SHARING STORIES – Rachel Pinno

New book explores experiences of immigrant youth

  • Feb. 20, 2013 4:18 p.m.

A new book featuring stories from City youth originally from other countries is about to be released through the Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E.)

A book launch for Steps Along Our Journey runs in the Red Deer Public Library’s Snell Auditorium on Feb. 23.

Rachel Pinno, immigrant youth program coordinator with C.A.R.E., said she went to some local schools last fall to gauge interest in the project, and there was immediate enthusiasm. She also spread the word in English as a Second Language classes at C.A.R.E.

“We asked who would be interested in sharing their lives with the community and raising awareness for immigration and refugees. Sixteen youth came onboard from 11 different countries,” she said.

“We had our first meeting, and they were so excited from the get-go. They really made the project what it is.”

Pinno recalls asking them how much time they felt they could commit to the project, knowing they were busy students many of whom were involved in extra-curricular activites. “They said ‘Can we meet every week?’” she said.

Monday nights became lively and fascinating story writing sessions from this past October through to January. “They came in with so much energy every time. We’d laugh, we’d talk and we just had a great time. They did an amazing job, and the stories are their own.”

They also came up with the book’s title, and offered ideas for its design as well.

“It’s their project.”

Pinno and other C.A.R.E. staff helped the students with editing their pieces. Ultimately, each story runs about 600 words. And each are packed with the richness of learning of faraway cultures and the personal experiences of settling into a new life here in Red Deer.

Each story is also flanked by terrific, professionally-shot portraits of the youth as well.

“They wrote about how and why they came to Canada, their first emotions and where they are at now.”

Pinno said it was at times quite an emotional experience as the stories came together. “It took a lot of courage for them to write their stories, and I’m so proud of them,” she said. “There’s a lot of emotion that comes out when you are thinking about where you left, and the people you left.”

Meanwhile, the book launch is part of a day of cultural celebrations called Mother Language Day at the library. “We’re actually having multi-cultural celebrations all day long.” The book launch is part of the events slated to run from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

The youth will be onhand to sign and sell books, and chat with the public. Two or three of them will read their stories from the book as well.

Throughout the day, there will also be activities for kids and an ethnic food-sampling time. “I love working with these youth – they are so inspiring in so many ways. There were times I’d be editing their stories or talking with them, and I’d be fighting back tears because I would think about where they had come from, and I know some of the pain they’ve had.

“But it’s also great to see how strong they are. If you talk to these kids, you see that they are so positive. And they’re so happy for a new life in Canada – a safe place and all the new opportunities that await them.”

Pinno said she also hopes people who come to the launch take time to chat with the youth, and learn about other cultures as Red Deer is becoming an increasingly diverse community. “A community can be strengthened as people share their lives with each other.”

As the launch date draws near, Pinno couldn’t be more pleased with how the book has come together. She also couldn’t be more proud of the youth who took part.

“I love that they are given a voice – they have a lot to share.”

For more information about Steps Along Our Journey, check out http://immigrant-centre.ca.

editor@reddeerexpress.com

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