Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS) and PowHERhouse Impact Media Group partner for impact.

Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS) has been helping immigrant and refugee women integrate and grow into Canadian society, since 1975. Over the past two years, in a unique partnership with BC settlement resource developer and community builder, Andrea Solnes, PIRS has stewarded Learning Journeys: Pathways for and with Immigrant Women, a project funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Learning Journeys is a participatory research initiative to identify important and effective elements of service delivery in providing immigrant women with meaningful information and experiences.

Unpacking Greatness is a new initiative championed by PIRS in partnership with PowHERhouse Impact Media Group. It is described as an innovative, inviting, and inclusive engagement, activation, and amplification designed to share the stories, learnings, and desired next steps forward of the Learning Journeys project.

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"The Learning Journeys project provided us with an opportunity to observe, discuss, and explore ‘the settlement journey’ of newcomer women towards their social and economic participation in Canada.

Our primary focus was on learning together ~ as immigrant women, service providers, community members, funders and other stakeholders ~ in order to  unpack and understand the full potential of these new changemakers to Canada, and what needs to shift in order for them to fully participate in and contribute to strengthening the fabric of our communities."

~ Andrea Solnes, Learning Journeys Co-Lead

Through the successful delivery of this program, the top three learnings from Learning Journeys co-leads, Andrea and Sandrine, are summarized below:

Integrating the humanized approach of our work with shared, decentralized leadership

Decentralized leadership creates space for all voices to be heard; unity and understanding grow as we grasp that there is no 'one-way-to-work' and move away from a top-down approach.


WHAT:  IWAC members designed and led an online trauma-informed peer support group dedicated to serving other immigrant and refugee women.


WHY:  Contributing positively to the change we wish to see is an integral part of the journey to belonging. IWAC members modeled personal leadership and demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility as they created a safe place for women to discuss challenging issues such as mental health, loneliness, and anxiety. This experience grew their confidence in their own skillsets and resulted in them stepping more solidly into belonging, starting with themselves.

Working from a shared experience with a shared purpose

Working from a place of shared experience with a lens of shared purpose allows collective skills and passion to fully ignite, burn brighter, and powerfully illuminate.


WHAT:  Shared experiences, insights, and learnings were available to reciprocally give and receive as LJ participants created new partnerships, designed and led storytelling workshops, produced a short film, and hosted podcast conversations.


WHY:  The power of story connects, informs, and transforms us. Stories allow us to see, hear, and understand our similarities while also appreciating how we’re unique. Stories of strength and vulnerability through failure help us to learn, heal, and grow while igniting hope and possibility for the next generation.


A relational approach empowers women to flourish

Women flourish within a relational approach that allows them to experience what they need to build confidence and bring forward with their natural skills and strengths.


Women gathered knowledge, wisdom, and confidence as they learned with and walked beside each other throughout LJ. The value of peer-mentoring was evident as participants modeled and embodied what is possible when a nurturing and nourishing environment is accessible.


When women can feel the ‘hands at their back’ of other positively powerful women, they begin to bravely and deliberately step into their fullest potential. The results, opportunities, and evidence of this both personally and professionally become inevitable.

One of the key learnings is described by the five women in the following short film produced by the Immigrant Women's Advisory Committee, the importance of quality, affordable childcare in Canada so that women can shine to their full potential, and Canada can benefit from the skills and strengths of immigrant women. This film is just one of the amazing co-designed projects coming out of Learning Journeys.

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“We need to find thoughtful ways to break down silos between organizations, people, and institutions to help create collaborative and inclusive work environments where common values and vision are shared. We are working on implementing effective approaches that will help transfer the learnings and knowledge accumulated during the past two years. Our primary intention is to help other organizations and individuals understand how beneficial reflective, inclusive, and tolerant work or community spaces truly are. We hope that this campaign will activate new conversations, partnerships, allies, and supporters."

~ Sandrine Espié, Women's Leadership and Development Program Coordinator, Pacific Immigrant Resources Society

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The ultimate goal of this initiative is that in time any and all stigma related to newcomers to Canada becomes a faint and distant memory as our own learning expands to grasp the incredible potential for contribution that each and every person brings. The Learning Journeys project definitely helps us in Canada to take actionable next steps.