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Two UCalgary employees to present at GlobalFest Citizenship Ceremony

Empowering stories of immigration come to life as staff prepare to share stories from co-authored book, Landed: Transformative Stories of Canadian Immigrant Women

Two women standing at a station at GlobalFest smiling at the camera with banners around them that say "Canadian Citizenship Ceremony"

This article was originally published in University of Calgary’s UCalgary News, 2023. By Becca McInnes

In 2022, Canada proudly welcomed its largest number of immigrants in history. This milestone has been mirrored in the University of Calgary community, with a number of staff members sharing their own immigration stories in the newly released book, Landed: Transformative Stories of Canadian Immigrant Women.

Co-authored by six UCalgary staff members, this book presents an intricate mosaic of the Canadian immigration experience of 37 immigrants from 30 different countries. In particular, two of these UCalgary employees, Dr. Charlotte Anyango Ong’ang’a, PhD, and Elena Esina, MSW’12, will be sharing their inspiring stories at the 2023 GlobalFest Citizenship Ceremony on Aug. 22, part of the larger GlobalFest running from Aug. 17 to 26 in southeast Calgary. GlobalFest is an annual celebration of Calgary’s multicultural communities.

The book was spearheaded by Schulich School of Engineering alumna Gayathri Shukla, BSc (Eng)’05, who is certified in a method of storytelling called guided autobiography, regularly practising these skills through her social enterprise Campfire Kinship, as well as her CJSW podcast, Hearth 2 Heart. Shukla led the authors through a series of storytelling workshops, helping the participants connect with their journey and share their story.

“There’s so much power that’s unleashed when we can create a space for women to unapologetically declare their story, their joys, their hardships, their sorrows, but also their power and their love and their gratitude and transcend all of these borders, like 30 different countries, but still be able to transcend those differences and come together united and whole,” says Shukla.

Ong’ang’a, a career development specialist for PhD students at the Centre of Career and Personal Development (CCPD), and Esina, from the Faculty of Social Work, connected for the first time during the creation of the book and they will soon be presenting side-by-side to a crowd of new citizens, knowing they were both in that same position years ago.

“You have to be very courageous to start afresh. The people I know now are people I have had to network with afresh — find new friends and new communities — and it takes courage,” says Ong’ang’a, who came to Canada from Kenya in 2018 and published the book Educated Internationally, Hired Locally to help immigrants with international credentials navigate the Canadian job market.

So, for me, having to be in a place where I can be invited to speak in such an important event, it’s a big deal.”

Esina brought her personal and professional expertise to the book as co-author and project manager. Having immigrated to Canada from Russia in 2009, at UCalgary, Esina serves as director of operations and special projects with Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence.

Shift is a primary prevention research hub at the Faculty of Social Work that is focused on stopping domestic and sexual violence before it starts. One of Shift’s initiatives, the Work-Integrated Learning for Immigrant Women Hub, provides work experience for professional immigrant women in the university setting, increasing their opportunities for labour market integration in career pathways that meet their interests and expertise.

“When I joined the University of Calgary, I was so lucky as an immigrant woman to be supported in so many ways,” says Esina. “I quickly realized that I would love to help other professional immigrant women to be able to gain meaningful employment.”

To date, Shift has provided 50 work experience placements, with a 70 per cent immediate employment rate.

Esina says the Landed project united a diverse group of women for a common goal.  

“Many of us were strangers to each other,” she says. “We had never met before and our goal with Gayathri was to share immigrant stories from all different pathways like professional immigration, international students, refugees, sponsorship and even those who came as children with their parents … there are so many different ways for people to come to Canada and we wanted to represent them all.”  

GlobalFest’s Citizenship Ceremony will be held at Elliston Park (near 17th Avenue and 68th Street S.E.) on Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. Esina and Ong’ang’a will be presenting before the ceremony between 6 – 6:45 p.m.

The goal of Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence is to significantly reduce and prevent domestic violence in Alberta. Created by Lana Wells, UCalgary’s Brenda Strafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Shift is an innovative project designed to create transformational change using a primary prevention approach to stop first-time victimization and perpetration of domestic violence.  

Landed: Transformative Stories of Canadian Immigrant Women is an anthology of stories from women worldwide who have made Canada home. It was funded by Calgary Arts Development and, within three days of being made available on Amazon, it became a bestseller in multiple Amazon categories, including Women Writers, Canadian Regional Biographies, and Immigrants and Emigrants Biographies.

Tune into Gayathri Shukla’s podcast, Hearth 2 Heart. In this podcast, Shukla has a conversation with everyday role models, including some of her co-authors of the book Landed. Listen to earlier episodes on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

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