After months of work documenting their journeys to Canada, 13 youths saw their project come to life Wednesday night during a 74-minute film at Prairie City Cinema.
The Portage Learning and Literacy Centre (PLLC) was the catalyst for the making of the film. They highlight that over 300 people immigrated to Portage la Prairie last year, almost one person for each workday.
As one of the individuals in the reasonably packed crowd, I can tell you that the stories shared were emotional and full of optimism about coming to Canada from their home countries.
The film shared a few common themes: Canada's cold weather, missing friends, family, food and religious ceremonies.
But it also went deeper based on everyone's experience.
Sofiia Ivlieva, from Ukraine, was one of the youths highlighted. She spoke about leaving her country during the start of the war with Russia last year. Ivlieva says it was exciting and weird for her to get the chance to tell her story.
"I was nervous because my English, I think, is not too good, and I was nervous because maybe some people weren't going to understand me."
Ivlieva adds that she hopes this film helps the community get to know the process of coming to Canada a little bit better.
Darren Spence, an Employment Consultant at the PLLC, helped put the film together.
Spence says it was nerve-wracking to see the film on the big screen finally.
"The project started around June, and we talked with the kids through the summer. We did multiple, different little workshops and things like that for them to brainstorm some ideas.
He explains that the filming process came to a close at the end of November, and since then, they have been putting the final touches on it.
"There are a lot of stories that people have the ability to tell, and I think a lot of the times, we don't get the opportunity to hear them from the kids and what they have gone through," he continues. "It was really amazing to get to work with the kids and to really learn more about them."
Ryan Gellamucho from the Philippines told his story during the 74-minute production and says that It was overwhelming to see the project in its final stage with everyone's eyes on it.
Gellamucho explains that his biggest hope from the process would be educating the public on what it is like to go through a culture shock.
"The more they know, the more they would help other people understand," he says. "Portage la Prairie is like one of the best places. It's quite a peaceful town."
Gellamucho adds that it was tough when he first came to Canada five years ago. He says he hopes in the future to continue to help newcomers settle in Portage.
Miriam Ghitale, PLLC Settlement Coordinator, watched the film for the second time on Wednesday.
Ghitale, who is heavily involved with helping these youth through their struggles of coming to Canada, says that she found it interesting how much the kids talk about their concerns for their parents when coming to Canada.
"I was also surprised to hear how much they loved Canadians and found them very welcoming. But it a good surprise."
LJ Sayson, originally from the Philippines, shares that she enjoyed this project with the PLLC and her peers.
"It's great that I can share my culture and traditions with other people who are not Filipinos. And it just feels great that we're being welcomed here in Canada."
Sayson notes that she wants the community to take away from this, that it is hard to adapt to a new environment and that newcomers are thankful for everyone who has helped them along the way.
"There's no perfect place, so there's always like little struggles as well as racism. But we all work to have an anti-racism country in place."
The film, titled "Envision Diversity," featured:
- Mohammed Al Hallag
- Kawathar Al Hallaq
- Sofia Ivlieva
- LJ Sayson
- Ryan Gellamucho
- Julianna Malana
- Deborah Adeniyi
- Samuel Adeniyi
- Zainab Oke
- Ayana Ajo
- Kristina Fuentes
- Sam Penrad
- Nina Rubio