Dr. Wayne Caldwell is a Professor in Rural Planning and Development and alongside his PhD student Rana Telfah, they are investigating the economic impacts and influence of COVID-19 on Syrian Refugee settlement and Integration into rural Canada.
Dr. Caldwell commented on Gateway being the perfect partner for their project, “Given Gateway’s broad interest in health and this vulnerable population it was a natural partnership to work with Gateway to make this happen. … Certainly, Gateway is focused on rural and that is what Rana’s research is focused on.”
Telfah was raised in the country of Jordan where she completed her Master’s degree at the University of Jordan. In 2012, she moved to Guelph with her one son at the time. She applied to the University of Guelph and got accepted for the Rural Planning program.
“I did program evaluation and by the end of the program, I grew some interest in doing research about the Syrian families who recently moved to Ontario,” said Telfah.
After growing this interest, she started her PhD under Professor Caldwell four years ago in 2016. Her PhD research is about applying gender analysis to Syrian families in Southwestern Ontario.
“When I came to Canada, I stayed in Guelph. I realized that Guelph had so many things that are missing for Immigrants, especially women. From my personal experience, I see how hard it is for all women coming from a different country to come in and integrate easily. So, when Syrian families come to Ontario and live in even smaller rural communities, I know they feel the same pressure I felt. Speaking [to them] about the challenges they face and highlighting the voices of the Syrian families is important,” said Telfah.
Telfah started interviews with Syrian families in January, however, with the COVID-19 pandemic her focus shifted. “When I started to do phone interviews due to COVID, families started to speak about COVID-19 and the impact it had on their babies’ lives, how they are losing their jobs and how they are being more isolated,” Telfah said. She was able to re-evaluate her research design to add the impact COVID-19 is having on Syrian families.
“This was Rana’s research before COVID came along. With the opportunity through Mitacs (a non-profit national research organization), which encourages people to look at COVID-19 and the impact it has on rural families. It was a great opportunity to dove tail the work Rana was already looking at,” said Dr. Caldwell.
“We have been working on a number of projects related to COVID- 19,” said Gwen Devereaux, president of the board of directors of Gateway. “This is such important work in a population that may not have had a voice in rural without this effort by our Guelph University partner.”