About The Shoe Project

Our Story

The Shoe Project reveals how footwear – whether selected by choice or imposed in difficult circumstances – can make or break a journey, shape the present and open the door to a new future. Shoes can be terrible or wonderful, but one thing is certain, every new Canadian has a shoe tale to tell.

For those who have embarked on the long journey to a new life in a new country, shoes are a powerful metaphor for their journey.

Our Mission

  • To advance education by providing programs, courses, workshops and seminars to immigrant and refugee women to develop their written and oral skills, as well as their leadership skills.

  • To educate the public on the problems faced by immigrant and refugee women in Canada by providing presentations on such topics.

Our Impact Since 2011

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Arrival stories

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Performances in cities across Canada to bring womens’ stories to life and educate the greater public.

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Countries of origin from Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe , including Syria, Taiwan, Nepal, Iran, Iraq, South Sudan, Turkey and more.

Our Family

The shoe project is a family of women passionate about creating public performances where the brave and moving stories of newcomers and refugees are presented to the public. Meet our family.

Our Team

Alumni of The Shoe Project

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Ania Vesseny

Halifax Local Coordinator

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Ania Vesseny


Halifax Local Coordinator


Anna Trader

Administrator

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Anna Trader


Administrator


Anna is multi-passionate and uses her creativity for personal growth and self-discovery. She holds a B.S. and an M.B.A. and has held management positions at U.S. companies. She has been involved with TSP since earning her Honours diploma in book and magazine publishing in 2016 and is currently pursuing her editing certificate from SFU. Her other passion is helping people declutter their lives so that they feel less overwhelmed. Her first personal writing project is her self-help/memoir. Anna's biggest lesson from her immigrant parents has been resilience and compassion.

Cordelia Tang

Director, Toronto Local Coordinator

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Cordelia Tang


Director, Toronto Local Coordinator


Cordelia Tang joined The Shoe Project workshop in 2013, two years after she came to Canada as a landed immigrant. In China she had been working as an editor for over nine years. After graduating from the Master of Information program, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, she started working for The Shoe Project as director and Toronto local coordinator.

Irina Umnova

Social Media Coordinator

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Irina Umnova


Social Media Coordinator


Journalist and psychotherapist Irina Umnova arrived in Canada at the very end of 2015. In Russia, she worked as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the international project Psychologies Magazine. Now, Irina is a Registered Psychotherapist in Toronto with her own private psychotherapist practice.

Noriko Ohsada

Canmore Local Coordinator

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Noriko Ohsada


Canmore Local Coordinator


Noriko immigrated from Japan in 1991. She created four personal stories with The Shoe Project in the past few years. Through these experiences, she has gained great confidence and useful skills such as public speaking and writing. Now she is ready to move forward to leadership and management roles and has been the Coordinator for The Shoe Project, Bow Valley in Canmore, Alberta. Noriko is a mother of three. Meg, her eldest daughter with Down syndrome is an active athlete and artist, and the other two daughters are pursuing their education. Noriko is a Japanese calligraphy artist and enjoys her free time in nature with her husband.

Roya Chalaki

Calgary Local Coordinator

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Roya Chalaki


Calgary Local Coordinator


Roya Chalaki immigrated to Canada from Iran in 2015. Throughout her life, she has been an avid learner and a passionate reader. The Shoe Project has been Roya's most serious involvement in writing. She participated three times in the Calgary workshop and developed a keen interest to help others to tell their stories. In 2019 she became the local coordinator in Calgary and she hopes to help more women in their journey in writing, leadership and community involvement. Roya is a mother and works as a software developer at Avanti Software Inc.

Sujata Thapa

Grants and Fundraising Liaison

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Sujata Thapa


Grants and Fundraising Liaison


Sujata Thapa-Battarai is a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning at the University of Toronto. Her research interest is gender and transportation in the cities of Global South. She is currently a recipient of a Vanier Scholarship by Canadian government. She is coordinator of the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education at Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE).

Zahida Rahemtulla

Vancouver Local Coordinator

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Zahida Rahemtulla


Vancouver Local Coordinator


Zahida Rahemtulla has worked in Vancouver’s immigrant and refugee non-profit sector for several years, in the areas of housing, employment, and literacy. She is also an emerging writer of fiction and theatre. Her first play, The Wrong Bashir, is in development with Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre and the Playwrights Theatre Centre. She was a 2019 resident in the Arts Club Emerging Playwrights' Unit, where she wrote her second play, The Frontliners. Zahida is a graduate of the SFU Writer’s Studio and has been a resident at the Banff Centre in Alberta and Millay Colony for the Arts in New York. She's also at work on a collection of short fiction and a humour novel for kids.

Our Mentors

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Alison Matthews

Voice and drama coach

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Alison Matthews


Voice and drama coach


Alison Matthews is a veteran actor and voice artist with over two decades of experience in theatre, film, television, and radio. She is Head of Coaching for the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, and Interim Program Director for the Citadel Banff Professional Theatre Program. She has been a public speaking trainer and speech festival adjudicator in Western Canada for 18 years. Alison holds a M.F.A. in Theatre Voice Pedagogy from the University of British Columbia.

Caroline Adderson

Writing mentor

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Caroline Adderson


Writing mentor


Caroline Adderson is the author of four novels, two collections of short stories, as well as many books for young readers. Her work has received numerous award nominations including the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, two Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rogers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize long list. Winner of three BC Book Prizes and three CBC Literary Awards, Caroline was also the recipient of the 2006 Marian Engel Award for mid-career achievement.

Kate Lynch

Performance coach and director

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Kate Lynch


Performance coach and director


Award-winning actress who has acted in stage, film and television across Canada. Her most recent work was directing The Shoe Project, stories told by Immigrant women. Directing credits include Terrence Rattigan’s French Without Tears and Noel Coward’s Starchamber at The Shaw Festival; Courting Johanne, Winter Kill, and The Nuttalls, at the Blythe Festival; for Theatre Passe Muraille My Treasure Island, by Karen Woolridge, A Midsummer Night’s Dream,3 Plays by Tom Walmsley – Blood, Three Squares a Day, and Descent; Health Class, Roseneath Theatre; The Vagina Monologues, The New Yorker Theatre. Writing credits include The Road to Hell, co-written with Michael Healey for the Tarragon Theatre, Early August, for the Blythe Festival (to be produce this summer for The Lighthouse Theatre) and for the Summerworks Festival Tales of the Blonde Assassin,(adapted for CBC Radio Drama) and Go Forth and Multiply, for the Summerworks Festival. Biography: Kate Lynch has worked at the UC Drama Program since 1994, as a director (Henry V, Waiting for Godot, Pericles, Cymbeline, Linda Griffith’s Age of Arousal), a voice teacher and an acting teacher. Lynch has also taught at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, the National Theatre School, George Brown Theatre School, and the Gaity School in Dublin.

Katherine Govier

Founder of The Shoe Project, Artistic Director

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Katherine Govier


Founder of The Shoe Project, Artistic Director

@kmgovier


Katherine Govier is the author of ten novels and three collections of short stories. Her novel Creation was a New York Times Notable book of 2010. The Ghost Bush, the story of Hokusai’s daughter and collaborator, was published in Japan, the US, the UK, Spain, France and other countries. She has won The Toronto Book Award, The Engel-Findlay award for a writer in mid- career, and has been shortlisted for the Trillium Prize. She has been President of PEN Canada and Chair of the Writers’ Trust. Katherine founded and is Artistic Director of The Shoe Project, a national writing and public speaking charity for immigrant and refugee women. Katherine’s most recent novel is The Three Sisters Bar and Hotel, a story of a pioneer trail-riding family in the Canadian Rockies. She is at present completing her eleventh novel, which returns to the subject of the great Japanese printmaker and his equally-great daughter.

Leah Cherniak

Voice and drama coach

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Leah Cherniak


Voice and drama coach


Leah is the Co-Founder with Martha Ross of Theatre Columbus (now Common Boots Theatre.) in Toronto. The company created over 30 new plays and innovative productions of classics. Leah studied theatre at Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France. Most recently Leah directed The Ward Cabaret at Harbourfront and co-directed Here are the Fragments, a new immersive collaboration with playwright and neurologist, Suvendrini Lena. She has directed shows across the country including The National Arts Centre, Tarragon Theatre, Blyth Festival, Young People’s Theatre among others. Leah was a Resident Artist at Soulpepper and on faculty for The Soulpepper Academy where she has mentored many young performing artists. She directed several shows for the company and more recently performed in Wedding at Aulis, an adaptation of Ipheginiaq by Sina Galani, directed by Alan Dilworth and in Animal Farm, directed by Ravi Jain. Leah also has a substantial teaching career. Since 2001 she teaches a yearly intensive 7-week Clown course for The Ryerson Theatre Acting Program and is an Instructor of Directing at The University of Toronto. Leah has worked as a communication coach and for The Shoe Project, a boundary crossing writing project, coaching women who write and perform their stories of immigration to Canada. Her desire to contribute to the arrival of newcomers to Canada is rooted in the stories of all her grandparents who fled to Canada from Russia and her curiosity to understand other lives through the stories they tell. Coming up Leah continues to develop new works, including a story/cabaret by Tomson Highway called Lynx Lamour goes to Nashville.

Lorri Neilsen Glenn

Writing mentor

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Lorri Neilsen Glenn


Writing mentor


Lorri Neilsen Glenn is a mentor in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program and former Professor (now Professor Emerita) at Mount Saint Vincent University. Poet Laureate for Halifax from 2005-2009, Lorri is the Métis author and contributing editor of fourteen collections of poetry, creative nonfiction and scholarly work, and the recipient of awards for innovative teaching, ethnographic research and her work in the arts. As visiting scholar, professor and freelance writing coach, Lorri has worked with hundreds of writers across Canada and in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Greece and Chile. She has served as Writer/Author in Residence at the University of Saskatchewan and in the Manitoba library system. A Red River Métis, Lorri lived on the Prairies before moving to Nova Scotia in the 80s. She divides her time between Halifax and Rose Bay, NS.

Olive Senior

Writing mentor

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Olive Senior


Writing mentor


Olive Senior was born in Jamaica and lives in Toronto. She has worked internationally as a creative writing teacher and lecturer on Caribbean literature and culture. She is on the faculty of the Humber School for Writers, Toronto and has taught in the writing programmes at University of Toronto, St Lawrence University, and Barnard College, Columbia University, New York. Olive Senior's work has been broadcast on both sides of the Atlantic, including the BBC Book at Bedtime and the CBC Festival of Fiction. Her short story “You Think I Mad, Miss?” was produced and performed as 'Mad Miss' by Theatre Archipelago in 2005 at Artword Theatre, Toronto. She has published novels, short stories and non-fiction. Her work has been included in the Best Poems on the Underground published by London Transport and she is a featured poet on The Poetry Archive.

Sarah Weatherwax

Voice and drama coach

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Sarah Weatherwax


Voice and drama coach


Originally from the US, Sarah is an actor and voice teacher. She has an honours BFA in Acting from Emerson College and has done voice work on numerous shows including Crawford, Young Drunk, Haven, Heartland, Saving Hope and movies such as The Book of Negroes, Beeba Boys and Hobo with a Shotgun. Her production of Mud by Maria Irene Fornes, received four Ns from NOW Magazine, Toronto’s primary arts paper. She was the recipient of a generous grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to complete her voice teacher training with the renowned Kristin Linklater in 2003. Along with private voice/audition coaching, she's worked as an on-set acting coach and taught at various companies & schools: Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts; Humber College Comedy Program in Toronto; Workman Arts, a company devoted to fine arts training for people struggling with addiction and/or mental illness; and Straeon Acting Studios in Toronto, Montreal and Boston.

Board of Directors

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Barb Howard

Novelist and lawyer, Calgary

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Barb Howard


Novelist and lawyer, Calgary


Barb Howard’s most recent book is the short story collection Western Taxidermy. She has also published three novels, including one for young adults, and co-edited an anthology of creative nonfiction. Barb has won the Howard O'Hagan Award for Short Story, the Exporting Alberta Award, and various short story contests in magazines. She is a former lawyer, a past author-in-residence for the Calgary Public Library, and an established facilitator of online and on-site creative writing workshops.

Danielle McLaughlin

Civil liberties educator and broadcaster, Toronto

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Danielle McLaughlin


Civil liberties educator and broadcaster, Toronto


Danielle was the director of education for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Education Trust for twenty years, working closely with the late Alan Borovoy. She has an interest in disabilities and brings tremendous experience in building and maintaining a non-profit and working within the education sphere.

Filiz Dogan

Psychologist, Alumna of The Shoe Project, Toronto

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Filiz Dogan


Psychologist, Alumna of The Shoe Project, Toronto


Filiz is a psychologist from Turkey. She was a member of the first Shoe Project session in 2011, and is now a four-time alumna. She has curated Shoe Project performances for The Toronto Storytelling Festival in Toronto and has helped bring many new members to our project.

Georgina Steinsky

Consultant in philanthropic management, historian, Toronto

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Georgina Steinsky


Consultant in philanthropic management, historian, Toronto


Georgina is a historian, a former Deputy Minister in the federal government, and serves on the Board of Directors of The Bata Shoe Museum. Formerly of Imagine Canada, she has extensive experience in the world of non-profits. She also had been a generous donor and advisor to The Shoe Project as it has grown.

Heather Gardiner

Founding sponsor of The Shoe Project, Toronto

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Heather Gardiner


Founding sponsor of The Shoe Project, Toronto


Heather holds a Ph.D. in English Literature and personally sponsored The Shoe Project in its beginning, connecting us to our partner The Bata Shoe Museum. She is a loyal attendee of all performances and has brought her family’s foundation in to be our sustaining funder.

Katherine Govier

Novelist, Founder and Artistic Director of The Shoe Project, Chair of the Board, Toronto

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Katherine Govier


Novelist, Founder and Artistic Director of The Shoe Project, Chair of the Board, Toronto


Katherine is the founder of The Shoe Project and its Artistic Director. She has published ten novels published in seven countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Spain, and France. Her novel, Creation, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. A winner of the Marian Engel Award for Women Writers, and the City of Toronto Book Award, she has been President of PEN Canada and Chair of the Writers Trust. Before founding TSP she was a co-founder of the national schools program Writers in Electronic Residence.

Nick Rundall

Publisher, Secretary of the Board, Toronto

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Nick Rundall


Publisher, Secretary of the Board, Toronto


Nick is a retired book publisher and former member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Canadian Publishers. He has been handling our finances and serves as Secretary to the Board of Directors.

Roya Chalaki

Software developer, Calgary local coordinator, Alumna of The Shoe Project, Calgary

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Roya Chalaki


Software developer, Calgary local coordinator, Alumna of The Shoe Project, Calgary


Roya is an IT professional from Iran. She is a four times alumna of The Shoe Project in Calgary and is serving as local coordinator for the 2019-2020 cycle. She has brought new members to the project and has served as an ambassador to school classrooms.

I’m blown away. Those women are amazing, their stories bold and brave and filled with humour, love, and all the travails of making their journeys here. I loved the various shoes, the boots, the “slippers”. What an outstanding project!

- Catherine Mitchell, Publisher

Partners and Supporters

The Shoe Project is fortunate to partner with incredible individuals and organizations across Canada. Thank you for your continued support.

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TSP has been funded by The Royal Society (Atlantic), The Toronto Arts Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Vancouver, and the Department of Heritage, CSMARI Program of the government of Canada, as well as 68 private donors.

Let’s share more stories. Together.

The Shoe Project was launched in Toronto in 2011. Since then we have added chapters in Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax, and are now a registered charity. We are committed to providing a truly national platform for the voices of immigrant and refugee women.