Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G6
This past weekend, 250 people had the opportunity to hear stories of isolation and belonging, fear and love, loss and new beginnings.
For twelve weeks, 19 women who came to Canada as refugees or immigrants were connected with artists in the community who assisted and mentored them in writing and performing their own stories. The X Page: A Storytelling Workshop met each week in the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, and used exercises based on Lynda Barry’s teaching and philosophy. The X Page is the opposite of a blank page: it’s the space where we enter into an image using all of our senses.
Grebel alumni Carrie Snyder, coordinator of The X Page, is an accomplished author and teaches creative writing at the University of Waterloo. She was interested in using this tool to connect women in the community, sharing: “It was envisioned as a creative and collaborative undertaking that would bring together women from different cultural backgrounds, all of whom are making lives for themselves and their families in Canada.”
On Tuesday evenings the women gathered to work on writing and staging stories. Tasneem Jamal, writing coach with The X Page who is also an accomplished author and serves as Project Ploughshares’ Communications Officer, said these workshops created a community for the participants: “These women are so enthusiastic, bright and needed a forum to share their stories.” Jamal was also convinced that it was important for the wider community to hear these stories. “These women are bringing an extraordinary gift to this community, and we need to know about them. The women asked us: ‘What do people want to hear from us?’ We answered, ‘You are what we want to share. Whatever story comes out’.”
The Centre for Peace Advancement was delighted to provide space that would foster peace by humanizing the experiences of members in our community. After the performance Jamal noted, “This is how we build peace. We listen to and learn from each other.”