Interviewer: Can you tell us about your professional background and the journey that led you to this position? 

Francisco: My journey in the settlement sector began in 2002 when I started working with unaccompanied refugee youth in Vancouver’s downtown east side. Since then, I’ve been dedicated to serving marginalized newcomer and refugee populations, working in both Vancouver and Toronto. My experience includes assisting refugee claimants, LGBTQ+ individuals, seniors, youth, and out-of-status individuals and families. In my roles at CultureLink Settlement Services and, most recently, The Stop Community Food Centre, I’ve developed and evaluated programs to empower those facing food insecurity while gaining insights into broader issues like poverty and homelessness. 

Interviewer: That’s quite an impressive background. What inspired you to work in the nonprofit sector, particularly refugee settlement? 

Francisco: What drives me in this work is a deep sense of reciprocity. My family and I received immense support when we settled in Canada, and now it’s my turn to give back to the community, just as you have for so many years. 

Interviewer: Could you share some key accomplishments or projects from your previous roles that you’re most proud of? 

Francisco: One project that stands out is “Wintegration,” a winter program I developed to engage refugee youth in winter sports like skating, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. This program aimed to reduce social isolation, create community connections, and promote healthy lifestyles. I’m proud that CultureLink even trademarked the program’s name, and I believe it’s still making a positive impact today. 

Interviewer: What do you believe are the most critical challenges and opportunities facing our organization in the coming years? 

Francisco: Well, the most pressing challenge is the unprecedented influx of refugee claimants in Toronto amid a housing and affordability crisis. Our underfunded emergency shelter system struggles to meet the demand. To address this, we need a collaborative effort and political will from all levels of government. However, I see this as an opportunity to expand our refugee care model, providing the necessary services to those seeking protection in Toronto, and I’m eager to work closely with you to address this challenge.   

Interviewer: Are there any specific values or principles that guide your decision-making and leadership approach?

Francisco: When making decisions that impact people’s lives, my moral compass is made of the same values of Sojourn House – social justice, compassion, diversity – but above all, I value and try to promote human dignity as much as possible.

Interviewer: Thank you, Francisco, for sharing your insights and vision. We’re excited to have you lead Sojourn House into the future and continue the important work we do. 

Francisco: Thank you for your support. I’m looking forward to this incredible journey ahead alongside the outstanding team at Sojourn House.