Stories from the field

month September 2016

Danielle Leblanc-Cyr – Blog 2: Smog, Skin and Settling In (ES)

It’s all too easy to take for granted the everyday amenities that life in Canada has to offer. Some might say that drinkable (not to mention delicious, pure and clean) tap water, abundant trees and adequate (nay, exceptional) sanitation regulations are boring. I would challenge those who lack appreciation of these luxuries to consider the world outside of our home and native land of milk and honey maple. Instead, consider places where the air is polluted with hazy smog, and the water coming out of the tap is dirtier than the water Canadians use to flush toilets.

Sidney Moss – Blog 5: Breaking Bread Part II

In this post, I delve further into the idea of using food as a means of communication. Additionally, I discuss the usage of food in creating familiarity and connectedness within the discomfort of the unknown. Included are two cultural versions of one of my favourite recipes. 

Elena Lopez – Blog 5: Commonwealth Connections

Now that I’ve returned home to Canada, this blog post addresses why I think it’s important to do research outside of Canada, and why I think doing research in other countries can be relevant to our Canadian context. Although my fieldwork has come to an end, my research will continue, and hopefully strengthen the connection between Canada and Malaysia. 

Kimberly Copeland – Blog 5: University Opportunities (?) for Refugees in Malaysia

Past experiences affect how school-aged children navigate school and the relationships they form with teachers and peers – such is the case in particular with refugee children at the Malaysian Social Research Institute, where pre-resettlement history can have significant and dramatic ramifications to academic careers. Gaps in understanding this history in the education system of refugees can negatively affect refugees’ children’s sense of belonging and identity; relationships with peers and teachers; and the correct academic experience, psychosocial services, and future of the child attending school.

My fifth blog was inspired my a forum I attended in early August with Open Universities for Refugees and UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency. I was able to participate in various roundtable discussions throughout the weekend and learn about the many challenges refugee children face in Malaysia in order to obtain an education. Out of this forum, six Memorandums of Understanding were signed by the UNHCR and six Malaysian universities. Currently, there are 40 refugee students enrolled in programs or coursework at Malaysian universities. This emerging education area of opportunity is not met without challenges. Please read more in my attached blog!


Emma De Vynck – Blog 6: Considering Education

One of the resounding chords I hear at the Karenni Social Development Centre is the profound value of quality education. In this blog (attached), I offer some brief background on the education situation on the Thai-Myanmar border and in Karenni State. I then share KSDC student La Pleh’s educational journey. 

I also offer some links at the end of the blog to several Myanmar-context education resources. There are some great organizations supporting schools like KSDC with curriculum, training, and more. 



Charli Mohammed – Blog 4: The role of the media in shaping perceptions of foreign domestic workers

In Singapore, the media has a very important role in manufacturing perceptions of foreign workers. In the past three months I have witnessed how the media can shape local perceptions of foreign domestic workers, such as news reports of incidences where domestic workers have murdered employers and vice versa. I have also seen the mental health of domestic workers discussed in the news. These sorts of reports become a part of discussions about domestic workers among the public. For example, I have heard many individuals in Singapore vocalize that the most prominent reason for disagreements between domestic workers and Singaporean employers is that the domestic workers are not mentally prepared. Even when reports of the employers harming the domestic workers come out, local discussions tended to focus on the problems with the domestic worker. There is certainly more emphasis on issues surrounding the domestic worker, rather than things that the employer could improve on. Though the portrayal in the media can make life challenging for domestic workers in Singapore, some domestic workers have reported that the constant criticism from employers and negative images of them portrayed in the media have actually helped push them to improve their work ethic and capabilities.


Social media has also played an important role in manufacturing perceptions of domestic workers in Singapore. There are Facebook groups for Singaporean employers, in which they fully disclose their issues with their domestic workers and will warn other employers not to hire those individuals. The stories which employers post are not verified and could either be completely false or completely true. The problem for the lack of verification is that these stories are often taken at face value and affect the future employment of mentioned domestic workers, regardless of if the stories were actually true. There are many cases where employers have used social media to blackmail domestic workers who reported their mistreatment to others. Along with hearing the stories of mistreatment, witnessing how these reports have negatively impacted domestic workers when they were not in the wrong has been one of the most difficult things for me to cope with throughout the duration of my research. The domestic workers all come from very poor families and have many people relying on the money they send back home, especially their children. Thus, when a domestic worker is unable to work because of a false story reported on social media, it can be very detrimental for both the domestic worker and her family for a prolonged amount of time. For what I’ve understood through my research thus far, the number one reason why most foreign domestic workers work abroad is to pay for the school fees for their children, as in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, public education is not free. The individuals who suffer most in the mistreatment or false reports of domestic workers are often their children who are back home, because they rely on their mothers’ employment to continue their education. This knowledge has been emotionally challenging for me.


            A few of the women I have worked with have asked me to use my research to counter the ways in which they have been portrayed in the news and social media. They have been very happy to express their opinions about their experiences and have asked me to help create a positive image of domestic workers in Singapore. These women have extremely limited channels to share and communicate their ideas, and very little control over how they are portrayed in public. Thus, my work has given the women an opportunity to express their thoughts, beliefs and experiences in a safe, non-judgemental way. I have finally seen how my research can positively impact the women who I work with in an overt way. There is so much room for advocacy of domestic worker rights, as well as the need for a platform for domestic workers to openly share the experiences from their perspective. My work aims to do both.

Sophia Mayen – Blog 3: Yokohama Disaster Preparedness Drill

I had the opportunity to take part and witness the Yokohama Annual Disaster Drill in August. For this blog post I have made an infographic to showcase the event and relate it to what simple things we can do in Victoria to be more prepared in case of an emergency. 

The event was for the local public to engage and learn about disaster preparedness, as well as to facilitate all the different stakeholders for training purposes. The disaster drill began with an earthquake simulation in which everyone was to participate by ducking and covering. Small structures to simulate fallen houses and buildings were used for controlled fires and rescue missions. A multi-story building was used to demonstrate firefighting and a rescue as well. 

Bhiamie Eckford Williamson – Blog1: Introductions

Hi I am Bhiamie. I am from Australia and this Podcast is an introduction of myself and the research I will be undertaking this year.

Taiwo Afolabi – Blog 1: Introductory Podcast

In this self-introductory podcast, Taiwo Afolabi, a QES scholar at the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives (CAPI), University of Victoria, speaks on his research that he will be undertaking for the upcoming year.

Jeanique Tucker – Blog 1: Introduction

Hi, I am Jeanique and I am one of CAPI’s new incoming scholars.  In this podcast I say a little about myself and my background, as well as about my research. Hope you enjoy!

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