For our very first official setup of a Techfugees local chapter in the Americas, we’ve chosen a special city and an amazing team. Canada is one of the world’s leading immigration countries; 28 100 refugees have been resettled there in 2018 (UNHCR). You can’t image how excited we are to introduce you to Olivia, Amy, and Mounir, Techfugees Toronto‘s co-leads 🎙
Could you please introduce yourself and your team to the Techfugees community?
OLIVIA 👋 Hi, my name is Olivia and I’m so happy to introduce myself as a co-lead for the brand-new Toronto chapter – the first in America! My family has been in Canada for five generations and I grew up in Quebec. I moved to Toronto four years after three years of living and teaching in Japan. I’m a design researcher and strategist who works in the digital innovation space in Toronto. Prior to that I worked and volunteered with refugees at Canadian Council for Refugees and other community initiatives in Montreal. I’m super excited to launch Techfugees in Toronto because it’s a rapidly growing multicultural city with a big tech community and dedication to civic innovation.
AMY 👋 Hello! I’m Amy and I’m very excited to be apart of the Techfugees community. I’m currently a Product Manager at Connected, a product tech firm. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and spent 4 years studying in Montreal. I’m passionate and fascinated by the possibility of using what is traditionally known as “business strategy” to address complex social problems. I’m really looking forward to bringing my knowledge and experience with the Toronto tech ecosystem to help build the first Canadian chapter of Techfugees!
MOUNIR 👋 Hello! My name is Mounir and I am super excited to be a part of Techfugees in Canada. I’m a Syrian-Canadian, half-Armenian, with an educational background in computer science, global development, and innovation and entrepreneurship management. I left Damascus to Beirut in 2012 as a result of war to continue my studies and I’ve been involved since then in various projects for refugees with local and international organizations. I moved to Canada in late 2015 (literally on New Year’s Eve!) under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program. I currently work in Toronto as a Program Specialist with a government-funded organization where I’m focusing on building entrepreneurship, employment, skills building, and mentorship programs for refugees and newcomers. I find the work meaningful and I love seeing the direct impact on people’s lives. I’m passionate about arts and culture, and I love it when they intersect with technology and people.
How did you hear about Techfugees?
OLIVIA – I was lucky to hear Josephine Goube, Techfugees’ CEO, speak at the “What Design Can Do?” conference in Mexico City this past spring (I also seriously recommend that conference for anyone who is interested in civic design). Josephine’s message of Techfugees – of building a sustainable ecosystem between refugee and tech communities through meetups, hackathons, and other events – really resonated with me because of my passion for innovation, refugee advocacy and hackathons.
AMY – I’ve been a close friend of Olivia’s for many years and she told me she wanted to start the Canadian chapter of Techfugees after hearing Josephine in Mexico City. I knew instantly that it was an initiative I wanted to be a part of!
MOUNIR – I initially heard about the organization back when I was living in Lebanon. I got a chance to meet with Josephine at a conference in 2017 where I learned more about the incredible work of Techfugees. Fast forward to 2019, I was connected with Olivia through a mutual friend and heard that she is interested in forming a team to build a Canadian chapter. It sounded extremely timely and exciting and I am glad to be a part of it!
Which are the displaced people’s main needs in your country?
We are still hoping to have more conversations with people to better understand refugees’ local needs. So far, and based on our secondary research, observations and experiences, we have identified the following needs in the community: affordable and decent housing, employment, navigating the system (healthcare, education, government services…etc.), evaluating international credentials, and local transportation.
What are your projects for the next days, weeks and months?
We are currently in the discovery phase of starting up the chapter, which means we have been researching and talking to people at the NGO, government and university level to gain a clearer sense of the ecosystem for refugees once they arrive and begin settling in Toronto. We’re going to be holding a Welcome Party on November 14th in the presence of Techfugees’ CEO to talk together about what areas of needs we should focus on first and in which ways.
With which kind of organization (tech, NGOs, universities, officials,…) do you plan to partner with?
We’d like to focus our partnerships between a combination of NGOs, tech companies and government agencies that work with displaced communities. We’re still in the early days of identifying the exact organizations but we know the secret to a successful chapter is having a tri-sector partnership with refugees being at the center 📜
How can the Techfugees community help you? What are you looking for now?
Please spread the word that we are kicking off in Toronto! We are on Twitter and Facebook 😉 Also let us know of any organizations, businesses or people that would be interested in partnering up with us. We’re only three people right now and we’re looking for volunteers for events further down the road.