REACH Immigrant and Refugee Initiative
“Judy and Ian are a fantastic team. Ian is a very talented photographer and Judy is a masterful storyteller. They are our “go to team” to capture the heart and soul of our work in Edmonton. The pictures and words they produce for us tell a powerful story and paint a picture of what a safe, inclusive and diverse city looks like. We are grateful that they help us tell the REACH story. I highly recommend them!”
— Jan Fox,Executive Director, REACH Edmonton
One of our first clients was REACH Edmonton, an organization that creates safer communities by bringing at-risk people together in many innovative ways.
Ian started shooting for REACH in 2012 when he was thinking about transitioning from editing to photography. Ian was inspired and intrigued by the various initiatives he photographed for REACH.
We attended a couple of REACH events together and were blown away by the people who work tirelessly in their communities. We began to muse about finding a way to document their work. We loved so much about it: A made-in-Edmonton solution to help new Canadians integrate. The way different community leaders shared their wisdom knowledge. The thoughtful and respectful approach that led to people finding their own solutions, rather than having a funder impose it upon them.
Our desire to document that work dovetailed with REACH’s own strategy to highlight the work of its Cultural Navigators involved with REACH Immigrant and Refugee Initiative or RIRI.
So, for the next four months we tagged along with the Cultural Navigators, who do exactly what their title suggests: help newcomers navigate the various aspects of Canadian culture.
REACH asked us to focus on four facets of adjusting to life in Canada that are especially sensitive: Gender Roles, Communication, LGBTQ, and Money.
What we found was that almost every issue came back to money. With Gender Roles, there was often conflict between couples because the wife was the breadwinner. With Communication, we heard about children, who held powerful positions in the family because they spoke English resenting their parents for sending money back to family in their home countries. With LGBTQ, a taboo subject that sometimes resulted in violence or teenagers being kicked out of the house, we heard that parents trying to support their families end up holding down two or three jobs. As a result, they don’t form friendships with Canadians outside their own communities and therefore never get to know other parents with LGBTQ kids.
The stories we heard were poignant, heart rending and also uplifting.
REACH wanted to share them with a larger audience and suggested that we speak at Diverse Voices, an international conference of 700 professionals working to prevent family violence.
It was the first time we presented in public. But the audience of about 80 people was highly engaged, wanting to hear about the Cultural Navigators using their own experiences as immigrants to refugees to help newcomers.
The enthusiastic reaction of the audience led REACH to made RIRI the focus of its Annual General Meeting in June, 2017.
Judy helped plan the event and helped promote it by doing media interviews with Jan Fox, REACH’s Executive Director.