3 min read
28 February 2024

Newcomer women find their voice through storytelling at WoodGreen

Susan Fuehr, Communications Consultant

They’re women who seem to have very little in common, but they are helping one another find the words to describe an experience they all share: being a newcomer in Canada.

WoodGreen’s program, Her Wellness for Success, uses language to support newcomer women as they transition to life in a new country. Designed to help women develop confidence and learn life skills to help integrate into life in Canada, the program began as a pilot project in 2021. It was so successful, it has become one of WoodGreen’s many Newcomer Programs and Services.

Learn more about what we offer through Newcomer Programs and Services.

“When the women discover things about themselves, I can hear the smile in their voice,” says Tushita Majumdar, who leads the six-week course. Sessions are 90 minutes and take place online twice a week,so the women can participate from home.

a woman wearing necklace, earrings who has darker skin is on a graphic about newcomer women program Her Wellness For Success
Small group tackles big feelings

It is open to all adult women who are permanent residents, convention refugees or live-in caregivers. What makes the program unique is that it was designed from scratch to help use language and storytelling, both written and verbal, to help small groups of women process the big emotional feelings that come with starting a new life.

“We are learning through stories, activities, and also sharing what we have gone through,” says Majumdar who, after decades working for Air India, immigrated to Canada with her son ten years ago. She’s now a certified language teacher, life skills coach, and stress and wellness consultant.

Writing prompts bring out stories

The first sessions of the program focus on building your relationship with yourself; understanding what you need to feel happy and that your voice has value. Majumdar uses writing prompts to encourage the women to put into words the things they feel but worry they cannot say out loud.

“I tell them to write ten sentences about the first day after leaving their home country to come to Canada. Or about a time they received unexpected help, and how that made them feel.”

graphic representation of feedback from newcomer women in the Her Wellness for Success program

For someone with a background in aviation, Majumdar has now dedicated her life to helping women feel grounded. She says many of the women feel they don’t have time to focus on their own wellness. It’s a problem for which Majumdar, naturally, uses a flight safety metaphor.

“We always say to put the oxygen mask on your own face first, and then put it on your dependent’s. These women need to take care of themselves so they can help their families, too.”

Newcomer women from around the world

There are usually eight women in a group, and they come from all over the world. They share their stories in English and Majumdar reassures that a Canadian Language Benchmark of two or higher is sufficient.

"It's not only about communicating in English, which is in itself a great opportunity to benefit from,” wrote one participant, “but it’s also about interesting subjects presented in a unique way where you can express yourself without being judged."

Majumdar says the women often form friendship groups and stay in touch long after. “They don't want the sessions to end,” she says. “It becomes so much part of their life and it becomes a strong support system for them.”

graphic representation of feedback from newcomer women in the Her Wellness for Success program

Seeing yourself in others’ stories

Sometimes Majumdar reads them stories and asks the women to interpret what’s going on and whether or not the story could have a different ending and asks how they might change the character’s actions.

Through this, Majumdar is asking the women to recognize elements of themselves in stories, which often proves easier than speaking directly about themselves or the feelings they might be having.

After spending time working on their relationship with themselves, and then with others, the group finally analyzes how they can each build a relationship with their new home country and its people.

It is then that participants of the Her Wellness for Success program say their perspective truly changes, and they see their life in Canada in a whole new way.

“I realized that what's happening to me [as a newcomer] is normal, and many people go through this,” writes one participant. “Fear, uncertainty about the future and stress are normal processes. You have to be open to new experiences. Don't expect everything to work out at once. Step by step, everything will work out.”

See the support, enrichment and advancement WoodGreen offers through our Newcomer Services.


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