Events & Media

Coming Together to Address Issues with the Old and New Pathways

4 February 2018, Migrant Mothers Project – Caregivers’ Journeys, University of Toronto (click above to view agenda)

*** Petronila “Tita Pet” Cleto, one of the organizers and founders of GABRIELA Ontario, has recently passed away on January 11th, 2018, and we have moved our event to Sunday, February 4th, 2018 to allow our workshop facilitators, community members and members of Gabriela participating in our event to grieve and pay respects at her inurnment and memorial happening on January 28th, 2018. ***

The Migrant Mothers Project is hosting a community event to share findings from the Caregivers’ Journeys Study and to address issues with the old and new pathways. This community event will include a panel of advocates and caregivers to discuss current conditions in the old live-in caregiver and new caregiver program and how to work with community legal services and language assessment centres. Workshop sessions for caregivers, service providers and community members will focus on mental health, signs of abuse and safety planning and advocacy strategies. Through the panel and workshops, we aim to inspire action and create a space for meaningful dialogue.

Participant Bios

Lani Aguinaldo
Lani Aguinaldo is a counsellor at the Addiction Services for York Region. She completed a  Masters in Public Health and Administration from the University of the Philippines as well as a Government Management and Public Management at the University of the City of Manila. Her most recent Masters is in Adult Education and Community Development in collaboration with Addiction Studies at the University of Toronto. Lani will be co-facilitating in the family reunification and mental health workshop.

Bong Castro            
Bong Castro is a former caregiver and is an advocate for caregivers and domestic workers. Bong is with the Advisory Committee of Caregiver Connections, Education and Support Organization (CCESSO), an organization formed by former staff, board officers and members of INTERCEDE. She is currently working at AECOM, an engineering firm that provides consulting, construction, and management services.

Coco Diaz
Coco Diaz is a strong and tireless advocate for the rights of caregivers and domestic workers since the 80’s. She worked at INTERCEDE for the Rights of Domestic Workers, Caregivers, and Newcomers from its inception until it folded in 2009. Coco is one of the founding members of CCESO, a volunteer-run organization which provides education and support to newcomers and caregivers. She continues to be a very active member of select Filipino social groups in Toronto. Coco is married daughter and twin sons and she is a proud grandmother of a grandson, Michael.

Pearlita Juan           
Pearlita is a peer researcher on the Caregivers Journeys branch of the Migrant Mothers Project. She joined the MMP in October 2015. Chairperson-Program Advisory Committee 2011-2016. Assist in forming the TNO Caregivers in Transition Program Advisory Committee. One of the founding members of the TNO Caregivers in Transition (TNO- former Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office now The Neighbourhood Organization). Part time Peer Research Animator-Family Reunification and Adoptation Program under TNO and partnership with the Toronto City Health, 2011. Volunteer Worker TNO 2010-2016. Came to Canada as a Live-in-Caregiver in 2007. Completed the program in 2009, became Permanent Resident in 2012 and gain Citizenship in 2015. Graduated Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service at Lyceum of the Philippines, City of Manila. Pearlita Juan is currently working as a Caregiver in Canada.

Varka Kalaydzhieva
Varka is the anti-human trafficking and women’s program coordinator at the FCJ Refugee Centre. Varka obtained her Master degree in international law at University of Montreal where she also worked with the Canadian Council for Refugees. At the FCJ Refugee Centre she is provided with an opportunity to work with likeminded people whose aspirations for better world free of oppression inspire her every day.

 Martha Ocampo
Martha Ocampo is a Race, Culture and Mental Health consultant with Martha Ocampo and Associates, providing educational and training workshops at mental health and addiction agencies, colleges, universities and the public. She is co-editor of a book, Critical Psychiatry and Mental Health published in 2014. Martha is a founding member of Across Boundaries (AB): An Ethnoracial Mental Health Centre in Toronto. She played a key role in developing the Centre’s Holistic Model of Care within an Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression Framework. She developed a Leadership and Advocacy Training specifically for caregivers and domestic workers and, she co-authored “Let’s Talk” a guidebook on education about Violence Against Women in the Filipino community. She is a founding member of both the Kapisanan for Arts and Culture and the Carlos Bulosan Theatre CBT) in Toronto. She is currently the chair of the Board of CBT. She was on the Board of METRAC, currently at the Assaulted Women’s Helpline, and a member of the Advisory Committee at George Brown College Community Worker’s Program; the Caregiver Connections Education Support Organization (CCESO) and Migrant Mothers Project. She is the Co-Chair of the Society for Integrating Traditional Healing into Counselling, Psychology, Psychotherapy and Psychiatry (SITHCP3), an international, interdisciplinary organizations of scholars, researchers and mental health practitioners.

Maria “Esel” Panlaqui      
Maria “Esel” Laxa Panlaqui is a part-time Settlement Counselor at TNO-  The Neighbourhood Organization (formerly Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office). She provides phone services in the evening and weekend itinerant and mobile services to reach out and engage the isolated and vulnerable live-in caregivers. She currently represents TNO at the Community Advisory Board of Migrant Mother’s Project and sits in the Canadian Council for Refugees Sub Committee on Migrant Workers.  Aside from providing direct services, she is involved in several community organizing and advocacy projects.

Deanna Santos
has been practicing (mainly) immigration law in Ontario for more than ten years. She completed a PhD in Law at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, where she did research on human rights and migrant domestic work, including an in-depth study of Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program. Before coming to Canada, she obtained a Master of Laws degree at Lund University in Sweden and was also a lawyer in the Philippines.

Lorraine Valmadrid  
Lorraine Valmadrid is a graduate from the Master of Social Work program at University of Toronto. She was born in Manila, Philippines and immigrated to Canada at a young age. Her family’s experience as migrants to Canada has inspired her interest in examining immigration policies through a racialized lens. Lorraine adopts a community-based participatory action approach to research. She currently works as a researcher and strategic planner focused on neighborhood and community development work in Hamilton, ON.

Fernanda Villanueva
Fernanda Villanueva MSW RSW completed her Masters of Social Work from the University of Toronto. She currently works as a therapist, specializing in women’s mental health, where she pays close attention to the systematic factors that impact women. She has worked in community and mental health settings for over 10 years, where she has supported individuals work through mental health challenges and navigate various life transitions.

The Redwood Shelter
The Redwood offers safety, healing and opportunities for growth for women and their children fleeing abuse. Families receive case management and counseling services from Resident Services Counselors, access to empowering and life-changing programs, and transitional support when they are ready to take the steps toward a new life. Redwood has also developed a safety planning tool kit for women experiencing violence, which they will share components of in the ‘Signs of Abuse and Safety Planning’ workshop.

Mithi Esguerra
Mithi Esguerra currently serves as chairperson of GABRIELA Ontario, an overseas chapter of Philippine-based GABRIELA alliance, advancing Filipino women’s struggle for social and national liberation. She has been involved in grassroots organizing and advocacy with Filipino youth and migrant workers, since arriving to Canada in 1994. She also works as the Filipino Program Worker at Support, Enhance, Access, Service Centre (SEAS), a settlement agency serving the Greater Toronto Area.



Rupaleem Bhuyan joined Rania El Mugammar for a compelling and important discussion on the collision of Racism, Xenophobia, and Violence Against Women. To watch the webinar click on the video below or click here.




Rupaleem Bhuyan joined Ontario Today to discuss the role of the community when faced with family violence and abuse. Read the question board in the CBC website here. The podcast can also be downloaded here.


23 April 2015, CIMM-44

Rupaleem Bhuyan was invited to speak in the House of Commons Committees to talk about Bill S-7. The evidence (available here in the House of Commons Committees page) looks into further discussing the term barbaric, and what constitutes as barbaric cultural practices. Update: Since 15 June 2015, Parliament passed Bill S-7 to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code.



In partnership with the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto, the Migrant Mothers Project hosted over 120 people to take part in a day long event titled, “Intersections of Violence Against Women and Precarious Immigration Status—A National Symposium for Advocacy and Community Mobilization.” The symposium was a full-day event held at the University of Toronto to engage with an active network of service providers, activists, policy analysts, researchers and immigrant women in Canada.Panels and workshops focused on advocacy and community engagement strategies for/with immigrant women with precarious status on a range of cross-cutting issues. Videos of the panels and further resources are available on the symposium website.