Meet the Team

Board of Directors

Rania Younes

Board Chair

Rania strongly believes that when immigrants proposer we all prosper, and with that belief rooted in her community work, she co-founded WelcomeHomeTO, a grassroots initiative that works closely with local community groups to articulate and bring attention to settlement challenges and opportunities, envisioning a dynamic settlement network where all newcomers are welcomed with open hearts and minds, and supported to reach their highest potential for a stronger Canada.  She also co-founded a networking and mentoring platform for professionals within the Canadian Arab community. The creation of PCAN was motivated by Rania’s personal commitment to helping others, especially women and youth, become the best version of themselves through peer mentoring and building a supportive environment in which they flourish. She has personally mentored many professionals getting started in their new homes and careers. 

Rania is currently the National Project Manager for Immigrant Employment Councils of Canada at IEC-BC and has worked with other equity-seeking organizations such as TRIEC and the Canadian Arab Institute. In the last 10 years, social justice, inclusion and economic empowerment became a focus for Rania after being involved with various NGOs. 

Rania’s commitment is evident in the success of community-led organizations she continues to support. From the Canadian Arab Institute, to WelcomeHomeTO, Yalla Let’s Talk, Canadian Arabic Orchestra, Syrian Canadian Foundation, Newcomer Students’ Association, Scale Without Borders, the ACCT, and many more that advance the interests of our diverse communities.  

Hodan Ahmed

Board Member 

Hodan is a Senior UN Fellow and a President-elect for a Local CUPE, focusing on employment equity and access in Ontario. Hodan has over 10 years of professional experience theorizing, developing, discussing and implementing design thinking, focusing on gender and racial equity, community engagement, facilitation, consultative leadership, and youth mentorship. This encompasses providing strategic advice to government and non-profit while providing practical and actionable initiatives towards institutional change. Her published work addresses immigration policies, policing and criminalization of vulnerable communities, including the intersection of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia.

Dr. Susan Murray

Board Member 

Engaging, curious, empathic and driven, Susan walks the talk of leadership. In her work with leaders and organizations around the globe, she is counted on for her wisdom and ability to see beyond the present, helping leaders and professionals set actionable, bold steps to achieve success. Her expertise spans organizational and leadership development, strategy, and human resource management. She draws on her experiences in both public and private sectors in Education, Human Resources, organizational development, and policy development. Susan’s reputation as a facilitator, leader and researcher is widely known both within Canada and globally. She is the team lead for the public sector excellence assessment in the United Arab Emirates in the areas of Human Capital, Innovation and Leadership. She led the development of the senior leadership assessment process, including the redesign of the model. Her work with public sector organizations in Newfoundland and across Canada aligns leadership with strategy, with a focus on employee engagement and development. She has designed and lead leadership development programs for international clients, including mentoring and emerging leader programs. She is a sought-after mentor, working with national organizations such as Women In Leadership and G(irls)20, engaging with women leaders who strive to attain new roles and sit at the board table. Susan combines her research with her practical experience to create impact within organizations and teams. Along with her consultancy, she is an Adjunct Professor at Memorial University and Humber College where she lectures on Global Leadership, Organizational Leadership and HRM.

Susan is Chair of the Kids Eat Smart Foundation NL, leading the organization through a revised strategy and vision, while working closely with government and senior leaders to engage them as stewards and active stakeholders. She performs pro bono and voluntary work with G(irls)20, Women In Leadership Canada, the Canadian Arab Institute and Henley Business School. She has served on the Board of Regents for Memorial University NL. Susan received her Masters in Leadership (Education) from Memorial University and her Doctorate in Business Administration (Leadership) from Henley Business School. Given her research and practical experiences, Susan actively engages with her clients to personalize their leadership development experience, to ensure engagement and motivation. Find out more about Susan.

Team Members

Sara Asalya

Founder and Executive Director

Sara Asalya is an award-winning leader with more than 13 years of experience working internationally and in Canada in various sectors including not-for-profit, NGOs, think tank and higher education institutions. Sara received many awards for being a champion for immigrants’ rights and for her leadership and dedication to advancing their economic resilience and civic, and political engagement. She is the recipient of the leaders in Learning award from Ryerson University for two consecutive years recognizing her academic excellence, leadership, and outstanding contribution to the Ryerson community, and she was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrants in 2018, and one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence in 2021. 

Sara has collaborated and worked on different research and policy development projects and has published editorials on national media outlets focused on refugee displacement and resettlement, gender-based violence, unemployment and deskilling of immigrants, labour market trends and issues impacting skilled newcomers, foreign credentials and childcare policies, and refugees’ access and pathways to higher education.  Sara holds a Master’s in Education in Higher Education from the University of Toronto, a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature, a post-graduate certificate in Community Engagement, Leadership and Development, and in Immigration and Settlement Studies. Sara’s lived experience as an immigrant woman to Canada inspired her passion and work with many immigrant communities, as well as her advocacy on key issues impacting this community. 

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Elona Canellari

Manager, Special Projects & Strategic Communications

Elona is a recent Biomedical Sciences (Hons.) graduate from Ryerson University. She joined the team in 2018 to support newcomer students in Ryerson by challenging the barriers they face transitioning to post-secondary education in Canada. In her current role, she aims to use her skills in data analysis, event planning, and research to raise awareness to the plight of immigrant students.

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Erin Bergeron

Manager, Operations

Erin is an experienced nonprofit professional specializing in Project Management and Communications. She has a Masters in Immigration and Settlement Studies from Ryerson University and a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University. Erin originally joined the Newcomer Students’ Association in 2017 and has enjoyed working with the incredible community. Erin hopes to amplify Newcomer, Immigrant, and Refugee Student voices and create a safe and welcoming space in the Newcomer Students’ Association.

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Alka Kumar

Manager, Research and Policy

Alka (PhD) is an educator and a lifelong learner, having taught English and Literary Studies in India before her move to Canada. The objective of her current work in Migration Research and Practice has been to apply her research insights to work with racialized newcomers and organizations, to help create practical inclusion-based labour market solutions. With her own lived experience of migration, Alka strongly believes in the role of experiential learning and storytelling to support individuals to build their capacities, so they feel enabled to work towards their self-improvement goals, moving towards workplace success in a timely manner. Through all her work, Alka situates herself as a ‘pracademic,’ (or a researcher-practitioner) given she has equal interest and experience in interdisciplinary research and practice; and through her work her objective is to work towards bridging these two often separate worlds.

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Sihwa Kim

Research Associate

Sihwa is currently an analyst at Blueprint, a non-profit social enterprise that specializes in monitoring and evidence generation. She has held previous research roles with Medow Consulting, the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship and City of Toronto Employment and Social Services, where she focused on the innovation economy and ensuring its benefits are inclusive of vulnerable groups, including immigrants, low-income individuals, women, racialized groups, and self-employed workers. She recently completed a graduate program in Sociology with a specialization in program and policy evaluation at the University of Western Ontario and holds a BA in Sociology, and Criminology and Socio-legal Studies from the University of Toronto.

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