Toronto summer camp theatre explores the journey of young migrantsThe struggles and hopes of being a young immigrant unfold at Toronto Children’s Peace Theatre.
Sirak Tesfu, 19, from Eritrea, and Rosa Solorzano, 18, from El Salvador, both participate in the Children’s Peace Theatre’s gala production, Passage: A Moving Experience. Article accessed from here
A teenage boy from Eritrea recalls the awkwardness of reuniting with his father, whom he had not seen for 13 years.
A young woman from Antigua remembers the cold reception she got when she returned to Canada, the birthplace she was scooped away from as a toddler.
A refugee girl from El Salvador is afraid of bonding with others because of the experience of losing friends when she moves again.
All three are members of the Toronto Children’s Peace Theatre summer camp this year, and their stories, along with others, will be part of the group’s performance, Passage: A Moving Experience, which debuts Thursday at the Dawes Rd. theatre.
Through art installations, such as a bed-spring sculpture about “home,” to song compositions with lyrics about migration and storytelling, the youth and their professional artist mentors will explore the young migrants’ journeys, struggles, challenges, hopes and dreams.
“It feels good to get these stories out there so people know what we have gone through to be here,” said Sirak Tesfu, 19, who, along with his mother and little sister, was separated from his father, a refugee, as a kid before joining him here two years ago. They came from Eritrea via Sudan.
“I only knew my father by phone. It was strange to see him.”
Now in its 13th year, the theatre’s summer camp chose to produce a show about youth migrants after one of its artists had his refugee claim rejected and was deported to Mexico last fall.
“Born in Canada, I grew up at a time when we were making strides in humanitarian causes, but our immigration and refugee system has drastically changed in recent years. Canadians can’t be proud of what’s happening,” said the theatre’s artistic director, Karen Emerson.
“These stories need to be told. These voices need to be heard.”
In the past, the theatre and its campers have tackled various social justice themes, with shows about food security (“Eat It Up”) and child soldier/labour (“Up In Arms”).
Unlike Tesfu, who spoke Tigrinya and must learn English from scratch, Amber Williams-King faces no language barrier. Born in Toronto, she was taken to Antigua at age 2 but returned alone four years ago.
“I was a citizen, but people saw me as a foreigner. English is my first language, but I had to change my accent so people could understand me,” said the 23-year-old.
“We need to create a sense of understanding of the different people who make up Canada, accepting and appreciating the differences. Canadians have the responsibility to live up to its name as a multicultural mosaic.”
Rosa Solorzano and her family fled El Salvador for the U.S. before arriving in Toronto two years ago. She said she always isolated herself from others because she hated the experience of leaving her friends behind. But the summer camp has brought out her inner self.
“It sucks when you can’t bond with people. You just don’t know when you have to move again,” said Solorzano, 18, who graduated from high school but cannot go on to higher education because her family is still waiting for a refugee hearing.
“I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying this. I am learning something new and the kids just have so much energy and so many great ideas.
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