Katto, Refugee Services Coordinator

by David Tulloch

Monday 19 December 2022

Doreen Katto was born and raised in Uganda, Eastern Africa. She is one of eight children, born to parents who were both teachers. She learned from her mother to be hospitable to others, beginning with family, and especially to those who were less fortunate. Doreen stated that at mealtime, there “would be more than 15 people in our home,” some of whom her parents had taken in to live with them.

Doreen attended a traditional colonial boarding school in Uganda and had her mother as her first teacher. After successfully completing primary education, she was admitted to Makerere University in Kampala, the only university in the country at that time. She excelled in her undergraduate studies and earned a BA in Sociology. She was immediately hired as a teacher at the National University of Rwanda.

Doreen later obtained a scholarship to pursue graduate studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, earning an MA in Development Studies. After graduating, she became a Social Worker within the prison system, then she lectured at the University at Makerere University, Nkumba University, and Kampala International University, where she also worked as Dean of Students. She would later for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a National Coordinator for Disaster Management and Refugees. 

Dorreen came to Canada on a visa in 2017 and found out afterward that she could not safely return to her country due to the prevailing circumstances there at that time. This led her to seek asylum in Canada. And despite her remarkable accomplishments and her academic achievements, she found it difficult to start a new life in Canada. It was hard “to adjust from a life of having everything (in Uganda) to a life of having nothing (in Canada). I met stiff barriers in attempting to find meaningful employment. Without a Canadian education or work experience, stepping into a professional job was the most difficult thing I had to deal with. I worked as a store associate for 8 months, meanwhile volunteering in several organizations to network and gain Canadian work experience. “

She is a devoted Christian, very passionate about social justice and human dignity, and is also a dedicated community volunteer. Since arriving in Ottawa, she has immersed herself in volunteering activities, even after securing full-time employment. At the end of her workday, she spends her time “serving God at River Jordan Ministries”, an immigrant community church that helped her reintegrate into Ottawa. Then she volunteers at Stepstone House, CADHO, and Refugee 613, “and I still serve my church in Uganda as Church Administrator.” 

It was this passion that drove her to volunteer at Matthew House shortly after her arrival in Ottawa. This act of kindness to others channeled her into her current role. Doreen states that it was not her plan but rather a divine intervention that led to her current position as Program Coordinator of Refugee Services. She feels that God placed her there to give back for the support she received when she had just arrived.   “Knowing what I went through as a newcomer the lessons I learned, and the pain I endured, was all the training I needed to be effective in my current job.  

“Starting over is never easy. And for the hundreds of refugees who arrive in Ottawa each year, starting over can feel impossible. Many find themselves sleeping on the streets or in crowded shelters. they wonder how they will ever find a job or a safe place to live in a city full of strangers. After fleeing violence, they now find themselves facing a whole new set of obstacles.” (https://www.matthewhouseottawa.org/our-story)

Matthew House Ottawa is a Christian-founded organization that offers the gift of a new beginning. One of the testimonials from their website reads; “Matthew House Ottawa didn’t know me, but they were so kind and helped me fully furnish my empty apartment. My family feels so blessed . . . I now volunteer because I want to be a part in helping others have the same experience as I had with Matthew House Ottawa’s furniture bank program.”

Doreen says that “the people we serve consistently share with us that they feel dignity, gratitude, hope, and empowerment in the process. Once their basic needs are met, people feel empowered and connected to a supportive community and are then able to stand on their own as they start their new life. Many of the people we serve themselves answer the call to serve others, to help those in need, and to build a community that offers hope. This is perhaps the most important outcome of our work. The people we serve are a virtuous cycle that will continue to transform our community and country for the better.” 

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Dave Tulloch

Dave Tulloch was born in Jamaica. He immigrated to Canada in 1970 to pursue post-secondary education. He earned a diploma in electronics engineering technology from Algonquin College, a Bachelor of Admin and Bachelor of Commerce (Hon) from the University of Ottawa, and a Master of Business Administration from Concordia University. He has an extensive career in information technology and in IT consulting with Systemhouse, KPMG, and Oracle Corporation where he retired as a director. Dave taught IT and business courses at CEGEP (Hull) and tutored at the Wake Tech College in North Carolina.  He wrote articles for the Ottawa Spectrum publication that focused on Ottawa’s Visible Minorities community and has written a book documenting the life stories of early Caribbean Immigrants to Ottawa, scheduled for publication later this year. He can be contacted via email: dstulloch@bell.net

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