By Sauvé Fellows Maya Fennig and Sabrina Sassi

With only two weeks left to the end of the residential program, Sauvé House was abuzz with mixed feelings, ranging from separation anxiety to anticipation and excitement for new beginnings. While the Sauvé Fellows were still trying to summarize and make sense of their extraordinary 10 months together, there was still a lot of work to be done and no time to waste. After months of deep learning, researching, meeting stakeholders and decision makers, it was time to “bring it home” and showcase our work and proposals regarding refugee integration to the larger Sauvé and Montreal communities.

On Wednesday May 25, Sauvé Fellow Maya Fennig led a panel on the mental and psycho-social health needs of refugees. Our esteemed panelists led a deep and insightful discussion on refugee mental health providing perspectives from academia, psychiatry, social work, and personal perspectives. During the panel, we explored the impacts of conflict, displacement, and family separation on the mental health of refugee populations in Canada and abroad. We will also learned about the specific challenges facing refugee youth, and discussed what we can do, both to assist and address these mental health consequences.

From May 24 to May 27, we entered our final Deep Immersion Program  (DIP) period, in which we delve into issues surrounding Systems Thinking, Creativity, and Advocacy & Negotiation for Social Change. During this intense learning period, the Fellows learned how to incorporate systems thinking into the different stages of their work – problem solving, decision-making, and strategic planning. In a workshop on Creative Leadership, we learned how to utilize the power of games and improvisational theatre to foster public leadership and team building. After all, it is Plato who said: “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”. In the final section of the DIP, the Fellows immersed themselves in a 3-day workshop focused on negotiation and peace-building. Through a mix of theoretical and experiential learning methods, the Fellows learned important concepts and skills that are crucial for their future work as public leaders. For example: separating the relationship (“the people”) from the conflict (“the problem”) at hand, asking as many questions as possible, learning the other sides’ BATNA (the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) and more.

Saturday, May 28, was devoted to reflection and sharing as the Fellows headed off to their final team retreat at the beautiful Loyola Campus (Concordia University). With the help of frameworks and exercises provided by the incredible facilitators Dr. Raye Kass and Colin Robertson, we learned about the importance of the transition period and formulated a number of shared values, which will assist us in transitioning into the field phase of the program.

The following week, Costin Ciobanu and other Fellows led a workshop on public narrative and social change for the Concordia University Summer Research Institute (CUSRI), a 3-day academic experience built on interdisciplinary and experiential learning. The workshop was followed by another cultural evening: a Nigerian and Tunisian Iftar! The community gathered to share this dinner on the first night of Ramadan. Friends, host families, coaches, staff enjoyed a colourful night around delicious meals à la Nigérienne and à la Tunisienne. In addition to the delicious feast, the organizing Fellows animated the evening with activities to help us learn more about Nigeria and Ramadan. For instance, Charles shared fun Nigerian facts and love songs, while Sabrina gave us an insight into the spirit of Ramadan around the world and explained the meaning in a round of Q&A with guests.

On Tuesday, June 7, the final public Forum event – A Public Dialogue between Government and Civil Society on Refugee Policies and Grassroots Knowledge – took place at Concordia University. Organized by Sauvé Fellow Jon McPhedran Waitzer, Sabrina Sassi, Jaspreet Khangura and Costin Ciobanu, the policy panel reinforced the spirit of collaborative dialogue between government and civil society, creating new opportunities for policy-making grounded in grassroots knowledge, as it brought together three speakers from different levels of government and three speakers from grassroots organizations. Further, the Nansen Refugee Award was on display in honour of the upcoming World Refugee Day (June 20). This prestigious international humanitarian award was presented to Mme Jeanne Sauvé in 1986 on behalf of the ‘People of Canada’, given in recognition of major and sustained efforts made on behalf of refugees. This panel on the topic of refugee integration in the Montreal context was the closing event for the Building Inclusive Communities for Refugees: A Public Leadership Challenge series. After the riveting dialogue, our guests and panelists headed back to the Sauvé house to discuss the current challenges and opportunities surrounding refugee policy.

Finally, we were lucky enough to be part of a special Thank You ceremony surrounded by the entire Sauvé community – the Team, Board members, Fellows-at-large, community hosts, and many more – who generously supported us throughout the past ten months. The special evening was filled with laughter, music, and bittersweet goodbyes. In closing, we would like to thank everyone who has contributed to our leadership journey!

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