Building Trust in Settlement

Joanne MacPherson

Joanne MacPherson

At a March Lunch & Learn session, Sevan Zokian, a well-being counsellor with the Arab Community Centre of Toronto, pointed out that building trust is the foundation of all settlement practice and is essential to any healthy relationship.  It is one of the most important responsibilities that sponsors have both within their own sponsor groups, and with those they sponsor.  She pointed out that trust can strengthen the bond between both parties, foster collaboration and promote constructive methods to solve any issues. She emphasized that when trust exists, people are more likely to listen to each other, to empathize with differing perspectives and work collaboratively together.  She reinforced that developing trust leads to a deeper understanding, cooperation and commitment to the relationship. It is a win-win because when sponsors listen to refugees with empathy and respect, empowerment is the result, and great things happen.


Zokian identified some key behaviours that lead to trust such as:

    • Be honest; ensure everyone is on the same page
    • Listen actively; open communication, encourage dialogue
    • Demonstrate respect, validate their experience
    • Be genuine, open and authentic and not judgmental
    • Be patient and compassionate
    • Exhibit generosity of spirit
    • Respond promptly to needs and concerns; follow-through on commitment
    • Engage in shared activities and cultural exchange
    • Respect boundaries; keep personal information confidential


Sponsors shared their own experiences with building trust in breakout discussion, and how it led to better relationships and more effective settlement.