Letters of Reflection

Letters of Reflection is an online collection of immigrant’s stories and letters of their experiences.

It creates a safe platform to reflect on the social impacts of immigration to build a future of healthy immigrant family relationships and communities.
Self-directed Health Design project (ECUAD)
Septemer - December 2018 (3 months)
Co-Design Facilitator
UX/UI Designer
How can we help immigrant families find a support system?

How can immigrants understand the effects and potential trauma they may have experienced from immigration?
The prototype begins at the home screen, and then brings awareness to the importance of reflecting on immigration experiences.
The Reflect section suggests different categories of letters to read about different topics (about settling, hardships, love, families, and etc.).
Submit allows them to write their own letter to contribute to the collection, with the ability to be anonymous, upload media, and add hashtags so others can find their story.  
My father, who lives in Hong Kong, is the astronaut in our family, who stays in Vancouver.
Problem Space
A phenomenon known as the astronaut family began in the late 90’s and 00’s. Fathers would stay at their home countries to support the rest of their family living overseas.

Separated families can cause stress for family members, which leads to mental and physical illnesses.

My research on astronaut families diverged into more problem areas that occur from immigration. This split my research into 3 phases: the history of Chinese Canadian immigration, effects of immigration, and reflecting on the experience.
Mapping To Understand Problem Space

Reading many scholarly articles examining astronaut families and other kinds of separated families helped me learned there were actually multiple problem spaces and research gaps. I categorized them into levels of impact and effectiveness of solutions by mapping.
User Interviews

I was able to interview people who had the same/similar family backgrounds to astronaut families.
“…now [my mom] volunteers for the firefighter department.”
​​​​​​​- Kelly, 20

“[My mom’s] been doing good. She met someone to help her find a job.”
- Gabriella, 21

“I feel lucky because my neighbours took care of me, while I took care of my 3 children by myself.”
- Imelda, 60
Rather than focusing on asking about their problems, it was more helpful to look at the patterns of what they were saying, and they usually talked about what helped them in the process of living separately from their families.

This included finding volunteer opportunities, finding a job, and creating connections in the community to other people, like neighbours. They found happiness from having social support.
Mapping To Understand The User

Mapping allowed me to condense my area of research to more specific questions, organize the information I received from user interviews and web research, as well as develop a design research process.
Co-Designing To Understand Social Support
The goal of this co-design was to create a safe space and trust between students living apart from families to share their experiences and seeing the ways people got support.
Pictured: Gabriella Li, Janani Ramesh, June Tang, Sandra Han, Triet Pham
1. Brainstorm on Support
I found that people get support form a variety of contexts, and things often worked together to create a system of support to help someone feel better.
2. Roleplaying as Family to Map Entities
I gave my codesigners three personas  as members of an astronaut family. This gave insights from 3 different perspectives, as well as created a fun way for the codesigners to bond roleplaying as a family.
3. String Diagram for Qualitative Data
They mapped out their own experiences of living separately from their families using a string diagram, helping each other in pairs.

They answered why their families were living separately and what were the challenges and support they had throughout the experience in name cards, which gave them a private and safe way to share their experiences.
Mapping the Workshop
Finding individuals who had similar experiences and could relate to each other so that their voices could be heard created a trustful environment for them to share personal experiences. They learned more about themselves and also built a community. Talking about these experiences was a form of support in itself.
Solution A: Social Support From Local Community
How can designers can help immigrant families find a support system?
Prototype 1
An app that helped people look for community events and share what they did with family members they didn’t live with

My design was mimicking what social media apps were already doing, and I was trying to design my own service to provide social support.
Solution B: Connecting Immigrants to Settlement Services
Prototype 2 (Mid-fidelity)
App helping immigrants connect to government settlement services

Apps are hard to access and government settlement services already have ways to connect to immigrants. Websites can be more accessible.
Stories Are Helpful To Build Connections
I did a comparative analysis of Vancouver’s settlement services and found that their websites that felt the most human shared stories of immigrants and their challenges and experiences.
Final Solution: A Safe Space To Reflect on Immigration
Design can be used to give a safe and trustful space for the reflection and discussion of personal experiences. I made a journey map to see how a designer can connect to an immigrant to create these spaces.
How are stories of experiences helpful? Letting people’s voices be heard about their journeys helps them understand the effects and potential trauma they may have experienced from immigration.

Understanding these circumstances helps create a future of healthy immigrant family relationships and communities.
Future Steps
Lessons Learned

Designers Formulate Structures Needed for Awareness
The importance of reflecting and talking about immigrant emotional, social, psychological, and cultural hardships can be overlooked in the process of overcoming these aspects (getting over it without getting into it). Systemic thinking offers solutions to issues in a holistic sense, rather than fragmenting these aspects associated with each other.

Recalling Immigration Experiences Creates a Healthier Future
The codesign quantified what was effective in getting the support people needed and visualizing their experience helped them understand the circumstances they dealt with. This is important to see how they may be influenced from those circumstances now and in the future.

Impactful Insights Come From Trust
The designer is needed to create a trustful and secure way for people to share their experiences. Sharing their unique experiences was an effective way to understand how specific immigration circumstances affected each person on an individual scale, but also find the similarities and be able for each person to relate to one another on a communal scale.