Stepping into Empowerment: A Night of Astonishment at The Shoe Project Play at the BMO Theatre

Last night, I had the privilege of attending The Shoe Project play, presented by the Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS). As the website promised, the event truly showcased the superpower of stories. Immigrant and refugee women, under the guidance of professional writing and theatre coaches, shared their personal stories, each intricately woven around a pair of shoes.

The experience was nothing short of amazing, with stories that were enlightening and moving. The Shoe Project is a unique and unforgettable initiative that highlights the strength of women who have come to Canada to live and hopefully thrive. Under the leadership of Aline Nizigama, YWCA’s national CEO, this powerful project continues to empower and amplify the voices of women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals.

The diversity of stories from women hailing from Ukraine, Somalia, Syria, Mexico, India, Iraq, Colombia, and Albania was heartwarming. The event, with a full house of over 200 attendees, demonstrated the universal appeal of these personal narratives. Each woman’s story was not only different but also deeply personal, witty, and endearing, fostering a strong connection with the audience – and the best is that each woman on stage were sharing their own story….those were not actors presenting someone’s else story.

Standout moments included Aishna Sharma’s opening, sharing her journey from India with flip-flop shoes gifted by her grandma, and Natalia Bondarenko’s powerful closing emphasizing the importance of navy-colored shoes for success in her new life in Canada.

Fernanda Ramos from Mexico brought the house to life with her story of dancing shoes, even treating the audience to a captivating tap dance on stage. Ikran Nur’s heartfelt storytelling about her return to Somalia after five years in Canada resonated deeply, portraying the reality of culture shock and gratitude for her newfound life.

The impact of The Shoe Project was evident as some of the attendees left the theater with a strong desire to share their own stories. The event, priced at a reasonable $25.00, exemplifies the success of this fabulous initiative. This was my first time attending, and I am now committed to making it an annual tradition and bringing more friends along. Kudos to all involved in making The Shoe Project a platform for empowerment and storytelling – a true celebration of diversity, strength, and resilience.

In reflecting on this lovely evening, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the voices that were not represented on that stage. While the stories shared by all the women on stage last night, it’s essential to recognize the absence of narratives from Asian, West Europe, American and yes, First Nations women.

The indigenous women of this land may not be immigrants in the traditional sense, but their stories are equally vital. They faced their own unique challenges, akin to “immigrating” to a new land that was unjustly taken from them – or their families. Their perspectives hold immense value in understanding the complex tapestry of Canada’s history and the forceful manner that their families experience to move to a different area/land/part of Canada.

As I applaud the success of The Shoe Project in amplifying the voices of immigrant and refugee women, let me also advocate for a more inclusive platform that includes every country, background and that immigrating to a new country doesn’t always mean ‘drama’ or ‘running away’. By broadening the scope of this initiative, we can foster a deeper understanding of the diverse journeys that have shaped, and continue to shape, our nation.

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