Sanaa Al-khannaq Calgary AB

COVID Across Canada: Short Takes

December 15, 2020

How The Shoe Project Stories Helped Me During the Pandemic


Sanaa Al-khannaq (far left) with The Shoe Project participants and Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary, January 2020


Many people are feeling lonely during the pandemic. But I have found that even though we cannot visit friends and family as we used to, we can still find companionship with the characters in stories.

I always love hearing and reading stories. When I was a child living in Bagdad, I waited for bedtime to hear my grandmother’s story about the beautiful princess and the brave prince. At school age, I often borrowed stories from the public library during the summer holidays. I enjoyed them by imagining myself as one of the characters and waited in suspense for what happened to her in the end. As I grew older, my interests evolved into reading stories in the weekly or monthly women’s and fashion magazines, especially the sections presenting a woman’s problems and answering them.


“I have found that even though we cannot visit friends and family as we used to, we can still find companionship with the characters in stories.”

When I became a mother, I passed my love of stories to my children, created a small library of children’s stories, and moved into a story-telling role for my children at bedtime like Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. My family responsibilities and postgraduate studies did not prevent me from hearing stories on the radio, television and from friends.

More recently, stories have helped me cope with loneliness. During the coronavirus pandemic, I received an email request from The Shoe Project to join a working team. This request was a big opportunity to meet more than 200 women, 260 stories and virtually travel with them to more than 60 countries. By reading these stories, I learned about the culture, values and traditions of the authors.

In every story, I imagined that the ladies who wrote the stories were sitting with me and talking about their immigration journey to Canada. Stories full of happiness, sadness, distance, challenges, wars, insecurities, alienation, nostalgia and hopes for a peaceful future in Canada. I interacted with them until the early hours of the morning, just like I used to do in-person with my friends and family. So, if you want to have a great time with others during the pandemic, I recommend that you read the stories of The Shoe Project.



Sanaa Al-khannaq was born and grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, where she earned a Ph.D. in Business Administration.  She has worked in universities in Iraq, Malaysia and Jordan and has published a book and many articles on information technology. Since coming to Calgary, she has volunteered with CIWA, ISC, Making Changes Association and the public library. She received the Certificate of Volunteering Appreciation from the Canadian House of Commons in 2019 and the Volunteer of the Month in June 2019 from Immigrant Services Calgary.


Also, you can read Sanaa’s story for The Shoe Project here:

Virtual Dreams


Art by Emily Honderich


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