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Life in Canada

Research with Newcomer Children - Monica Valencia

Time 3:36


Monica Valencia: And then after that, I did my Master’s because when I was studying journalism—when you’re a journalist, you have to pick a, like, a beat you want to do—I don’t know, crime or you want to do politics. And for me, I was interested in doing diversity and immigration and multiculturalism. So I would go to events or I will interview, I don’t know, newcomers. And then I saw this Master’s at Ryerson University. It was a one-year program: Immigration and Settlement Studies. I did the program. Two semesters. It was courses and then one semester, it was your own research. And I really enjoy that uh component of the program where I had the opportunity to design my own research study and then conduct my own, my own research. And when I did that, I focused on newcomer children because when I was a newcomer myself, as a child, I always wanted to express myself and to tell my story but I didn’t know how. So when I did my Master’s, I decided to give children the opportunity to tell their stories while they’re still in the midst of that experience.

Emily Burton: Can you tell me a little bit more about that? How many children did you interview, for example? Where were they from? What were some of the conclusions of the study?

Monica Valencia: Yes. So I interviewed ten children. And they were from Bolivia, and then Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, um, and I think it was Chile, as well. And then I met with the children in their homes. Because I would ask children, “Where do you want to meet? Where do you feel more comfortable?” And they will tell me, “Oh, I feel comfortable at home.” So I will go to their homes and I will meet with them and I will talk to them. And I only had one question for them. I wanted to know, “What’s your story? How is it like?” I wanted to understand, um, how they interpreted their settlement and their migration stories—stories— and I wanted to know how they felt throughout the process. And then, the children, they, I gave them several options. So you can draw your experiences or you can write your narratives. Most of the children felt more comfortable drawing their experiences, but some of them which were, I guess, stronger writers, then they will feel more comfortable writing their stories. And when I did this, when I met with the children, I share a little bit of my story with them so that they will feel comfortable and so that they will be also some kind of rapport between the child and myself. And I wanted them to see me not as a teacher who’s, like, giving them a questionnaire or we’re taking a test. I wanted them to actually feel comfortable and open up with me and share their stories with me. So I would also partake um in the activities. I will draw, I will draw with them and write my narrative. And they would explain their drawings to me. Because sometimes you see a drawing and you interpret it, but that’s not what the painter meant. So I would ask the child, “What do you mean?” “What’s, what’s this um—” I don’t know—“Are you crying here?” “Are you happy?” “Can you explain that to me?” And then they would explain that to me. And um—That experience was really meaningful because sometimes I feel that we focus too much on the adults and their experiences and how can we support them and we kind of like neglect the feelings of the children a little bit and we don’t pay that much attention to what’s going on in your world.

Oral History 15.03.21MV with Monica Valencia
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21