Jamil, Wassim, Casandra © Courtesy of New Canadians Centre Peterborough
“Mama, That’s My Story!” — Building a Home
Learning English, going to school, large supermarkets, snow and winter, eating pizza for the first time—how do immigrant and refugee children navigate these new experiences? How is it different from what their parents go through and what can we learn from them?
With this in mind, the New Canadians Centre Peterborough commissioned the children’s book “Building A Home.” Six newcomer children from Syria, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Pakistan now living, playing, and going to school in Nogojiwanong-Peterborough, worked closely with newcomer artist Casandra Lee over several weeks. Their memories, reflections and drawings about their first days in Canada inspired the narrative and illustrations in the book.
“Our hope is that this will pave the way for conversations in homes, classrooms, between friends, families, and neighbours to reflect on our own experiences and consider our role in helping those who are new to Canada to thrive and belong,” said Bhisham Ramoutar, the lead on this project.
According to the Census, a combined 37.5 per cent of all Canadian children were either foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent (Statistics Canada, 2016). This proportion is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. It emphasizes the important role that children with an immigrant background play in building bridges between the values, social norms, cultural practices, and languages of their families and those in Canada.
The experience of creating “Building A Home” reinforced the message that the process and experience of immigration and settling in Canada is not linear—it varies from family to family and for each member of the family. The narrative of the book honours this by providing a tool for adults to engage with children and youth about the profound topics of loss and new beginnings.
At the launch of the book in September 2021, all the children who inspired the book, the community translators and their families shared in the joy of seeing their work in print and pride in sharing it with others. “Mama, that’s my story!”, pointed out one of the young participants.
Thanks to the generous support from donors and the United Way of Peterborough & District’s David Goyette and Victoria Pearce Arts Fund, over 150 families and every school in the Kawartha Pine Ridge and Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Boards received a copy of “Building A Home.”
This year, the New Canadians Centre aims to meet the demand for printed copies of the book from settlement agencies, partners, and newcomers across Canada.
Funds raised towards the Peterborough Welcome Fund ensure that programs like this continue to spread the power of welcome and inclusion.
Founded in 1979, The New Canadians Centre Peterborough (NCC) is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to supporting immigrants, refugees and other newcomers in the Peterborough and Northumberland regions.