By Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe
CSOP student brings learning back to social services work
When Reezwana Yadallee heard that Mary Jo Leddy was teaching a course at the 2021 Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP), she told herself she could not miss it.
Leddy is the author of Radical Gratitude, a book that greatly impacted Yadallee when she read it for her class on voluntary simplicity at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). “[The book] forces you to do some self-introspection in a way, on yourself and what life actually really means,” Yadallee said.
The 45-year-old is studying Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies while also working in employment and income social services for the provincial government.
For her first CSOP course, she took Refugees and Displacement, Learning to Extend Hospitality with Leddy and Dan Epp-Tiessen, Emeritus Associate Professor of Bible at CMU. Epp-Tiessen is a preacher, writer, and former pastor who explores how scripture intersects with current issues like peace and justice and creation care. Leddy is a renowned Canadian writer, theologian, and social activist, who is known for her work with refugees at Toronto’s Romero House. “She inspires a lot of us just because of her way of seeing the world,” Yadallee said of Leddy.
Yadallee also enrolled in the course because she interacts with refugees on a regular basis through her work, and wanted to bring her learning back to the office. She sees refugee crises broadcast on the news, debated in politics, and discussed among friends—and she knows refugees face challenges and misconceptions.
As a newcomer who came to Canada from Mauritius in 2017, Yadallee can connect to parts of refugees’ experiences. “In a way we’ve also fled our country, not because of war but for other reasons, trying to seek a new beginning,” she says.
Yet there’s much she can’t understand because her experience is fundamentally different. So listening to her CSOP classmates share about their lives was really meaningful. “It gives you a lot to think about when you listen to them,” she says. “That’s the chance where I get to really listen to someone, to a refugee, and learn from that person.”
The course’s participants came from a host of different countries, contexts, and ages, some even from different locations due to the online format. This diversity was a highlight that enriched Yadallee’s learning experience. “It’s just that I get to interact with other people whom I can relate with, which is something very important for me,” she says. “Having other students from different cultural backgrounds really helps.”