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The help-seeking experiences of refugee women : narratives of resilience, resistance and reconstruction… Mangila-Nguyen, Maria Socorro 2007

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THE HELP-SEEKING EXPERIENCES OF REFUGEE WOMEN: NARRATIVES OF RESILIENCE, RESISTANCE AND RECONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITIES by Maria Socorro Mangila-Nguyen B.A., University of British Columbia, 2001 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIRMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF SOCIAL WORK in The Faculty of Graduate Studies THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA AUGUST 2007 © Maria Socorro Mangila-Nguyen A b s t r a c t T h i s qua l i ta t i ve s t u d y e x p l o r e d t he i n f l u e n c e o f g e n d e r , c l a s s , cu l tu re a n d t r a u m a o n r e f u g e e w o m e n ' s accu l t u ra t i on p r o c e s s . A na r ra t i ve a p p r o a c h w a s u s e d to e x a m i n e t he h e l p - s e e k i n g e x p e r i e n c e s o f r e f u g e e w o m e n w h o rese t t l ed in t he G r e a t e r V a n c o u v e r a r e a . T h r o u g h f o c u s g r o u p s a n d i nd i v idua l i n te rv iews , v a r i o u s pos t m ig ra t i on i s s u e s w e r e e x p l o r e d i n c l u d i n g p r o g r a m s a n d / o r s e r v i c e s u t i l i zed fo r v a r i o u s n e e d s , s o c i a l n e t w o r k s o r s u p p o r t s for the w o m e n a n d the i r c h i l d r e n , t rad i t iona l a n d e m e r g i n g s o c i a l r o l es , a n d c o p i n g s t r a t eg i es . T h e s t u d y a l s o e x p l o r e d t he i m a g e s a n d m e t a p h o r s w o m e n c o n s t r u c t to c o n v e y the i r r e s i l i e n c e , r e s i s t a n c e a n d r e c o n s t r u c t i o n of ident i t ies in the i r h e l p - s e e k i n g e x p e r i e n c e s a s r e f u g e e w o m e n . T h e s e i m a g e s a n d m e t a p h o r s g i v e i ns i gh t s into t h e w o m e n ' s u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f " h e l p " a n d t he r e a s o n s w h y t h e y d e c i d e d o r not to s e e k he lp . T h e s t u d y s e e k s to con t r i bu te to t he d e v e l o p m e n t o f p r o g r a m s a n d s e r v i c e s that a r e r e s p o n s i v e to the n e e d s o f r e f u g e e w o m e n . T h e f i nd i ngs s u g g e s t that " h e l p " fo r t he w o m e n m e a n bo th p r a c t i c a l h e l p a n d e m o t i o n a l s u p p o r t a n d that its m e a n i n g is d e e p l y e m b e d d e d in cu l tu re a n d s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s . T h e i m a g e s a n d m e t a p h o r s t he w o m e n u s e d to d e s c r i b e the i r h e l p - s e e k i n g e x p e r i e n c e s re f lec t the i r s t r e n g t h s , r e s i s t a n c e to e x p e c t e d w a y s ' o f s e e k i n g h e l p , a n d t he r e c o n s t r u c t i o n o f the i r ident i t ies , w h i c h is a n o n g o i n g p r o c e s s of nego t i a t i on w i th t he d o m i n a n t cu l tu re of the hos t coun t r y . In g e n e r a l r e f u g e e w o m e n t e n d to u s e in fo rma l s o c i a l n e t w o r k s c o n c u r r e n t l y w i th ins t i tu t iona l n e t w o r k s to a d d r e s s v a r i o u s n e e d s . ii TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Tables vi List of Diagrams vii Acknowledgements viii Dedication ix 1 Introduction 1 1.1 Resea rch quest ions 7 1.2 Persona l Interest 9 2 Conceptual Framework 12 2.1 Refugee W o m e n : Vulnerable or Act ive Soc ia l Ac to rs? 12 2.2 Post-Migrat ion Stressors and Exper iences 16 2.3 Soc ia l Agency and the Construct ion of He lp-Seek ing 17 2.4 Culture and Negotiating Identities 19 2.5 G e n d e r Ro les and Negotiating Identities 21 2.6 C l a s s and Help-Seek ing Strategies 23 2.7 T rauma and Res is tance 24 2.8 Acculturat ion, Integration and Resi l ience 27 2.9 Conc lus ion 30 3 Methodological Framework 32 3.1 Narrative Approach 33 3.2. Methodology 33 3.2.1 Sett ing 33 3.2.2 Samp le 34 3.2.3 Data .: . . . 36 3.2.4 Background of Part icipants 39 3.2.5 Data Analys is 40 3.3 Narrative Analys is 42 3.4 Ethical and Validity Issues 43 4 Help-Seeking Experiences (HSE) 48 4.1 Findings of the Study 49 4.1.1 Global /Hol ist ic V iew of H S E 49 4.1.1.1 0 - l i Y e a r 49 4.1.1.2 1 - 3 Yea rs 52 4.1.1.3 3 - 6 Years 53 4.1.1.4 Over 6 Yea rs 55 4.1.2 Types of Narrative 59 4.1.3 Major T h e m e s in Focus Groups and Individual Interviews 67 4.1.3.1 Finding Courage to S e e k and Establ ish Support Networks 68 4.1.3.2 Feel ing Isolated and Lost 69 iii 4.1.3.3 Being Susp ic ious of Institutional and Pol ice Survei l lance 71 4.1.3.4 Engaging in Volunteer Work 75 4.1.3.5 Being Thankful for Stepping Up and Training Programs 76 4.2 D iscuss ion of Findings 77 4.2.1 G e n d e r and Culture 79 4.2.2 C l a s s 82 4.2.3 T rauma 84 4.3 Conc lus ion 85 5 Ways of Telling: Resilience, Resistance and Reconstruction of Identities 88 5.1 What are Images and Metaphors? 88 5.2 Images and Metaphors in Refugee W o m e n ' s H S E 89 5.2.1 Images and Metaphors of Resi l ience 89 5.2.2 Images and Metaphors of Res is tance 96 5.2.3 Images and Metaphors of Hopes and Dreams 100 5.3 Metaphor of Light Signif ies Hope for the Chi ldren 100 5.4 Images and Metaphors: We lcome House, Home, Fire, Cand le , Sa fe P lace 102 5.4.1 W e l c o m e House 102 5.4.2 Darkness to Light 102 5.4.3 Death to Life 103 5.4.4 C a n a d a as "Home" 103 5.4.5 C a n a d a as a Sa fe P lace 105 5.5 Narrat ives of Reconstruct ion of Identities and Chang ing Ro les . . 105 5.5.1 Chang ing Ro les 107 5.5.2 V iew of Sel f 109 5.6 D iscuss ion 111 5.7 Conc lus ion 114 6 Implications on Research, Policy and Social Work Practice 116 References 121 Appendices Appendix A Flyer for Recruitment 128 Appendix B Consen t Form for Focus Group 129 Appendix C Consen t Form for Individual Interview 131 Append ix D Quest ions for Focus Group 133 Appendix E Quest ions for Individual Interview 134 Appendix F F o c u s group #2 Part icipants' Mapping of H S E 135 Appendix G Individual Mapping #1 136 Append ix H Individual Mapping #2 137 Appendix I Individual Mapping #3 138 Append ix J Stepping Up Program Brochure 139 Append ix K Resou rce Card G iven to Part icipants of F o c u s Groups and Individual Interviews 140 v LIST OF TABLES Tab le 3.1 Sou rces of Referrals 36 Tab le 3.2 Country of Origin 40 Tab le 4.1 He lp -Seek ing Exper iences of Refugee W o m e n in the Greater Vancouver A r e a 51 v i LIST OF DIAGRAMS Diagram 2.1 Contextual Var iab les 19 Diagram 3.1 Methodological Framework 32 Diagram 4.1 H S E Patterns 59 vii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the women who participated in this thesis by sharing their remarkable stories. This was a confluence of their journey and mine. I hope I articulated your voices in a respectful and meaningful way. I am also indebted to friends, colleagues, former participants of the Stepping Up Program, and the Stepping Up team who encouraged and supported me in moments of doubt and fatigue. Special thanks to Marlene and Jocelyne for their editing skills, Silvana, Jitka and Day ana for helping with computer glitches. I am also grateful for the support that the Immigrant Services Society ofBC gave me - for giving me permission to access some program information that enabled me to invite past program participants for this thesis. In particular, I would like to thank Clifford Bell who supported my BSW and MSWjourneys. I also want to thank a few men who are not only dedicated in their chosen field of practice but also contributed to my self-actualizations goals. Hayne Wai and Sri Pendakur were remarkable Field Instructors. Gary Dobbin, a former supervisor and now a friend, thank you for the reference letters. As well, I am fortunate to have Dr. Pilar Riano-Alcala as my Faculty Advisor who has been very supportive and encouraging. Through gentle reminders and setting timelines, she guided me along the way, posing thought-provoking questions which propelled me to explore and navigate the world of sociology and anthropology; thus, expanding my worldview. My gratitude also goes to Dr. Margaret Wright who inspired me to pursue meaningful knowledge, Dr. Paule McNichol, who agreed to take part in my defense, and Shashi Assanand whose commitment and dedication to immigrant and refugee women I truly admire. viii DEDICATION To the remarkable women in my family of birth, my maternal and paternal grandmothers (whose memories I cherish as they have passed on), Mamang (my mom) who nurtured me from the darkness of her womb to the light of the material world, my aunts, sisters - a female lineage that demonstrated courage and strength in moments of adversity-- my deepest gratitude for the life that I now nurture and enjoy. Above all, to my dearest son, who quietly supported me, especially in my frantic moments of meeting my deadlines. His hugs warmed my heart and inspired me to keep going. Deep down, I think he understands what I'm trying to do. He is after all an embodiment of a fusion of an immigrant and a refugee, identities that he has yet to discover for himself... ix 1 INTRODUCTION Refugees are not born; people become refugees. They flee their countr ies of origin because of persecut ion based on var ious grounds of discrimination and an impending fear for their safety. But refugees are a lso people with an identity, a history and a cultural heritage (Lacroix, 2004; Fo lson , 2004 ; M o u s s a , 1993) who find themselves in a migration p rocess fraught with danger, anxiety and conflict. The effects of these exper iences may continue to plague refugees even in their post migration exper iences (Moussa , 1993). Accord ing to the United Nat ions High Commiss ione r for Re fugees ( U N H C R ) (cited in Martin, 2004), there are approximately 13 million refugees around the world, excluding internally d isp laced people (IDP). In 2001 , U N H C R col lected the demographic data on 45 percent of the refugee populat ion. Of this partial collection of demographic data, about 70 percent were w o m e n and chi ldren (48.1% women, 21 .9% children between 0 and school age). In C a n a d a , the percentage of Convent ion refugee women is 4 7 % (Statistics C a n a d a , 2003) . Th is trend is confirmed by several studies that indicate that a majority of the refugee populations are women and dependent chi ldren (Martin, 2004; M o u s s a , 1993; Fr iedman, 1992; Nishimoto, C h a u , and Roberts, 1989). T h e s e numbers compel led me to examine refugee women 's exper iences in seeking help during their post migration process in C a n a d a . Moreover, a review of the literature on help-seeking exper iences of refugee women underscores a trend in under-util ization or non-util ization of programs and serv ices of physical health (Drennan and J o s e p h , 2005) and 1 mental health (Chiu, G a n e s a n , Clark, and Morrow, 2005; White, Tutt, Rude , Mutwiri, and Senevonghachack , 2005; Nicholson and Kay, 1999; C h u n g and Bemak , 1998; C h u n g and Lin, 1994; Bowen , C a r s c a d d e n , Beighle & Fleming 1992). It a lso suggests that issues of domest ic v io lence or woman abuse are under reported by refugee women (Bui, 2003; Bhuyan, Mel l , Sentura , Sul l ivan, and Shiu-Thorton, 2005; Fugate, Landis, Riordan, Naureckas , and Enge l , 2005) and they rely on informal networks in their community for support. Severa l of these studies document a general ized perception by service providers of refugee w o m e n as "pass ive recipients" of programs and serv ices that face ser ious cha l lenges in their acculturation process (Israelite, Herman, Khan , A l im and M o h a m e d , 1999; Chung and Lin, 1994). A n anecdotal Program Report from a serv ice provider organizat ion in British Co lumbia (2004) 1 further documents this percept ion, especia l ly by workers in government institutions such as the Ministry of Soc ia l Serv ices [currently, Ministry of Employment and Income Ass i s tance (MEIA)] and Immigration offices. Stud ies on settlement and integration (Dyck and McLa ren , 2004; Mart in, 2004; Israelite, et a l 's , 1999; Bernier, 1992) reveal that refugee w o m e n exper ience var ious s t resses such as the need to grieve their l osses (homes, country, lifestyle, family, etc.) which hinder their sett lement and integration p rocess . Re fugee w o m e n also encounter systemic barriers such as racism which prevent their participation in Canad ian society. Israelite et a l . , (1999) document how Somal i women who have to wait for their status for many years tend to view the Canad ian immigration system as racist. They claim that the 1 Stepping Up Program Anecdotal Report, Immigrant Services Society of BC (2004). requirement of original documents from country of origin vei ls a systemic discrimination. Furthermore, refugee famil ies headed by a female tend to be exc luded from various serv ices and programs which do not provide chi ldcare and other supports. Despite the barriers and frustrations, refugee women find strength and hope from their faith and from the support they receive from the ethno-speci f ic organizat ions that offer sett lement serv ices and opportunit ies to maintain their cultural identity (Israelite et al . , 1999). A s wel l , some of the studies document how settlement, soc ia l and mental health workers tend to view refugee women as ' lacking in motivation' to learn Engl ish (Bowen, 2005; Chung and Bemak, 1998; M o u s s a , 1993). Re fugees on socia l ass is tance, especial ly women , are labelled by government and community workers a s 'resistant' cl ients. Refugee women 's relat ionships with institutional resources and systems tend to be weak; however, some studies are beginning to map other forms of seek ing help among refugee women . For example, Ong ' s (2003) study of Cambod ian refugee women in Oak land , Cal i fornia shows that Cambod ian w o m e n sought help from their informal networks which included extended family, fr iends and recognized leaders in their ethnic community. C a m b o d i a n w o m e n only sought help from government and/or community agenc ies as a last resort. Ong 's study (2003) also reveals the Cambod ian women 's strengths in choosing to seek help within a network that they find helpful. O n the same vein, M o u s s a (1993) documented the courage and strength of Ethiopian and Eritrean refugee women as she journeyed with them from Afr ica to Montreal . S h e found that the women actively negotiate their ethnic identity by 3 forming al l iances to support each other, especia l ly in acquir ing Canad ian res idence status. Other studies (Fugate, et al , 2005; O n g , 2003; Chung and Lin, 1994) indicate that help-seeking strategies and exper iences of refugee women are complex and diverse and suggest that refugee women s e e m to seek help from personal and informal socia l networks initially and resort to formal serv ices del ivered by government and community agenc ies when the former fail to resolve their problems. The quest ions raised by this initial review of the literature on the relat ionships between institutional resources, informal networks and help seek ing are many and suggest the importance of studying the help seeking exper iences of refugee women . Furthermore, the studies and anecdotal ev idence that show a perception of refugee women as passive recipients of programs and serv ices and facing more chal lenges in their help-seeking exper iences propelled me into a systemat ic exploration of refugee women 's help-seeking exper iences. Al though the thread that runs through pre-migration and post migration exper iences may form a 'continuous' whole, this study focuses on post migration exper iences. In order to gain insights into the strategies of 'help-seeking' , I dec ided to explore the complex exper iences of refugee women and the var ious strategies that they use to seek help from various people, organizat ions and communit ies, as they adapt to a new country. Moussa ' s (1993) theory of "cont inuous and discont inuous" p rocesses of acculturation informs my understanding of the var ious factors that influence refugee women 's help-seeking exper iences and their negotiation of identities in their host countr ies. S h e articulates a process of continuity which recognizes refugee women 's search to 4 belong by threading meaningful links over time, from their pre-migration lives (past), to their current lives in the host country (present) and their hopes and d reams for the future. Discontinuity refers to dif ferences or even losses in terms of geography, material such as property, possess ions and income, cultural such as the key role of the extended family, mourning pract ices and ways of relating with var ious peoples, communit ies and institutions. Acculturat ion in this context, refers to the adjustment process or change in cultural behaviour and thinking of a n individual or group through contact with another culture(s) (Kastur i rangan, Kr ishnan, and Riger 2004) . 2 There were a total of sixteen participants in both the individual interviews and focus groups. They came from eleven countr ies: Afghanistan, A lban ia , El Sa lvador , Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guatemala , Iraq, Mexico, Phi l ippines, S u d a n and V ie tnam. S e v e n women preferred to do the individual interviews and ten women participated in two focus groups, with one woman participating in both individual interview and a focus group. Using a narrative approach to facilitate the recounting of the women 's stories, my intent is to provide an in-depth descr ipt ion arid analys is of these exper iences, so as to enable both government and community agenc ies to improve program design and serv ices for refugee women . A narrative approach consists of different ways of l istening to oral test imonies or stories of peoples within a variety of contexts, situated within a certain time and place (Slim and Thompson , 1995). This approach is a lso descr ibed as a d iscourse that focuses on "sequence and consequence [where] 2 Berry, et al, (1987, 1989, 1997, and 1998 cited in Moussa, 1993) describe four strategies of acculturation: assimilation, integration, separation and marginalization. 5 events are se lec ted, organized, connected and evaluated as meaningful for a particular aud ience" (Hinchman & Hinchman, 1997, and R iessmann , 2004, cited in R i e s s m a n and Quinney, 2005, p. 394). Narrat ives may be structured temporal ly or chronological ly and spatially or episodical ly. Narrative analys is de lves into the use of language, amplifying how and why events are storied (R iessman and Quinney, 2005). , The narratives col lected for this study through focus groups and in-depth interviews can be character ized as personal narratives. A Persona l Narrative is a "retrospective account, but does not imply the broad chronology of a life history." It includes stories "elicited or prompted by another person" such as an interviewer, private thoughts and recollections written down and later shared in a conversat ion or taped interview (Watson & Watson-Franke , 1985, cited in Pow les , 2004). Th is approach enabled the refugee women who participated in this study to tell their stories in a manner that they chose , that is, chronological , episodic or a combinat ion of both, remembering what is significant for them. A s well this approach is respectful of the women 's stories in capturing the metaphors and images that they used in recounting their help-seeking strategies in their acculturation process. Moreover, it is my hope that the refugee women 's stories may dispel the myth propagated by service providers that they are merely pass ive recipients of serv ices and programs. Through this study, I seek to give voice to refugee women and honour their help-seeking exper iences by involving the women in reviewing the interview transcripts, analys is of their narratives and 6 incorporating their suggest ions in Chapter 6 on implications for socia l work pract ice. Th is study draws the definition of "refugee" from the formal definition that w a s formulated in the G e n e v a Convent ion on the Status of Re fugees in 1951 which states that a refugee is ... any person, who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to that country. Th is definition has been incorporated in Canad ian laws on immigration, including the latest incarnation, the C a n a d a Immigration and Refugee Protect ion Act of 2001 . From this definition, refugees in C a n a d a are classif ied under two categor ies: 1) Convent ion refugees, or those who went through a determination p rocess and were deemed to meet the requirements of the stated definition, and 2) refugee claimants, or those who come into C a n a d a through var ious means, c la im refugee status within C a n a d a and have yet to go through a determination process . Th is study covers only Convent ion refugees s ince the debate on who is a refugee and what rights should be accorded to refugees is complex and beyond the scope of this thesis. \ 1.1 Research Questions This qualitative study explores the intersection of gender, c lass , culture, and t rauma in refugee women 's acculturation to a new country. In particular, I examined what strategies refugee women who resettled in the Greater Vancouve r area used to seek help. I facilitated the re-telling of personal 7 narratives or stories of seeking help that address settlement, acculturation and integration needs. Through this process I gained insights into the refugee women ' s various responses to the s t resses of acculturation and integration to a new country. Al though I recognize the importance of pre-migration exper iences and their effects on adaptation to a new country, I chose not to focus on this in my research as it deserves an inquiry of its own. Th is study examines post-migration exper iences, focusing on images or metaphors of resi l ience and strengths of refugee women , resistance, and reconstruction of socia l roles and identit ies. The research quest ion that guided this study is: What are the help-seeking exper iences of refugee women in the Greater Vancouver a rea? A corollary quest ion is: Wha t are the images and metaphors that refugee w o m e n use to reflect their resi l ience and/or resistance to expected ways of seek ing help and the reconstruction of their identit ies? The question on help-seeking exper iences is divided into sub quest ions: • What serv ices and/or programs did you seek to address what purpose or need? What type of socia l networks did you look for? What serv ices and/or programs did you choose not to use and why? If socia l programs or serv ices were not sought, how were your needs met? • What are the images or metaphors assoc ia ted with refugee women 's exper iences of "seeking help" and why? How do refugee women view 8 themselves in the process of seeking help? How do they view themselves now? A s the study focused on the refugee women 's point of view, my role w a s to facilitate a p rocess of 'giving voice' to their stories, and capturing images of their exper iences by analyz ing the images and metaphors they used in their help-seek ing exper ience narratives. This is just one of many ways of honouring their struggles, representing their 'voices' and valuing their ways of ascribing meaning or making sense of their exper iences in a respectful way. 1.2 P e r s o n a l Interest Reflect ions on my exper iences of working with refugee women in an asy lum c a m p in the Phi l ippines and managing a bridging p rogram 3 for immigrant and refugee w o m e n survivors of a b u s e 4 in Vancouver fuelled my interest in help-seek ing. I taught pre-vocational Engl ish to V ie tnamese adults in the camp and visited some of the female students who were not regularly attending c l asses . The women with children spent most of their t ime cook ing, c leaning and car ing for their young chi ldren. They also tried to negotiate for more food and some remedies for common i l lnesses such as cold and headaches . In the Bridging program that I have managed for over ten years, my responsibi l i t ies spanned from assess ing eligibility and readiness for therapeutic group work, teaching Eng l ish , facilitating workshops, doing crisis interventions, counsel l ing, brokering referrals and advocat ing for client a c c e s s to various resources such as 3 The bridging program is called Stepping Up, a pre-employment program designed to address adaptation, abuse, language, and life skills issues as well as career exploration. 4 Abuse is broadly defined to include various forms of abuse such as physical, emotional, sexual, financial, forced marriage, witnessing violence in war, etc. (see Stepping Up Program Brochure). 9 subs id ized housing and child care subsidy. From the exper iences in both sett ings, I began to see some patterns of help-seeking. For example, most of the w o m e n in the bridging program did not seek the help or protection of police when they exper ienced violence in the home. They contacted their fr iends and some members of their extended family to ask for advice. In their early years in C a n a d a , some women did not seek help or information from community agenc ies for housing, employment or recreational activities for their chi ldren; instead, they sought help and information from their fr iends and ethnic communit ies. T h e s e exper iences influenced my decis ion to engage in a systemat ic study on help-seek ing exper iences, not only to influence organizational policy and perhaps funding policy, but more importantly to facilitate a process of story-telling that en -abled refugee women to reflect on their exper iences in their country of resettlement. In particular, I would like to explore the reasons why refugee w o m e n seek help from institutional or formal helping organizat ions for certain needs such as training and employment programs at a later stage in their sett lement and integration journey. In this study I locate mysel f a s a first generat ion immigrant, a Fil ipino-C a n a d i a n w o m a n of colour and a feminist who strongly bel ieves in the pursuit of socia l justice. I consider myself privileged in being a student and researcher, therefore in a position of power. I hoped to use this privilege and power in facilitating the production of knowledge by engaging the participants of the study as active "subjects", capable of articulating their needs, hopes and dreams. Addit ionally, they are actively involved in shaping and negotiating their identities, 10 m a n i f e s t i n g t h e s e in i m a g e s a n d m e t a p h o r s that a r e c o n g r u e n t w i th the i r d y n a m i c in te rp re ta t ion of the i r e v o l v i n g cu l tu re in C a n a d a . T h i s t h e s i s is o r g a n i z e d in s ix c h a p t e r s , s tar t ing f r o m a n in t roduc t ion in c h a p t e r o n e , c o n c e p t u a l f r a m e w o r k in c h a p t e r two , a m e t h o d o l o g i c a l f r a m e w o r k in c h a p t e r t h r e e , to t h e un fo ld i ng o f h e l p - s e e k i n g e x p e r i e n c e s o f r e f u g e e w o m e n in c h a p t e r four , m o v i n g o n to a d i s c u s s i o n of i m a g e s a n d m e t a p h o r s o f r e s i l i e n c e , r e s i s t a n c e a n d r e c o n s t r u c t i o n of ident i t ies in c h a p t e r f i ve , a n d c u l m i n a t i n g in i m p l i c a t i o n s o n r e s e a r c h , po l i cy a n d S o c i a l W o r k p r a c t i c e in c h a p t e r s i x . 11 2 Conceptual Framework This chapter articulates the conceptual framework of the thesis, which begins with a review of the debate on whether or not refugee women are vulnerable or socia l actors. A rationale for focusing only on post migration exper iences fol lows. The next subsect ion amplif ies the notion of socia l actors by descr ib ing socia l agency and the social construction of help-seeking. The remaining subsect ions define and d iscuss the variables that may influence the help-seeking exper iences of refugee women: culture, gender roles and identities, c lass , and trauma. 2.1 Refugee Women: Vulnerable or Active Social Actors? Literature on refugee women in countries of resettlement documents a general ized perception of refugee women as vulnerable and isolated. Stud ies on, Indochinese refugee women (Ganesan , F ine and Lin, 1989) and South and East A s i a n w o m e n who were d iagnosed a s suffering from mental i l lness (Chiu , et a l , 2005) found that the majority of these women did not seek help from convent ional western health professionals such as psychiatrists, therapists, cl inical psychologist and social workers; instead they sought help from their community network of traditional healers such as herbalists, acupunctur ists, ayurvedic and homeopathic practitioners, and other alternative healing practit ioners. Th is help-seeking strategy is somet imes used to complement western treatment without the knowledge of conventional health care professionals. The study also found that conventional western serv ices and 12 programs are under-uti l ized by refugee women, a pattern that contributes to the percept ion that these w o m e n are isolated and vulnerable. Not only do refugee women under-util ize mental health serv ices and program, they also do not actively seek the help of family doctors and other health practitioners in health cl inics such as community health nurses and nutritionists (Drennan and J o s e p h , 2005; Israelite, et a l , 1999; C h u n g & Lin, 1994). T h e s e studies s e e m to indicate that refugee women prefer to seek help from alternative healing practitioners whose practices are v iewed by refugee w o m e n as more congruent to their cultural view of health and i l lness. S o m e w o m e n however, sought help from western health practitioners in conjunction with the use of alternative heal ing methods, especial ly in the c a s e of w o m e n with post secondary educat ion (Chiu, et a l , 2005; Chung & Lin, 1994). In addit ion to physical and mental health, sett lement serv ices such as Engl ish c lasses , training and job-finding programs provided by community agenc ies are also under-uti l ized by refugee women (Martin, 2004; Israelite, et a l , 1999). A s a result of under-util ization or non-util ization of some settlement serv ices, refugee women are once again viewed as not adapting well to the host country's expectat ion of streaming immigrant and refugees into sett lement and eventual integration into the Canad ian labour market. It appears that the slow pace of refugee women in adapting to the dominant (mainstream) culture's expectat ions contribute to the general ized perception by service providers that refugee women are not adapting well in the host country. Whi le the general understanding of acculturation is one that st reams new migrants into the 13 dominant culture, in this thesis, acculturation is a dynamic p rocess that recognizes the capaci ty of refugee women to negotiate for continuity and contest d iscont inuous p rocesses that hinder the reconstruction of their identity or identities in the context of their gender, c lass and culture (Lacroix, 2004; Israelite, et a l , 1999; M o u s s a , 1993). Moussa ' s (1993) theory of "cont inuous and discont inuous" p rocesses of acculturation is instructive as she provides a framework that recognizes the ability of refugee w o m e n to find meaning in their struggle to belong, pick up the p ieces of their l ives and reconstruct their identities by embrac ing cultural symbols of their country of origin and resisting the reduction of their identity to a refugee. After all, being a refugee is but one part of their identity. Prior to the crisis in their country and the resulting flight, migration and resettlement, they have a personal and collective history that shaped their identity. My own exper ience in working with refugee women points to some help-seek ing strategies that are diverse and complex. For example, most of the refugee w o m e n with whom I have worked have not seen a counsel lor or joined a support group a s these interventions are facilitated by people who are not part of their informal or socia l networks and the practice is new to them. However , this was seen by mental health practitioners as "lacking in motivation" to seek help or not adapting well to the dominant culture of the host country. S o m e of the reasons for the negative perception of refugee women stem from a lack of understanding of non utilization or under-util ization of programs or serv ices des igned for refugees such a s counsel l ing and therapeutic group work offered by 14 mental health practitioners. In c a s e s of physical health, s o m e of the women I have worked with did not have a family doctor and if they had one, they did not go for physical examinat ions or regular check ups. Instead, for various physical ai lments, they used what are commonly known as alternative healing methods such as herbal remedies, traditional healers such as Ch inese doctors, acupunctur ists and massage therapists, using Western medicine only as a last resort (Anecdotal program reports, 2004). This anecdotal ev idence supports the f indings from a comparat ive study that Chung and Lin (1994) conducted on Southeast A s i a n refugees in the United States, which revealed that Southeast A s i a n refugees used both Western medicine and alternative heal ing pract ices. Similarly, Ch iu , et al . 's, (2005) study of the help-seeking strategies of South and Eas t A s i a n women with mental i l lness reveals the use of western convent ional treatment such as medicat ions and psychotherapy in conjunction with alternative heal ing pract ices such as homeopathic treatment, yoga, acupuncture, among others. Essent ial ly, the under-util ization of convent ional treatment and cont inued use of alternative heal ing pract ices suggests an active resistance to western medic ine. The process of sifting through and seek ing out only those pract ices that are congruent to their traditional ways of address ing physical , mental and emotional health reveal active decis ion-making p rocesses on a continued bas is . S u c h strategies point to active cho ices of what are meaningful for refugee w o m e n , which manifest socia l agency, contrary to the general ized percept ion that they are pass ive recipients of programs and serv ices. 15 2.2 Post-Migration Stressors and Experiences In determining the help seeking strategies of women after forced migration, the literature first examines the post migration stressors that refugee women face in their host country. Bernier (1992) articulates var ious s t resses resulting from multiple losses: from material losses such as personal belongings and mementos to relational losses such as members of the nuc lear family, extended famil ies, fr iends and community. Other s t resses may include loss of economic status, which adversely affects se l f -esteem, and loss of power resulting in shifting roles in the family. All these losses have an impact on help-seek ing strategies; hence, the need for service providers to develop an understanding of the resulting stressors, and the importance of natural support networks to their acculturation. Other studies (Nicholson and Kay, 1999; Martin, 2004; Ben-Dav id , 1995; Bu i , 2003) show that post migration stressors include language barriers, lack of understanding of cultural norms of the host country, changes in family roles and rac ism, among others. S o m e studies (Ganesan , et a l , 1989; Mart in, 2004; Fr iedman, 1992; Bowen , et a l , 1992; Bernier, 1992) c la im that involuntary migration as a response to violence or human rights abuses have a profound effect on the person, family and community structures; hence, the need for socia l supports to facilitate the process of acculturation to the host country. Moreover, these studies show that the process of being uprooted from a homeland and having to adjust to a new and unknown environment could lead to psychological d istress and consequent ly affect the person's ability to seek help (Bowen, 2005; 16 C h u n g & Bemak , 1998). The stressors descr ibed in these studies tend to have more impact on refugee women as they perform the dual roles of car ing for their famil ies and doing domest ic chores as well as taking on paid jobs in order to provide for the family (White, et al , 2005; Martin, 2004; Bu i , 2003 ; Nicholson and Kay , 1999). 2.3 Social Agency and the Construction of Help-Seeking In this thesis I reviewed studies on refugee women 's post migration exper iences that examine the women 's exper iences in terms of the reconstruction of socia l roles and identities as shaped by gender and culture (Bui, 2003; Kastur i rangan, et a l , 2004; Israelite, et a l , 1999; Kay and Nicho lson, 1999; Shepherd , 1992), resi l ience (Bowen, 2005; Fugate, et a l , 2005 ; Fr id, et a l , 2002; Israelite, et a l , 1999; Fr iedman, 1992), and resistance (Bowen, 2005 ; Drennan & J o s e p h , 2005; Bil le, 1994; Moussa ,1993 , C h u n g and L in , 1994; N icho lson and Kay, 1999). Res i l ience, resistance and reconstruction of gender roles and identities are manifestations of social agency (Moussa , 1993; Drover and Kerans , 1993; K a y and Nicholson). Us ing an ecological perspective, Harvey (2007) articulates resi l ience as ... t ransact ional in nature, evident in qualit ies that are nurtured, shaped and activated by a host of person-environment interactions. Res i l ience is the result of not only of biological traits, but a lso of people 's embeddedness in complex and dynamic social contexts. . . (p. 11) In this context, individuals are v iewed as "agentic, capab le of negotiating and inf luencing, as well as influenced by context" (Riger, 2001 , p.75, cited in Harvey 2007); therefore, not passive recipients of forces within the person-environment 17 context. S tud ies on refugee women support Harvey 's c la im of agent ic response to migration t rauma (White, et al , 2005; Frid, et a l , 2002 ; Fr iedman, 1992) and various forms of v io lence against women including intimate partner abuse (Bui, 2003; Fugate, et al , 2005) where refugee women chose to seek help from their informal networks and resorted to institutional helping organizat ions as a last resort. Res is tance is manifested by refugee women in their help-seeking strategies that address physical (Drennan & J o s e p h , 2005; Bowen , 2005) and mental health issues (Chiu, et a l , 2005; Bil le, 1994; Chung and Lin, 1994; M o u s s a , 1993). Re fugee women made decis ions to under-uti l ize or not utilize serv ices and programs for refugee women that they d e e m to be incongruent to their cultural understanding of wel lness and i l lness. Another manifestation of social agency is the reconstruction of socia l roles and identities which is shaped by gender and culture (Bui , 2003 ; Kastur i rangan, et a l , 2004; Israelite, et a l , 1999; Kay and Nicho lson, 1999; Shephe rd , 1992). Th is process of reconstructing socia l roles and identities is fluid, and may be character ized as acts of resistance and ongoing negotiation within a contested political sphere (Kumsa , 2002; M o u s s a , 1993; Bannerj i , 1995). S i nce this study examines the refugee women 's understanding or construction of help-seeking, analyzing their use of metaphors that reflect resi l ience, resistance and reconstruction of identities gives insights into the different var iables that influence help-seeking strategies. T h e s e var iables include gender , culture from the country of origin, c lass and trauma. How these var iables 18 i n t e r sec t o r p l a y ou t in r e f u g e e w o m e n ' s h e l p - s e e k i n g e x p e r i e n c e s is a k e y q u e s t i o n that th is s t u d y a d d r e s s e d . D i a g r a m 2.1 b e l o w i l l us t ra tes t he i n te r sec t i ng v a r i a b l e s a n d h o w t h e y m a y i n f l uence the accu l t u ra t i on a n d e v e n t u a l i n tegra t ion p r o c e s s . Diagram 2.1: Contextual Var iab les T h e f o l l ow ing s e c t i o n s d e f i n e the v a r i a b l e s a n d d i s c u s s the i r r e l e v a n c e to t he s tudy . 2.4 Cul ture and Negotiat ing Identities T h e r e is a n o n g o i n g d e b a t e o n the u s e f u l n e s s o r r e l e v a n c e of cu l tu re a s a c o n c e p t in c r o s s cu l tu ra l p r a c t i c e a n d in b r o a d e r t heo re t i ca l d i s c u s s i o n s in s o c i a l s c i e n c e r e s e a r c h . B r u m a n n ( 1 9 9 9 ) d i s c u s s e s t he i m p o r t a n c e of cu l t u re a s a c o n c e p t that g i v e s i ns igh t s into t he d i f f e r e n c e s in t hough t a n d b e h a v i o u r a m o n g h u m a n g r o u p s . H e b r o a d l y d e f i n e s cu l tu re a s " . . . l e a r n e d r o u t i n e s of t hough t a n d 19 behaviour in socia l g roups. . . [Routines of thought include] meanings, symbols , understandings, knowledge and ideas, etc." ( p .S21 ) . The c lass ica l perspect ive def ines culture as ".. . that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom and any other capabil i t ies and habits acquired by [a person] a s a member of a society" (Taylor, 1 8 7 1 ; Kroeber and K luckhohn, 1 9 5 2 , cited in Brumann, 1 9 9 9 , p .S3) . This perspective suggests stability, coherence and homogenei ty, which lacks congruence with a socia l reality character ized by change and inconsistencies. Conversely , the Postmodern standpoint v iews culture as dynamic and examines the concepts of oppress ion and power (Kastur i rangan, et al , 2 0 0 4 ) . Other anthropologists define culture as " . . . learned, accumulated exper ience. . . referring] to those social ly transmitted patterns for behaviour characterist ic of a particular social group" (Kees ing , 1 9 8 1 , p.68, cited in Brumann, 1 9 9 9 ) or "...the social ly transmitted knowledge and behaviour shared by some group of people (Peoples and Bai ley, 1 9 9 4 , p .23, cited in Brumann, 1 9 9 9 ) . These definitions complement each other and are useful in analyz ing the influence of culture in refugee women 's help-seeking strategies. F rom these definitions, it appears that culture has a web of meanings, focusing on different aspects such as shared symbols, pract ices and learned routines, stability and t ransmission over time, dynamics of power and a notion of change and evolution over a period of time within a certain context. In this study, I locate myself as a feminist researcher in order to make explicit the power relations that permeate help-seeking within the context of the dominant culture and in articulating that "personal is political". Refugee women 's 20 struggles from flight to resettlement are fraught with tensions on socio-pol i t ical and economic powers. Only through a feminist lens would power relations and dynamics be made explicit. A s well , us ing a feminist lens resonates with refugee w o m e n as they are v iewed as subjects instead of object of study, a respectful way to produce knowledge. Consequent ly , I choose to combine the Pos tmodern and Brumann 's articulated definitions, as the former views culture as dynamic and examines power relations, while the latter focuses on e lements that are shared social ly, reveal ing routines or patterns of thought and behaviour. T h e s e definit ions of culture situate the women 's help-seeking exper iences within a context that is respectful of the women 's view of maintaining their own culture from their country of origin as well as cross ing "cultures", those of the host country which may include a diverse culture from other migrants who have settled in the country. This thesis examines the acculturation process through help-seeking strategies so various "cultures" intersect and might even be contested in the political f ield. 2.5 Gender Roles and Negotiating Identities Consis tent with my location as a feminist in this research, I adopt the definition of gender as a social structure (R isman, 2004; R idgeway & Correl l , 2004; Conne l l , 1987, cited in Bui , 2003), as it reflects a socia l construction of stratification which def ines gender roles, permeates the division of labour, def ines heterosexuality, and inf luences the var ious institutions in society. Ande rson , R ichardson and Waxier-Morr ison, (1993) descr ibe the traditional roles of Indochinese (Cambod ian , Laot ians and V ie tnamese) women as those that 21 pertain to the management of the home, including chi ld-rearing, performing unpaid household chores and managing family f inances; whereas the men occupy posit ions of authority and are ascr ibed the roles of providers for the family. Conne l l (1987, cited in Bui , 2003) c la ims that the gendered division of labour in societ ies g ives minimal opportunities for women to acquire and accumulate wealth. Unpaid housework is traditionally ascr ibed to w o m e n and in many situations they become financially dependent on men. Bu i 's (2003) study of abused V ie tnamese women in Amer ica reveals that women 's economic dependence on the abusive husband/partner impeded their ability to leave abus ive relationships. A s well , gendered division of labour lends itself to what feminists call the "double bind" where an unfair burden is placed on w o m e n to perform caring roles (as mothers, daughters and grand daughters caring for members of the nuclear family, and for immigrants and refugees, the extended family as well) in both the private and public spheres (as nurturers such as teachers, socia l workers, chi ldcare workers, counsel lors and as housekeepers , c leaners , among others (Ridgeway & Correl l , 2004). G e n d e r roles a lso shape identities or concepts of self and ways of knowing (Gi l l igan, 1993; Belenky, 1997). M o u s s a (1993) examines the socia l construct ion of refugee women 's identities and suggests that refugee women engage in a complex process of negotiating "identities" as they struggle to settle in their host countr ies. They construct their identities within the context of "continuity and discontinuity" of the acculturation process . Bannerj i 's (1995) 22 critical analys is of the construction and fluidity of identity against a backdrop of intersecting oppress ions such as racism, sex ism and c lass ism is also instructive, as she suggests that women negotiate identities within contested political contexts. Finally, it is necessary to take into considerat ion the role of the state in mediat ing and regulating "capital ism's need for a given form of labour power and surplus extraction" (Burstyn, 1985, 57). A s previously ment ioned, the "helping institutions" such as socia l serv ices (welfare), healthcare and immigration have pol ic ies and expectat ions of integrating newcomers to C a n a d a (immigrants and refugees) to the labour market in order to become contributing members of society. The programs that the federal and provincial levels of government fund st ream newcomers including refugee women into entry-level jobs that pay minimum wage or what poverty activists call "dead end" jobs. For example , healthcare workers such as Resident Ca re Attendants, Home Support Workers and Careg ivers for wealthy famil ies, and Hospitality workers, are predominantly immigrant and refugee women . 2.6 Class and Help-seeking Strategies In this study, a social ist feminist analys is of c l ass (Dominel l i , 2002 ; Sauln ier , 1996) - another factor that inf luences help-seeking exper iences --layers the d iscuss ion of gender roles. Here, the influence of the women 's soc io-economic status is considered in understanding their responses to var ious stressors. For immigrant and refugee famil ies, having employment is an important protective factor against psychological distress (Tran &Ferul lo, 1997; Itzhaky & Ribner, 1999). The eventual attainment of f inancial stability through 23 employment gives a family economic status in the community. In other words, being employed or independent from social ass is tance buffers some of the s t resses that newcomers such as refugee women face. However, as Martin (2004) shows , refugee women face multiple barriers in industrial ized countr ies, including the chal lenges in obtaining employment. Even educated women with work exper ience from their country of origin who became refugees exper ience difficulties in finding employment due to lack of Engl ish language skil ls. Literacy a lso poses ser ious chal lenges for refugee women coming from countr ies of origin where women are expected to do caring roles in the home instead of pursuing formal educat ion. These women are now relegated to the margins of society and living in poverty. A s Martin argues, the lack of language skills and resources such as access ib le and affordable chi ldcare inhibit refugee women 's ability to adapt to the country of resettlement (pp. 138-139). 2.7 T r a u m a a n d R e s i s t a n c e Trauma is another variable that inf luences help-seeking exper iences; it may adverse ly affect refugee women 's help-seeking strategies. Accord ing to Martin (2004) [A]mong the refugees that the U N H C R 5 bel ieves are in desperate need for resettlement are women who. . . have general ly exper ienced severe t rauma and are living in c i rcumstances in which their traditional support sys tems have broken down. . . [They] may have no relatives in a third country, no knowledge of the language or transferable ski l ls . . . (p.132). The above quote descr ibes pre-migration trauma that refugee women exper ienced in any or all of their phases of migration: flight, cross ing border of neighbouring country, seeking asy lum in neighbouring country, refugee camp 5 U N H C R - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 24 exper ience or ghettoized communit ies for refugees, application for resettlement and eventual resettlement in an industrialized country. The trauma exper ienced may constitute personal exper ience of atrocities such as rape and torture or wi tnessing the execut ion of a loved one or massive killing of innocent civi l ians. LaMothe 's (1999) distinction between natural and malignant t rauma is helpful in understanding the type of trauma that refugee women exper ienced or w i tnessed. He def ines natural t raumas as those arising from natural events such as f loods, tornadoes and tsunamis, whereas malignant t rauma is a set of " losses" resulting from atrocities and abuses by other human beings such as rape, torture and child abuse . LaMothe 's definition of malignant t rauma is relevant to this thesis as its nature is man-made and political. A s a result, trust is an issue which may hinder help-seeking from persons with "authority". The psychiatr ic definition of trauma refers to an exposure to an external event that poses a "ser ious injury or threat to the physical integrity of self o r others," accompan ied by emotional distress such as numbing, hyper-vigi lance, f lashbacks and fragmented memory [Diagnostic and Statistical Manua l of Mental Disorders ( D S M IV-TR), 2000]. This definition may include both natural and malignant t raumas as descr ibed by LaMothe (1999). Shepherd (1992) examined the history of Pos t Traumat ic S t ress Disorder ( P T S D ) and studied five oral histories of courageous V ie tnamese refugee women to argue that P T S D as defined in the DSMIII-TR (1987) does not capture the complexity of t rauma as exper ienced by refugee women . S h e c la ims that P T S D w a s added to the D S M III in 1980 in response to the needs of male Vietnam 25 veterans. A s a result of the women 's movement, this d iagnosis was later appl ied to female veterans and rape victims. Much later, P T S D was appl ied to refugee w o m e n who exper ienced multiple t raumas. S h e further maintained that knowledge about t rauma was largely influenced by existing knowledge about t rauma among male veterans, which was later appl ied to female veterans, rape survivors and refugee women . Consequent ly , she suggests that cultural and historical factors, as well as gender, and coping skills need to be considered in the determination of P T S D . Shepherd 's claim echoes Mary Harvey 's (1996) ecologica l perspect ive of t rauma, which she descr ibes as the relationship among three factors - traumatic event(s), the person, and her/his environment -- offering a holistic v iew of t rauma as it cons iders the person and the traumatic event within a political context. For instance, rape c a s e s in refugee camps ; here the traumatic event is rape, the person involved is a woman and the environment or political context is war or civil unrest where rape is a means to subjugate or control another group deemed to be inferior, therefore, women being raped are v iewed a s 'objects'. Consequent ly , malignant t rauma and P T S D as defined by the D S M - I V - T R need to be considered in analysing the help-seeking strategies that refugee w o m e n descr ibed in their narratives. Exper ience of t rauma might not be explicitly articulated as they might bring up unpleasant memor ies. Analys ing the images and metaphors of resi l ience, resistance and reconstruction of identities might provide a gl impse into memor ies of traumatic events and how these might inf luence help-seeking strategies. 2 6 2.8 Acculturation, Integration and Resilience This study draws from Sluzk i 's (1979) model of acculturation and M o u s s a ' s (1993) theory of "continuity and discontinuity" of socia l p rocesses . S luzk i ' s model suggests that congruence (similarity) between the culture of the host country and the refugee women 's country of origin facil itates acculturation, whereas d i ssonance or dissimilarity inhibits acculturation. Whi le this may be true for s o m e groups of refugee women, it does not, however, capture the complex process of acculturation. His theory does not acknowledge socia l agency. Newcomers such as refugee women have demonstrated that they choose whether or not to seek help, and actively resist expectat ions of serv ice providers by under-uti l izing or not utilizing certain types of serv ices (Chiu, et a l , 2005 ; K a y and Nicho lson, 1999; C h u n g and Lin, 1994; G a n e s a n , et a l , 1989). M o u s s a ' s theory (1993), on the other hand, articulates acculturation as a socia l p rocess that recognizes the ability of refugee women to choose beliefs and pract ices from their own culture and those of the host country's culture in order to reclaim or maintain their identity 6. Th is acculturation process includes coping strategies which may be manifested in the reconstruction of socia l roles (Ben-Dav id , 1995; S luzk i , 1979), resistance to expected ways of seeking help ( G a n e s a n , et a l , 1989; Bu i , 2003) and resi l ience or resourcefulness in responding to problems (Harvey, 1996, 2007; Nicholson & Kay, 1999; Nishimoto, et. a l . , 1989). The complexity of the acculturation process is a lso captured in Mary Harvey 's paper (1996) on the ecological view of psychological t rauma and 6 Identity is a social construct so human behaviour and meanings attached to identity are learned. It is also gendered and negotiated, therefore fluid and involves choice (Moussa, 1993). 27 recovery. Her model for intervention recognizes the resi l ience or ability of some t rauma survivors to overcome the detrimental effects of trauma without receiving cl inical intervention. S h e c la ims that community support plays an important part in the process of recovery. For refugee women who are survivors of t rauma, var ious support networks are essent ial in their acculturation process (Bui , 2003, Nicho lson & Kay, 1999; G a n e s a n , et a l , 1989). Similarly, in their study of Cambod ian women, Nicholson and Kay ' s (1999) study showed that the support group format was very effective for w o m e n who had exper ienced and continue to exper ience psychological t rauma, as the group served as a "natural helping network" where the women felt safe and found fr iendship and support from those who share their cultural va lues and difficult exper iences. They used socia l constructivism as a psychologica l f rame to encourage traumatized Cambod ian women to construct new meanings for their traumatic exper iences resulting from victimization from physical and sexua l abuse . Th is process enabled the authors to use a strengths perspect ive in order to focus on the women 's capaci t ies, abilities and skil ls rather than on their "pathology" or "deficits" (p.2). The strengths perspect ive 7 , which focuses on client capaci t ies, is an alternative to problem-focused model of assessmen t and treatment (Sa leebey, 2002; Weick , 1986, cited in Nicholson and Kay, 1999). The personal narratives of Cambod ian women revealed their capaci ty to endure suffering, as they tried to control their feel ings and behaviours in the belief that 7 According to Saleeby, (2002), the strengths perspective has three assumptions: 1) clients have personal and environmental strengths when they are affirmed & supported; 2) the clients are the experts of their own experiences, and 3) the role of the social worker as a collaborator (pj). 28 wil lpower is important to recovery. Eventual ly, the women actively sought help from the workers to a c c e s s health care for their chi ldren. Drover and Kerans (1993) articulate social agency in terms of making c la ims by cl ients who are on welfare for opportunities to develop their human capaci t ies that will facilitate self-actualization instead of s imply a redistribution of sca rce resources. M o u s s a (1993) suggests that refugee women resist programs and serv ices that are v iewed as incongruent to their culture of origin and actively negotiate and reclaim their identity as women based on their evolving knowledge of the cultures that they embrace . Similarly, in other studies (Saleeby, 2002; Nicho lson and Kay, 1999) socia l agency is used to acknowledge the strengths of the refugee women (subjects) and their ability to resist the label of 'victim' or pass ive recipients of serv ices and programs (Ong, 2003). Focus ing on their strengths or coping strategies may help them ascr ibe meaning to their d iverse exper iences and consequent ly facilitate the process of acculturation. In a process that also acknowledged strengths, Herbst used the oral history method (1992) to treat a group of Cambod ian women who were survivors of torture. The author found that this method was effective in treating P T S D , as condit ions were created to make the participants feel safe and treated as equals . More importantly, it did not require literacy skil ls (reading and writing). The C a m b o d i a n women , who were mostly illiterate in Cambod ian and semi-l i terate in Eng l ish , felt sa fe with the p rocess a s it a l lowed them to use their abilit ies to listen and speak. The process reinforced their strengths, improved their se l f -esteem 29 over time and enabled them to tell their stories and memor ies of C a m b o d i a so that others, especia l ly their chi ldren, may learn about their traditions and beliefs. „ Us ing a similar approach, Bowen (2005), a Canad ian researcher, found that the stories of Sa lvadorean refugee women in Mani toba revealed resi l ience and pragmat ism in their help-seeking exper iences especia l ly in health care pract ices. Depending on the effect iveness of past treatments, many of the w o m e n used home/herbal remedies or modern medic ine, or a combinat ion of both. They also used coping strategies such as praying, talking, crying and working. The foregoing d iscuss ions on manifestations of socia l agency suggest the potential of oral history (Herbst, 1992; Frid, Mauer , Replansk i and S a n c h e z , 2002) and personal narratives (Bowen, 2005; Nicholson and Kay, 1999) to generate stories from the perspect ive of the subjects, in particular, refugee women . 2.9 C o n c l u s i o n The var iables that were d iscussed in this chapter are gender, c lass , culture, t rauma and acculturation. A s mentioned earlier, the research quest ion that I explored is: How do gender, c lass , t rauma and culture interest or play out in a refugee woman 's ability to adapt to a new country? In particular, what are the help-seeking exper iences of refugee women who resettled in the Greater Vancouve r a rea? In order to examine settlement and acculturation needs, a narrative approach was used to facilitate the recounting of the refugee women 's stor ies or situations of seek ing help or access ing resources from var ious 30 s o u r c e s . T h e o r i e s of e c o l o g i c a l s y s t e m s , f e m i n i s m a n d p r o c e s s e s o f con t i nu i t y a n d d i s c o n t i n u i t y in a c c u l t u r a t i o n a r e u s e d to a n a l y z e p o w e r r e l a t i ons a n d t he r e l a t i o n s h i p s a m o n g the v a r i a b l e s . In the f inal a n a l y s i s , t he na r ra t i ve a p p r o a c h is o n e of m a n y w a y s to fac i l i ta te r e f u g e e w o m e n ' s " h e a l i n g " a n d r e c o g n i z e the i r c o u r a g e a n d r e s i l i e n c e in s i t ua t i ons of adve rs i t y . 31 3 M E T H O D O L O G I C A L F R A M E W O R K This chapter descr ibes the methodological framework of my thesis which is def ined as a narrative approach. A s previously d i scussed , a narrative approach examines the "sequence and consequence [of] events [that] are se lected, organized, connected and evaluated as meaningful for a particular aud ience" (H inchman and Hinchman, 1997; R iessmann , 2004, cited in R i e s s m a n and Quinney, 2005, p.394). After a brief presentation of this approach, the chapter descr ibes the key methodological e lements in the framework such as setting, sample and data, narrative analys is, and a d iscuss ion of ethical and validity i ssues. The overal l methodological approach is illustrated in d iagram 3.1 below. 3 2 3.1 Narrative A p p r o a c h Using a narrative approach to facilitate the recounting of refugee women 's exper iences, personal narratives were generated through focus groups and individual interviews. A narrative may be presented in a chronological order or ep isodic manner. Narrative analys is then expl icates the use of language, amplifying how and why events are storied (R iessman and Quinney, 2005). Stor ied lives or the structure of sequences of lived act ions is similar to a traditional plot where events are organized in "a rising c rescendo of tension that reaches its peak and then resolves into a denouement (conclusion)" (Ochberg (1993, p.116). 3.2 M e t h o d o l o g y 3.2.1 Sett ing This thesis explored the help-seeking exper iences of refugee w o m e n in the Greater Vancouve r a rea who responded to the promotional materials, flyer and letter of invitation, or were referred by community agency serv ice providers. Most of the participants were referred by community support workers or counsel lors (37.5%) or responded to the letter of invitation (37.5%). The remaining 2 5 % were self-referrals, those who responded to the flyer. Approximately one third of the women were past participants of a program coordinated by the researcher who responded to letters of invitation mailed to them by another service provider at Immigrant Serv ices Soc ie ty ( ISS) after obtaining permiss ion from the Director of the Training Institute and the Execut ive Director of the organizat ion. The relationship arising from past involvement in the 33 bridging program might be construed as a conflict of interest but severa l s teps were taken to ensure that they did not feel coerced to participate. To ensure that the w o m e n did not feel obl igated to participate by virtue of the past relationship, I des igned a sampl ing strategy that gave them a choice of participation or non-participation, as illustrated in the next sect ion. 3.2.2 S a m p l e Recrui tment of participants was done in two stages: 1) access ing a da tabase of past participants of the Stepping Up program 8 for immigrant and refugee women , and 2) sending flyers to community agenc ies that serve immigrant and refugee women in the lower mainland. For the first s tage, the Immigrant Serv i ces Society of B C (ISS), an immigrant-serving and not-for-profit communi ty agency, gave me permission to a c c e s s the database of past participants of a Bridging program. This database was used as the sampl ing frame, cover ing the period from January 1996 to July 2004. Of a total of approximately 272 participants, only those who met the select ion criteria were invited to the first focus group and individual interviews. In order to meet the select ion criteria the refugee woman had to: 1) have a Convent ion re fugee 9 status, 2) be at least 19 years of age, 3) have lived in C a n a d a for at least 3 years, 4) be willing to participate in the study and share her story of sett lement and acculturation, and 5) have an intermediate level of 8 Stepping Up program is a bridging/pre-employment program designed to address language, acculturation, employment and violence against women issues. 9 A refugee is any person, who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to that country (1961 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, cited in Canada Immigration and Protection Act, 2001). 34 E n g l i s h 1 0 . Consequent ly , immigrant women who were sponsored by their spouse or those who came as independent immigrants (accepted based on the point system) were exc luded from the sample as they fell under a different category in the Immigration Act. A stratified sampl ing was used to select only those who met the criteria. From the stratified sample , 40 prospective participants were randomly selected and sent letters of invitation for the study. In addit ion to the purpose of the study and detai ls about the focus group or individual interview, the letter indicated a te lephone number to call if the woman decided to participate and a statement that participation or non-participation in the study would not affect current or future a c c e s s to other ISS programs and serv ices. Th is p rocess gave the women a cho ice of participating or not participating in the study; thus, address ing the issue of conflict of interest and coerc ion. In order to address representat ion bias, a max imum of 10 participants were randomly selected from the positive responses . Subsequent ly , follow up cal ls were made as prospect ive participants had quest ions about the study. In the second stage of recruitment, flyers were sent out and dropped off at communi ty centres, neighbourhood houses, multicultural agenc ies , l ibraries, ethnic markets and p laces of worship such as mosques , churches, synagogues and temples. Nine refugee women responded to the flyer, four on their own and five through their support workers. Four women chose to participate only in the 1 0 As determined by program eligibility: completed level 3 of the English Language Services for Adults (ELSA) or able to converse in English without using an interpreter. 35 individual interview and the other four were interested only in the focus group. O n e woman participated in both the individual interview and the focus group. Table 3.1: S o u r c e s of Referrals N u m b e r of Part ic ipants N=16 # % Referred by Serv ice Providers 6 37.5 Responded to letter of invitation 6 37.5 Self-referral ( responded to flyer) 4 25.0 3.2.3 Data A s ment ioned earlier, I used a narrative approach to facilitate the recounting of refugee women 's exper iences, generat ing stories through two focus groups and individual interviews. Prior to the "storytelling" part of the focus group, the women d iscussed some ground rules that addressed issues of confidentiality and d isc losures, as well as guidel ines on group interaction. I expla ined that due to the nature of focus groups, confidentiality and anonymity could not be guaranteed (Krueger and Casey , 2002). However, this did not s e e m to c a u s e anxiety among the participants. W h e n asked if they would like to review the transcription of the focus group d iscuss ions, all the women in the first focus group decl ined but requested cop ies of the taped group interview, referring to it a s an important memento of their shared exper ience. However, all the part icipants of the second focus group requested cop ies of the transcript. I a lso asked if the participants would like to read a copy of the draft thesis before 36 f inalizing it; only five participants expressed interest. Commen ts of those who reviewed a first report on the f indings were incorporated in this thesis. The participants of both focus groups chose to meet at ISS as the location w a s access ib le by public transportation. Before commenc ing the focus group/individual interview, the women signed a written consent form which outl ined the purpose of the study, and the duration of the focus group/individual interview, location, t ime and date of the focus group/individual interview; it a lso provided information about reimbursements for chi ldcare and/or transportation. In both focus groups, a trained counsel lor was avai lable on site, in c a s e a participant felt d is t ressed and requested support. For the individual interview, each participant w a s given a list of resources (see appendix for D V card), in the event that she felt the need to s e e a counsel lor or seek support. I a lso used procedural consent during the focus group and individual interviews to ensure that the participant(s) was/were willing to continue. In both the focus group and individual interviews, the participants were informed of their right to stop the interview when feeling d is t ressed. Al l these were included in the consent form, which was reviewed prior to commenc ing the focus group or individual interview. The themes for both the focus groups and individual interviews covered post migration exper iences such as : • types of programs and/or serv ices utilized for various reasons or needs • support networks a c c e s s e d for self, children and family in general • soc ia l roles including traditional roles from the country of origin and emerging roles resulting from acculturation as well as coping strategies. 37 In both focus group and individual interviews, I facilitated the recounting of the women ' s stories by asking open-ended quest ions to assist in the recollection of past or current exper iences of seeking help. The assumpt ion in this p rocess was that the refugee women or the participants of the study are socia l actors who have made dec is ions about whether or not to seek help, where and how to seek help to address various needs. I conducted two focus groups for this thesis. Both were well received by the participants. It appears that sharing of post migration exper iences in a group setting al lows refugee women to learn from each other, val idate each other's feel ings and express support for common concerns (Morgan, 1998, cited in Madr iz , 2003 , pp. 363-364; Krueger and C a s e y , 2002). A s well , with the help of a skil led and exper ienced facilitator, multiple l ines of communicat ion such as express ions of agreement, support and dissent were generated through the use of the focus group. A s a result, participants felt safe in shar ing their stories and ideas. Not only did the focus group serve as an efficient way of gathering information over a short period of t ime, but more importantly, it enabled the researcher to observe a "collective human interaction" (Madriz, 2003 , p. 365) which was manifested in verbal and/or non-verbal interactions. S u c h observat ion was useful in gaining insights into the women 's ability to validate other women 's exper iences, support each other and at t imes chal lenge someone ' s posit ion. Non-verbal cues were rich sources of emotional triggers, non-verbal ised needs and emotional at tachments to certain ideas or issues. 38 The individual interviews, offered as an alternative to a focus group, explored the r ichness of a particular exper ience that shed some light into the construct ion of help-seeking images and emerging patterns of seek ing help. A s wel l , the individual interview provided the women an opportunity to not only relate their story but more importantly to reflect on the significant events in their post-migration life in C a n a d a . The women, who chose to participate in individual interviews, were interviewed in their home as they felt more comfortable telling their stories in a setting of their choice. The individual interview gave each participant an opportunity to share her unique exper ience as well as her own percept ions and feel ings about post migration themes. 3.2.4 Background of Participants There were sixteen refugee women who participated in the study. They c a m e from e leven countr ies; namely, E l Salvador , Gua tema la , Mex ico , Eri trea, Phi l ippines, S u d a n , Afghanistan, A lban ia , V ie tnam, Ethiopia, and Iraq (see Tab le 3.2). Twelve of the women were single mothers, two were married and had chi ldren, and the remaining two were single and chi ld less. The single mothers had two to five chi ldren and the married participants had one to two chi ldren. The number of years that they have been in C a n a d a ranges from three to twenty. The languages they spoke included Span ish , Arabic , Taga log , Amhar ic , Tigrinia, D inka, Pers ian , Pash tu , Turk ish, Serb ian , Croat ian, Hungar ian, V ie tnamese , and Kurd ish. Of the sixteen women , all but three were working in the labour market at the t ime of the interview/focus group, and as they descr ibe it, "free from welfare". Two of the remaining three women were on disability benefits and one was 39 unable to receive welfare because she was receiving some child support from her ex -husband, which when combined with the child tax benefit slightly exceeded the welfare rate for a single mother with three chi ldren. The majority of the participants (81%) landed in British Co lumb ia ; nineteen percent landed in other provinces then moved to British Co lumbia . Table 3.2: Country of Origin Country of Origin # of Participants N=16 Percentage (%) 1. Afghanistan 1 6 % 2. A lban ia 3 1 9 % 3. El Sa lvador 2 1 3 % 4. Eritrea 1 6 % 5. Ethiopia 1 6 % 6. Gua tema la 1 6 % 7. Iraq 1 6 % 8. Mexico 1 6 % 9. Phi l ippines 1 6 % 10. S u d a n 3 1 9 % 11. V ie tnam 1 6 % The countr ies of origin of the participants spanned five different regions in the world: Middle East , Afr ica, Southeast A s i a , Latin Amer i ca , and Eastern Europe. The diversity in ethnicity was reflected in the women ' d iverse worldview a s illustrated in their rich narratives. S u c h a diverse sample contributed to the breadth and strength of the study. 3.2.5 Data Analysis The stories shared by the refugee women were ana lyzed using two strategies of analys is : holistic and categorization (Liebl ich, 1998). A holistic analys is provided a global view of each story in its entirety, f ramed in three parts: beginning, middle and end. This strategy was helpful in understanding the overall experience of seeking help and in gaining some insights into the meanings the refugee women ascribed to their experiences. In addition, categorization was helpful in clustering the common themes that emerged in the focus groups and interviews. A coding system was developed to assist in the analysis of the data. Of particular interest were the influences of the contextual variables discussed in chapter two. Codes were assigned to each of these variables. As mentioned in chapter 1, the following questions framed the narrative analysis: how do gender roles - as shaped by cultural practices, beliefs and tradition from the country of origin and emerging roles from the process of acculturation - influence the help seeking experiences of refugee women? What do these stories mean? How do refugee women construct their world? What meaning(s) do they ascribe to these experiences? How do they view themselves when they decide whether or not to seek help? Do they consider themselves as victims or passive recipients of services? Or do they view themselves as proactive social agents, making conscious decisions to seek help or not? What images do they ascribe to their help-seeking experiences? These are key questions that guided the analysis of the women's narratives. As the concept of trauma was not explicitly articulated in the stories, I explored the women's experiences in terms of how the story was told. Was the story narrated in chronological order or was it episodic? Episodic refers to a story that was told not in chronological order but from the point of view of a significant 41 event or exper ience, such as abandonment , wi tnessing the death of a loved one, which is v iewed as traumatic events (R iessman and Quinney, 2005; J o s s e l s o n and Liebl ich, 1993). The emerging themes were also examined using the social ist feminist perspect ive on c lass . For example , the notion of state survei l lance of people on welfare will be d i scussed in chapter four. Important quest ions asked were: How were the refugee women able to a c c e s s certain serv ices? W e r e the serv ices f ree? W e r e the serv ices del ivered in their first language? If they chose not to seek help, what were their reasons? W e r e there barriers to seeking he lp? What were the barriers to seek ing help? More importantly, the women 's ability to survive and in most c a s e s overcome adversity w a s recognized using the concept of socia l agency; that is, women ' s exper iences were v iewed in terms of coping and acculturation ski l ls. Soc ia l agency (Nicholson & Kay, 1999; Sa leeby, 1992, cited in Bel l , 2003) refers to the strengths of the subjects and their resistance to the label of "victim" or being v iewed as pass ive recipients of serv ices and programs (Ong, 2003). 3.3 Narrative Analysis R i e s s m a n (2002) descr ibes the narrative analys is as a "methodological approach [that] examines the informant's story and ana lyzes how it is put together, the linguistic and cultural resources it draws from, and how it persuades a l istener of authenticity" (p. 218). Liebl ich, et al (1998) propose two intersecting d imens ions of the narrative analys is, form and content, which are further subdiv ided into four modes of analysis, namely, holistic-content, categor ical -42 content, holistic-form and categorical-form. A s mentioned earlier, the stories of the refugee women were ana lyzed using two strategies of analys is : holistic and categorizat ion (Liebl ich, 1998). A holistic analys is gave a global v iew of each story a s a whole, identifying the sequence of the story -- beginning, middle and end - when appl icable. The global impression views the form of the story, that is, how the story is told, chronological or episodic or logical whereas major or emerging themes are extricated from content or categor ies arising from the stories. The women 's stories are also analyzed in terms of how the story is put together, identifying "linguistic and cultural resources it draws from, and how it pe rsuades a l istener of authenticity" (R iessman , 2002). Th is strategy is helpful in understanding the overall exper ience of seeking help and the meaning(s) the refugee women ascr ibe to their exper iences. Both global impressions and major themes are descr ibed and d iscussed in chapter four on He lp -Seek ing Exper iences and Patterns. 3.4 E t h i c a l a n d Va l i d i t y I s s u e s In this study, I emphas ized the importance of women 's "voices", their perspect ives and their stories. By using a narrative approach, I w a s able to generate the data that provided insights into the research quest ion, which is to examine the help-seeking exper iences of refugee women and then extricate var ious strategies of acculturation, broadly defined to include resi l ience, res istance and reconstruction of roles. A s well , I have gained insights into the interplay of the contextual var iables of gender, c lass , culture and trauma in their dec is ions to seek help. A s d iscussed in the analys is component , the participants' 43 diverse exper iences were ana lyzed within the context of resi l ience, resistance, and reconstruction of identities, all of which inform the notion of socia l agency. Al though I admit that the interpretation of the women 's stories is mine, I hope that the representat ion of their "voices" is respectful. A s I ponder on the important quest ions of voice, representat ion, power, and attempt to make explicit ethical considerat ions, I do acknowledge that I a m in a position of privilege and power, one that enab les me to conduct a study on refugee women 's exper iences, listen to their stories and attempt to "give voice" to their exper iences. The narrative approach is one of many ways to recognize the refugee women 's courage and resi l ience in situations of adversity as this approach situates the women in the centre, giving them opportunit ies to "perform" their storied l ives. They choose events that have meaning for them and they thread their stories according to their s igni f icance ac ross time, spanning physical and emotional spaces . S u c h is the power of narratives. During the interview process , I reflected on my role as researcher and my react ions to the women 's stories. A difficult quest ion that I grappled with w a s which part or sect ions of the story do I weave into the thes is? A corol lary quest ion was , who would benefit from my choice of what to include or exc lude? A s wel l , an ethical d i lemma came up with the issue of "power" which arose from my posit ion as project manager of the Stepping Up program. 1 1 This d i lemma w a s addressed earlier under the sect ion on methodology where I addressed the issue of coerc ion due to my previous relationship with the past cl ients as project ' 1 Stepping Up program is a bridging and pre-employment program for immigrant and refugee women who are survivors of abuse and receiving provincial welfare. 44 manager through a sampl ing strategy that gave the prospect ive participants a cho ice of participating or not. Whi le the issue of coerc ion may have been resolved, the issue of "power" by virtue of my position was not add ressed . My attempt to resolve this issue was to give the participants various opportunit ies to review the transcripts and suggest themes and categor ies that are meaningful for them. However, only some of the participants expressed interest in reviewing the transcript. The rest of the participants preferred to have a copy of the taped interview or hard copy of their transcript. To honour their request, I made cop ies of the taped interviews for all the participants and they were very grateful for this memento. I a lso acknowledged my position of "power" when I facilitated the focus group and conducted the interviews. I gave the participants opportunit ies to express their concerns about the power differential prior to the commencement of the focus groups or individual interviews. A s wel l , Rist 's (2003) article on the uses of research has been instructive. He proposes a reconsiderat ion of the understanding of dec is ion making in the policy process by explor ing the policy cyc le . He suggests that knowledge generated through qualitative research be linked to e a c h phase of the policy cyc le: formulation, implementat ion and accountabil i ty. A s stated earlier in the introduction, one of the purposes of the research is to inform organizat ional policy and influence funding policy for programs and serv ices for refugee women. Consequent ly , pertinent portions of this thesis will be incorporated in the funding proposal for the Stepping Up program in the Spr ing of 2008 where a sect ion on outreach and expanding socia l supports in the community will be added to the program. 4 5 Moreover, I plan to send a copy of this thesis to other government Ministr ies such as the Ministry of Chi ldren and Fami ly Development, Ministry of Attorney Gene ra l , Ministry of Employment and Income Ass i s tance , and the Ministry of Communi ty and W o m e n Serv ices . In addit ion, I will submit a report vers ion of this thesis to planners of the 2007 Mental Health Sympos ium in Vancouve r as well as the Canad ian Counci l for Re fugees , all in the hope of promoting awareness on the help-seeking patterns of refugee women . I a m aware that I cannot general ize the findings to the wider population of refugee w o m e n due to var ious limitations of the study. A s well , I recognize the diversity even among those who belong to the same ethnic group. However , the r ichness of the stories gathered enab les me to debunk some myths about the help-seek ing patterns of refugee women in the Greater Vancouver a rea . The majority of the participants seek help from the immediate network of family, fr iends and religious leaders before seek ing help from multicultural community agenc ies such as the Immigrant Serv ices Society of B C (ISS) and M O S A I C , neighbourhood houses , and daycare centres. They actively seek for serv ice providers who speak their first language. In terms of validity, the r ichness of the refugee women 's stories or personal narratives offers valuable insights that will inform program des ign and del ivery for refugee women . Their stories not only reveal the "complexity and r ichness" of their exper iences but more importantly, the refugee women 's "agency", their strength and resi l ience (Powles, 2004). In this regard, Drover and Kerans ' (1993) proposit ions are instructive as they suggest that c la ims or funding 46 fo r s o c i a l s e r v i c e s n e e d to b e m a d e w i th in the c o n t e x t o f s o c i a l a c t i o n , b a s e d o n t he c l i en t s ' l i ved e x p e r i e n c e s a n d p e r c e p t i o n s of n e e d . D r a w i n g f r o m th is a p p r o a c h , p a s t p r o g r a m pa r t i c i pan ts c a n b e g i v e n oppo r t un i t i e s to pa r t i c i pa te in d e c i s i o n - m a k i n g p r o c e s s e s s u c h a s a n a d v i s o r y c o m m i t t e e w h e r e t h e y c a n g i v e v a l u a b l e input o n p r o g r a m c o m p o n e n t s a n d o u t c o m e s . F o r cu r ren t p r o g r a m pa r t i c i pan t s , v a r i o u s t a s k s c a n b e in teg ra ted in t he p r o g r a m that g i v e s t he w o m e n o p p o r t u n i t i e s to d e v e l o p a n d bu i ld the i r c a p a c i t i e s s u c h a s n e e d iden t i f i ca t ion a n d a m a s t e r y of l a n g u a g e fo r e x p r e s s i n g the i r n e e d s . In a d d i t i o n , the w o m e n c a n s u g g e s t p o s s i b l e s o l u t i o n s to m e e t the i r n e e d s . If g i v e n t he oppo r tun i t y to ident i fy the i r o w n n e e d s a n d p r o p o s e s o l u t i o n s , ' c l i en ts ' b e c o m e ' ac to r s ' o r a c t i v e pa r t i c i pan t s , i n s t e a d of b e i n g p a s s i v e r ec i p i en t s of s e r v i c e s . T h e s e i d e a s wil l b e i n c l u d e d in c h a p t e r s ix , o n i m p l i c a t i o n s o n po l i cy , p r o g r a m d e s i g n a n d d e l i v e r y . 47 4 H E L P - S E E K I N G E X P E R I E N C E S A N D P A T T E R N S In chapter 1, under the sect ion on personal interest, I articulated my rationale for exploring help-seeking exper iences ( H S E ) of refugee w o m e n as the entry point of this thesis. The question that I posed was : why do refugee women seek help from institutional or formal helping organizat ions for certain needs such as training and employment programs at a later stage in their sett lement and integration journey? The help seek ing exper iences of the participants of this thesis provided some c lues or insights into refugee women 's ways of making s e n s e or ascr ibing meaning to their exper iences. S ince this thesis uses a narrative approach, I chose to present the f indings in terms of a global or holistic view (Liebl ich, 1998) in order to capture the plot of the story and the overriding theme(s). The types of narratives that follow illustrate the overal l structure and development of the stories. Th is chapter culminates in a d iscuss ion of the common themes that emerged in both focus groups and individual interviews. The f indings of this thesis are divided into two major themes: a) help-seek ing exper iences and patterns, and b) images and metaphors of resi l ience, res istance and reconstruction of identities. This chapter d i scusses the help-seek ing exper iences and patterns of refugee women in the Greater Vancouve r a rea . Chapter 5 descr ibes and ana lyzes the metaphors and images articulated in the women 's narratives. 48 4.1 F i n d i n g s of the S t u d y 4.1.1 G loba l /Ho l is t ic V iew of H S E Whi le the help-seeking exper iences of the women in the study were diverse and complex, patterns emerged as a result of the mapping out of their exper iences according to the number of years they have been in C a n a d a at the time of a particular exper ience. Thus , women 's exper iences were divided into four clusters: 0 - 1 , 1-3, 3-6, over 6 years. A s mentioned in chapter 1, these clusters cover only the post migration exper iences of the women in C a n a d a , and in particular, the Greater Vancouver area in British Co lumbia . 4.1.1.1 0 to 1 Y e a r The initial help-seeking exper iences of all the participants of the study revolved around institutional or formal serv ices such as the Ci t izenship and Immigration local off ices and an immigrant-serving agency [Immigrant Serv ices Soc ie ty of B C (ISS)] that provided short-term housing and resett lement serv ices at the W e l c o m e House . Three of the sixteen participants landed outside of British Co lumb ia (BC) but they did not use the serv ices of immigrant-serving agenc ies as they had relatives who provided housing for them. However, they received f inancial ass is tance from the Ci t izenship and Immigration office for one year. O n e w o m a n landed in B C but stayed in rental housing, which was prepared for her and her family by her brother-in-law. During this period, over 6 3 % (see table 3) of the w o m e n obtained information about Engl ish c lasses , formerly known as the Language Instruction for N e w C o m e r s (LINC), and currently referred to as , Engl ish Language Serv ices 49 for Adul ts ( E L S A ) , from the ISS We l come House . For these women , the E S L journey began early. S ix of the remaining seven women explored language upgrading and/or grade 12 equivalent courses at the school board in their a rea . Finally, one participant stayed home with her chi ldren but she was able to function in Engl ish as she studied Engl ish in her country of origin. Of significant importance is the pattern that emerged from the women 's narratives, that while they were seeking or receiving help from the Immigration office and W e l c o m e House , they also actively sought help from their informal networks in the community, usually from extended family, fr iends and people from the s a m e ethnic group. O n e participant indicated that, "I talked to any Afr ican people I see on the street and I ask them where to buy Afr ican food". Another participant went to churches to find Span ish-speak ing people with whom to soc ia l ize and ask about p laces to go with her chi ldren. A single mother who moved to B C because her chi ldren were a lways sick as a result of f reezing temperatures, contacted a friend of her sister's to find housing then sought the help of welfare ass is tance. T h e s e are but a few of the examples that suggest w o m e n sought help from their informal socia l networks at the s a m e time as they sought the help from institutional and social service organizat ions. The following table is a summary of the help-seeking exper iences of the refugee women who participated in the study. It is divided into three groups: 1) informal networks which included family, fr iends and ethnic community; 2 ) communi ty networks including neighbourhood houses , community centres and immigrant-serving agenc ies ; 3) formal institutional networks such as Ci t izenship 50 & Immigration Centre, H R D C (now Serv ice Canada) , Ministry of Human R e s o u r c e s and p laces of worship. The numbers in each row indicate the number of participants who sought the help of the person(s) and/or agency. Table 4.1 Help-Seeking Experiences of Refugee Women in the Greater Vancouver Area N=16 * F G #1 F G #2 **P# 1 P# 2 P# 3 P# 4 P# 5 P# 6 P# 7 Ttl % INFORMAL N E T W O R K S Friends/Kind Strangers 2 4 1 1 1 1 1 11 69 Relatives/Extended Family 2 4 1 1 1 1 10 63 Ethnic Community 3 4 1 1 1 1 1 11 69 COMMUNITY N E T W O R K S Peer Support/ Support Group 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 9 56 Community Centre/ Neighbourhood H. 7 3 10 63 Imm.-serving Agencies (ISS, MOSAIC, etc.) 5 5 1 1 1 1 15 94 Job Finding Clubs/ Training Programs 3 1 1 1 6 38 ESL /EAL /GED/Pos t -Secondary Education 5 5 1 1 1 1 1 1 15 94 F O R M A L / INSTITUTIONAL N E T W O R K S Gov't Agencies - CIC*** HRDC*** * , Ministry of Human Resources 5 5 1 1 1 1 1 1 16 100 Places of worship: Churches, Temples, Mosques 4 , 1 1 1 1 1 9 56 Hospital/Clinic/ Family Dr/ Psychiatrist/Counsellor 1 2 1 1 5 31 Public Library 4 3 1 1 1 10 63 Volunteer Centre/ Services 3 4 1 1 1 1 11 69 *FG - Focus Group **P - Participant *** CIC -Citizenship & Immigration Centre ****HRDC - Human Resources & Development Canada (now Service Canada) 51 4.1.1.2 1-3 Y e a r s Pas t the one year period, fifteen of the participants [14 were government-ass is ted refugees ( G A R s ) and 1 was a refugee claimant who obtained refugee status in Canada ] moved from federal to provincial socia l ass is tance (welfare). O n e G A R woman was not eligible for welfare because her child support payments and child tax benefit combined exceeded the ceil ing set by the Ministry of Soc ia l Serv ices . Whi le on federal or later provincial ass is tance, the w o m e n cont inued to seek help from informal social networks. T e n of the sixteen participants (63%) relied on their family for various sett lement needs such as housing, information about jobs, health care, school for the children and E S L for themselves, banking, transportation needs, among others, as well as emotional support. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of the participants turned to their fr iends for help with sett lement needs and emotional support. Fifty-six percent (56%) sought and received help for bas ic necessi t ies such as housing, food, clothing and information about schoo ls and medical serv ices from religious institutions including churches of various denominat ions, mosques and temples. Three w o m e n were co-sponsored by Christ ian churches that ass is ted them with housing and other bas ic needs such as food and clothing, as well as finding E S L c l asses for the women and schoo ls for the chi ldren. Most of the w o m e n (69%) reached out to their ethnic communit ies for socia l activities and specia l celebrat ions that made them feel "at home" in C a n a d a . E leven of the women (69%) volunteered in var ious community agenc ies to improve their Engl ish language skil ls, meet other people, explore job 52 opportunities, and to give back to the community. Vo lunteer work included interpretation for newcomers , and assist ing with recreational activities in a facility for seniors, daycare program for E S L c lasses , activities for school age children and programs in a penitentiary facility. Four women received help and support from the primary schoo ls that their children attended such as subsid ized bus serv ice, after schoo l care, food, clothing, and school suppl ies. Accord ing to the women , although they did not ask for help from the chi ldren's schoo l , subsid ized serv ices were offered and donations were col lected for the children by school principal and teachers. 4.1.1.3 3 - 6 Years During this period, 3 8 % of the women sought training and job-finding club programs in immigrant-serving agenc ies , 9 4 % registered in E S L / E A L c lasses , language upgrading, courses for grade 12 equivalency and post-secondary education in order to pursue independence from provincial ass is tance or welfare. This process involved negotiations with government agenc ies such as the Ministry of Soc ia l Serv ices (generic name as the name changed many t imes over the last ten years) , and Human Resources Development C a n a d a ( H R D C ; now Serv ice Canada ) for f inancial ass is tance. S o m e exper iences were not helpful, as one participant who c a m e with her husband and her two young children indicated, [It] was such a bad exper ience. . . , it was bordering on rude. Maybe it wasn' t directly cold and rejecting... To this day I don't know how those people [can get] employment there. They have no people skil ls. They have no tolerance of any k ind. . . In this kind of lower main land, they have to be aware that... this is [a] multicultural p lace. [They] have no tolerance at all 53 for your language barr iers.. . S o H R D C [was] very, very bad . . . Immigration is, in my opinion, is better but still there is an invisible wall... F o c u s Group Part icipant W h e n asked what she meant by an "invisible wall", she replied that discrimination was subtle. S h e felt that refugees were treated differently from independent and economic c lass immigrants who got their landed status prior to their migration to C a n a d a . Until she obtained her landed status, she had to apply for a work permit and student permit. Another participant who came to C a n a d a as a single young adult with her parents and her brother descr ibed her exper ience with the British Co lumb ia Wel fare system I don't want to talk about hard t imes but ... it comes to you, with the welfare office. I think that all the stress I got from there. It's not only me but my family as well . S o every time anything happens, any letter c o m e s . . . you're going through [a] nightmare. And really a nightmare! S o from there you have to go and see a doctor and that's when I real ized that we really need a family doctor. Like I was thinking at the beginning we don't need one. S o why do we need a family doctor? Just to talk to somebody , you know, what I'm going through. I can't s leep and I'm thinking about this. It's nothing that I'm able to do and I'm not doing. It's out of my hands, like what they want. . . go and find work, no matter what, anything. Of course I understand [that] every work, honest work is work that I value. But some understanding would be... really human, to give a chance to someone to make some contact and to learn. . . [about] the sys tem. . . I got really s t ressed out and depressed . F o c u s Group Participant The above quote is a compel l ing narrative of frustration, confusion and a plea for understanding and better treatment by workers in a helping institution. S h e was referred to var ious programs including language upgrading and job c lubs and 54 was pressured to find paid employment. Her volunteer work in an immigrant-serving agency which eventually led to a paid job was not recognized as valuable contribution to the bigger community. Both quotes suggest that the women encountered systemic barriers as exempli f ied by an "invisible wall" in the Immigration office and the "nightmare" in deal ing with welfare workers. T h e s e two governmental helping institutions showed a lack of understanding of the issues and cha l lenges that refugee w o m e n face in their settlement journey; hence, the plea for "some understanding. . . [and] a chance to learn [about] the sys tem" and respectful treatment as human beings. 4.1.1.4 O v e r 6 Y e a r s O n e participant who became a single mother with two chi ldren navigated the schoo l sys tem and completed a university degree. S h e found that despite her degree she cont inues to struggle with employment and wove in and out of federal and provincial ass is tance in order to support her two chi ldren. Most of the participants (81%) were working outside the home at the time of the focus groups or interviews, two were receiving short-term (Persons with Persistent Multiple Barr iers - P P M B ) and long-term disability benefits (Persons with Disabil i ty -P W D ) respectively, and one who was not eligible for welfare was living on child support payments and child tax benefit. Of the 1 3 employed participants, four were employed as service providers with immigrant-serving agenc ies . A s one of them descr ibed, The work that we do, helping other immigrants and refugees is very important but we don't get good pay. W e don't mind because we are 55 helping those in need, especial ly newcomers. W e don't want them to exper ience what we exper ienced. But we also need recognit ion for our work and [a] bit more money because we are only surviving, not living, even if we have been in this country for a long time. Quote from a participant Al though the majority of the women were working in the public sphere, the type of jobs that they did can be character ized as an extension of their caring roles performed in the private sphere (Bui, 2003; Waxier -Morr ison, et a l , 1993; Burstyn, 1985). For example , caring for residents in senior facilit ies, managing a family daycare , housekeeping in a hotel, care facility or hospital, preparing food and d ishwash ing, providing support, and counsel l ing to new immigrants and refugees, and coordinating and training peer support groups in immigrant-serving agenc ies can all be v iewed as "caring" roles stereotypically attributed to women . Of the 13 women who were in the workforce, twelve were doing car ing roles in the public sphere in addit ion to their caring roles at home. Feminis ts descr ibe this situation as "double burden", "double day" or "double bind" (Jamieson , 1995; Luxton and Reiter, 1997) where women not only work in the public sphere (a sphere ideological ly or culturally reserved for men) for a wage but a lso carry the addit ional burden of performing most of the unpaid work in the private sphere. It appears that w o m e n are performing traditionally def ined "feminine" caring roles in both the private and public spheres. In some c a s e s , w o m e n may have to neglect or relegate caring job to another woman in order to provide caring in the public sphere for a wage. The following quote illustrates this. [Since] I start to go to work [as a C a r e Aide], I have hard time b e c a u s e . . . when [I] go to work, [I am] not totally in full-t ime... [I] have to go like a part-t ime or regular for the meant ime. . . Somet imes they call me at night time 56 and I just giv[e] everywhere my daughter... [I'm] really frustrated because... I have to pay [for] a babysitter. Quote from a participant The question then is: to what extent is this "double burden" the result of the systemic relegation of women to traditional roles? Do government and non-profit agencies push women towards these types of jobs? Or is it a case of the women being limited by their historical (pre-migration) roles as caregivers? Or is it a combination of both? As well, the inherent systemic racism and the reality of the capitalist global division of labour, which dictates that people from so-called developing or under-developed countries constitute a cheap source of labour and tend to be relegated to performing the least "desirable", less prestigious, "inferior" jobs, many of which are considered "women's work". To what extent does this, which is part of the pre-migration experiences, come into play? Some of the narratives may give some insights into these questions. The "double burden" that women experienced, in particular the four women who became service providers, also included volunteer work (unpaid) in the community, building alliances with like-minded individuals to effect a stronger voice in protesting cuts to social services. The two women who were on disability benefits and the woman who was relying on supports from her ex-husband and child tax benefits were also volunteering in their children's school, and community agencies. The notion of volunteer work suggests the exercise of social agency, where women are making conscious decisions to participate in community activities that benefit immigrant and refugee families in general. A change in worldview or way of thinking that casts women's roles beyond 57 traditional ones may also indicate socia l agency. The following quote gives insights into a participant's view of the "world", one who has begun to reconstruct her identity as a woman in C a n a d a . [Women] can do many, any kind of job, especial ly in my situation [being a single mother], you can't feed your chi ldren. S o m e b o d y say[s], go for construct ion, no problem.. . [She] can earn enough money that she can pay [her] chi ldren's schoo l , rent, [buy food].. . [Working] in a store is n ice . . . for people who have somebody to pay an apartment for them or like a few girls living together, but the salary is not enough if you [have] only one salary. But if you educate [a] woman . . . [to be a painter] painting houses or bus dr ivers. . . something that [doesn't] require high level [of language] ... she can make money to live on [her] own . . . Quote from a participant Th is participant is a C a r e A ide and is planning to pursue nursing in order to have better income. However, she real izes that a profession in trades, which has been predominantly male, would benefit women financially as the wage can be triple or four t imes the British Co lumbia minimum wage ($8.00 per hour ) 1 2 . A l though she doesn' t s e e m to see herself in trades as her long-term goal is to be a nurse, a profession that is predominantly female, she recommends educat ion and training for women in trades. It is important to note that the women 's help-seeking exper iences over lapped the neat clusters: 0 to 1 year, 1 to 3 years, over 3 to 6 years, and over 6 years. A s they found information, they explored and negotiated for a c c e s s to var ious serv ices and programs as well as gave back to the larger communi ty through their volunteer work, going beyond the clusters. For example , the w o m a n who navigated provincial welfare and employment insurance (federal) 1 2 Fact Sheet on Minimum Wage, Ministry of Labour, retrieved April 5, 2007 from http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca 58 t ranscended the clusters. S h e demonstrated her agency in terms of exercising her rights as a contributor and a cit izen entitled to support in t imes of need. The diagram below summar izes the help-seeking patterns and themes that emerged in the study and illustrates the connect ions between the key areas of help-seeking. Diagram 4 .1 : H S E Patterns Mental Financial 4.1.2 T y p e s of Narrative Of the 16 participants, 13 women (81%) told their stories in a chronological manner. They narrated their stories from the time of their arrival (beginning) in C a n a d a , according to the clustered years , and then they remembered significant events within the next cluster of years (middle of the story), ending their narrative in the hope for a better future for themselves and above all, for their chi ldren. The structure and development of the narratives seem to indicate a settlement and integration journey in C a n a d a where they 59 s e e m to indicate a settlement and integration journey in C a n a d a where they descr ibed how the significant events impacted their lives and how these events subsequent ly shaped their situations at various s tages of their journey. Al though they al luded to pre-migration exper iences that were significant, they did not focus on "past pain"; instead they descr ibed how they overcame the cha l lenges of the past, which in s o m e ways inf luenced their choice of employment or vo lun teer , work. Th is is especia l ly true for those who had lived in C a n a d a for over ten years and had subsequent ly become service providers themselves. The following quotes encapsula te examples of chronological narratives, Initial Stage: Settlement W h e n I came to C a n a d a , I lived at the We l come House . . . and a friend of mine came and he helped and introduced me to his wife and I met a lot of Ethiopians and my problem was finding affordable housing or a room. . . We ' re supposed to live in We l come House for two weeks , but a s a single person without income it was very difficult to find a room. S o fr iends of mine, they helped me to find a room and we became good fr iends. S o we were support ing each other... They came earlier than me so they were giving me information [on] how to find employment, how to live in C a n a d a , .. .[but] they [didn't] know much about service providers. They didn't use . . . agenc ies . . . to find housing or employment. They found employment on their own so they were giving me those c lues. Quote from a participant Second Stage: Beginning to Navigate Helping Systems After I f inished my E S L program, I went [to the] Stepping Up Program. W h e n I started [this] program.. . the dooor was open for me . . . [W]hen I f inished the Stepping Up program, [I took] the Resident C a r e A id program at Immigrant Serv ices Society. [Now] I work at Everett House , [a senior care facility]... I went to Dania Home because I [did volunteer] work there and I gave my resume [to] the supervisor. . . They didn't call me . . . I cal led and I asked them. They said that, "we don't need anybody for three months." I will go tomorrow to Roya l Co lumbian Hospital because I [did volunteer] work there for one and a half years, in the maternity ward. 60 Quote from a participant Third Stage: Flirting with Integration I run my own daycare s ince I left ISS. [It] was not easy because I only started with one chi ld. I get $404 monthly. And I have to pay my bill. It's not easy . . . I went to ask welfare to help me with more money to pay my bi l ls. . . They [asked] me to take receipt from [the] bank for everything.. . They didn't help me. One day I speak to the mother of the ch i ld . . . I sa id , "you left your son from 8 am to 6 pm, 10 hours and the money is only $404. It's no good benefit for me. Y o u have to pay $200 more because it's not enough." And so she d id . . . I get two after school chi ldren. . . they paid $200 [each]. And another child came somet imes; they pay $4 for an hour.. . And then I left welfare. I feel happy because I help [other] women who need to work.. . I know everybody needs help. Quote from a participant The above sequence suggests a complex and dynamic process that forms the backdrop of interactions between refugee women, ethnic communit ies, helping institutions and community agenc ies . The interactions are "translated" into negotiat ions to address various needs such as housing, language c lasses , training for jobs and employment, among other others. The strategies to seek or not seek help s e e m to change over time, depending on var ious factors including f inancial independence (paid employment) and a sense of "belonging". The key quest ion is: Where is "home"? If C a n a d a is v iewed as "home", then the notions of rights, entit lements, participation and responsibil i t ies are embraced , which may be v iewed as indicators of integration (Israelite, et a l , 1999). The stories of the remaining three women unfolded in an episodic manner. O n e story revolved around two events: the al legation of child abuse and neglect which prompted an investigation by the Ministry for Chi ldren Fami ly and 61 Development ( M C F D ) and the trauma of losing her parents and sibl ings during the war. In the first part of her story, she spoke extensively about the var ious s t resses of her life: doing shift work in a hotel as a room attendant, not earning enough money for bas ic needs, caring for her two sons on her own and inaccess ib le chi ldcare for her chi ldren especial ly in the evenings and weekends . W h e n someone reported her to M C F D , a social worker and a police officer came to see her regularly, resulting in her frequent absence from work. Her body internalized the stress and she became physical ly ill. S o her employer laid her off. S h e went back on welfare and stayed home with her chi ldren. Her son w a s not apprehended by the socia l worker but she was required to attend parenting courses . S h e became more involved in the daycare of her younger son as he w a s showing behavioural problems. Wel l , my first year in C a n a d a , I'm a student right now. I'm in schoo l . . . to continue to learn more. Before I get to Stepping Up in ISS and I get a resume and I try to work before in a hotel . . . Right now, I'm not working and I go back to school to get more information. Maybe I will get it, a little life after, when I finish this schoo l . Right now, I keep working with the Ministry and the Ministry get involved with me and I have a socia l worker from financial [welfare office] and I have a socia l worker from Ministry for Chi ldren and Fami ly and I have my family doctor, we solve problem together. S o when I have a problem,. . . my family doctor working with me . . . [M]y son [has a] prob lem. . . and I'm sick of hard work in a hotel and the family doctor [wrote] a letter to [help] me [get] support. . . Right now, I think I know where I am going and everything is fine. I know where I get support. Quote from a participant Whi le going through this transitional phase, she was suffering in s i lence for her profound losses , particularly the loss of her extended family. S h e wonders if they were still al ive, and if so, where could they possibly be? They fled S u d a n on foot 62 and got separated in the process of crossing bordering countr ies. S h e cal led this memory a constant "pain in her heart", a metaphor that will be d i scussed in chapter 5 . Her way of making sense of the events in her life was to relate her story in a manner that weaves past and present in one cont inuous whole, as if t ime had not been interrupted. Y o u know, C a n a d a is good, safe. I have my home right now. A n d I have my support. My kid[s] get support; they go to schoo l . That is the way, the life need[ed]. But for me, [I'm] upset, I lost my family. [It's been] twelve years . . . I don't know where they are . . . S o m e people tell me they are in but [they] didn't talk clear. Later when they tell me "oh this person is dead , this person is dead. " Y o u know, this is bad news. It's better if I'm talking with one person and I will know that they are al ive! S o I keep [looking] at life, people run away a long time ago from the war. S o m e people find their own people, you know. A n d I didn't get it. I didn't get information very well . Quote from a participant In the foregoing quote, she laments the loss of her connect ion to her nuclear and extended family that may be scattered all over the world or languishing in refugee c a m p s or countr ies of asy lum. This uncertainty s e e p s into her daily interactions with people from her community and service providers. A s a result of this discontinuity in her life, she views herself as " incomplete". Al though she expressed in the earl ier quote her wish for "a little life after" a training program, this appears to be more of a wish for f inancial independence and the ability to provide for her chi ldren. S h e articulated her situation at the time of the interview as , "I think I know where I am going and everything is fine", an express ion that points to the support that she and her children receives from the Ministry for Chi ldren and Fami ly and the daycare. 63 Another participant's story revolved around the trauma of an accident that rendered her oldest daughter with developmental i ssues. S h e began her narrative with her arrival in Saska toon , describing the harsh weather and the adverse effect on her chi ldren's health. [The] first year, I went to this job. After that my kids get co ld . . . In Saska toon , it's so cold. Snow. All the time, my kids [have], eh , as thma. . . ten days at home. "Oh, " I sa id , "this doesn' t work.. ." [My] family fr iend, he's from Egypt, he sa id , "Your kids [don't] belong here because it's so cold." I sa id , "In C a n a d a , all, eh cold! Where is it, no place, where . . . " He sa id , just Vancouver but has allergy." I sa id , "Summer , pol len." But he says , "It's good, better than the cold.. . you can't fix the cold." And I sa id , "Okay, I'm looking for a warm p lace . . . I found Vancouver ! " Then her story focused on the turbulent relationship with her oldest daughter who suffered a brain injury from a car accident, an event that rocked the family 's a l ready precarious situation. Prior to the accident the participant had left an abus ive relationship and was trying to get on her feet as a single mother. The adverse effects of the accident added layers of physical and emotional suffering for the mother and her oldest daughter; the daughter had the functioning of a younger child when she woke up from a c o m a . S h e manifested behaviours that were developmental ly delayed and she had tantrums, which strained her relationship with her mother and her sibl ings. In consultat ion with the mother, the school counsel lor who noticed the drastic change in the daughter 's behaviours, referred -her to a psychiatrist for an assessment . The tension in the house ended with the involvement of a social worker from the Ministry for Chi ldren and Fami ly and the placement of the daughter in foster care. The rest of the narrative centered on the tumultuous relationship between mother and daughter, the foster parents and a therapist. 64 [My daughter] came back to this house [from the hospital]. [S]he needs to go out like late t ime.. . O h , my G o d , I get more, more tired. I'm worrying all the time. A n d I'm scared . S h e woke up and [went] outside. S h e just wanna go out and go anywhere. Just go, like late time, until after 12. E leven o'clock. Twelve o 'c lock. . . One time, she 's [turned] on the mus ic like, one o'clock. Loud . . . and the manager [came and said that] people are s leep ing. I told [my daughter] to keep her voice down 'cause people are s leep ing. S h e sa id , "I don't care" twice. And I did like her hand . . . (showing action), I sa id , "You don't care, I care. B e c a u s e police is now coming . . . I just turned it off... S h e ' s crying. S h e sa id , "Oh , you killed me. Y o u did that." In the morning she went with her dad . S h e told her dad , "She ' s killed me. S h e hates me. S h e did that." And her dad , he hates me. He took [my daughter] to the.. . Ministry for Chi ldren and a [social worker] c a m e to my home. Th is narrative culminated in the apprehension of her daughter and p lacement in foster care, which "traumatized" her further. The trauma of the accident and the apprehens ion of her daughter were manifested by her fainting ep isodes , her refusal to leave the house, and s leeping long hours. Her doctor prescr ibed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pills. The plot in this narrative circles around the car accident, the apprehens ion and foster care. Her help-seeking strategies primarily revolved around financial help from welfare because she felt unwell and unfit to find a job which she obtained at reduced rate as one of her daughters (she has two daughters and one son) was in foster care. The support she received from the Ministry for Chi ldren and Fami ly was a result of the apprehens ion. Whi le seek ing help from institutional agenc ies , she also actively sought help from her sister, fr iends and her ethnic community. The third story was narrated both chronological ly and episodical ly, with the overriding issue being intimate partner v iolence. In this story, the participant was overwhelmed by her role as a single mother caring for and fighting for sole custody of her chi ldren. Her story unfolded with layers of "suffering": the threat of 65 eviction from subs id ized housing because of non-payment of rent, the inability to provide bas ic needs of her chi ldren as her ex-husband was not paying the full amount of child support; welfare's refusal to provide income ass is tance because her ex-husband had two jobs and had agreed to pay child support (the combined child support amount and child tax benefit exceeded welfare eligibility ceil ing); court appearances for custody and assaul t and lack of daycare support for the chi ldren. S h e was at a loss to find the appropriate descript ion of her situation in Engl ish . W h e n encouraged to use an Arab ic express ion, she used a word, which sounded like "Maknur ia" or "Maknuis" , meaning overwhelmed or too many things happening at the s a m e time. [My ex-husband] is working two jobs but now, two months ago, he just gave me half the money. He [doesn't] want to give me all the money. . . I talked to my lawyer. A n d then my lawyer goes to his lawyer. And then my lawyer appl ied to Family Maintenance. But now, the Fami ly Main tenance is gonna take, they say, they gonna take it from him. But up to now, one month now, I didn't receive money. Last . . . July, I didn't receive any money from him. Up to now, I didn't pay my rent. I'm just waiting [for] them. . . They give me notice here. But they asked me why I did not pay my rent. Then my friend came here to [help] me. Nora, she 's Canad ian . S h e [wrote] a letter [for me], and then I give it to them. Then they say, Okay" , we can wait until Fami ly Main tenance take money from your husband. And then they gonna put it in my account . . . W h e n she asked for help from the welfare office, she was refused ass is tance on grounds her husband w a s supposed to pay her $ 1 2 0 0 a month because he was working two full-time jobs. S h e was then forced to rely on the generosi ty and k indness of people at the Cathol ic Church and school where she volunteered, doing var ious tasks and where her two children studied with subs id ized fees . The women 's narratives speak of traumatization as a result of war and institutional survei l lance (a theme that will be d iscussed in subsequent sect ions). 66 in systemic inequity (social oppression) and exclusionary pract ices that impact the health and wel l-being of marginal ized and racial ized people such as refugee women (Dossa , 2004). The stories that the women wove - narrated chronological ly, episodical ly or both - were divided into three stages: a Initial Stage of Settlement, that is the time of landing in C a n a d a , accompan ied by a s e n s e of f reedom; a Second Stage: Beginning to Navigate Helping Systems or the struggles to survive and adapt to a new culture, a new way of doing things, among others; and a Third Stage: Flirting with Integration which points to a new beginning' as it articulates hope, for a better life for their chi ldren, and a dream of becoming full participants in Canad ian society. The next sect ion descr ibes some of the major themes that emerged in the focus groups and individual interviews, which contextual ized the help-seeking exper iences of the women . 4.1.3 Major Themes in Focus Group and Individual Interviews There are five major themes that emerged in the narratives on help-seeking exper iences: 1) finding courage to seek and establ ish support networks, 2) feeling isolated and lost, 3) being suspic ious of institutional and police survei l lance, 4) engaging in volunteer work, and 5) being thankful for bridging and training programs. 67 4.1.3.1 Finding Courage to Seek and Establish Support Networks S e v e n of the sixteen women had no family or fr iends when they came to C a n a d a . They descr ibed their first two years as starting f rom "zero, nothing" and taking on the chal lenge of rebuilding their lives in a new country. The three who were co-sponsored by the church and the Federa l government relied heavily on members of the church for both basic needs and emotional support. Another layer of support was sought from ethnic communit ies, that is, people who spoke the same language and came to C a n a d a earlier. Notably, although some of these famil ies were on socia l ass is tance themselves and struggling to survive, they reached out to the newcomers . O n e example is a w o m a n who w a s abandoned by her boyfriend when she was pregnant. W h e n the child is born. . . this time he [boyfriend] didn't pay the rent and I live for two months, no pay. W h e n I w a s in the hospital , who cares about me? Just S u d a n e s e people call him because they know me . . . [T]hey find [him]. " P l e a s e , you have a child in the hospital , go to pick up your wife." [He] didn't ca re . . . [T]he family doctor save me in the hospital for three days . . . because the hospital people [kept] looking for somebody . . . to help [me]. They [found] S u d a n e s e people and they cal l , and they [found] somebody to take me home. This is a compel l ing story that tugs at the interviewer's heart. S h e found the courage to d isc lose her predicament to the "hospital people" resulting in obtaining help from her ethnic community. Members of her community visited her at the hospital, took care of her older son , helped her find a p lace to stay and drove her and her baby home from the hospital. Subsequent ly , the help and kindness that she received from strangers and her own people (Sudanese) gave her more courage to d isc lose her story of abandonment , and abuse to the police 68 who then took her. t o - a transition house. S h e expressed gratitude for the k indness of strangers and the generosity of her smal l community. Much later, she decided to volunteer in her son 's daycare. This story of courage is not unique to this participant as other women who participated in this thesis a lso descr ibed acts of courage in seek ing help and establ ishing support networks from informal networks such as fr iends, people in their ethnic community and p laces of worship. 4.1.3.2 Feeling Isolated and Lost In their initial years, especial ly the first year in C a n a d a , all women descr ibed their "hard life". Their primary concern was learning Engl ish, a major issue for ten of the women who had no exposure to Engl ish in their country of origin and felt compel led to learn Engl ish in C a n a d a in order to survive. Not speaking the language limited their a c c e s s to resources in the wider community. Their earl ier help-seeking exper iences revolved around informal networks of friends and gatherings in their ethnic communit ies and p laces of worship. For the next level of he lp-seek ing, they relied on programs and serv ices provided by community workers in their first language ( language spoken in country of origin). One participant ment ioned the name of a Sett lement Counse l lo r who had helped her and her five kids with var ious settlement needs such as housing, school for her chi ldren, Engl ish c l asses for herself, and community resources, among others. S h e relied heavily on his interpretation serv ices for her bas ic needs during her early years in Vancouver and remained grateful for his help to this day. 69 In my first year, when I came to C a n a d a , it was very, very hard for me. A single mom with five kids. I don't know Engl ish . I have never learned Engl ish in my country. Arab ic was international language in my country.. . I have to start from zero. [T]he good thing, I met [an] Ethiopian guy at W e l c o m e House . . . he had been in my country for ten years. He helped me call the houses and one lady, she accepted me. They gave me address in Engl ish, I can't read . . . S o [the Sett lement Counsel lor] had to call one of our S u d a n e s e men, get me there and he filled all the forms and he paid the bill. Go ing to school [to study Engl ish] . . . w a s [also] hard. Com ing home, back with the kids, it was very hard, especia l ly if I want to go shopping [there is no one to take care of my children]. The above descript ion speaks of feel ings of isolation, not having the support of extended family and fr iends that she used to rely on and feeling lost because of language problems. ' Another participant descr ibed her situation during her first year as driven by fear: fear of interaction with Engl ish-speaking Canad ians , fear of being misunderstood and fear of being alone at home. S h e thought that she would "die faster" if she continued to stay at home alone. The first years [were] very hard. I remember staying just home. I was scared of going out. Y e a n , because , oh, my G o d , I say, "how I gonna speak, what I gonna say? " I survived but it was , what I say, " O h , my G o d , I wanted to die in this country more faster than I thought, "because if I don't go out, and I keep in here, so how I gonna l ive?" Here is another descript ion of isolation because of the absence of extended family or fr iends and fear of exploring her surroundings or having interactions with neighbours or strangers because of her inability to speak Engl ish in her early sett lement year. O n e participant who was abandoned by her ex-husband after a brief marr iage, turned to alcohol and smoking. S h e also stopped talking. Her nights were filled with fits of crying. S h e even thought of killing herself. 70 In 2 0 0 1 , I went to Vancouve r Communi ty Co l l ege . . . Nine months I learned Eng l ish , the writing or speak ing . . . A n d after that my husband left [me]. W e [separated]. After he left, I don't have any landed immigrant, only refugee.. . After that, [I became] crazy. Real ly that time [was] very hard for me. I don't have fr iends, I don't have [anything]. [I sold all] my stuff... drinking, smok ing . . . I want[ed] to kill myself. Being alone and not connected to an informal network of support, she minimally coped by turning to "drinking, smoking" . By seek ing help from welfare, she w a s referred to a community organizat ion, M O S A I C to attend a training program. W h e n she did not attend the program, her welfare worker withheld her income ass is tance cheque. It was only when she went back to M O S A I C to sign a paper that her worker gave her cheque. Her exper ience suggests that s o m e helping organizat ions are not necessar i ly helpful in breaking the isolation that refugee women face in their sett lement journey. The above quote s e e m s to descr ibe symptoms of post traumatic stress and depress ion. However , due to the context of the d isc losure, which was done within a focus group d iscuss ion with limited t ime, probing arid further quest ions to a s s e s s mental health i ssues was not poss ib le . 1 3 4.1.3.3 Being Suspicious of Institutional and Police Surveillance All participants of the focus groups and individual interviews had negative feelings towards "welfare workers" (currently known as Employment Ass is tance Worke rs -EAW) , the perceived 'gatekeepers ' of the Ministry of Employment and Income Ass is tance (MEIA, the latest name of Ministry of Soc ia l Serv ices) . In the first focus group, an animated d iscuss ion ensued on women who had separated 13 This is one of the limitations of the study, which may be explored in future research. 71 from their husbands and were subjected to police and welfare survei l lance. O n e participant related her exper ience in witnessing a neighbour being checked by the welfare on suspic ion that her husband may be living with her. Another w o m a n told her own story of being doubted by welfare when she expla ined that her husband had been sent to jail for abusing her. S h e aptly descr ibed the welfare surve i l lance 1 4 , "Somet imes, they send the police, like uh, ... they expected to find [my husband] suddenly there. . . [but] he was in jail... They made me feel so sick, like, uh, I was always lying." Another participant agreed, say ing that "they do that to all women who separated. Anyt ime, they will send people to check our house." A participant brought laughter to the group when she quest ioned why the police did not go after cr iminals, instead of check ing on a woman to determine if her husband had moved back to her place in the middle of the night Most of the women in the group agreed that this institutional survei l lance prevents some women from seeking help, particularly in c a s e s of abuse or v io lence against women. Despi te the negative impression of B C welfare workers, all the w o m e n expressed gratitude for government ass is tance such as welfare or income ass is tance. However, they all agreed that the support that welfare provided was inadequate, "the money was not enough to pay the rent." Moreover , as one participant qu ipped, "You missed signing paper, you don't have money." 1 4 Surveillance: In Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Foucault (1977) uses the metaphor of a "panopticon" (pan=all, opticon=seeing), Jeremy Bentham's 19th century prison, a perfect prison that has a central tower in the middle with a person who keeps constant watch without being seen; hence, the belief that all activities in prison cells are closely monitored. 72 In the second focus group, one participant descr ibed her exper ience with the welfare office as a "nightmare". S h e had to see a family doctor because she w a s very dep ressed , and seemed to be unable to do things that she normally could have; she lacked energy and was unable to s leep, thinking of the pressures from welfare to find work quickly and feeling he lp less and misunderstood. Accord ing to this participant, welfare workers "bring you down, l ike, you know, someone ' s killing you and that's it". Another participant descr ibed her frustration and shame when deal ing with welfare workers, "Every time I used the serv ices, I felt really frustrated, ashamed somet imes, they make you feel like you're begging." S o m e o n e e lse echoed her lament: "service should be something that [anybody] who is in need [would] be able to fall back o n . . . But it's totally the other way around, ... it even drags you further down..." The images that the women descr ibed: 'nightmare' or having a horrible d ream, "bring you down", "killing you" and "drags you further down", suggest systemic traumatization or re-traumatization of refugee women . Al though this research did not explore t rauma in pre-migration exper iences, s o m e of the w o m e n al luded to the horrible exper iences they had, wi tnessing atrocities resulting in the death of loved ones as they fled their homeland or being the target of persecut ion themselves because of political or religious beliefs. Others cont inued to exper ience trauma in refugee camps . The perception of systemic traumatization or re-traumatization triggers negative and painful memor ies of past t rauma. S o m e studies (Dossa , 2004; K le inman, Das and Lock, 1997) reveal that 73 Soc ia l suffering... brings into a single space an assemb lage of human problems that have their origins and consequence in the devastat ing injuries that socia l force can inflict on human exper ience. . . [It] results from what polit ical, economic , and institutional power d o e s to people and reciprocally, from how these forms of power themse lves inf luence responses to socia l problems [such as war, famine, depress ion, d i sease , and torture] (Kle inman, Das and Lock, 1997, p. ix). The women 's narratives are peppered with socia l suffering as indicated in the var ious quotes and previous d iscuss ions on types of narrative. The concepts of systemic traumatization and socia l suffering are helpful in analyz ing the impact of institutional survei l lance and instruments of social control as they do not establ ish a simplist ic connect ion to the previous trauma suffered and the women 's internal p rocesses ; instead they focus on the context of traumatization. The quest ion then is: how does systemic traumatization embodied in discriminatory pol ices and pract ices or socia l suffering impact on the help-seeking exper iences of refugee w o m e n ? The following quote provides a window into a refugee woman 's exper ience of systemic discrimination and traumatization. W h e n I came , it was different... we were asked to sell our gold [by] the Wel fare workers. [They would say], "this is gold, why don't you sel l it." A n d I remember this woman , she was told to sell her gold ' cause she had jewelry here. A n d , uh, the humiliation w a s tooo much! Wheneve r there is an important ca l l . . . they would ask you to come and talk about it... They used to send letters, [asking us to] pick up [our] cheque. . . [When we] pick up the cheque . . . the way they call you, it's like [we chose] to be on welfare. Th is quote exempl i f ies institutional survei l lance where workers pressure refugee w o m e n to sell personal possess ions before providing f inancial ass is tance to them, intruding into their private lives and policing ownership of personal property or anything of value. S u c h practice hinder the help-seeking strategies of refugee 74 women as they feel humiliated and undeserving of help from an institutional agency, one that is set up by legislation to assist people in need of f inancial ass is tance during their period of settlement in a host country. The implications on social practice will be d i scussed in the subsequent sect ion on D iscuss ion . 4.1.3.4 E n g a g i n g in Volunteer W o r k A s ment ioned earlier in the Findings sect ion, over 1 - 3 years cluster, 6 9 % or 11 of the 16 participants did volunteer work in var ious agenc ies in the larger community for var ious reasons. Volunteer work included helping newcomers with interpretation, assist ing with daycare programs attached to the Engl ish c lasses (LINC, now E L S A ) , peer support groups for women , school -age programs in primary schoo ls , and helping in a maternity ward in a hospital. A participant descr ibed her exper ience as fol lows: Whi le I was not working, I used to go to ISS and they used to call me to help people who speak Tigrinia, Amhar ic , and Arab ic . [I did] interpretation, especia l ly when there is chi ld apprehension and when newcomers come. I used to take them home. . . and share with them my exper ience, how to find employment and if there is no employment, I used to encourage them to go to schoo l . Another participant who enjoyed working with young chi ldren volunteered with Paci f ic Immigrant Resou rces Society in the daycare program, which supported the Engl ish c l asses for immigrant and refugee women . I volunteered in the morning. . . in [the] chi ldcare [for] a lmost three years. I started my [volunteer] exper ience [by] helping the chi ldren wash their hands, taking the children to the bathroom, and preparing snacks , peel ing and cutting fruits. I was on welfare. I volunteer in the morning and I study Engl ish in the afternoon. I a lso volunteered at St. V incent Hospital with sen iors . . . I give s o m e food to the seniors. I make tea and coffee for everybody. I comb their hair, put make up. . . somet imes, I play volleyball with bal loon. It's very nice. 75 This participant eventual ly took some training in setting up and managing a family daycare. S h e has subsequent ly started her own family daycare and expressed her happ iness and satisfaction in her work as she was off welfare and is now able to help other immigrant and refugee women go to work by caring for their young chi ldren. The number of women , 69%, who volunteer in var ious community organizat ions and p laces of worship, is remarkable as it shows that refugee women are not pass ive recipients of programs and serv ices. Wha t this also indicates is that help-seeking as an entry point of this thesis may not capture a more dynamic p rocess that refugee women engage in. Pe rhaps , the term social interaction better reflects refugee women 's exper iences in the var ious s tages of settlement and integration. The women 's exper iences of seek ing help and concurrent engagement in volunteer work which puts them in a position of unpaid service provider, reveal a two-way process where they give and receive serv ices. 4.1.3.5 Being Thankful for Bridging and Training Programs Eight of the 16 participants were graduates of a Bridging Program cal led Stepping Up , run by Immigrant Serv ices Society. Though the quest ions were expressed in broad terms, that is, recounting help-seeking exper iences, all eight women expressed gratitude for the Stepping Up Program as it contributed to a significant change in their l ives. A s a participant who is a single mother with two children indicated, "the Stepping Program help[ed] me a lot with Engl ish and [in] 76 looking for a job and for everything." Another single mother with three children expressed her gratitude to the program. W h e n I start[ed with] the Stepping Up program.. . the dooooor w a s open for me. After that I knew what I should do and what I can do. [The program] showed me the way. . . that I should [take] the Resident C a r e Attendant program [after the Stepping Up] because it's c lose to my job [before]... I can find some job then. . . follow my educat ion after that... then I can take care of my chi ldren's needs. A s illustrated by the two women in the above quotes, they c la imed that they were able to explore opportunit ies that led to paid employment and further a c c e s s to communi ty resources that benefited not only them but more importantly, their chi ldren. A s wel l , the program helped them arrive at a crossroad where they could see cho ices and possibi l i t ies. They spoke of "new life", being "proud" of what they had accompl ished, being "strong and confident", being able to "walk straight" and being "happy". T h e s e are images that reflect positive results from a difficult p rocess of acculturation. The descr ipt ions of the women 's self-awareness , that is, of who they have become over the f ive-month period of the program, suggest a process of change and perhaps personal transformation. Th is may further point to both the women 's resi l ience and the ef fect iveness of the program, which have implications on designing a bridging program for refugee women . Chapter 6 will d i scuss some of the implications on programming. 4.2 Discussion of Findings The help-seeking exper iences of refugee women in the Greater Vancouve r area s e e m complex and diverse. The quest ion that needs to be posed is: what do these narratives say about the women 's notion of "help" and 77 strategies of seek ing help? What factors influence their help-seeking strategies? How do these help-seeking exper iences affect their view of the serv ices and programs that they used or chose not to use? O n a macro level, what do they think of the host country? The study suggests that "help" for the women means both practical help such as finding information on housing and E S L c lasses , upgrading, training and employment as well a s emotional support especial ly during the first five years in C a n a d a . They needed to be heard and understood in terms of the many losses that they exper ienced such as loss of loved ones , loss of invaluable support network provided by extended famil ies, loss of fr iends, among others. To be told repeatedly to find work, regardless of readiness in terms of language, and physical and emotional stability, by institutional frontline workers such as immigration and welfare workers and somet imes service providers -- aggravated their emotional distress. S o m e women viewed this as an "outright assaul t on their dignity". They said that they deserve to be shown respect and compass ion s ince the government of C a n a d a accepted them to resettle here. A s well , the narratives speak loud and c lear about what Foucaul t (1977; De leuze , 2002) cal ls the "survei l lance" of a hierarchical organization such as government ministries whose workers act as "gatekeepers" and "instruments of socia l control" on the activities and interactions of marginal ized groups such as refugee w o m e n . A s the participants of the first focus group wondered: W h y were the pol ice sent to check on a single mother whose abusive spouse was sent to jail for physical assau l t? 78 The contextual var iables descr ibed in chapter 2: culture, gender, c lass and t rauma -- intersect and influence the help-seeking exper iences of the women . A s descr ibed in the various clusters on the help-seeking exper iences of the refugee w o m e n in the Greater Vancouver area, they prefer to seek help from informal socia l networks over institutional and community serv ices. S u c h pract ices are supported by studies on the help-seeking exper iences of refugee women (Chung & Lin, 1994; Bui , 2003; Bhuyan, et al , 2005). A s wel l , the f indings of this thesis may suggest that the need for a sense of belonging by reconstructing their cultural identities drive refugee women to seek for pract ices such as using alternative heal ing pract ices and support groups, and embrace va lues such as helping others through volunteer work, which resonate with their own value of col lective responsibil i ty. In other words, the tendency to seek for pract ices, va lues, and beliefs that are famil iar and congruent (Sluzki , 1979) with their, own culture (worldview, language, food, among others) is a primary need for survival and acculturation. M o u s s a (1993) refers to this active p rocess of dec is ion-making as res is tance. A s they become more familiar with the cus toms and "ways of doing things" in the host country, they become more open to change, eager to try new things, and willing to embrace new ways of looking at the world. 4.2.1 Gender and Culture G e n d e r is another factor that inf luences help-seeking exper iences. Their car ing roles as mothers, daughters and wives propelled them to seek help for their chi ldren or in the c a s e of single women help for their parents who had minimal Engl ish skil ls and were dependent on their interpretation skil ls. The 79 caring roles attributed to women in the private sphere (the home), and the public sphere (the workplace), create tension and somet imes women had to make difficult cho ices between paid employment and (unpaid) caring for their chi ldren at home. At other t imes, they opt for on-cal l or part-time jobs in order to manage car ing roles. For example , a participant who was a single mother with two young chi ldren had to leave her housekeeping job in a hotel in order to care for her young son who w a s manifesting behavioural problems in the daycare . S h e descr ibed her situation as , I'm working right now and people call me . . . "your son is s ick . . . [and] he 's cry ing. . . " A n d I come to pick up the chi ld. . . And when later I try again , my superv isor say, "This is ... difficult for me ... W h e n the boss know[s], [he might think that] I do something because you cannot work.. . Y o u r way, I cannot call people back when the time is late..." S o that's the way, the solut ion, she [laid] me off. The superv isor dec ided to lay off the participant in order to resolve the constant interruption to her work. A s a result, this single mother had to re-apply for welfare. S h e w a s grateful for the lay off as she was then able to rest and focus on one car ing role—caring for her two chi ldren—instead of maintaining a precar ious ba lance between her paid and unpaid caring roles. Moreover, the narratives descr ibe gender roles that society ascr ibes to w o m e n , which limited their ability to find full-time work and to pursue further training. A participant who is a single mother with three chi ldren illustrated this situation when she descr ibed her struggle to perform her role as caregiver and provider because she is a single mother. Y o u know my main problem is my chi ldren. . . because I should take them to school and pick them up from the schoo l . . . because their schoo l [is] too far... They [have] to go by bus and by skytrain. . . [so I can only] look for a 80 job after [dropping off] my children to their schoo l in the morning until three pm [because I have to pick them up from their schoo l . . . [Then I go to schoo l in the evening]. . . I'm in grade 9 and I'm going to take the test in J u n e . . . My c l asses are three days a week. . . Monday, W e d n e s d a y and Thursday . . . W h e n I finish Grade 12, I want to study nurs ing. . . after that I will take the test to be a doctor. S h e dec ided to take on only part-time or on-cal l jobs as C a r e A ide so she could drive her chi ldren to and from school and spend some time with them before going to work. S h e explained that it was difficult to balance her caring role as mother and pursuing further studies in order to get a better-paying job. Th is realization c o m e s from her exposure to both the culture of her country of origin and Canad ian culture. Al l the participants indicated similar concerns where their culture of origin and gender as a socia l structure defined women 's roles. A s single mothers in C a n a d a , they have to perform their traditional caring roles in the home and pursue programs that will lead to a paid job in order to provide for the family; thus performing the dual roles of nurturer and provider. T h e s e roles are embedded in the stratification of roles in society where nurturing or caring is traditionally relegated to women and providing for the family attributed mostly to men (Anderson, et. a l ,1993; Bui , 2003; R i sman , 2004; R idgeway & Correl l , 2004). The women in the study engage in a process of redefining their roles as w o m e n in both the public and private spheres. S o m e of them are beginning to quest ion the notion that feminists call "double burden" or "double b i nd " 1 5 -- the fact that many w o m e n are working in both the private and public spheres , not 1 5 Double Bind/Double Bind refers to catch 22 or framing gender in terms of binary contradictions or dichotomies such as culture/ nature, public/private spheres, production/creation or reproduction/procreation, objectivity/subjectivity, knowing subject/object of inquiry (Harding, 1986, 125). 81 only enduring longer working hours than most men, but providing the essent ia l labour that they do at home for no wages (Luxton and Reiter, 1997). The w o m e n expressed their constant fatigue and frustration with lack of support. Even fr iends are unable to help somet imes because they are a lso busy working, trying to take care of their own famil ies. A single mother who was still struggling with issues of abuse (assault), child support and child care descr ibed her situation as I'm not feeling good because I am only a woman and then I take care of my kids. I don't know what I can tell in this situation. Y e a h , it's too hard for me to dec ide something to tell you now because I'm just sitting like this. I don't know what to tel l . . . with kids like that... the kids are [still] smal l . I don't know if I could do something for them. I have to take care of them but I don't have money. . . I volunteer in my chi ldren's school so I don't have to pay. . . It's a Cathol ic schoo l . . . [My] situation is not easy . It's too hard for me . . . At the time of the interview, this woman was overwhelmed, exhausted and frustrated because she felt alone with her multiple problems. S h e wished that her extended family were here to support her. S h e has no relatives here except for her ex-husband 's brother and his wife. S h e descr ibed the cultural pract ices in raising a family as collective and interdependent where not only members of her extended family help with nurturing and caring for the chi ldren but a lso neighbours. Here in C a n a d a , she did not even know her neighbours and her fr iends were all busy with work or caring for their own famil ies. 4.2.2 Class C l a s s adds another layer, as the women 's soc io -economic status a lso inf luenced their help-seeking exper iences. For the purpose of this study, c lass 82 refers to the level of formal educat ion (secondary and university) attained by the w o m e n in their country of origin and/or country of resettlement, their a c c e s s to paid employment in C a n a d a and their own percept ions of what socia l c lass they belong to. Nine of the participants had col lege or university educat ion, six had elementary and high school educat ion and one had minimal primary educat ion who could barely read and write in her first (tribal) language. Al l except one can be character ized as literate in their first language. Those who had at least a post secondary educat ion and had labour attachment in their country or origin or the country of asy lum, seemed to exper ience less difficulty in seek ing help from var ious socia l networks, both informal and institutional. Two participants who view themselves as belonging to a "working c lass" chose not to seek help during their early sett lement years from community organizat ions; instead they opted for the informal networks in the ethnic community. They preferred getting information from fr iends, acquain tances from their ethnic communi t ies as they felt a s e n s e of belonging and they did not have to explain what they needed in Eng l ish , which w a s stressful for some women who had minimal Engl ish language skil ls. T h o s e with less formal educat ion initially chose both informal networks and communi ty organizat ions that provided serv ices in their first language or with the help of interpreters. It appears that economic status prior to migration helped in facilitating more cho ices in seek ing help in the host country. Of the nine participants with post -secondary educat ion, five had become serv ice providers themse lves as a result of seeking help from institutional and communi ty 83 agenc ies . Thei r transition from welfare recipients to serv ice providers may suggest that their economic status in their country of origin, which enabled them to a c c e s s language acquisit ion skills and develop an attitude of openness that al lowed them to embrace change, somehow carried them through the acculturation p rocess (Beiser, 2006; Ferullo and Tran, 1997). The diverse help-seek ing pract ices also suggest that refugee women with minimal formal educat ion may need to be reached through their informal networks in their ethnic communi t ies. Implications of help-seeking pract ices as impacted by c lass will be d i scussed in chapter 6. 4.2.3 Trauma Psycho log ica l t rauma as defined in the D S M IV-TR, as a contextual var iable s e e m e d to inf luence minimally the women 's help-seeking exper iences and was not express ly articulated in their exper iences. Two participants in the focus groups descr ibed some symptoms of Post Traumatic S t ress Disorder ( P T S D ) : deep sadness , fatigue and not wanting to do anything, b locked memory and avo idance of pre-migration topics, among others. Due to the limited time of the focus group, there was a no opportunity to probe and explore P T S D . A few of the participants a lso descr ibed some traumatic events or al luded to what appeared to be traumatic events such as abandonment by a partner or boyfriend and a car accident. However, of significant importance to note was that most of the women 's narratives, which were illustrated in previous sect ions of this chapter, used metaphors such as "pain in the heart" and "nightmare" and "invisible wal l" in their 84 interactions with welfare and immigration workers. They spoke of "institutional survei l lance and systemic discrimination, which point to the notion of systemic traumatization or socia l suffering. The women 's narratives may suggest that the notion of t rauma as social suffering is more salient in their exper iences in seek ing help than psychological t rauma. 4.3 Conclusion This chapter descr ibed the help-seeking exper iences of s ixteen refugee w o m e n who live in the Greater Vancouver area. Their help-seeking exper iences were f ramed in terms of post-migration exper iences within clusters of years, from arrival to the time of the interview/focus group. Most of the stories unfolded in a chronological manner: from time of arrival in C a n a d a to struggles during the acculturation period (ranging from three to five years) and ending with express ions of gratitude for some serv ices and programs that enabled them to exper ience posit ive change and move forward, providing a s e n s e of hope for themse lves and their chi ldren. Th is notion of hope will be d i scussed in Chapter 5. The few who narrated in a combinat ion of chronological and episodic manner, related their stories around traumatic event(s), which added a layer of distress and d i ssonance (Sluzki , 1979) in their l ives. They sought help from both informal and institutional organizat ions, which points to a pattern of seek ing help that supports some studies reviewed and d iscussed in chapter 1 and previous sect ions of this chapter. The implications of this pattern will be d i scussed in chapter 6. 85 Five themes emerged which revolved around finding courage to seek and establ ish support networks, feeling isolated and lost, being susp ic ious of institutional and police survei l lance, engaging in volunteer work, and being thankful for Bridging and Training Programs. T h e s e themes were d i scussed within the intersecting contextual var iables, namely, culture, gender, c lass and t rauma, which appeared to have influenced the women 's help-seeking exper iences. The thesis quest ion explored the help-seeking exper iences ( H S E ) of refugee w o m e n in the Greater Vancouver area and examined how the contextual var iables intersected in H S E . Gender , c lass and culture appeared to have inf luenced women 's help-seeking exper iences as d i scussed in var ious sect ions of this thesis. Al though there was a lack of reference or d isc losure of psychological t rauma, the women descr ibed var ious situations of systemic traumatization and institutional survei l lance resulting in socia l suffering. They descr ibed welfare's intrusive practice of asking them to sell their gold before giving them financial help, the police checking on women survivor of abuse and H R D C workers pushing them to take training in order find paid employment. Pe rhaps if the focus is both pre and post-migration exper iences, psychological t rauma as a variable may surface more. Traumatic events may also be d isc losed in the context of a research that focuses on mental i l lness or the pathology of their exper iences. S ince this thesis focused on socia l agency, the w o m e n may have chosen to remember mainly those exper iences that define who they have become over t ime, highlighting, their resi l ience, resistance and reconstruction of their identities. 86 The narratives on help-seeking exper ience of refugee women indicate the need for both institutional and community agenc ies , to treat refugee women with respect when they are seek ing help or choosing not to seek help. It is a lso important for agency workers to acknowledge that the women need enough time to develop an understanding of the system. More importantly, they need to be v iewed not as pass ive recipients of programs and serv ices but as active socia l actors who are volunteering their time and knowledge in the community despite the poverty and systemic discrimination that they exper ience. Their resi l ience or capaci ty to overcome certain chal lenges needs to be recognized and valued when designing programs and serv ices. The women 's narratives further suggest that in their interactions with var ious helping agenc ies , and government bodies, they proactively sought help while continuing their volunteer work. Therefore, contrary to the genera l ized percept ion that they were passive recipients of programs and serv ices; they are recipients of income ass is tance but are a lso contributors in their communit ies. Of signif icant importance to note is the rich volunteer exper iences that the majority of the participants in the study descr ibed, which reflect active participation of refugee women in the community and a desire to e a s e not only the cha l lenges that newcomers exper ience in their early settlement years but a lso the s t resses of acculturation and integration, in particular, support in labour attachment. In short, the f indings of this study suggest that while refugee w o m e n are active contributors to Canad ian society, however, they need more opportunit ies to become full participants. 8 7 5 WAYS OF TELLING: RESILIENCE, RESISTANCE & RECONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITIES Using the strategy of categorization in narrative analys is (Liebl ich, 1998), this chapter examines the content of the narratives where similar themes that emerged in both the individual interviews and focus group d iscuss ions are clustered and coded . The focus is on images and metaphors that the participants ascr ibed to their help-seeking exper iences. 5.1 What are Images and Metaphors? A n image is "a picture or l ikeness of somebody or something, produced either physical ly by a sculptor, painter, or photographer, or conjured in the mind" (Encar ta Dictionary, on-l ine dictionary, retrieved Ju ly 14, 2007). A n image includes a descript ion, metaphor and simile. Metaphors are implicit compar isons where "a word or phrase [is applied] to somebody or something that is not meant literally but to make a compar ison" ; for example , say ing that somebody is a gem means that the person is precious or very valuable. A metaphor is a figurative language, one that involves f igures of speech or symbol ism and does not literally represent real things; a symbol (Col l ins Dict ionary of Socio logy, 3 r d edition, 2000). Metaphors are used to suggest new relat ionships or new explanat ions. In linguistic analys is , the use of metaphor focuses on the difference between Speake r Utterance Meaning ( S U M ) and Literal Sen tence Utterance (LSM) . Linguists claim that essential ly, all words are metaphors because words are "a means of representing or conveying thought 88 because of a "basic incompatibility of sensory descript ion" (Col l ins Dict ionary of Soc io logy, 3 r d edit ion, 2000). The above definitions are helpful in guiding the process of sifting through the rich metaphors that abound in the women 's narratives in order to gain s o m e insights into the meanings that refugee women ascr ibe to their he lp-seeking exper iences. 5.2 Images and Metaphors in Refugee Women's HSE The following sect ion clusters the images and metaphors into four major themes: 1) resi l ience, 2) resistance, 3) hopes and dreams, and 4) reconstruction of their identities. These are descr ibed in the context of the women 's help-seek ing exper iences in the different s tages of their acculturation, understood in this thesis as a "change in the cultural behavior and thinking of an individual or group through contact with another culture" (Encarta Dictionary: Engl ish , North Amer i ca , on-l ine dictionary, retrieved Apri l 5, 2007). For refugees, acculturation is a p rocess of searching for continuity and contesting discontinuit ies ( M o u s s a , 1993). The images and metaphors are also descr ibed within the context of integration, which is a "mult idimensional construct deal ing with complex interrelated p rocesses pertaining to societal participation, that is, the ways in which migrants become part of soc ia l , cultural, economic and political spheres of the country of resettlement" (Valtonen, 1999, cited in Israelite, et a l , 1999, p.2). 5.2.1 Images and Metaphors of Resilience Resi l ience is defined as the "ability to recover quickly from setbacks, or speedy recovery from problems"; and synonymous to "pliability, flexibility, 89 buoyancy, spirit, toughness, resistance" (Encarta Dictionary, on-l ine dictionary, retrieved March 30, 2007). Mary Harvey (2007) articulates resi l ience from an ecologica l perspect ive. A mult idimensional phenomenon expressed across multiple domains of psychological functioning... , [which] can co-exist with symptoms of even severe psychopathology. [It] is transactional and contextual, arising from reciprocal engagement of persons and contexts. . . (20-21) In addit ion, Sa leeby (2002) descr ibes resi l ience as the capaci ty to transform adversity into personal growth. To illustrate how these women transform adversity into personal growth, I reviewed the women 's narratives and extracted some examples . A participant descr ibed her help-seeking exper iences in terms of the volunteer work that she did in the church while going through the painful exper ience of a custody battle with her ex-husband, incidents of emotional abuse and physical assaul ts . S h e had the courage to call the police when her ex-husband fought with her. Al though overwhelmed by multiple problems, and beset by depress ion and anxiety, she faces everyday life with strength and hope. [T]he prob lem. . . started from last year. But last month. . . because he [does not live] here, he just [comes] to pick up the kids and then he go[es]. But when he [comes], he just wants to make a lot of problem. He shouts [at] me, then [says] bad words to [fight] with me. That is why I call the pol ice. . . [My] husband all the time do[es] bad things [to] me for 7 years now.. . I [keep] myself strong for my kids. Th is is an example of Harvey 's notion of the mult idimensional aspect of resi l ience that recognizes the co-occurrence of psychological distress in one part of her life, and her ability to function with courage and hope when she is caring 9 0 for her three chi ldren. In response to a question on images or metaphors of her exper iences, she descr ibes her situation as I think all bad things in my mind. There is no picture but just somet imes, my head is . . . I don't know what I can tell in Engl ish . [In] Arab ic [it's] "Maknuria", like Maknuis"... Somet imes it's making me like, I [feel like I'm] crazy. Too many things happening. I'm just sitting, I don't have anything to remember. . . I'm just l ike.. . in Arab ic it's cal led "mustagrafia hayal"... W h y life is like that? "Mustagrap", it's l ike.. . why. . . is life difficult to me?. . . O r why is life like this? I call G o d first because G o d is helping me to be a little bit s t rong. . . I keep myself strong [for my kids].. . If they [don't see me] st rong. . . they [will] not [feel] good. That 's why. . . I want to try to keep myself l ike.. . " goeya " , in Arab ic , s t rong. . . If I'm not strong nobody will take care of my kids because my husband is [not] like other men [who] take care of their kids, take care of the house. He is just like a . . . teenager. He 's forty something now, but he 's looking like a teen-ager [my emphasis] . The first two descr ipt ions signify desperat ion and profound sadness while the third one reveals courage and a sense of hope for the sake of the chi ldren. Th is seeming duality reflects the mult idimensional aspect of resi l ience where negative emot ions such as despai r and sadness co-occur with courage and a sense of hope, two faces of the same reality or phenomenon (Harvey, 2007). The next quote illustrates resi l ience as "transactional and contextual," which results from "reciprocal engagement of persons and contexts" (Harvey, 2007). O n e of the participants exempli f ies this notion of transact ional and contextual p rocess of resi l ience. S h e is a single mom with three chi ldren and they (including her ex-husband) were involved in a highway accident that resulted in the oldest daughter 's "disability". Despite the numerous problems that a rose , over a period of two years, the participant was able to negotiate for help 91 and support from the Ministry of Human Resou rces [now the Ministry of Employment and Income Ass is tance (welfare)], Ministry for Chi ldren and Fami ly Development ( M C F D ) through a socia l worker and a therapist, and foster parents. S h e was also referred to a Bridging program that provided her with language and counsel l ing support in addition to opportunities for volunteer and work exper iences. S h e descr ibes herself now as I learned a lot from the people who helped me. For example , the Stepping Up program. . . If not for Stepping Up, I couldn't go look for a job or apply for the hai rdressing. . . I learned lots of stuff... That t ime was so good for me . . . I w a s in deep, deep problem, like I was broken down. . . so down that I say that I just like to give up. . . everything.. . W h e n I came to Stepping Up, I slowly stand, like get up again. Stand Up again . I s e e myself as strong [my emphasis ] . S h e is determined to Stand Up for her chi ldren, and fight exhaust ion from numerous medical appointments not only for her daughter but a lso for herself. S h e has weathered the winter storm in Saska toon in her early years in C a n a d a . At the time of the interview, she was weathering a 'storm" of medica l , f inancial and family problems. Her immense love for her children and their need for her care and love propel her to "Stand Up, Stay Up" and to keep going. Another aspect of resi l ience is cultural context and nuance as a determinant of effective intervention (Harvey, 2007). One of the women in the study w a s a doctor in her country of origin. S h e was sponsored by her sister so when she landed, she relied primarily on her extended family: sister, brother and mother for her family 's bas ic needs. S h e came with her three chi ldren. Her network of supports in Ontario, where she landed, consisted of her family and fr iends in the Afghan community. But she sought help for E S L c lasses at an 92 immigrant-serving agency. Later she moved to B C and her schoo l -age chi ldren caught the attention of the school principal who sent a public health nurse to visit her home. Short ly thereafter, the school principal col lected donat ions for her family as the nurse made a report on what the family needed in the home. Initially, this participant felt depressed from the loss of economic status and lack of Engl ish language skil ls. However, she found the strength to find resources for herself such as courses on grade 12 equivalency. S h e registered in a continuing educat ion program at a local high school and started volunteering in a maternity ward in a hospital. Her welfare worker referred her to a Bridging program, Stepping Up program where she gained conf idence in her language abilit ies and expanded her support networks to include volunteer and work exper ience p lacements in a senior 's care facility. S h e moved on to a government- funded Resident Ca re Attendant Training. S h e cont inues to upgrade her language skills and her knowledge of the B C labour market. S h e now embraces lifelong learning as her own value. [In my early years], I was like a dead person, like the person [that] can't speak . . . can't talk... It was very difficult! ... My Engl ish w a s not good . . . My Engl ish and my Russ ian got mixed. . . But now I'm very happy that I can follow my educat ion and I can go to schoo l . . . in this age . . . Y o u know, my sisters, my brothers, they all [joke about me]. "We don't know [if] you study for this world or for another world." I sa id , "I was [a] doctor!" Educat ion is not shame. If you follow your educat ion, if you learn something, it's not shame. Our prophet M o h a m m e d . . . [told] us [to learn] from the time [we] are born. . . until we go to the grave. [We] can learn. . . [we] are Mus l im, [we] have faith [in] our Prophet . . . Al l [our] life [we] can study. I have this power to study, so why shouldn't I [study]? I love studying. It makes me happy. The one thing that saved me from stress and depress ion is studying. 93 In this situation, the participant situated her value of lifelong learning in her religion; quoting Prophet Mohammed 's teaching that Musl im women should pursue educat ion from birth to death. For her, religion is embedded in her cultural context. S h e mentions three interventions: G rade 12 equivalency courses at a local high schoo l , the Stepping Up program, a pre-employment program and the Resident C a r e Attendant training, all supported by her welfare worker. It appears that these three interventions took into considerat ion her foreign credent ials as a doctor and she responded positively. Another participant recounted her early years of sett lement in Vancouve r as relying on a "Circle of Friends" (a metaphor for mutual help among fr iends) for support, information about the labour market, jobs, housing, recreational and socia l activities, E S L / E A L c lasses , and training for jobs. A friend introduced her to the manager of the hotel, which resulted in her first paid job. Another friend helped her write cover letters and referrals to job openings. Whi le still staying at the W e l c o m e House , she started volunteering at four different p laces, W e l c o m e House at Immigrant Serv ices Society (ISS), St. Pau l ' s Hospi ta l , Paraph leg ic Soc ie ty and Kingston Penitentiary. Eventual ly she found a job at a multicultural agency as a Support Worker . W h e n asked about her motivation to help others, she ment ioned two key role models in her life, her aunt (who raised her) and her mom. Her aunt 's work in particular, had a strong impact on her as she ran a foster home for street kids, a boarding school and worked for miss ionar ies in helping famil ies in need in the community. I think I get the strength from my mom. . . [but more from] my auntie... S h e used to have a foster home. My mom and my auntie, they were a l ike. . . They 94 were something. They were capable of doing anything: build a house, cook, c lean , everything! My auntie used to ... bring kids from the street.. . And my mom had an adopted chi ld . . . I don't know how, why they were doing it. They used to give out our d resses away so we used to get upset. They [brought] kids and they [gave] away our clothes. I think I got it from them. The above quote is a descript ion of a source of strength for the participant. S h e der ives her inspiration to help others who are less fortunate from the strong w o m e n in her life, her aunt and her mom. Her exper ience reflects the cultural context of Harvey 's (2007) ecological definition of resi l ience. Accord ing to Sa leeby (2002), resi l ience also comes from within, a person 's inner strength and capacity to transform adversity into personal growth. O n e participant in particular, attributed her opt imism as a personality trait. S h e c la ims that her parents helped her develop her inner strengths. The war a lso made her strong. I won't forget Serb ia because when I [was] born, my parents [were] pretty best, not r ich. . . but we had enough. . . [But] from the time the war start[ed], 1995 - 1997, I [had my] chi ldren. [The war lasted] for many years. But from the t ime, so many things happen[ed], we had to surv ive. . . It [would] be better... one day, it [would] be better. W e [did] things because we [had] to survive. The war w a s hard on the chi ldren. W e [did] more things for them. Y o u do more and you surprise yourself, how much you can do. Y o u have to give s o m e examples to show them (the chi ldren). . . [T]hey hope if their parents work hard. The hardship that she exper ienced did not make her bitter; instead she chose to s e e the good things for the future, that "it (the situation) would be better," especia l ly for her chi ldren. S h e c la ims that her life exper iences give her hope. S h e works hard in order to model hard work for her chi ldren. S h e hopes that in doing so , her chi ldren will do the same. Addit ionally, she attributes her opt imism to her upbringing; she is grateful for her parents, whom she descr ibes as "pretty 95 best parents, not rich, not poor", who raised her with love and provided her var ious needs. 5.2.2 Images and Metaphors of Resistance Res is tance is a manifestation of soc ia l agency. In this thesis, M o u s s a ' s (1993) definition of resistance layers the d iscuss ions and analys is of the metaphors of resistance. For refugees, f leeing their home countr ies, having the courage and determination to survive var ious s tages of migration and eventually sett lement in a host country where they have to negotiate their identities constitute acts of resistance. However, from the point of view of serv ice providers, resistance refers to client's non-compl iance to expected ways of doing things. A s one woman descr ibed, "I'm working now.. . no more signing paper . . . [Before, I had] to go to the welfare office to sign paper so I can get my cheque. T h e worker [kept] my cheque and she a lways had quest ions." Wel fare workers a lso require those on income ass is tance (welfare) to look for work if they are cons idered employable. If they do not comply then their cheques are s ignal led or kept until they give an acceptable reason for not looking for work. Res is tance for those who are suffering from mental i l lness such as severe and chronic depress ion means non-compl iance or refusing to take their prescr ibed medicat ion. Al l these definitions and manifestat ions of resistance reflect an active dec is ion-making process that a person or group of persons engage in. The following negative exper ience of one of the women in the study with her host family il lustrates the image of resistance. I had a host, introduced by Immigrant Serv ices ( ISS). . . I think she has never t raveled. . . or been in contact with refugees and her comments were 96 even worse, so I stopped seeing her... They matched me with a w o m a n . . . I think she was working with B C T E L then. I said [to her], I'm going to take a couple of courses , and I'm going to be where I'm going to be. S h e was not encouraging. S h e was putting me down. [She said], " O h , that is money. Y o u don't have that much money, you are a refugee", a n d . . . I was shocked to hear all those kind of things. I didn't see her after that. I started to do my own things. I enrolled in some c lasses . Th is participant made a choice not to see her host family after the negative interaction. Instead, she chose to use her informal network of fr iends for support and information on training and jobs. S h e made a decis ion to resist a genera l ized v iew that refugees should find any job (usually "dead end" jobs at minimum wage) instead of pursuing training or further studies to find a job that pays more than just a minimum wage. Her first job in C a n a d a as a banquet waitress in a hotel was obtained through a fr iend's recommendat ion. S h e refers to her fr iends as her circle of fr iends. S h e was actively volunteering in her ethnic community as well as other p laces in the wider community. A s a result of the negative exper ience, she figured out on her own how to establ ish her support and socia l networks and minimally used serv ices of community agenc ies . In addit ion to the negative exper ience with her host family, she also had an unpleasant exper ience with Wel fare workers, where she wi tnessed workers ask ing s o m e cl ients to sell their gold or jewellery before providing welfare ass is tance to the women . S h e considers this utterly disrespectful and intrusive. S h e expla ined that some of these women were attached to their jewellery because they have spec ia l memories: gifts from their loved ones before they e s c a p e d , wedding gifts, or a reminder of the life that they once had in their 97 country of origin. The welfare worker only s a w the monetary value. S h e exc la imed, "humiliation is too much"! It's like, you choose to be on welfare. It was not like, okay, this is transit ion. It's okay, but try to find employment. No ! It's like we choose to be on welfare, and they strongly [say], "you have to find employment. Y o u didn't come to C a n a d a to be on welfare. Y o u [came] to work." S h e recounts this exper ience with emotion in her voice. It appears that the memory of this negative exper ience triggers some emotion. S h e is now a serv ice provider who channe ls her energy into advocacy work with her cl ients, trying to e a s e their entry into welfare and providing support for ongoing issues such as immigration, chi ldcare, and poverty, among others. Another participant chose to use minimal socia l serv ices from government and community agenc ies , as she relied primarily on her husband 's extended family for support and information about resources in the community, jobs and schoo l for her chi ldren. S h e also actively sought help from her ethnic community for family recreational and socia l activities. W h e n she mustered enough courage to report to police her husband 's emotional abuse and physical assault , she expanded her help-seeking strategies to community serv ices such as the Vancouve r and Lower Main land Multicultural Fami ly Support Se rv i ces Society ( V L M F S S S ) . [My] husband came to fight with me. I don't have any way to do. If I ca l l . . . my fr iends, they can't come to help me. . . so I callfed] the pol ice. . . The fighting is no good in front of [the] kids that's why I call[ed] the police to come [and] help us . . . The Family Just ice Counse l lo r in New Wes t gave me the number for the Multicultural [agency.. . I went there so [someonef is helping me from there. 98 S h e said that she w a s not comfortable at first but now she relies on and appreciates the support from the organizat ion's support workers. Her dec is ion to keep ask ing for ass is tance from the agency is a result of positive exper iences from her var ious interactions with the workers. Al though her ex-husband abused her for seven years and she knew that she could call the pol ice, she did not report the var ious incidents of assaul t as she wanted to protect her chi ldren. In this situation, resistance was the consc ious dec is ion not to report incidents of abuse , which runs contrary to expectat ions of many serv ice providers and police officers. Another example of a participant's decis ion not to seek help is a woman who is highly motivated to find work; she felt that she did not need personal or family counsel l ing as she was "okay". S h e , however, sought counsel l ing support for her two chi ldren who had a "bad exper ience" in the refugee camp. My eldest s o n . . . had been pretty lost in the [refugee] camp because he grew up in an unhealthy area. At this t ime, like after the war and everything, my son had lots of problems, in the schoo l . The teachers, the schoo l counsel lor, they a lways talk with h im. . . They gave me advice to enrol him in the neighbourhood house. In North V a n , they have a counsel lor for chi ldren. . . [They] have things for chi ldren, sports. . . M y youngest [who is] pretty shy . . . He is grateful [because] his teacher supports h im. . . S h e is grateful for the support that her children get from the schoo l and the neighbourhood house. A s for support or counsel l ing for herself, she replied that she did not need such service because she was working and she cons idered herself emotional ly stable and capable of making dec is ions on her own. Contrary to s o m e percept ions of service providers, not many refugee women choose to seek help to address their exper ience of t rauma. Many refugee women develop 99 coping strategies that enable them to ride through their sett lement journey with minimal or no help from counsel lors or therapists (Beiser, 2006; Harvey, 1996). T h e s e studies support this participant's decis ion to resist the general expectat ion that refugee w o m e n should seek help for their traumatic exper ience. 5.2.3 Images a n d Metaphors of H o p e s & D r e a m s In this sect ion, two images are d i scussed : 1) light and 2) we lcome house, home, fire and safe p lace. Light operates as a metaphor to signify hope for a better future for the chi ldren, which propels the women to work hard and make sacr i f ices in order to provide for their chi ldren's needs, especia l ly their educat ion. They v iew educat ion as the chi ldren's key to opening doors of opportunit ies here in C a n a d a . The next sect ion descr ibes various images and metaphors such a s home, fire, candle, and safe place. 5.3 Metaphor of L ight S ign i f ies H o p e for the C h i l d r e n The situation of one of the participants of the interviews illustrates the notion of hope for the chi ldren. In response to the quest ion of source of strength to face the cha l lenges of caring for her daughter who regressed to a developmenta l stage that required ongoing vigi lance of her behaviour such as tantrums, tendency to harm herself, and lack of perception of physical danger (e.g., c ross ing the street), she articulated her hope as , [I'm] still doing because I saw the two other kids [who] are waiting for me . . . I just keep [myself] standing] up. . . I [say to myself] to keep going. Don't stop!... [RJeally, it's D. [daughter's therapist], [who] is an angel for me . . . without her, [I] can't handle [my daughter's] problems. Somet imes D. stays with us [until] nine o'clock when we [have] a prob lem. . . S h e doesn' t leave us . . . I'm happy when I see her.. . D. and the socia l worker [helped me]. There is light after dark days. My children get help here in C a n a d a . . . 100 Her strength c o m e s from her immense love for the two younger chi ldren who need her care and the support from her daughter 's therapist and socia l worker. S h e cal ls her daughter 's therapist an "angel" who was with them in t imes of need and crisis and when she felt overwhelmed and confused. Here she uses the metaphor of an "angel" to mean goodness and k indness from a stranger, her daughter 's therapist, who is not a relative or fr iend. The metaphor may also signify hope for a better life for her daughter s ince she is guided by an "angel" . Another participant shared her exper ience of raising her two chi ldren on her own with some help from welfare, friends in her community and communi ty agenc ies such as ISS, M O S A I C and K iwassa Neighbourhood House . The child care subsidy and access ib le chi ldcare service at the neighbourhood house enabled her to take E S L c lasses , pre-employment and training programs. Moreover , she w a s able to work as a R o o m Attendant in a hotel for a few months because of the chi ldcare support. However, when presented with the issue of keeping her job and staying home with her kids as a result of a child neglect investigation, she readily left her job and worked collaboratively with a socia l worker and the daycare provider. S h e considered her chi ldren as more important than her job. S h e hopes that her children will have a better future, "my kids get support, they go to schoo l . That is the way, the life they need. " Here she uses "the way" to descr ibe a hopeful p rocess to a better future. A single mother with three chi ldren, who w a s a doctor in her country of origin, si tuates her self-actualization goals, which are to pursue her medical studies in s tages, from Resident Ca re Attendant to Nursing and eventual ly take 101 the examinat ion for foreign-trained doctors, within the context of being able to provide for her chi ldren. Her wish to achieve her long-term goal is really to help her chi ldren, that she will be able to earn enough to send them to higher educat ion. S h e hopes that they will be successfu l in their studies and have a good life in C a n a d a . 5.4 Images and Metaphors: Welcome House, Home, Fire, Candle, Safe Place 5.4.1 Welcome House The image of a "Welcome House" resonates with many of the participants, especia l ly those who stayed at the ISS W e l c o m e House during their first two weeks in C a n a d a . O n e participant indicated that she and her two boys felt we lcome when they were met by staff of the W e l c o m e house and s o m e w o m e n from the church that co-sponsored them at the airport and transported them to the W e l c o m e House . Another participant reminisced her first day in C a n a d a at the W e l c o m e House with nostalgia. S h e remembered the exper ience at the W e l c o m e House as something that symbol ized a "home", a place to go back to in a foreign land, after going around during the day, to ponder on the possibi l i t ies for the next day. S h e remembers well the pleasant surpr ise of meeting her friend from her country of origin at the We l come House . They did job club together, sea rched , found and shared affordable housing. 5.4.2 Darkness to Light A metaphor, which also refers to the W e l c o m e House , is one from "darkness to light". I remember . . . our situation, everything centred around the W e l c o m e 102 H o u s e . . . I w a s a lways hoping tha t . . . they'll be able to help us. They are going to give us some information, they are going to provide us s o m e tools or just give us a name, a contact name [who] we can talk to.. . so we can make a difference in our l ives. Al though it didn't happen for... [many] years but still we kept that hope; it gave hope. That 's how I see the [Welcome House] , a "burning fire", like a "candle burning", a "centre of hope" for immigrants, for our family and a lot of people I know [my emphasis ] . The metaphors in the participant's quote al lude to darkness as the initial exper ience, after landing in C a n a d a , progressing to "burning fire" and "candle burning" which signify "light". Then the participant's symbol of hope is exempli f ied in the image, "centre of hope". 5.4.3 Death to Life A metaphor that some women shared is that of "death to life". A participant articulated this vividly [In my] first year, ... I needed lots of help. . . and my Engl ish w a s not good . I was like a "dead person", like the person [that] can't speak . . . can't talk, [looking] everywhere. . . It was very difficult... But now I feel very happy that I can follow my educat ion, and I can go to schoo l in this age . . . I have this power to study.. . I will not forget those who helped me a lot, the Stepping Up program, ... the principal at my chi ldren's schoo l . . . , the Res ident C a r e Program. . . The quote above does not explicitly state the progression from death to life; instead it descr ibes life as manifested in her happ iness of going to schoo l to pursue further educat ion, and embracing the value of lifelong learning. A s wel l , she names key programs and people who helped her rise above her "death" or depress ion to an empowered woman , with the "power to study" at her age. 5.4.4 Canada as "Home" O n e of the women descr ibes her life in C a n a d a with ambiva lence, from confusion to an assert ion that C a n a d a is now her "home". 103 I feel home here. I've been feeling [at] home. I think I made up my mind. I think this is home for me except somet imes, I get confused. I say, "where do I be long? Do I belong here? Or do I belong in A f r i ca?" . . . But I think that [this] is a normal feeling of an immigrant person when you are lonely, and when you're scattered all over the world. Y o u uncle is there, your brother is there, your sister is there, all those kind of things. S o it's not only me. I feel [that I'm] a very proud Canad ian ! In the above quote, she descr ibes her feeling of ambiva lence, that immigrants and refugees whose sibl ings and members of the extended family are "scattered all over the world" tend to question their adopted "home". But she has made a dec is ion to be a proud Canad ian . However , two women are not feeling at "home" in C a n a d a ; one is happy for her two young children as C a n a d a is their home but she could not cons ider C a n a d a as "home" yet s ince she longs to hear for news about her family in Afr ica. S h e doesn' t know if they are still al ive. S h e hasn't seen them in twelve years . S h e would like to find her brothers, sisters and her mother. C a n a d a is good, safe. I have my home right now. A n d I have my support. M y kids get support, they go to school . That is the way, the life... But not for me. [I'm] upset, I lost my family. [It's been] twelve years [since I've seen] my family.. . I don't know where they are . . . Peop le ran away a long time ago from the war. . . And I [don't] get [good] information. The above quote descr ibes a profound pain that many refugees exper ience as a result of var ious losses, especia l ly loss of loved ones , extended family and fr iends, among others. S h e feels happy for her chi ldren who have C a n a d a as their "home" but she is unhappy about the "home" for herself because it does not include her mother and her sibl ings. Their absence tugs at her heart and makes her life incomplete. 104 5.4.5 Canada as a Safe Place The image that C a n a d a is a "safe place" resonates with all the women . O n e of the w o m e n who has lived in C a n a d a for over ten years, descr ibes her exper ience as "living without [fear], not being afraid. . . that my chi ldren wi l l . . . have a shelter. . . that we will have what we need. A safe place!" Th is notion of safety is echoed by another woman who lived in constant fear of authorit ies in the country of asy lum. S h e regards C a n a d a as not only a "safe p lace" but more importantly a "place of f reedom", where she can go out shopping without fear of being checked for documents. In her country of asy lum, she had to bring her young son when she needed to shop as the pol ice did not bother w o m e n with young chi ldren. Her children could not go to school because their papers from Red C r o s s were not recognized as official documents . C a n a d a for her and her chi ldren means f reedom, a place where she can follow her d ream of further educat ion; her kids are safe and they can go to schoo l for free. 5.5 Narratives of Reconstruction of Identity and Changing Roles In Different Vo i ces , Gi l l igan (1993) articulates a developmental theory that a female def ines her identity in terms of her relat ionships or connect ions with others. M o u s s a (1993) expands this notion of relational identity and situates it within a cultural context. S h e c la ims that "symbol ic identification with certain traditional va lues and pract ices. . . such as cultural notions relating to family, s e n s e of belonging, and mourning customs" appear to be distinct from mainst ream Canad ian va lues; hence, they become "important bases for feel ings of continuity or self-identity." Bannerji (1995) adds another layer to M o u s s a ' s 105 (1993) idea of cross-cultural identity when she espouses that identity is a socia l construct ion and fluid, arising from a process of negotiation against a backdrop of intersecting oppress ions such as racism, sex ism and c lass ism. Al l the women in the study periodically exper ience ambiva lence about their identity. There are t imes when they don't really know where they belong. W h e n visiting relatives in their country of origin, they miss C a n a d a , their fr iends and co l leagues at work. But when they are in C a n a d a , they somet imes exper ience regret in coming here. S o the crucial quest ion is "where is home?" For many of the participants, "home" is now C a n a d a as they real ized that they have minimal emotional attachment to their country of origin. A s one participant exp ressed , "I a m proud of my origins in Afr ica", but my "home now is C a n a d a . " Reconstruct ing identity for someone who came to C a n a d a at a young age, as a teen-ager has been a struggle. S h e considers her life with her parents and sibl ings as "sheltered". S h e moved out only when she got marr ied. W h e n I got married and moved out, my struggle was to find a job, a career. But it was difficult so I very much stay[ed] in the s a m e job for a long, long t ime.. . W h e n it comes to my struggle, like where I have to find a job and when I ... have some difficulties, I seek help from my f r iends. . . I [also] went to M O S A I C . I went to Col l ingwood Neighbourhood H o u s e . . . where I got my community work and training... I w a s very grateful. . . that I met the right people . . . Another part of my struggle.. . [is] to find my identity. I came when I was young. . . but I w a s raised in the V ie tnamese culture so I find it very difficult... to l ive... I have to compromise . . . and I find it very difficult to.. . be better in both.. . Until three years ago I come to real ize. . . who I a m and how I want to choose who I want to be . . . That is the time ... I become at peace with myself . . . I've [also] come to real ize [the need] to have faith... I a lways feel dep ressed . . . because there are expectat ions that I can't meet ... there's so many things in my mind and I didn't know how to sort out my priorities and so I was confused for a long t ime. Quote from a Participant 106 It appears that the process of reconstructing her identity, unfolded within the context of her relat ionships with her extended family, her fr iends who supported her, her marr iage, her struggle to find a career and the realization of the importance of her faith. The process descr ibed here s e e m s to support Gi l l igan's (1993) claim that a woman 's identity is defined in terms of her "relat ionships or connect ions with others." M o u s s a ' s notion of continuity of identity in so far as symbol ic identification is made with the culture of birth and social izat ion a lso gives s o m e insights into the participant's struggle to articulate who she has become. Al though she did not specify what expectat ions she was struggling with and could not meet, she was emphat ic about her realization that she can choose and shape her identity. Th is realization of choice and her faith gave her peace . 5.5.1 Changing Roles Accord ing to Gi l l igan (1993) and Belenky, et a l , (1997) gender roles, among other factors shape a woman 's identity. W h e n asked how they view themselves as women in C a n a d a , most of the participants descr ibe their caring roles at home as : mothers, wives, and daughters, and in the public domain , for some , as serv ice providers and others as workers. Of the sixteen participants, twelve are single mothers, two are married with children and two are single. The single mothers were all in agreement that raising chi ldren in C a n a d a on their own w a s very difficult and chal lenging. They had to do both the role of provider, which w a s usual ly the role of the male in their culture, and do the caring role that they have done s ince their younger days in their country of origin. Al though some of 107 the w o m e n worked in their country of origin or country of asy lum, the caring role w a s done collectively by the mothers, some members of the extended family and fr iends. O n e participant articulated her difficulties in caring for her chi ldren amidst legal problems of abuse and custody in C a n a d a . In S u d a n , your mom is there. If you don't have your mom, [you have] your relatives, your cous ins . [There are] a lot of people there to help me, my cous ins , my sister, my uncle, my aunt, my granny. . . lots of people, they will help me. I will feel better than this. But now here, it's just only [me]. If [I] have a problem, nobody will help [me]... If I want to go to any place now, I am just going with my k ids. . . I want to go to court, I don't have [help]. My fr iends.. . are busy. . . It is different really between here and there. [The] culture or the situation here is different. The sentiment expressed above is echoed by other participants who shared their frustration in doing their caring roles on their own, which seemed to be a "world" apart from their own upbringing where women 's car ing roles are done within a col lective or interdependent way. O n e participant in particular, shared her encounter with a socia l worker when she went to a nearby grocery store to buy s o m e suppl ies and her neighbour reported that her kids were left on their own. A s her Engl ish w a s minimal at that time, she had to call a friend to interpret for her. From that time on , she would go shopping with all five kids in tow. O n the surface, the gender roles descr ibed may not s e e m to have changed and what s e e m s to be consistent in the women 's narratives is the absence of the extended family and their supportive roles in the caring of chi ldren. However, given the context of their narratives (Canada) , the value that pervades in the dominant culture is independence; hence, many factors such as those previously descr ibed drive the women to perform various duties in both the 108 private and public spheres on their own or with minimal support. Th is contextual ized change weighs heavily on the shoulders of refugee women . S o m e of the women descr ibed their caring roles and the need to provide for their chi ldren in terms of the hope for a better future. They made the necessary sacr i f ices so their chi ldren would have a better future. O n e participant vividly descr ibed her caring role as "raising my children and myse l f . Th is image is interesting in the sense that "raising" is appl ied to both the chi ldren and the self. A s wel l , the image is one of elevating from a lower level to a higher level, literally and figuratively. The image may suggest her ability and power to change ; thus, flirting with hope. 5.5.2 V iew of Se l f All but one explicitly stated that they view themselves as strong w o m e n and proud Canad ians who are participating in Canad ian life, "paying taxes, being responsib le and helping others", so they would like to be recognized as Canad ians . O n e participant emphatical ly stated that she doesn' t like the hyphenated Af r ican-Canad ian nor does she like being referred to as Vis ib le Minority, a term that makes her "sick". S h e would prefer to be considered as a "wise and exper ienced woman , [and] a contributor to the country." S h e thinks that "Mult iculturalism is to divide and conquer, not bringing people together to work together." S h e c la ims that there is a need to go beyond multiculturalism. Lately, she worr ies about retirement as she does not want to be cons idered "expendable" . S h e doesn' t like how seniors are treated in this country. They are p laced in care facilit ies, segregated from young people, chi ldren and famil ies. 109 W h e n she volunteered in a senior 's home, she met and befr iended s o m e seniors who told her that they were lonely, that their chi ldren do not visit them often. T h e s e interactions with the seniors made her feel sad . S h e does not however, worry as much about lonel iness in retirement as she bel ieves that she has a strong circle of fr iends who would support her. S h e w ishes though, that she would die with dignity in this country. Most of the women who are currently employed descr ibe themse lves now as "proud to be a single mom" in C a n a d a . O n e participant is very, proud that she has been able to set up her own family daycare and help other w o m e n by caring for their young chi ldren. Another descr ibes herself as "strong" and able to "stand up", thanks to the support that she got from different programs and serv ices for immigrant and refugee women as well as a therapist from the Ministry for Chi ldren and Family. S h e now feels that she can provide for her chi ldren. A participant from Serb ia likes the roles of women in C a n a d a as women s e e m to have equal rights as men, unlike the roles of women in her country of origin where w o m e n are "pretty down" and they suffer in s i lence. In the Former Yugos lav ia . . . the woman is not shown very much. The w o m a n is pretty, pretty down. And especial ly if you are d ivorced. . . that's not very good for you. Y o u are not very good woman . Y e s , [divorce] is lega l . . . but I think many women don't get.. . enough power to say, "I cannot handle anymore," they just cover everything, they suffer [alone]... The men have power. . . especia l ly when you're marr ied. [The] man dec ides everything for you . . . The women keep quiet because without f inancial [help], what [can they do]?... The law is okay but men have money, the children automatically go to them. [Women] don't have money. The social support is almost ze ro . . . Chi ld support i s . . . maybe a few breads . . . 110 This quote gives a powerful image of male dominance entrenched in societal structures such as legislation and justice sys tems (courts) which is not limited to the context descr ibed. Th is participant really appreciates the changing roles of w o m e n here in C a n a d a . S h e laughed at her descript ion of "a few breads", as child support but she said that what she meant was that women in her country would get nothing substantial as child support so they suffer in s i lence. Moreover , she l ikes the idea of women in trades here in C a n a d a , as it g ives w o m e n opportunit ies for higher income. A s well, she appreciates the tolerance for different religions in C a n a d a . 5.6 D i s c u s s i o n The narratives of the women who are currently employed reveal a progression from client to service provider. The overal l tone of the narratives is posit ive and hopeful. Accord ing to the women, they use their position of power to help immigrants & refugees, especial ly newcomers. They view themselves as fortunate and doing quite well as they have their own apartments and one is able to travel abroad once a year. However, one participant laments that she is not "living"; instead she is just "surviving". S h e doesn' t have d isposable income as she sends money to her family overseas on a regular bas is . S h e holds two to three jobs in order to save some money for her relatives and a little bit for her yearly vacat ion. Often t imes, she has to charge her travel to her credit card so essent ial ly she l ives from pay cheque to pay cheque. Th is sentiment s e e m s to be shared by the other women in the study. I l l A s mentioned in chapter one, the purpose of this study is to explore the intersection of gender, c lass , culture and trauma in refugee women 's acculturation and integration to a new country. The interplay of these contextual var iables w a s evident in the women 's narratives. In particular, gender and culture as socia l construct ions were manifested in the women 's articulation and understanding of their roles. For example, the caring roles that the w o m e n perform in their homes as mothers, daughters and sisters, as well as the extension of the caring role in the workplace as service providers suggest what feminist call the "double bind" or "double burden", is embedded in the women 's psyche, their v iew of the world and their "way of knowing" (Belenky, et a l , 1997). Through social izat ion, women have internalized the roles ascr ibed to women . The context of this notion of "double bind" is the women 's social izat ion in their particular culture in their country of origin and the constant negotiation with the dominant culture of their host country. Moreover, the women 's strategies of seek ing help were influenced by their need to provide for their chi ldren. For some w o m e n , however, their idea of caring for their chi ldren has changed to include personal autonomy. T h e s e were illustrated in some narratives in previous sect ions of this chapter. C l a s s or economic status coloured the women 's perception of "help" and their expectat ions of seek ing help and ideas of rebuilding their l ives; thus, inf luencing their help-seeking strategies. In this chapter, images and metaphors were extracted from the women 's narratives. A s d iscussed in previous chapters, images and metaphors of resistance to some va lues and pract ices of the 112 dominant culture were articulated by women who were educated in their country of origin and spoke functional to almost fluent Engl ish. It appears that these w o m e n , who had a c c e s s to formal educat ion and occupied a privi leged c lass , had higher expectat ions of the host country: they thought that they would cont inue their educat ion and pursue a career with the government 's support. A s wel l , they expected to use their foreign-earned educat ion and exper ience in a similar field here in C a n a d a . They were disappointed that no such opportunity awaited them. They real ized that they have to work hard, navigate institutional sys tems and negotiate for a c c e s s to further educat ion. W h e n confronted by the harsh reality of intrusive system such as socia l ass is tance (welfare) and immigration, they reluctantly sought help within these institutional "helping" agenc ies ; other than f inancial need, they relied on their personal networks of fr iends and family and support from their ethnic communit ies. Al though grateful for government ass is tance, almost all the women were unhappy with the systemat ic "survei l lance" that institutional "helping sys tems" such as welfare off ices use. Chapter 4 has some examples on this. The w o m e n who came with minimal educat ion and no paid work exper ience had to navigate their way through language c lasses for beginners such as E L S A and training programs while those with language capaci ty pursued grade 12 equiva lency c l asses , training programs and job clubs. Psycho log ica l t rauma did not play out as prominently as gender, culture and c lass . However, systemic traumatization (as d iscussed in chapter 4 ) w a s prevalent in the women 's narratives. Perhaps , this points to the limitation of the 113 study as the set of quest ions focused on strengths, resi l ience, resistance, hopes and d reams and reconstruction of identities. Al though some women descr ibed what appeared to be symptoms of trauma such as depress ion (unable to do the usual things that they are able to do; wanting to s leep a lot; taking anti-depressants for this), anxiety (usually around welfare and immigration offices) and "hypervigi lance" (being alert to certain stressors at all t imes and at t imes susp ic ious of people 's motive to help), their capacity to make cho ices and ability to function in their daily l ives was evident in their narratives. Another possibil ity for the non-express ion of psychological t rauma is the focus on post-migration stories. It is possib le that if the study includes both pre-migration such as exper iences of flight and refugee camps and post-migration exper iences, the effects of psychological t rauma on the women 's help-seeking exper iences might be more explicit in their narratives. 5.7 C o n c l u s i o n The women 's images and metaphors of resi l ience, resistance and narratives of reconstruction of identities give insights into their acculturation and integration p rocesses , their view of the host country and the types of serv ices and programs avai lable to them as well as their p rocess of reconstructing their identities. Images and metaphors that the women descr ibe such as W e l c o m e House , Darkness to Light, Death to Life, C a n a d a as "Home" , and C a n a d a as a "Safe P lace" , mirror the different s tages of their acculturation and eventual integration. T h e s e images and metaphors also point to refugee women 's socia l agency, their active involvement in the various s tages of navigating institutional 114 sys tems, socia l serv ices in the community and connect ing or establ ishing their own informal socia l networks in order to initially survive and eventual ly thrive in their chosen path. The women 's perception and descript ion of who they have become at the time of the interviews further indicate that they are socia l actors, not pass ive recipients of socia l serv ices and programs. Those who are currently employed are satisfied as they are no longer dependent on Immigration or the Ministry of Soc ia l Serv ices (welfare). This new role as a service provider has shaped their identity; therefore, free from intrusion of Employment Ass i s tance Workers ( E A W s ) . A s one participant proudly stated, "No more going signing paper . . . No more worr ies. . . I'm now proud ... I can manage my k ids. . . and I'm happy." Another participant shared her new pride in herself, "I feel [stronger] because , before when I ... didn't have a job. . . I didn't feel f ree. . . I have a lways ... to go to somebody to tell my life. But now I feel like I can keep to mysel f and ... if I work, I have money. . . I'm happy." Except for one participant, almost all the women descr ibed their reconstructed identities as women in relation to their chi ldren's well being. Their definition of self is relational (Gil l igan, 1993). They punctuated their stories on reconstruct ing their identities with express ions of gratitude for significant persons or programs that ass is ted them during their critical early years in C a n a d a , a time of vulnerability and uncertainty. 115 6 IMPLICATIONS ON R E S E A R C H , POLICY AND SOCIAL W O R K PRACTICE Accord ing to (Powles, 2004; R e i s s m a n , 2002 and 2001 ; Liebl ich, et a l , 1998) narrative studies have gained currency not only in socia l sc iences but a lso in the natural sc iences . Many of the studies reviewed for this thesis used narrative approach including oral history, life story and personal narrative. A narrative approach appears to be the best means to engage a person in re-living moments of the past and "re-entering the rich emotional landscape of powerful exper iences" (Mattingly and Lawlor, 2000 p. 5). A s this thesis has revealed, using a narrative approach to explore the help-seeking exper iences of refugee w o m e n opened a window into a refugee woman 's journey to resettle, adapt and eventual ly integrate into her adopted country. Pow les (2004) proposes that life history and personal narrative should be included in the United Nat ions High Commiss ione r for Re fugees ' tool kit for research and evaluat ion as they are helpful in understanding the complex exper iences of refugees. More importantly, narrative studies on refugees focus on their socia l agency. A s well , studies (Herbst, 1992; Shepherd , 1992; D o s s a , 2004) on the var ious issues that impact refugees, especia l ly refugee women , that use a narrative approach are not only effective in eliciting stories from the perspective of the socia l actors but a lso acknowledge their capaci ty to influence their journey. More studies are needed to explore the help-seeking exper iences of refugee women especia l ly the impact of the acculturation process on their mental and physical health - from the women 's perspect ive. 116 Moreover, on a macro level, government funding policies for programs and services for refugees need to recognize that it takes time for them to be able to navigate institutional and community services. As well, disclosures of migration trauma and issues of violence in the home may not be revealed until some years later once a relationship of trust is established. Consequently, outreach services are essential in reaching refugee women as this thesis found that the help-seeking patterns of refugee women in the Greater Vancouver area revolve around the informal networks in their communities. This is supported by literature, indicating that refugee women tend to navigate through their informal networks and concurrently seek help from institutional helping organizations. In order to reach refugee women during their early settlement journey, programs and services need to have an outreach component and interventions such as counselling and crisis interventions should be available to families in their homes or places that are readily accessible in their geographic locations. On a mezzo level, therefore, programs and services need to be culturally responsive to the needs of refugees as well as geographically and linguistically accessible. In some of the women's narratives, they articulated some ideas for designing culturally responsive programs for refugees. For example, language programs with labour market component would be helpful for those who have some English language capacity. Another idea was to design training programs that lead to meaningful jobs (those that are not seasonal and minimum wage jobs) instead of "dead end" ones. There are others that the women could articulate if given the opportunity to express their ideas. 117 O n a micro level, service providers such as socia l workers must develop the necessary skil ls to do culturally responsive interventions, acquire knowledge, perspect ives and understanding of migration and trauma as well as engage in an ongoing process of reflection in their practice. The women in the study indicated that compass ion and k indness were, in some situations, more important than practical help. They remembered service providers who showed respect and k indness in their interactions and they remain grateful for being treated like human beings. The women also valued a process of reconstructing their identities. They search for a sense of belonging and this process necess i ta tes grieving their losses (material, emotional at tachments and relational) and contest ing discontinuit ies in symbol ic interactions and cultural rituals that do not give meaning to their evolving identities. Serv ice providers need to engage refugees in this process in order to gain their trust and explore meaningful interventions. Above all, service providers must acknowledge the p rocess of "becoming refugee"; that being a refugee is just one part of the totality of their identity. They have other identities such as activist, who resisted institutional v io lence in their country of origin, mother, sister, aunt, fr iend, student, worker, advocate , among others. Often t imes, labelling persons as refugees does not benefit them; instead, it marginal izes them. The women in this thesis regarded the refugee label as negative, stripping their identities prior to f leeing their country of origin. A l though the women regarded themselves as refugees in var ious s tages of their migration and settlement, they wish to shed this negative 118 identity as soon as they begin to contribute to the Canad ian society through volunteer work or attachment to the labour market, paying taxes. Through the stories of the refugee women who participated in the study I have gained insights into their help-seeking patterns and how they ascr ibe meaning to these exper iences. What stands out is the remarkable strength of the women as they navigated the maze of socia l serv ices and found helpful serv ice providers who made an impact on their l ives. In some sense , the study can be v iewed as an evaluative process of programs and interventions des igned to assist refugee women . A s a service provider, I a m both humbled and thrilled that many of the women in the study expressed appreciat ion of the Bridging program and its effect on their l ives some years after complet ion of the program. A s serv ice providers, we need to be vigilant of our interventions, ensur ing that we are respectful and culturally responsive in designing programs and serv ices. A s shown in this study and many other studies (Bowen, 2005; Bhuyan , et a l , 2005; Israelite, et, a l , 1999), program participants are our best teachers when it c o m e s to designing programs and serv ices, especial ly refugee women who have strengths and capaci t ies that need to be recognized. They may appear to be vulnerable, thus easy to pathologise, but when given time and space to define their needs , they can be very articulate. The implications of this thesis on a Bridging program for immigrant and refugee women point to the need to include an outreach component in the des ign of the program and perhaps cons ider del ivery of the program in first language in the communi ty of the target populat ion. 119 In t e r m s of r e s e a r c h o n r e f u g e e w o m e n , th is t h e s i s s h o w e d that the na r ra t i ve a p p r o a c h w a s r e s p e c t f u l a n d e m p o w e r i n g , a s it u s e d a f e m i n i s t s t a n d p o i n t , w h i c h h o n o u r s the w o m e n ' s s t r u g g l e s . T h i s s t a n c e e n a b l e d t he r e s e a r c h e r to c e l e b r a t e t he w o m e n ' s s t r e n g t h s a n d the m a n i f e s t a t i o n s of s o c i a l a g e n c y in the i r s e t t l e m e n t a n d in tegra t ion j ou rney . 120 REFERENCES Amer ican Psychiatr ic Assoc ia t ion . (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- TR (4 t h ed.). Washington, D C : Author. 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Demographics 1) Please give your full name, country of origin, language(s) spoken, number of children, number of years in C a n a d a , working or not working * Do a time line of arrival in C a n a d a using note cards, string and paper clips III. Questions to generate narrative: 1) Think of your experience in C a n a d a in terms of stages, for example, 0 -1 year or 0-3 years 2 - 3 years 4 - 6 years, etc. Perhaps you can think of a significant year(s) that you will always remember. Map out and write down on your map the names of people, places, organization(s)/agencies that you saw or asked for help. 2) What kind of help were you asking? 3) Describe your experience of seeking help. 4) How did you feel about seeking help from ? 5) Why is this stage or time period important for you? (ask for each stage) IV. Thank participants for sharing their stories. Ask them if they would like to meet again to review the transcript. 133 APPENDIX E: Questions for Individual Interview Help Seeking Experiences of Refugee Women: Metaphors of Resilience, Resistance and Reconstruction of Identities Questions for Individual Interviews I. G o over Consent Form If no questions and participant is in agreement, ask her to sign the form. Give extra copy for her to keep. Explain procedural consent. Give list of counseling resources. II. Demographics a. Please give your full name, country of origin, language(s) spoken, number of children, number of years in C a n a d a , working or not working III. Questions to generate narrative: a. Think of your experience in C a n a d a in terms of stages, for example, 0 -1 year or 0-3 years 2 - 3 years 4 - 6 years, etc. Perhaps you can think of a significant year(s) that you will always remember. Map out and write down on your map the names of people, places, organization(s)/agencies that you saw or asked for help. b. What kind of help were you asking? c. Describe your experience of seeking help. d. How did you feel about seeking help from ? e. Why is this stage or time period important for you? (ask for each stage) Thank participant for sharing her stories. Ask her if she would like to meet again to review the transcript. 134 APPENDIX F: Focus Group #2: Participants' Mapping of HSE 135 APPENDIX G: Individual Mapping #1 136 APPENDIX H: Individual Mapping #2 137 APPENDIX I: Individual Mapping#3 138 

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