Helen Rolfe

We invited The Shoe Project mentors and coaches to respond to the following question: Why have you taken on this work?  This is Helen Rolfe’s answer.


When asked why I joined as a writing mentor for The Shoe Project, the answer is quick to form: the work is deeply meaningful and has incredible purpose. It empowers women and shares cultures, which ultimately benefits everyone in a community.

I was also drawn to the writing format of the project—600 words and a pair of shoes as a metaphor to share the experience of coming to Canada. I love when there is a specific framework like this in which to tell a story. It makes the writing have to be exact, yet creative and compelling. What a challenge! And to accomplish this with English as a second language and in 10 weeks of writing classes makes the end result even more impressive. The writing process requires time, trust, patience and honesty, and more often than not, it feels easier to give up than continue. My job was to encourage each participant through this process while helping formulate and strengthen their words and keep a smile on their face, making their story as ready as possible to share with others. For me, this was a dream job. These women worked hard to fulfill their commitment to The Shoe Project, and to be a part of that was an honour.

Happy 10th anniversary!


Helen Rolfe is a writer and professional editor who won acclaim for her book Honouring High Places: The Mountain Life of Junko Tabei, the life story of the first woman to climb Mount Everest. Helen is also the author of Women Explorers: One Hundred Years of Courage and Audacity, a collection of portraits of pioneering women adventurers.

Learn more about Helen Rolfe