Women Exchanging Life Lessons (WELL) at Global Gathering Place
Location: Saskatoon, SK
- Audience: Settlement sector
- Population of Interest: Immigrant and refugee women
- The Need: Although many immigrants are often healthy upon arrival to Canada, as months go by, there is often a decline in physical and mental health. Since arriving, many newcomers express their underutilization of health services.
- What's Promising: WELL provides a space for newcomer women to build health literacy and strengthen health supports.
- Key Takeaway: Beyond getting information from health experts from local organizations, WELL also offers participants the opportunity to share their own experiences and knowledge around health and wellness.
Newcomer women build health literacy and strengthen health supports through WELL.
A woman named Shabina lands in Saskatoon with her husband and child. Although Shabina is very healthy upon arrival from Bangladesh, as months go by, she and her family are feeling more run-down. Their diets have changed, the weather makes it hard to be active, and while Shabina generally feels fine, it’s been stressful to adapt to a new country far away from loved ones. Since arriving, no one in the family has gotten a checkup, and a few weeks ago her son started complaining about tooth pain.
Shabina starts attending Women Exchanging Life Lessons (WELL) at Global Gathering Place, where every week she and other newcomer women learn about a different health topic from guest speakers. Participants learn how to find a family doctor or dentist, which services are available for free through their health cards, as well as key health topics like exercise, mental health, self-care, and diabetes.
Through WELL, participants like Shabina gain a heightened awareness of their health, and start building a referral network of information and resources. While discussing health risks, Shabina starts to realize how much her health has been affected through the transition to Canada. By attending the sessions, Shabina and other participants learn practical ways to address challenges early, for their own health and the health of their family members.
Beyond getting information from health experts from local organizations, WELL also offers participants the opportunity to share their own experiences and knowledge around health and wellness. These weekly conversations are a huge source of connection and empowerment as newcomer women realize they are not alone in their struggles and concerns.
During the pandemic, WELL began to meet online, which has both advantages and drawbacks. On one hand, online sessions are more accessible to women without transportation, and mothers of young children often appreciate being able to listen and learn while keeping an eye on little ones.
On the other hand, meeting online doesn’t provide the same experience of getting away for a couple of hours of “me time”—being in a peaceful space, sharing a pot of tea and spontaneous conversations with other women. Not seeing each other in person has made it harder to build close friendships too, so we’ve been offering safe in-person activities (such as walking and snowshoeing) whenever possible. These opportunities make a world of difference for newcomers to build a healthy life in Canada.