Ask Women Anything: Immigration in Ottawa – The Real Deal

Join us at 7 p.m. on February 22, 2018, for our next Ask Women Anything panel discussion. This panel will focus on immigration in Ottawa and the attitudes that surround it. This is sure to be another exciting discussion that you do not want to miss… and don’t forget you can ask them anything!

NOTE: Due to the popularity of previous events and the strict capacity at Bar Robo, this event will require pre-booked tickets on EventBrite (free of charge!) in order to be guaranteed entry. Those without a ticket will be let in on a first come first served basis after ticket holders. Click here to reserve tickets.

Our panelists:

SALLY DIMACHKI: Sally Dimachki is currently a Project Coordinator at Refugee 613, a coalition of settlement agencies, community organizations, private sponsorship groups, volunteers and local citizens, working together on refugee integration in Ottawa. As an immigrant to Canada, she is passionate about amplifying the voices of immigrant & refugee women and creating opportunities for young women in leadership. She serves on the Board of Directors of Immigrant Women Services Ottawa and is the Chair of the G(irls) 20 Steering Committee. In March 2017, she served as the Youth NGO Delegate on the official Canadian Government Delegation to the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Sally holds a Joint European Master’s in Human Rights and Genocide Studies from Kingston University of London. Follow her on Twitter @sallydimachki!

SARAH ONYANGO: A translator by trade, Kenyan-born Sarah Onyango is a well-known fixture on Ottawa’s community media scene. She hosts the monthly African cultural program Fontonfrom, on Rogers TV Cable 22 – Ottawa as well as the weekly radio programs, Ici l’Afrique, Afrika Revisited and Black on Black on CHUO 89.1FM (University of Ottawa community radio). She is very active in the Black community in Ottawa, and has done a great deal to promote its people, organizations, causes and events. In 2003, to make it easier for the Black community to stay connected, Sarah created a website called BlackOttawa411 which has become a virtual community “hub” of sorts. In addition to volunteering as a radio and television host and producer, Sarah has emceed and helped organize numerous community events. Sarah is also a board member of Black History Ottawa, where she is responsible for public relations and outreach activities. Since 2008, Sarah has also been a member of the United Way/Centraide Ottawa Community Builder Award Recognition team.

SUSIMA LOPEZ MARTINEZ: is a young mother, who immigrated to Canada from Cuba in 2008 after meeting and marrying a Canadian. She became a Canadian citizen in 2016. “Susi” as she likes to be called has put her studies on hold until her youngest of three children begins school. In Cuba she had studied nursing. She has dealt with the immigration system first hand and is still doing so as she attempts to sponsor her mother, who currently lives in the U.S. She currently attends the Spanish Evangelical church, which is mostly made up of recent immigrants from Latin America. Susi’s is also the story of the vulnerability of a woman immigrating to a new country. Her first husband promised her language lessons, help finding a job and a future family. Once she arrived in Canada he did not help her to learn either of Canada’s official languages and discouraged her from working. The relationship finally ended when he went on vacation to her homeland without her, stating that it was too expensive to take her. She was fortunate enough that a neighbor she had made friends with took pity on her and drove her to the home of a childhood friend from Cuba. From there she got a divorce and built her life.

RAMA AL SAFADI: Rama Al Safadi is a settlement counselor at the Somali Centre For Family Services. She has a degree in Translation for English and Arabic Languages in addition to a Business Administration diploma. Rama worked for LG Electronics international for 7 years in Syria before arriving to Canada. She worked in different fields Procurement and planning, administration and HR. Rama and her family arrived in Canada in September 2016, lived in Calgary for 6 months and moved to Ottawa in April 2017 in search of a better future.

Ask Women Anything with Ana Maria Cruz-Valderrama


Media Action Media’s most recent instalment of the Ask Women Anything series welcomed seniors’ advocate and community leader Ana Maria Cruz Valderrama to the Pressed Café stage on April 26th.

Ana Maria inspired the Ottawa audience with her long-standing commitment to immigrant seniors’ care and volunteerism. A tour de force in community building, Ana Maria discussed the joy of giving back, in “giving from the heart, soul, and brain” every day.


As a Spanish immigrant from Columbia, Ana Maria opened up about the thrills and challenges of living in a new city and learning a new language.

Making others feel welcome within the Ottawa community is a driving force for Ana Maria, who is also the Executive Director of Club Casa de Los Abuelos, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Spanish-speaking seniors into the area.


Ana Maria spoke of the importance of communication, socializing, and medical care to seniors’ wellbeing. “Doing the best we can to help seniors be active and healthy” greatly benefits the community at large, in both social and economic terms, she said. She also candidly answered questions about media representations, noting there is much room for improvement in the way seniors and Columbians are depicted in news outlets and other popular media.


Many thanks to our venue Pressed Café, host Shari Graydon, Media Action’s many volunteers, photographer Felixe Denson of Wingd, and to all those who came out for this heart-warming and thought-provoking #AskWomenAnything!