Sharing Youth Newcomer Stories through Artistic Exploration

Aqeela Saddiqui NOW News, SWIS News

Newcomer youth starting high school in Canada are experience a new language, new rules, a new society and a new culture. Newcomer youth often experience a lot of stress and do not always have the forum to share their concerns.

This is where peer leaders for the NOW Program make such a difference and bring their personal experiences to the activities of Newcomer Orientation Week (NOW). Every August, the SWIS Program trains 32 peer leaders and prepares them to lead the NOW Program at one of our four NOW school locations.

August 19th, SWIS had two artistic leader/facilitators in Toronto come share their artistic skills and support the youth in surfacing their own personal stories of immigration. One workshops was with Marjorie Chan, playwright, director, actress and artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille (and formerly of Cahoots Theatre), who led a theatre workshop that examined newcomer youth concerns and worries that newcomer youth experience about being newcomers.

The second workshop was led by Sharada Eswar. Sharada is a playwright, singer, community activator, puppeteer and storyteller who is currently running a three-year program out of the Art Gallery of Mississauga called “Crossing Borders”. This project, funded by the Trillium Foundation provided a workshop in comic book making that focused on newcomer youth stories. Artists Sheniz Janmohamed and Khaula Mazhar joined Sharada.

Late August, NOW peer leaders will be supporting newly arrived youth in getting settled and involved in their new school in Canada. These experiences allowed the peer leaders to revisit their own settlement stories. This experience will help them share their stories for those very recently arrived youth. This sharing helps create a safe and welcoming school environment for newcomer youth to flourish and bring their many talents and skills to share with their new schools and communities.