Sharing Immigrant Women's Stories Through a Pair of Shoes

VIU Global Citizens Week

VIU’s Global Citizens Week aims to start conversation about newcomer experiences

January 28, 2019 - 9:30am

VIU’s Global Citizens Week aims to start conversation about newcomer experiences

On the first day of school, a girl noticed all the students in the courtyard were crying. As her father kissed her goodbye, she realized this would be the last time she would see him – and so, she became another girl crying in the school yard.

As she walked into the classroom, a teacher gave her a pair of plastic shoes to wear with her uniform. The shoes symbolized the start of her education, but also the separation from her family. 

“Whenever someone is leaving their home, they are leaving something behind. They are making sacrifices,” says Imogene Lim, Vancouver Island University (VIU) Anthropology professor and Human Rights and International Solidarity Chair for VIU’s Faculty Association (VIUFA). “Shoes accompany us on all of our journeys. They are part of our story.”

The girl’s story of her plastic shoes is one memoir created from the Shoe Project. The project is a writing and performance workshop where immigrant and refugee women tell their stories of their arrival to Canada through a pair of shoes. Created by novelist Katherine Govier, the Shoe Project is now in its sixth year – with workshops in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver. 

“I attended the Vancouver performance and thought we need to bring this to Nanaimo,” says Lim. 

Together, Vancouver Island University (VIU), Literacy Central Vancouver Island and the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society (CVIMS) are aiming to establish a Nanaimo chapter. To kick-start the initiative, VIU is hosting a performance from the Vancouver chapter of the Shoe Project on Monday, February 4th at 2:30pm – 4pm at the Malaspina Theatre as part of the university’s celebration of Global Citizens Week

“It is an incredible opportunity for women to come together, in a safe space, to learn and share their stories with each other and with the community,” says Jennifer Fowler, CVIMS Executive Director.

“By providing this training, participants will improve their literacy, presentation skills and their confidence to become more involved in our community,” says Samantha Letourneau, Literacy Central Vancouver Island Executive Director. Literacy Central Vancouver Island will be offering two writing workshops in mid-February – an emerging writers group for people aged 15-30 with author and creative writing professor Greg Brown and a professional writers group facilitated by local author Julie Chadwick. 

The workshop will be instructed by a local Canadian novelist and VIU theatre professors. 

The free, 10-week workshop will give immigrant women the opportunity to share their stories through a public performance at the end of the course. 

“Sharing your story and feeling heard is a powerful thing,” says Lim. “By these women presenting their stories, they are putting a real face to who an immigrant is – and hopefully, this will create more empathy and understanding in our community,” says Lim. “With the exception of the Indigenous people, we are all immigrants. Who recalls what it took for their family to get here?” 

The February 4th performance is one of more than 30 Global Citizen Week events taking place on VIU’s Nanaimo and Cowichan Campuses from February 4-9. For more information, please contact



Rae-Anne Guenther, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250-741-6673 l C: 250-619-1088 l E:| T: @VIUNews

Tags: International | Multicultural | In the Community