From Robotics to the Arts – How The Shoe Project led one newcomer woman to a new path

Impact Story

March 18, 2022


From Robotics to the Arts – How The Shoe Project led one newcomer woman to a new path


CALGARY (March 11, 2022) — The Shoe Project returns to the stage at Contemporary Calgary on March 27, 2022 as part of the High Performance Rodeo.  Twelve women from around the world will be sharing their stories of immigration, told through a pair of shoes.

The Shoe Project has a vast network of alumnae who have found its program to be life-changing.

When Smitha Varghese arrived in Canada alone in 2018, her quilling came with her.

Her husband Akash was wrapping up their Robotics Education business at home in India. It would be six months before she saw her husband and son again.

Through word-of-mouth, Varghese heard about The Shoe Project Calgary. She joined in 2019, along with her friend Sinthia, who was from Bangladesh. There, Varghese found a tight group of cohorts from around the world. Although she had met many people from different countries, the depth and breadth of the discussions the women shared in the writing and performance workshop created emotional bonds and friendship.

“The stories were so intimate, we really had no limits of what we could say,” said Varghese. “I became a much more open person.”

The Shoe Project and its performance as part of the High Performance Rodeo brought many artists and performers into Varghese’s world. In India, she had embraced her artistic side with sketching and quilling, the art of rolling, shaping and gluing paper into decorative design.  “The arts in India really focused on things like major movies, not what I was doing,” she laughed.

Varghese found a passion in volunteering with immigrant artists through The Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI). The council was founded in January 2019 with the expressed purpose of connecting newcomer and immigrant artists, arts administrators and culture workers to the existing arts community in Calgary. When a part time opportunity opened up, Smitha became a valued team member. She is described as “an articulate, focused, and energetic facilitator with proven expertise in arts administration, event planning, program coordination, and creating learning/blending opportunities for immigrant artists.”

Juggling a fulltime job in IT, her work with ICAI, her five-year-old son and another on the way, Smitha Varghese is a busy and dedicated alumna of The Shoe Project. She is an example of how participating in The Shoe Project has a lasting effect on the success of its alumnae.


Some of the quilling craft that Smitha Vargese created while living in India before emigrating to Canada.


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We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.



For interviews with Calgary mentor and Board Chair Barb Howard, or Local Coordinator Aya Mhana or for further information, please contact The Shoe Project communications lead:

Rhonda Risebrough


About The Shoe Project

For the past ten years, The Shoe Project has been changing the way Canadians see immigrant and refugee women, through story and performance. Every journey begins with a pair of shoes. Our alumnae of 250 women from 62 countries credit The Shoe Project with changing their lives, giving them the skills, confidence and support to succeed in a new country.  Many take on leadership roles in the organization. Led by professional Canadian writers and theatre artists, our workshops and performances lift the voices of women immigrants and refugees into Canada’s national conversation.


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