Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie has over 20 years of experience working with and advocating for refugees and immigrants. As a 1.5 generation refugee, she brings a unique perspective for understanding the strengths and complexities of working with refugees and immigrants. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology/Sociology from Eastern Oregon University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Both her undergraduate and graduate research comprised of the use of participatory action framework to explore and address the disparities in meaningful language access for limited English proficient individuals in healthcare and the U.S. Naturalization process.
Ms. Soneoulay-Gillespie has substantial experience advocating for systemic change related to the needs of refugees and immigrants in both direct practice, program management capacities, policy, and community advocacy. Having served as an interpreter, consultant, and trainer, she is also passionate about the development and professionalism of the interpreting field. In partnership with the Alaska State Refugee Coordinator, she developed a 16-hour curriculum that trains providers and interpreters on the fundamentals of interpreting to ensure they are working from the same platform of expectations and ethics. The curriculum was initially implemented in a refugee resettlement setting and later expanded to social service agencies, universities, new employee orientations, volunteer trainings, primary care clinics, and advocacy groups. It has been implemented for over 15 years in Alaska, Northern California, and Oregon. Her previous role as Director of Refugee Resettlement at Catholic Charities gave her a invaluable platform for elevating this training on a county level. In her current role as the Social Services Manager for Population Health at CareOregon, she continues to be a fierce advocate, raising awareness in the healthcare network on the role of interpreters, the role of service providers, and how to work alongside one another to ultimately honor the strong and compelling voices that often go unheard.
She credits her deep commitment to language access from the courage and sacrifices made by her refugee parents Soulideth and Phouvong, and the limited English proficient community who is continuously overlooked, misunderstood, and left out of conversations.
She speaks often of her privilege of meeting incredible people who have taken the time to offer wisdom and guidance and through that, she has a profound appreciation for those who came before her and is committed to giving back in ways that let others know they matter, and in ways that keep her grounded. When she’s not working, she finds joy and rejuvenation from spending time with her husband Virgil, nine year old daughter Sanaa, and seven year old son Myles.