An Unexpected Canadian Gift

Source: Patrice Palmer
Source: Patrice Palmer

The standard protocol for presenting at TESL conferences in Canada is that the presenter receives an honorarium and a card expressing thanks from the organizing committee.  It’s a nice gesture and I always appreciate it.   

Recently I received a unique gift for presenting at the TEAM conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  It was a beautiful bag, handmade by Angela of the One Nation Exchange (O.N.E.).  I was moved to learn more about O.N.E. and how this bag came to be.

First of all, let me start with information about One Nation Exchange (O.N.E.).  It’s a non-profit organization that promotes unity by creating opportunities for intercultural experiences, training, and employment for women who represent Canada’s diverse cultures.

It all started in 2014 in Winnipeg, a city with the highest urban Indigenous population in Canada.  That year, the province welcomed the highest recorded number of refugees per capita in the country.

The idea to bring First Nations women and newcomers to Canada together happened in Winnipeg’s North End.  The “First Nations, All Nations: Setting the Table” – a sharing circle/art project was hatched.  

During these meetings, women shared their childhood stories, lessons learned from the people who raised them, and they also shared their dreams for their own children.  

Source: One Nation Exchange (used by permission)
Source: One Nation Exchange (used by permission)

Next, Karen Cornelius, a talented printmaking artist integrated their stories onto a beautiful “One Nation” emblem which was silkscreened onto a tablecloth. Each woman was given one to take home. 

The same emblem was silkscreened onto fabric panels and sewn into canvas bags.  Women were offered free sewing instruction and within a short period of time, the bags were available to purchase and the demand grew quickly. Profits for the sale of every product go directly to the women who make them and support O.N.E. programs.  

For a more detailed explanation of the design, click here:

This lovely poem was also on the card attached to my bag.  I think it perfectly describes the experience of newcomers to Canada:

Canada’s Changing Forest

Uprooted from our land or culture,

Finding good soil again–

The forest is changing.

Through barren winters and spring’s new beginnings

New growth rises from decay

Let us find shelter here —

Peace and fruitfulness.

Encircled by community,

May roots go deep once more.

I love the idea of bringing women together, providing them with a sense of community, an opportunity to learn new skills and earn some income.  I think it’s something that could be replicated in other cities across Canada.

As a former ESL teacher for 20 years, I am reminded of the enduring stories of hope that I heard from hundreds of my students who made Canada their home. 

Angela – thank you for making this bag with love. I wish you peace in your new home in Canada.

Please support if you can.

Post written by Patrice Palmer

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