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The Shoe Project lets audiences ‘walk a mile’ in the shoes of immigrant women

On Jun. 12, 2022, The Shoe Project will visit Kingston with a performance by immigrant women called ‘Our Shoes, Our Lives.’ The event will take place at the Tett Centre at 2:00 p.m., followed by a Q&A session with the performers.

Shoes accompany us on all our journeys. They say who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.” 

– Katherine Govier, founder of The Shoe Project
Photo from a past event in Toronto.
Front Row (L to R): Elisa Ibarra from Mexico, Umut D Uzunel from Turkey, Marcela Mendez Hernandez from Colombia, Verushka Samarkina from Russia, Cintya Burgoa from Bolivia. Back Row (L to R): Monica Olvera from Mexico, Yousra Sattouf from Syria, Gurpreet Nain from India, Tuba Kocaman from Turkey, Rukhshana Ahmadi from Afghanistan, Wei Tao Bethune from China
Photo courtesy of The Shoe Project.

The line-up of performers includes seven women from around the world — Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria, Bolivia, India, Russia, and South Sudan — who will each share their stories of immigration and adaptation to Canada through a pair of shoes.

One of the performers is Rukhshana Ahmadi, a recent evacuee from Afghanistan. Trained as a pilot in Afghanistan, Ahmadi made the tough decision to leave her home country and her family members. She currently resides in Toronto, and The Shoe Project is helping her share her experience with the community.

“Who knew that a pair of shoes could change your life? In my case, it was my shoes that gave me the courage to take those first hesitant steps that would change the course of my life forever,” said Ahmadi.

The performances are a culmination of a ten-week workshop cycle, where the women were instructed in writing their stories by authors Katherine Govier and Camila Uriona, and received voice-coaching from Leah Cherniak and Joanne O’Sullivan. 

In the fall of 2011, The Shoe Project started as an initiative where Canadian writers and theatre professionals provided programs and training for immigrant women to help them develop their writing, speaking, and leadership skills, and through that skill-development, build confidence and success in their lives in Canada. The training consists of workshops, individual coaching, and tools for the women to write and perform their stories, helping many to launch new careers. 

“The Shoe Project has allowed me to grow as a human being and learn from other immigrant and refugee women; the stories we share have become a common ground for us. The bond is not only through our immigration journeys, but also through friendship and respect,” said Camila Uriona, who hails from Bolivia. A past participant in The Shoe Project herself, Uriona now coaches women as they write about their experiences as new Canadians. “It’s been fundamental in developing my writing and has allowed me to gain new perspectives in life.”

The Shoe Project has chapters in eight Canadian cities from Vancouver to Halifax, and its participants have performed their stories for thousands. Since its inception 11 years ago, The Shoe Project has collected 300 stories of arrival by women from 62 countries in its directory, each story celebrating an incredible woman, as well as introducing them to fellow Canadians and to each other.

Another participant, an immigrant from Russia, Verushka Samarkina, shared, “The Shoe Project gave me a chance to meet wonderful women from all over the world and share their lived experiences: it was both eye-opening and healing. It allowed me to hear stories, tell mine, and be heard.”

The theme of the stories is that shoes can carry the literal and symbolic meaning of each woman’s journey. Participants reflections might focus on the shoes that brought them to Canada, the shoes they left behind, or even the shoes they dream they will wear in their new life ahead.

The event on June 12 has a tiered ticket system, allowing attendees to pay what they can. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit The Shoe Project’s website.

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