Who We Are


Belma Podrug, Executive Director

Afton Tolley, Program Manager

Azalea Barrieses, Language Services Manager

Lori Steward, Refugee and Immigrant Health & Case Coordination Manager

Pam Miller, Finance Manager

Board of Directors

Jack Hillson, Board Chair

A lawyer for over 40 years, Jack was raised and educated in Saskatchewan. Although based in this province, he has travelled extensively throughout the North and above the Arctic Circle. He worked with Indigenous people throughout his legal career and was involved with the residential schools resolution settlement process. Jack also served as a member of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly for 7 years. Now retired, he and his wife enjoy their cottage in New Brunswick where they spend much of the summer near their daughter. Jack enjoys his work on the Board and other volunteer work with Global Gathering Place and appreciates the new friendships formed at GGP.

Lorelei Nickel, Vice Chair

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Lorelei is a lecturer in the Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Saskatchewan where she focuses on the area of ethics and strategic decision making. In March of 2017, she and her husband returned to Saskatoon after spending eighteen months working with a humanitarian organization in Southeast Asia.

Prior to completing her MBA with a specialization in leadership from Royal Roads University, Lorelei worked as an Occupational Therapist for seventeen years in the healthcare, corrections, and education sectors. Since 2007, she has fulfilled various corporate roles as well as operating her own leadership consulting and coaching practice where she has worked with a wide variety of clients locally, nationally, and internationally. Lorelei’s journey to date has provided her with the opportunity to inspire and influence leaders of all ages - from the university classroom, to the corporate boardrooms of North America, to the jungle villages of Myanmar. She is honoured and excited to serve on the GGP board.

Gurtej Bhullar, Board Treasurer

Gurtej joined as board member after successfully completing the “Bridging to Non-Profit Governance” program offered by Global Gathering Place. He has more than 15 years of work experience in information technology services specializing in operations and projects. He is new to Canada and is passionate about opportunities for continuous learning and improving professional skills. For him to serve on the Global Gathering Board has been a privilege, and indeed one of the unique and most valuable experiences of life.

Janet Okoko, Board Secretary

Janet Mola Okoko is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Administration at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan. She came to Canada as a student and obtained her PhD from the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. Prior to pursuing doctoral studies, Janet trained and worked as a teacher and as an education program officer for both government and non-governmental organizations in Eastern Africa. Some of her experience includes working with foundations and relief organizations to enhance educational opportunities for minoritized populations, including refugees from war-affected countries. Her commitment to volunteer and scholarly work that supports culturally and linguistically diverse newcomers won her a nomination for the Saskatoon YWCA Women of Distinction: Education in 2017.

Alan Anderson, Board member

During the past several years, Alan has volunteered at Global Gathering Place as a regular participant in the weekly ‘Coffee and Conversation’ sessions, as a personal mentor to clients wishing to improve their writing skills, and as an assistant on various excursions. A retired sociology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, he taught a course on immigration and refugee policy and long chaired the International Studies Program. His extensive international experience has influenced his longstanding commitment to immigrants and refugees. He continues to be affiliated with the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition, Saskatoon Open Door Society, Amnesty International, and Canadian International Council.

Bella Hop, Board member

Bella was born and raised in Mexico. She belongs to the Mexican-Sephardic Jewish Community and her family is originally from Damascus, Syria but has strong roots with Israel, too.

After completing law school, Bella and her husband got married and moved to Vancouver where they began their story in Canada eight years ago. Since leaving Mexico, Bella has worked in various fields such as Management, Marketing,
Advertising and Law, where she has worked in Immigration, Corporate and Commercial law.

Bella arrived in Saskatoon in the summer of 2016 when her husband got offered a position at the University of Saskatchewan. She currently works as a Commercial Paralegal at McKercher LLP in Saskatoon.

Julie Mooney, Board member

Julie joined the board of directors at Global Gathering Place in February 2019. Born and raised in Canada, Julie spent several years working in the refugee resettlement sector in Toronto, particularly with Franco-African and Latinx communities, before making a career move to teaching and curriculum development in the college and university sector. From 2018-2019, Julie worked as an Educational Developer at the University of Saskatchewan.

She is now working on doctoral research towards her PhD in Education, with a specialization in Adult, Community, and Higher Education at the University of Alberta. Julie has lived and worked in five Canadian provinces, as well as in Western Europe, West and Central Africa, and the Caribbean. She holds a long-standing interest in and commitment to supporting refugees and immigrants as they make new lives in Canada and become engaged and valued members of our community.

Ozlem Sari, Board member

Ozlem joined the board of Global Gathering Place in January 2016, and took on the role of board chair in June 2017. Ozlem was born and raised in Turkey. After finishing college, she continued her education in Boston, USA and received her Masters and PhD in sociology. After teaching sociology in Miami and then at the University of Saskatchewan, she has worked at the Health Quality Council of Saskatchewan for 8 years. She is currently a Research Facilitator at the College of Nursing in the U of S. Ozlem has first hand immigrant experience, and a long-standing interest in immigration research, as well as a continuous commitment for supporting immigrants in their journey to become outstanding members of our community.

Julien Coopoosamy, Board member

Would you like to join the GGP Board of Directors?

If you have skills that could strengthen our Board and contribute to our diversity, we invite you to apply to serve on our Board. You need to be able to commit between 40 and 60 hours per year and should have knowledge and experience that will help us to improve the governance of the Global Gathering Place. The GGP Board is determined by a membership vote at its Annual General Meeting.

If you are interested in serving on the Board, please complete our Board Application. You can drop it off or mail it to our Main Office at 100 5th Avenue North, Saskatoon SK S7K 2N7. Alternatively, you can email the completed form to media @ globalgatheringplace.com.