Destination Health: Unpacking the Migrant Experience
Youth & Child Worker, North York Community House
Ahmed Abdulmajeed was born in Kuwait but was forced to leave the country with his family at the age of six to live in three other countries as refugees and displaced people. He studied in 13 different schools, getting stronger every time he went to a new place, facing his fears with love and hard work.
He started working at age 9 as a dish washer and held more than 20 different jobs through the years to survive. At age 31, he was back to being a dish washer, but with more pressure and mental health challenges.
Ahmed is now sharing his life experience and knowledge with newcomer youth similar to him – with the same stories but with bigger dreams.
He was a refugee for more than 30 years but is no longer after arriving in Canada in 2013. Now a husband and the father of three miracles, he is building a brighter future– for his own kids and the kids he is working for.
Nurse Practitioner, Crossroads Clinic at Women's College Hospital
Vanessa Wright works as a Nurse Practitioner at Women’s College Hospital's Crossroads Clinic, where for the past eight years, she has provided comprehensive medical services to newly arrived refugees. She has also worked across a variety of community health centres in Toronto and provided primary health care and emergency nursing care in medically under-serviced First Nation communities in Northern Ontario. In addition, Vanessa’s work as an Emergency Nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, lead her to become the nursing lead for the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration Emergency Medicine Team, where she supported the educational partnership between Addis Ababa University and the University of Toronto. Her other professional experiences include working as a Field Nurse for Doctors Without Borders in South Africa, South Sudan, Zambia, India. She sits on the health advisory council for the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, acts as a subject matter expert for CAMH’s Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Course, and is an association member with Doctors Without Borders.
Director of Knowledge Exchange, Provincial System Support Program at CAMH
Dr. Branka Agic is Director of Knowledge Exchange with the Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). She is an Assistant Professor and the Associate Director of the Master of Science in Community Health (MScHS) in Addiction and Mental Health Program at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.
Branka has extensive experience in counselling, research and service development with immigrants and refugees. Her primary research interest is in the area of mental health and substance use among immigrants, refugees, ethno-cultural and racialized groups. She is a member of the UNHCR Regional Beyond Detention Strategy Working Group and serves on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT).
General Manager, COSTI Family and Mental Health Services
Vince Pietropaolo, M.A., is the General Manager of COSTI Family and Mental Health Services. In his current position, he has worked with ethnocultural communities in program design, development, and implementation in the areas of mental health, domestic violence, and problem gambling. Vince currently sits on the York Region Violence Against Women Coordinating Committee, CAMH Problem Gambling Advisory committee, the Ontario Resource Group on Gambling, Ethnicity, and Culture, and the North York Specialized Courts Advisory Committee. Vince is a Subject Matter Expert on the Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Project. Recently, Vince designed and implemented the Refugee Mental Health program at COSTI.
Vince has presented extensively on the issue of Refugee Mental Health, Domestic Violence, Men’s Violence, and Problem Gambling at conferences in the United States and Canada. He has guest lectured at York University and Ryerson University.
Immigration Reporter, Toronto Star
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Nicholas has a degree in communications and psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He moved to Toronto with his family upon his graduation and worked in the food court of the Sherway Gardens Mall before landing his first job as a general assignment reporter at Sing Tao Daily, a Chinese-language daily newspaper in Toronto. After a three-year stint there, he got an internship opportunity at the Toronto Star in 1997. After six years as a general assignment reporter covering anything from crime to court stories and municipal politics, he was assigned the immigration beat in 2003, a job he has held at the paper since.