Feels Like Home: New Canadians Speak From Their Hearts

How I helped to create a new book, ‘Feels Like Home’

jennisheppard Blog, Books, Personal Leave a Comment

I’m so proud to announce that the awesome team at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House has completed a little book project I helped to develop earlier this year!

FEELS LIKE HOME: NEW CANADIANS SPEAK FROM THEIR HEARTS has now been printed and is everything I dreamed it would be from the start.

It all began when I went to work at the House as Communications and Marketing Assistant back in January 2019, after hearing about a job through Facebook.

I didn’t know much about the House back then. I just knew that it seemed like a great place to work, full of people from all over the world, trying to do good in the community.

I also knew the House was a charity that provided low cost and free programs and gatherings open to all, with the aim of building and strengthening the community.

Shortly after I started working at the House, there was an All Staff Training Day, so I was thrown in at the deep end and met everyone, from every department, all at once.

Not knowing anyone, I felt pretty nervous, but I soon met a lovely woman named Morie Ford and she began telling me about the House’s Family Literacy Outreach (FLO) program.

The program, which is coordinated by Morie, matches volunteer English tutors with newcomer immigrants and their children looking for language help.

The tutors then visit the family in their own home to help them improve their English and literacy skills by doing fun and interactive activities together.

With this newfound literacy, these families can then participate in their communities, connect with resources and support, and develop their skills, careers, and prospects.

I had never heard of FLO before, but I was immediately captivated.

From my own experience, I know that learning a new language is tough and moving to a new country is isolating. Doing both at the same time is a Herculean task.

So a free program that empowered newcomers to both improve their English and get connected to their new community seemed brilliant.

Morie explained that recently, her team had been doing an exercise with the newcomers that involved choosing a special possession from their home country.

The newcomers would share this possession with the volunteer tutor at their language learning sessions and in English, talk about why it was important to them.

Their stories were often emotional, as these possessions connected them with their past life in their home country, as well as their new life here in Canada.

This struck both Morie and myself as a great idea for a book, showing photos of the unique possessions next to the moving words of the newcomers themselves.

Together, we decided to try to make this dream a reality.

Pretty soon, we had my amazing boss, the Special Projects and Communications Coordinator, Jenny van Enckevort, on board and it was full steam ahead.

For my part, I came up with the title, FEELS LIKE HOME: NEW CANADIANS SPEAK FROM THEIR HEARTS, and provided editorial support (and enthusiasm).

But so many other people did far more.

Not only Morie and Jenny, but also Varruni Krishanthan, who gathered all the stories and photos, and Ferj David, who created numerous designs for the book.

Above all, credit goes to those people whose words are printed inside—those new Canadians who so generously shared their stories and feelings with the House.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally got to hold a copy of FEELS LIKE HOME in my hands, and it felt so special. It really is a treasure trove of memories, emotions, and hope.

Inside, new Canadians from Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Columbia, Iraq, China, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and India all truly speak from their hearts.

They share stories of family, friendship, love, celebration, faith, tradition, and above all, connection, as they remember their past and look forward to their future.

Ultimately, FEELS LIKE HOME isn’t about literacy. It is about our shared humanity and the feelings we all experience—no matter where we were born.

To request a copy of FEELS LIKE HOME, please contact Jenny van Enckevort at jvanenckevort@mpnh.org.

To find out more about the Family Literacy Outreach program, contact Morie Ford at mford@mpnh.org.

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