St. Thomas Times-Journal Tuesday November 10th, 2015



Whether it’s a hardcover, novel, or e-book, stories come in all formats — and the St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership wants to add another one to the list.

For the second consecutive year, the group is hosting an event to help immigrants share their stories with the community. Organizers call it a Living Library and participants are sure to tell real-life tales so exciting, adventurous or heartbreaking they would give any paperback a run for its money.

“We really want to promote community and we want to promote understanding and sharing of stories,” said Shelley Harris, manager of education and employment at YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin.

The stories participants share are far from fictional. Some will talk about what life is like in their homeland, others will chat about how they immigrated to Canada, why they chose to move and what the country has offered them.

“A lot of our community members haven’t been exposed to somebody from other cultures or have questions … It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to sit down in a comfortable and safe environment and listen,” said Harris, adding the event is designed to promote informal and friendly conversation between the “living books” and public.

Each of the immigrant participants will be seated at a table. Some bring a map to show where they came from, others will bring along culturally-significant outfits or mementos from their homeland to show visitors. The public is invited to buy a coffee and some international sweet treats and mingle with each presenter.

Though the exact number of participants hasn’t been set, Harris said last year’s Living Library included people from countries around the world. Whether participants are newcomers or immigrants who have been in Elgin county for many years, each has a story to tell.

“They get to tell their story and they get to see that the community is really interested in their settlement, what that looked like and why they chose Canada,” said Harris. “We want to make sure that people recognize there’s a rich history of diversity in Elgin county.”


If you go…

St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership Living Library

What: An opportunity for the public to speak with people who have immigrated to Canada and settled in St. Thomas and Elgin county

When: Sunday November 22, 2015 from noon to 3 p.m.

Where: St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre, 301 Talbot St., St. Thomas,

Cost: Free. Refreshments and desserts extra.