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At the end of February at the President’s Gala, Communication PhD candidate Belen Febres-Cordero was recognized for her community engagement project “Stick With Me”. The project invites rural women migrants living in Quito, Ecuador to participate in workshops to create collective collages depicting their lived experiences. Her work was recognized part of the SFU Student-Community Engagement competition.
Can you tell me a bit more about your project? Why are you passionate about this topic and work?
My project is called “Stick with Me”. It invites women who were born in rural parts of Ecuador and migrated to Quito, the country’s capital city, to participate in workshops to create collective collages depicting different aspects of their lived experiences, with emphasis on their migration histories, health and well-being. These stories and collages will be collected to write multimedia journalistic posts that emerge from people’s own experiences and perspectives. In doing so, they will offer a unique view about human mobility and women’s health and well-being in Ecuador and elsewhere.
I am passionate about this topic because I believe that we need to question and broaden our understandings of concepts often thought as settled. For example, we could ask ourselves: What does health mean in different settings? How is well-being experienced by different groups? To explore these questions, we must learn from diverse communities, particularly those less heard. Novel definitions of these terms could be especially useful in uncertain and shifting contexts, such as the one that we are currently living in.
Tell me a bit about yourself, and your ongoing research, does it overlap with the project?
I am an Ecuadorian journalist, anthropologist, and PhD Candidate in the School of Communication at SFU. I have conducted qualitative research with diverse groups in Canada and Latin America for over a decade. I have also worked closely with diverse communities in different countries towards the common objective of amplifying the less heard voices in research and communication platforms.
The “Stick with Me” project is an extension of the research I am currently conducting, which also explores alternative expressions of health and well-being with internal migrant women in Ecuador.
Why did you apply to the community engagement competition? How will the money help you with your project moving forward?
For me, it is crucial that my academic work has a meaningful and direct impact in the communities that I work with. The Community Engagement Competition allows me to ensure that this is the case in my doctoral research project. In my study, I am having one-on-one interviews with internal migrant women in Quito, Ecuador, focusing on their individual understandings and experiences of health and well-being in the context of migration.
With the competitions’ support, I will be able to collaborate with a local communication NGO and community media platform to conduct participatory workshops with the women I am interviewing for my study. In these workshops, women will have the opportunity to share and reflect on their experiences, and to communicate them to a broader audience through multimedia journalistic posts that we will create together. In this way, participants in my project will have the chance to learn from each other, and to tell their stories in their own voices.
What has been your experience with the process? What would you tell others interested in applying for this competition?
It has been a great experience, the best that I have had applying for a competition so far. My time and effort to put the application together have been valued and respected all throughout the process.
I feel extremely grateful for the support and guidance of the people who run this competition, who have vast knowledge in creating and implementing community engaged initiatives. I also feel honored for the opportunity to learn from the experiences of the other projects that were selected, and to work alongside such an amazing and inspiring group of people.
I encourage everyone who has an idea for a project to apply. This competition gives us the chance to collaborate with partners outside academia and to bring positive change to the communities that we care about, which I believe is both vitally needed and extremely rewarding. I cannot wait to get started!