MANSO is governed by an eleven-member Board of Directors, elected from candidates nominated by its member organizations. Board members are elected for a three-year term and vacancies are filled at the MANSO AGM in June each year.
2017 – 2018 BOARD OF DIRECTORS*
- Jorge Fernandez – President
- Marta Kalita – Vice President
- Jana McKee – Secretary
- Heather Robertson – Treasurer
- Ben Starkey – Red River College Language Training Centre
- Dorota Blumczynska – IRCOM
- Grace Eidse – Altered Minds Inc.
- Laurie Sawatzky – Regional Connections
- Miriam Turyamwijuka – Portage Learning and Literacy Centre
- Salwa Meddri – Réseau en Immigration Francophone (RIF)
- Susan Emerson – YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg
Jorge Fernandez started with the Immigrant Centre in 1993 and became Executive Director in 2014. He is responsible for developing and delivering effective settlement services, plays a lead role in identifying immigration trends, and engages proactively with funders and key stake holders.
Working as a teacher’s aide in Winnipeg with students who had migrated from Spanish speaking countries, Jorge realized that being an immigrant he could help other immigrants. This opened the doors to seek employment at the Immigrant Centre. While making a difference working through different levels at Immigrant Centre Manitoba, Jorge has helped countless immigrants and newcomers put roots down in Winnipeg.
Jorge was born and raised in Ecuador and moved to Winnipeg in 1985. He graduated from the Catholic University of Ecuador with a degree in Business Administration. Jorge has had a long journey working in the settlement field, giving him over 28 years of experience working in the settlement sector and supporting newcomers to Manitoba.
Marta Kalita has a Master’s degree in Sociology. She has been working with immigrants and refugees in Manitoba for more than 25 years at the same agency; Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council / Welcome Place where she is now the Director of Settlement Services. She has an extended knowledge about immigration and refugee policies and a long time experience in the front line settlement work with Government Assisted Refugees, Privately Sponsored Refugees and Refugee Claimants.
In her work at MIIC she focuses on refugee integration, children’s adaptation to school environment, newcomers’ need and access to services, cross cultural communication and public awareness about refugee issues. She is a member of a national Immigration and Settlement Working Group under the umbrella of the Canadian Council for Refugees, and a present member of the Board of MANSO. She is also involved in various local and national projects focused on refugee settlement. She is a certified Polish and Russian interpreter and the EAL volunteer.
Jana is the Manager of Seven Oaks Adult Learning and Immigration Services Centre and has been involved in Manitoba’s immigration sector for the past 7 years, and is currently an interim director for MANSO. Jana has worked in education and non-profits for the past 17 years both abroad in New Zealand and in Winnipeg. She possesses a Master’s degree and her strengths include policy and program development, research and evaluation, and community and organizational building. She has participated in a number of committees in the sector over the years including professionalization committee, health/mental health committee, NISW group, and is a member of WELARC advisory group. In New Zealand, Jana was a Chair of a Community Development Trust from 2000-2006, and aboard member of the YWCA from 2004-2006.
Heather has been working with newcomer children, youth and families in the settlement sector for the past 8 years in the areas of program development, psychosocial education and advocacy. Her position as Senior Program Manager at Newcomers Employment & Education Development Services (N.E.E.D.S.) Inc. continues to provide her with an unique perspective to understand and share the experiences of newcomer youth during their settlement in Winnipeg. She served on the MIRSSA board from 2011-2016 including as our treasurer. During that time Heather also chaired the MIRSSA youth committee and oversaw the creation of a recreation resource guide for newcomer children and youth.
Heather is also actively involved with Youth Agencies Alliance, an organization that aims to strengthen and enhance the capacity of youth serving organizations in Winnipeg. She has previously been involved with Humankind International as a board member and helped to raise funds to construct a school in the Dadaab refugee camp. Currently, Heather is also working towards her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Winnipeg and hopes to be able to increase the amount of support newcomer children, youth and families experience when arriving in Winnipeg.
Ben Starkey is Program Manager of the Red River College Language Training Centre Part-time programs, in Winnipeg and in Steinbach. The Winnipeg program is one of the larger, core ESL programs for newcomers in Winnipeg. Ben has worked in the field of Education for the past 15 years, starting as a high school teacher in Australia, then teaching English to adults in China and Montreal. He started working in Extended Education at the University of Manitoba 7 years ago, and discovered a passion for helping newcomers. In April 2017, he became a Red River College employee.
From 2014-15, Ben served on the Board of Directors for Manitoba English as an Additional Language Organizations (MEALO). In 2015, he was selected to serve on the Manitoba Advisory Council on Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism (MACCIM), which is an advisory council for the provincial government. Ben’s expertise is in language training of newcomers, but he also has a keen interest in settlement and integration of immigrants in general. He believes that Manitoba has the chance to lead Canada, and the world in creating welcoming communities for newcomers and fostering inclusion and he would like to help make this happen.
Dorota is the Executive Director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM). As an immigrant, she knows well the challenges of settlement; learning English, finding employment, housing and foreign credential recognition, all while living in poverty and beginning a new life. In 2008, Dorota started with IRCOM’s community-based language classes as an ESL instructor and since then has supported the organization through tremendous growth to two housing and programming sites. She has a double major in Business Administration and English and five years in the financial sector, which have helped her gain exceptional financial management skills. Her board experience includes the Youth Agencies Alliance, the Manitoba School Improvement Program, Communities4Families, as well as the University of Winnipeg Healthy Campus Advisory Committee, the Provincial Healthy Child Advisory Committee of Cabinet and the Housing Advisory Roundtable to the Minister of Housing and Community Development. She is a very strong advocate for the newcomer community and as a founding member of the Immigration Matters in Canada Coalition; she played a vital role in engaging the public and stakeholders to successfully force the federal government to reverse its decision to end the Interim Federal Health Program for refugees.
Grace has worked in the settlement sector in Manitoba since 1989, as an EAL teacher, language assessor (doing A-LINC, CLBA and CLBPT), and educational consultant. She has worked as a contractor with the federal government (CIC/IRCC) and as Program Development Officer with Manitoba Labour and Immigration, where she served as the project officer for regional and francophone agencies, as well as many Winnipeg SPOs.
Laurie Sawatzky is the Executive Director of Regional Connections, a non-profit settlement agency serving the communities of Winkler, Morden, Altona and Carman in Southern Manitoba. A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Laurie has worked in the settlement sector for 15 years, as ESL and literacy Program Coordinator and Director of Settlement Services. Laurie and her team at Regional Connections have developed an “all services” approach to settlement and integration for their organization.
Her interest in the settlement sector has led her to serve on various boards, committees and working groups, both locally and nationally. Laurie acted as Board President of the Manitoba Immigrant and Refugee Settlement Sector Association (MIRSSA), and interim Board President of the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations (MANSO). Laurie also serves on the board of directors of the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance (CISSA-ACSEI), is Co-Chair of the Western Region Working Group, is a member of the board of governors of Immigration Research West, and represents MANSO on the National Settlement Council.
Miriam Turyamwijuka is the Settlement Coordinator for Newcomer Settlement Services at the Portage Learning and Literacy Centre. Prior to this, she was the Program Assistant and Stage 1 ESL Instructor. In 2009, she was also an ESL Instructor for all CLB levels at the PLLC. Her lived experience includes teaching English overseas in Rwanda and China for two years. She has also traveled to many countries throughout the world, including Uganda, Kenya and across Europe. Miriam has experience working in mental health and working with people with addictions. She has seven years of experience working in homes with individuals with developmental delays, and this work included hiring new staff and solving any personnel issues. In her personal life, Miriam went through the process of sponsoring her husband from Uganda, and she is a proud mother of four young boys aged 3 to 9. Despite how busy she is with her work and family, she finds the time to contribute to other community organizations as a Board member for CMHA Central and Portage Nursery School.
Salwa is the Coordinatrice of the Réseau en immigration francophone (RIF) – Francophone immigration network coordinator. The RIF’s role is to bring together organizations that play key roles in attracting, recruiting, welcome and integration French-speaking immigrants in the Province.
Salwa participated and served in different boards such as l’Association des résidents du vieux Saint-Boniface, Saint-Boniface Network, Healthy Together, Vulnerable Cancer Patients Working Group, Saint-Boniface University research group on French speaking newcomers’ mental health, MIRSSA and MANSO.
Susan is the Vice President Operations – Community Programs with the YMCA YWCA of Winnipeg. For over 25 years she has been involved in the childcare sector. From providing front line inclusion support services to administering programs she remains connected to the sector as a part time Educator with Red River College. A trained ECE, Susan also has a degree in Developmental Studies from the University of Winnipeg and her Adult Education Certificate from Red River College. She is her Association’s Child Protection lead and along with sitting on the Child Protection Steering Committee for YMCA Canada, conducts nationwide Peer Reviews. Her board experience includes Willow Place; a family violence agency supporting transformation, healing and healthy relationships. She just completed serving as a member of the Community Solidarity Fund through the Manitoba Council of International Cooperation assessing projects for Manitoba not-for-profit, community-based groups involved in development projects overseas. Her work in the community sector continues to provide her with a greater understanding of the complex systems that children and families find themselves within.