoes accompany us on all our journeys. They say who we are, where we came from and where we are going. Writing their shoe memoirs gives members a voice and helps them be heard in the Canadian mainstream.”
Although these women came from different countries and spoke different languages there was one thing that was common – the emotions they carried while they moved to Canada leaving everything familiar behind. It was no doubt they were filled with excitement, nervousness and were completely clueless to what life had in stored for them. Today, these women couldn’t be happier. Moving countries is one of the most painful things anyone can go through but it makes you stronger than you ever imagined you could be.
These women play different roles in their daily lives as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters or friends but most of the times are anonymous. The Shoe Project gives such unsung “Sheroes” a voice of their own, a chance to share their stories. Their stories are similar yet so different with all the triumphs and troubles they have been through, but they did not give up instead kept on trying harder.
For these women moving to Canada was a journey towards hope for a better life and good opportunities. Each one carries a cultural treasure with them unique to their countries. Thousand miles away from home they have created their home in the Bow Valley some trying to rediscover their relationships, support their families or simply feel the sense of independence.
As a present alumni of this project I would say it helped me reconcile with my old self. This made me feel more appreciative towards my life. My life will never be the same because of my friends, my job, and the town I now call home. I would not trade it for anything else in the world, and I cannot imagine being anywhere else in the world, including back with my friends and family on the East Coast. My life and my friends here have not replaced my old ones. They have merely enhanced it.
Because I moved across the country, I have become so much more appreciative of the relationships I do have with others. All this time there is a phrase that I stand by though not sure how its stuck in my head but I definitely heard it from someone else “things change, so do cities, people come into your life and they go. But it’s comforting to know that the ones you love are always in your heart… and if you’re very lucky, a plane ride away.”
Written by Joylina Gonsalves, YWCA Banff Board of Director