Author: Jessica Wright

Through the Lens: Photolog 5

Ever seen the inside of a newsroom before? Been interviewed for national television? Made friends with a gift-bearing dinosaur?

Well, Princeton journalism has!

On Thursday, students toured the Toronto Star and got a chance to question immigration reporter Nicholas Keung. PC: Jes Wright

Junior Irma Qavolli poses in front of the newsroom. She sits in a chair where reporters make videos to take The Toronto Star’s subscribers behind-the-scenes. PC: Jes Wright

Prof. Deb Amos smiles while touring The Toronto Star! PC: Jes Wright

Sophomore Jack Allen munches on sugar snap peas for lunch. PC: Jes Wright

The Toronto Public Library offers a variety of resources for Canadian newcomers. PC: Sophia Cai

Students participate at a round table discussion at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at University of Toronto. The discussion covered a broad range of topics — everything from refugee language integration to the Canada-US Third Safe Country Agreement, plus more. Pictured here from left to right are sophomore Ben Ball, senior Marcia Brown, and senior David Exume. PC: Jes Wright

Sophomores Ben Ball and Amy Abdalla give interviews for OMNI TV and explain the differences they have observed between US and Canadian refugee resettlement. OMNI is a multi-lingual local and national newscast in Canada. Languages include Italian, Punjabi, Mandarin and Cantonese. PC: Jes Wright


Through the Lens: Photolog 4

On Wednesday we left Winnipeg for Toronto. After a late (10 am!) start, we spent most of the day traveling. After a few hours of downtime, we had an incredible dinner at Newcomer Kitchen, a nonprofit that invites Syrian refugee women to cook a weekly meal at The Depanneur. There, we met with international business leaders, including Mohamad Fakih, a self-made Lebanese-Canadian businessman and philanthropist who founded Paramount Fine Foods. Have a taste of our day below!

Senior Priya Ganatra says goodbye to “just the local guy” — Rorie! Rorie was our Winnipeg fixer, and we’re extremely grateful for his insight and dedication during our few short days with him. PC: unknown, photo provided by Priya Ganatra

It’s a squeeze to get the whole gang in a single photo, but we managed! PC: Deb Amos

Princeton students enjoy a multi-course meal prepared by Syrian cooks at The Depanneur’s Newcomer Kitchen in Toronto. The proceeds are split between the newcomer cooks. Wednesday’s dinner included babaganoush, muhammarah, meat and chickpea stews, turmeric cake, and more. PC: Jes Wright

Former refugee and self-made businessman Mohamad Fakih addresses Princeton students and guests before dinner at the Newcomer Kitchen. His main message: “if it’s meant to be, it’s up to me” — we should all take the first step to bettering our lives. PC: Jes Wright

Princeton students hard at work — sophomore Sophia Cai conducts video interviews of refugee chefs and Mohamad Fakih (left, right). Sophomore Jack Allen takes notes during an interview. PC: Jes Wright

Through the Lens: Photolog 3

On Tuesday, students had the opportunity to visit their choice of organizations before reconvening at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) and finally meeting for dinner and desert.

Students receive a warm welcome at Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) on Tuesday morning. PC: unknown, photo provided by Priya Ganatra

Thanks, Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council — for both an amazing discussion AND lunch! PC: unknown, photo provided by Priya Ganatra

In the afternoon, we met with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). This ginormous table is made from one tree assembled in multiple pieces. PC: Jes Wright

Prof. Deb Amos gets excited to see this Tonto comic-papered workstation at APTN for the second year in a row! PC: Deb Amos (left); Jes Wright (right)

Come explore APTN’s studio with us! Sophomores Amy Abdalla (top left) and Ben Ball (top right) look ready to host tonight’s 5:00 news. Senior Marcia Brown photographs the gorgeous studio (bottom left, bottom right). Junior Irma Qavolli poses on set (second to right bottom), and Amy and Irma watch themselves on-screen (second to left bottom). PC: Jes Wright, Shanon Musa

“Houston we have (First) Contact.” PC: Jes Wright

Nothing like a Syrian dinner! We spent Tuesday night with Maysoun Darweesh, Nour Ali, and their daughter Rooj. The family spent 6 years in Macau after fleeing Syria and before arriving in Canada. Maysoun is the Volunteer Matching Specialist at Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, and part of her job is to match newcomer families with local Canadians. Rooj is a talented independent film actress, and Nour had us laughing all night! PC: Jes Wright, Priya Ganatra

Can you believe these ice cream flavors?! Sophomore Jack Allen (second to left) sure can’t! Nothing tops off a long day better than Lebanese ice cream at Chaeban Ice Cream with flavors like rose water, saffron, or lavender. Princeton students have fun while Prof. Deb Amos (right) Instagrams her treat. Follow Prof. Amos @amos.deb and Chaeban @chaeban_ice_cream on Insta. PC: Jes Wright, Priya Ganatra

Sophomore Sophia Cai waits to order her @chaeban_ice_cream late Tuesday night. PC: Jes Wright


Through the Lens: Photolog 2

Today we go a bit off the beaten path — Welcome to Altona and Emerson!

After a brief discussion with Ben Rempel at Manitoba Education and Training on Monday morning, we traveled from Winnipeg to Altona for a lunch with Canadian newcomers prepared by Syrian refugees. From Altona we made the short drive to Emerson, where we spoke with former CAO Greg Janzen about irregular border crossers, before returning to King’s Head Pub for dinner with Red River College journalism students in Winnipeg.

Bus shenanigans on the a two-hour trip from Winnipeg to Altona. Sharon poses with (steals?) Irma’s glasses (left, top left); Marcia’s studious between bouts of taking photos (right, top right); millennials struggle with spotty internet connection and to return to their natural state of digital equilibrium; Priya shows off her dance moves! PC: Jes Wright

Lunch with, and prepared by, Syrian refugees in Altona, organized by Ray Loewen at Seeds Church (right). Sophomore Sophia Cai sets up her camera as part of her final JRN449 assignment (left). PC: Jack Allen

Prof. Deb Amos and senior Marcia Brown meet with town officials in Emerson. PC: Jes Wright

The town hall and town seal of Emerson. PC: Jes Wright

A window into Winnipeg as dusk starts to fall. PC: Jes Wright

Thoughts on Collecting Stories

ALTONA, CANADA – Today I had a two-hour conversation with a Venezuelan man over a Syrian lunch in the middle of rural Canada. In Spanish.

Which is humorous because, for the record, I don’t really speak Spanish. In fact, it’s been four years since high school Spanish, so the conversation was a bit rough-going.

Jesús is a refugee claimant and newcomer to Canada. A skilled worker and intelligent man, Jesús was a hydroelectric engineer/manager in Venezuela, which he left with his wife a year or so ago in the midst of a crumbling economy and growing gang violence. Together, they traveled from Caracas to Maracaibo (an eight-hour drive) before flying to Mexico City and finally Canada.

At some point, we were talking about un camión – a truck (or as Jack, a fellow classmate from Britain, would say, a lorry). Jesús says he likes Canada – it’s tranquilo, peaceful. Jesús now prays his refugee claim will be accepted, which he optimistically says has an 80% chance of success. Jesús has got family here – of three daughters, at least one lives in the area, along with a couple of nietos, grandchildren. Jesús looks younger than his seventy-plus years. He shows off a photo of his 11-year-old granddaughter hanging upside-down from a tree limb. His voice is strained, tired, and a bit insistent as he remembers his life in Venezuela.

I think pain is something that comes across without words; some stories and some emotions transcend the technical syntax used to formally convey details. That’s not to say I don’t regret my lack of understanding. I wish I’d caught the details of Jesús’s story, and I hope his efforts weren’t lost on me. I think Jesús felt withdrawn amongst a sea of Arabic- and English-speaking lunch mates and may have appreciated having someone to converse with, and I appreciate his openness with me. But I worry that I’m not worthy of his story.

The thing is, Jesús has probably had to tell his story and relive his traumas dozens of times just to get into and stay in Canada, and he’s probably going to have to tell it a dozen times more before his refugee status is determined next May. And going into this conversation, I knew I wouldn’t understand enough to incorporate his story into my own writing. In a case like this (or ever, really), what gives a person the right to ask for anther’s story? Have I disrespected his story? How much do the details matter, or is the pain conveyed enough?

Yesterday we spoke to Summer, a transgender Syrian refugee at the Hospitality House in Winnipeg. Summer asked if and how we were there to help her. The truth is, we can’t help Summer, not even in the way that a trained journalist with a platform may have been able to lend her a voice. And yet she insisted on giving the name of the man who tortured her in prison and watched us write down that man’s name. But where will that information go? Surely these stories cannot be lost.

On a brighter note, here’s an unusually animated game of “sticks:”

Through the Lens: Photolog 1

WINNIPEG, CANADA – On Saturday, eleven Princeton students set off with professor and NPR journalist Deb Amos for their class “International News: Migration Reporting.” Follow their visual journey here.


Saturday, 27 October – Sunday, 28 October

Hungry students chow down on a late lunch at The Twist in Toronto Airport during a layover.  PC: Priya Ganatra

Happy to have (finally) arrived in Winnipeg! We began our travels in Princeton at 8 am to arrive nearly 10 hours later. PC: Priya Ganatra 

Students pass by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on the way to The Forks. There, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast before conducting man-on-the-street interviews. PC: David Exume (left) and Priya Ganatra (center, right)

Photographic work (right) from Nadim Ado, a Yazidi artist-photographer who fled the civil war in Syria. This exhibition at the Prairie View School of Photography also displays hand-written poetry (left) from his wife Delshan Mohamed, who recently published her first collection. Follow Nadim on Insta and Twitter @NadimAdo or Delshan on Facebook @DilShan Anqele. PC: Jes Wright

Young members from the Sawa Theatre troop address the importance of artistic outlets and self-expression for young refugees. Sawa Theatre performs bilingual (Arabic/English) plays at the Gas Station Theatre in Winnipeg. Follow @sawatheatre or check out their website here PC: Priya Ganatra

Could you join the clean plate club? Our vegetarians sure did a number on this 4-person platter at Gohe Ethiopian Restaurant! Students enjoyed a feast with former refugee from Vietnam Tam Nguyen on Sunday night. PC: Priya Ganatra

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