It’s Surprisingly Complex: Sponsors’ Narratives on Private Refugee Sponsorship


Supervisor: Barry Trentham

Student MScOT Researchers: Lauren Stacey and Brett Hnatiw

Year of study: 2017/18



The need for refugee resettlement has never been greater as unprecedented numbers of displaced persons flee their homelands. Canada’s private refugee sponsorship program engages groups of citizens to provide resettlement support. There is minimal research examining private sponsorship relationship dynamics and how they may enable or limit integration. Currently, no research exists looking at how occupational therapy and allyship are relevant to the relationship. This is a conspicuous shortcoming as resettlement is a period of occupational transition and deprivation. This research sought to understand how sponsors’ experience the refugee-sponsor relationship.

Narrative interviews were analyzed using directed content analysis from a critical occupational and allyship perspective. Five themes were identified:

  1. ‘It took over my life” …but I’d do it again
  2. Navigating the complexities of Canadian life
  3. Experiencing sponsor group dynamics
  4. Like parent, like sponsor
  5. Countering expectations.

These themes highlighted how allyship and critical occupational perspectives may inform how sponsors can understand, name, and frame the relationship, and how occupational therapy may contribute to building effective sponsorship teams.

Findings from this project were presented at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) 2018 Annual Conference in Vancouver.