Shway Shway " Little by Little"
In 2016, Canada accepted 25,000 refugees fleeing the war in Syria and one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. When Len Senater and Cara Benjamin-Pace realized that families were staying in hotels for long, indefinite periods of time, they thought they could offer up the Depanneur - a commercial kitchen that hosts pop-up meals - to Syrian families to cook fresh, affordable and familiar meals. It seemed impossible to coordinate, but when the gathering finally happened, by all accounts, it was an exceptional moment. One that everyone wanted to continue.
Len was a friend of mine and when he told me that he was about to have a subsequent event, I asked if I could participate by filming what unfolded.
Fast forward 18 months, and Newcomer Kitchen has become an internationally-respected initiative and the original idea - to offer what you can - became the impetus for an amazing project. One that has changed the lives of more than 60 Syrian families and hundreds of many amazing people and volunteers in Toronto.
Since then, we've been capturing it all. And now, we’re so excited to share this incredible story with you.
The film features the story of the tenacious and committed founders of the project, and the amazing Syrian coordinators, Rahaf Alakbani and Esmaeel Abou Fakher, who took a chance on convincing and chaperoning the families to travel to the Depanneur from their hotels, and who helped build this project. We’ve had the privilege of watching the women adapt – finding homes, learning English, settling their families, and become working Canadian women - while learning about their culture and their stories.
This is a story of stepping up to the plate when the odds are way stacked against you. And of giving more than you thought you had because it's the right thing to do. It's about confronting biases and fears and walking through a new door when you're scared, feel like you don't belong and you have nothing to offer.
Now after more than a year of filming, we’re preparing to share this amazing story of resilience, generosity, innovation, hope, and of course, delicious food with the world.
This is a beautiful bittersweet story of innovation, hope, cooperation and courage. Shway Shway (or "Little by Little") looks at the complexities of welcoming refugees and the tremendous lengths Canadians and Syrians go to to build a happy, healthy and delicious new life.
Producer Kelli Kieley has been producing for TV and web since 2007. She has produced multiple digital documentaries, including one that was recently nominated for a Canadian Magazine Award. She has been moving into producing scripted content and is currently developing a feature film with Valerie Buhagiar.Her work has appeared in Al Jazeera, Time Magazine, Now Magazine, Saveur Magazine, Torontoist.com, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post.