From client to staff: three GGP employees share about their transitions


GGP staff who were clients and volunteers: Sol, Satanai, Nga

The programs and services we provide at GGP reflect what we know to be true: that immigrants and refugees, when given the opportunity, make valuable contributions to all aspects of Canadian society. 

Every day we see the value that newcomers bring to our organization, with 60% of GGP staff members themselves refugees or immigrants. Beyond that, 20% of staff are former GGP clients, which gives them particularly unique perspectives. 

Below we hear from three GGP staff members who started as clients, became volunteers, and then staff members, about their journeys.

Sol Barrones, Lifeskills Coordinator 

Sol Barrones and Lifeskills client

I was a lawyer in Mexico and arrived in Canada with English skills, but quickly realized I needed to continue practising my English. I came with a work permit and there were no options for free English classes for non-Permanent Residents, except for a drop-in class at GGP. I joined that class and also started attending the Coffee & Conversation program. I was always around GGP because I felt welcome. I met other clients from Mexico who had issues with employment and documents so I volunteered to interpret for them.

Later when a Lifeskills position opened at GGP, I got the job! That was 7 years ago. As a lawyer I had represented very vulnerable people who were victims of crime, and that experience has been put to use helping vulnerable Government Assisted Refugees overcome barriers and navigate their new lives in Canada.

Satanai Durrah, Providing Access to Healthcare (PATH) Facilitator 

Satanai Durrah and PATH client

When I moved to Canada 11 years ago, my new neighbours told me that GGP helps newcomers. I registered as a client, took a computer class, and got to know GGP. When many Syrians arrived, there was a need for Arabic speakers so I volunteered to translate, and then started working casually as an interpreter. Interpreting brought me to the REACH Clinic every Saturday as I accompanied refugees needing medical care, helping clients to express themselves and understand medical treatments.

As an immigrant I have faced many of the same challenges that GGP clients face: learning a new language, culture and environment, learning how to find a family doctor and where to go to the dentist, as well as starting over with a totally new life. Because of these shared experiences, I am connected to the work I am doing. It has also helped me to really feel what the clients are going through, understand their needs and support them.

Four years ago I had an opportunity to become a staff member on the PATH team. Over the years I’ve thought so many times, what would people with high health needs do without PATH and GGP? I feel like our program affects people’s lives in the most important way—with their health—and is so valuable.

Nga Tu, Language Services Support

Nga English Language Centre

I became a GGP client when I first lived in Saskatoon in 2011. GGP had left me with a very good impression of staff and managers’ friendliness and willingness to go beyond to support clients. So when I moved back to Saskatoon in 2017, GGP was the first settlement agency that I approached for a volunteer opportunity. It was a “coming back home” feeling for me. I was so impressed and curious about how GGP had been able to maintain such a “home-like working environment”.

I felt so lucky that I had an opportunity to volunteer and later to be offered a position at the Language Centre. When I accepted the job offer, I knew that my mission was to continuously contribute to make GGP a “home-sweet-home” for every client and every person coming to GGP. This means that I work and support our clients, instructors, and staff from the bottom of my heart and endlessly improve myself to provide better services and support to them.

Thank you to Sol, Satanai, and Nga for sharing their stories and for all the amazing work they do to support clients every day!