JOURNEYS TO THE FRONTLINE
Journeys to the Frontline is a collaborative online exhibition that shares the stories of seven professionals in the immigrant and refugee-serving sector. Suyeon, Christabell, Eusebio, Pinky, Mulugeta, Nira and Almaz provide essential services to newcomers, helping their clients navigate complicated bureaucracies, and provide emotional support when needed. Working on the frontline, they are the heart of the immigrant and refugee-serving sector. They often work behind-the-scenes in an occupation that requires extensive knowledge of the immigration and refugee system, awareness of all the services available to residents, expertise in navigating multiple challenges – finding a job, accessing affordable childcare, or securing housing. Their engagement with clients is done with the utmost professionalism, discretion and courtesy, despite working in a sector that struggles to offer competitive wages and job security, and where opportunities for professional growth are limited.
They do their work on a land that is already fraught with the legacies of colonial aggressions against Indigenous peoples and of discriminatory anti-immigration policies. The seven advocates work alongside many other leaders, whose stories remain untold. For more than one hundred years, community and faith groups have welcomed refugees and migrants and helped them build new lives in Toronto. Many of these settlement professionals are themselves migrants and refugees. All seven participants came to Canada, having left their countries – South Korea, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Ethiopia, Chile and Eritrea – for different reasons: to escape oppressive regimes, to gain an education, to build a new life for their families, or to escape personal hurdles. Their own experiences of settling into Canada, figuring out the system, and building a support network, form the foundation of their current careers.
PROCESS: THE MAKING OF JOURNEYS
This project is an active collaboration between the Toronto Ward Museum, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), the University of Toronto (U of T), and seven immigrant and refugee serving professionals from different agencies in the Toronto area. In September 2017, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants put a call to its member agencies in Toronto requesting participants for Journeys to the Frontlines. Seven replied to our call.
In October 2017, undergraduate students in a Digital History course at U of T Scarborough collected oral histories with project participants, which they passed onto a group of graduate students in the Master of Museum Studies (MMSt) program at the Faculty of Information. From January to April 2018, the graduate students interpreted the oral histories into seven stories, which are now part of the exhibition. Starting in May 2018, under the leadership of MMSt summer intern Randa Tukan, the exhibition was curated and digitized.
Throughout all phases of the project, the team prioritized dialogue, active listening, and consultations in order to achieve one of its main goals: responsible representation of the seven stories, with consent from the participants. This process entailed numerous consultations, one on one discussions, full day sessions, drafting and redrafting of text, and listening. One of the most exciting outcomes of the consultations is the exhibition title itself: Journeys to the Frontline.
ORAL HISTORY TEAM
Irina D. Mihalache
Gracia Dyer Jalea
Irina D. Mihalache
CURATION & DESIGN