Shoe Project Windsor participantsTen women will share their stories of immigration and adaptation to Canada through the focus of a pair of shoes in the Feb. 26 presentation “Taking New Steps.”

Shoe Project empowers new Canadian women to tell their stories

For 10 weeks, 10 women from across the globe met at the Leddy Library for their weekly Shoe Project workshop, a program designed to help newcomer women improve their language and communication skills through writing and public speaking. These women are now preparing to take the stage for the official Shoe Project performance.

The program began with a 10-week writing seminar facilitated by Leddy librarian and award-winning writer Heidi Jacobs.

“My role as their mentor was to lead them through weekly creative writing sessions to help them discover and craft a story about their individual journeys to Canada, with one caveat,” said Dr. Jacobs. “The story must use a pair of shoes as the focus, as the Shoe Project believes that shoes are a metaphor for journey and transformation, and this is certainly the case for our 10 writers.”

Jacobs, whose debut novel Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear won the 2020 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, was thrilled to join the initiative.

“It was such an amazing experience to meet and work with these women on their writing. I loved watching them make friends, share their stories, support each other, and leave a little stronger each week,” she said. “I think people will be very excited by what they hear at the event.”

After the writing sessions wrapped up, participants were then paired with School of Dramatic Art professor Alice Nelson to begin meeting for one-on-one theatre performance coaching sessions.

“I had a wonderful time mentoring the participants as their performance coach,” said Nelson. “I was able to work with them individually and help them lift their story off the page and bring it to life through vocal work and performance skills.”

The final product, a performance, will now be showcased to the public. On Sunday, Feb. 26, the women from Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, China, Nepal, Sudan, and Ukraine will share their stories of immigration and adaptation to Canada on stage at the Capitol Theatre. Find performance and ticket details on the theatre website.

“The Shoe Project has been a rewarding experience; it has been wonderful to witness the women grow in their confidence to share their stories,” added Nelson. “I’m looking forward to the moment when they take the stage and share with an audience.”

Founded in 2011, the Shoe Project now has workshops in 10 cities across Canada and has worked with more than 250 newcomer women originally coming from 62 countries and regions.

Learn more about the Shoe Project on its website.

—Marcie Demmans