Nov. 23, 2022Print | PDF
Wilfrid Laurier University PhD candidate Maryam Motia is taking a page from a popular 1980s hobby to help immigrant women share the experiences of their journeys to Canada.
The Social Work student was recently awarded the Hilary M. Weston Scholarship for outstanding contributions to mental health research for her use of an innovative research tool — scrapbooking.
The Hilary M. Weston Scholarship is awarded annually to support the research of two students enrolled in full-time graduate social work programs at publicly funded universities. Motia is the sixth Laurier Social Work post-graduate student to be recognized with a Weston Scholarship in the past six years. Her $7,500 award will help purchase scrapbooks and scrapbooking supplies, which will be sent to first-generation immigrant women across Canada who will participate in scrapbooking workshops and an interview.
Participants must be first-generation immigrant women in Canada who are able to communicate in English, 18 years old or older, and available to participate in three scrapbooking sessions and an exit interview.
“I want to see how art can help them tell their mental health-related experiences of migration,” says Motia. “It may not be possible to tell their stories through words. That’s why I chose scrapbooking as an arts-based research tool for my research. The goal is to learn their stories of migration and experiences of scrapbooking sessions to gain knowledge of these women’s mental health-related needs and how those demands can be adequately and appropriately fulfilled, given their diverse backgrounds and unique needs.”
Motia says the scrapbooks will serve to chronicle the experience of participants related to their mental health and social support in their first years of resettlement in Canada.
“A scrapbook can be something beautiful, something very personal and meaningful about themselves, expressive of their life journey,” says Motia. “I always ask participants to use the materials they have, including photos of themselves and their loved ones, newspaper clippings, a piece of writing or drawing, poetry or textile.
“And they can keep the scrapbook for themselves or give it to a loved one. It’s for them and for their journey. In the end, I want photos of their scrapbooks, but they will keep them.”
Before coming to Canada, Motia worked as a family counsellor in Iran with native Iranian and migrant women, many of whom were mothers of street children. Providing counselling services to those clients led her to develop a passion for learning more and working with migrant populations, especially migrant women. After immigrating to Canada in 2013, she started volunteering to support immigrant women.
In a statement, former Ontario Lieutenant Governor Hilary Weston had high praise for the Laurier post-graduate student, saying, “With the harmful impact the pandemic has had on mental health, we are fortunate to have scholars like Maryam … pave the way in addressing health disparities among the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Motia has been working toward her PhD since 2019 under the supervision of Associate Professor Michelle Skop, a previous Weston Scholarship winner.
“I’m so proud of Maryam,” says Skop. “Her commitment and passion for learning is so impressive — not just in a research capacity, but as a consistent engaged presence in the Laurier community. She’s been active in her community with advocacy work and volunteering for non-profit groups.
“And she’s chosen scrapbooking because she saw a gap in the literature, how scrapbooking, as a research method, presented an opportunity for women to narrate their migration journeys on many different levels, using different materials, as part of a community and as a collective with other women participants.”
Motia – who was also an Ontario Graduate Scholarship winner this year – says she’s proud to continue what’s become a tradition of Weston Scholarship winners from Laurier’s Faculty of Social Work.
“This prestigious scholarship recognizes graduate social work students who are leaders in advancing mental health,” says Social Work Professor Michael Woodford. “That’s exactly who our students are – they are leaders in their practice areas and research.”
Cassandra Myers, a Master of Social Work student at York University, was presented a Hilary M. Weston Scholarship alongside Motia. Learn more about the Hilary M. Weston Scholarship.
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