Our Journey

Between November 2015 and December 2016, close to 40,000 Syrians arrived in Canada. Forty-five per cent of those newcomers were privately sponsored. Data collected from a variety of sources documented the challenges in both government-assisted refugee settlement and settlement by private sponsors.

Private sponsors who were looking for immediate answers to challenges found them by working together — sharing experiences and determining those areas they needed to learn more about. Experienced sponsors began to mentor first-time sponsors on post-arrival issues leading to a resource around best practice. An informal network was born. In 2021, a formal organization, The Private Refugee Sponsor Network (Ontario) was incorporated federally by the Canadian government with provision for networks in all jurisdictions across Canada. Using our model, a national organization could make a significant difference to the settlement of newcomers by private sponsors.

We connect, learn and share through problem-solving, training, and sharing best practice.

Our Leadership

A ten-person board of directors with members who are sponsors, representatives of the settlement and business sectors provide governance and financial accountability.

Marika Elek, Chair
Sponsor, The Beach Cares

Karen Scott, Vice Chair

Sponsor, Refugee Support Ministry, Islington United Church and Metropolitan United Church 

Anna Nguyen, MBA, CPA, CGA, secretary-treasurer

An independent Accountant

Dima Amad

Executive Director, Arab Community Centre Toronto

William Croson

G5 Sponsor

Bonnie Hunter

Executive Director, North York Community House

Christie MacDonald

BMO Capital Markets and a private sponsor

Darrell Pinto

Employment Counsellor and G5 Sponsor 

Jemima Sabapathy

CEO, Culturelink

Sieg R. Will

Retired Vice President, Sustainability, Sleep Country Canada

Our Committees
Our committees, responsible to the Board, conduct work covering a broad cross section of activity that is important to sponsors, and are led by those with subject content experience.

Jennifer Kett, Chair, Marketing/Communications

William Croson, Chair, Knowledge Exchange

Gail Brown and Carol Smiley, Co-Chairs, Skills Development

Anna Bolotnov, Chair, Services

Jemima Sabapathy, Chair, Partnership

Marika Elek, Chair, Sustainability

Our Advisory Council

The advisory council reflecting perspectives from both the business and refugee sectors, will offer insights to the Board of Directors in planning and sustainability. It is scheduled to be launched in 2024, and will be chaired by Barbara Sheffield, one of the founding members of the Network.

Our Partners

We believe in partnership with others in the sector and those beyond to connect, learn and share.


We particularly work with partners from the refugee settlement sector in developing training workshops and those partners at universities who conduct research. Our  partners have included:

  • Arab Community Centre, Toronto
  • MAS Pro Bono Consulting for Non-Profits, Toronto
  • Bonnie Hoy Consultants, Mississauga
  • Ontario College of Trades, Toronto
  • North York Community House, Toronto
  • West Neighbourhood House, Toronto
  • World Education Services, Toronto
  • Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Adult Education, Toronto
  • Darzee Project, Toronto
  • Together Project, Toronto
  • Career Jumpstart, Toronto
  • Welcome Home TO, Toronto
  • RSTP, Toronto
  • Catholic CrossCultural Services, Mississauga
  • Toronto Metropolitan (Ryerson) Centre for Immigration and Settlement, Toronto
  • YWCA Immigration & Settlement Services, Hamilton
  • YMCA Language Assessment & Referral, Toronto
  • COSTI, Toronto
  • Nevy’s Language, Toronto
  • CultureLink, Toronto
  • Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), Toronto
  • JobStart, Toronto
  • Paramount Fine Foods, Toronto
  • TRIEC Mentoring Partnership, Toronto
  • Toronto Employment Social Services, Toronto
  • Ontario Works, Toronto
  • YMCA Owen Sound/Grey Bruce
  • Wellington County
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Ottawa
  • Wilfrid Laurier University
  • York University
  • Ryerson University (Toronto Metropolitan)
  • Refugee 613
  • Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
  • Trades Ontario
  • YMCA Employment Services
  • YMCA Language Assessment & ESL Programs
  • Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP)
  • University research candidates
  • Retired school teachers
  • Professional psychologists
Our Awards

In 2020, we received a community service award from Etobicoke Centre MP, Yvan Baker. The award recognizes individuals and organizations for the inspirational work they do and encourages others to get involved, to give back, to make our communities and the country stronger. The award focusses on the importance of volunteering and the impact it has on changing lives. Barbara Sheffield accepted the award on behalf of the Network in January 2021.