We are excited to introduce the leaders of the second Refugee Livelihood Beyond Borders cohort!
Meet the cohort!
Though born and raised in Dubai (UAE), Yara nonetheless feels detached from her ‘home’ in the Gaza Strip. Now, having spent years contemplating traditional Arab society, she considers the meaning of modern Arab identity, as well as how and whether policy decisions can have an impact on such questions. Yara graduated from the Canadian University Dubai with a BA (hons) in media and communication studies, with a focus on advertising. Yara joined the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi as a MENA research analyst and worked as the deputy advisor and project coordinator for the UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development. She is currently a MA Candidate at the SFU School for International Studies, where she is a Research Assistant for the Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies.
Jackie Obungah; (she/her) is a Black African femme living and working on
the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓ əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh
(Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Peoples. She is
currently pursuing her B.A in International Development at Simon Fraser
University and planning the Afrocentrism Conference 2019: Decolonizing
Academia and being an integral and supportive member of the SFU Women’s
Center collective. She is devoted to learning and understanding the complex
ideas and processes of decolonization, as well as putting it into practice. Jackie
is deeply passionate about the inclusivity of Afrocentric schools of thought in
academia, and in her practice of community work. She loves exploring African
literature, poetry, film and photography and expresses her undying gratitude
to Indigenous peoples for their continuous relationship to the land and is
committed to working in solidarity to dismantle colonial structures globally.
I spent the last 6 years involved in community and youth work to support and
learn from vulnerable refugee and newcomer youth in my community. My
interest in community work and advocacy for marginalized communities led
me to move to Toronto to pursue my Masters in Public Health and am now back
in BC and ready to get to work! I am very passionate in doing work revolving
around social justice and achieving equity using an anti-oppressive lens.
When I’m not working or studying, I love venturing off and traveling to other
countries and picking up new languages!
Reyna is currently serving as the Co-chair of Fresh Voices, a grassroots
organization that advocates for migrant justice in Canada. She was part of the
first cohort of the Run for Office program in early 2019 and is now currently
involved with the Women4Politics in the City of Vancouver. As she continues
to navigate spaces in electoral politics as a young migrant woman of colour,
Reyna’s work and passion will always be grounded in community organizing
and relationship building among racialized and marginalized communities. She
is in her last year at SFU as a Biochemistry major with a minor in Philosophy
and Legal studies.
My name is Feral Rizvi and I’m a proud Pakistani Shia Muslim Transmasculine
Queer, who is looking to continuously explore life, love and happiness :). In
my day-to-day, I work as Scrum Master at Best Buy Canada, specializing in
coaching teams from marketing, design, cloud, and software development
backgrounds to deliver maximum value within a given time frame. For the past
6 years, I’ve been creating workflows for 200+ project deliveries that generated
$15.8M in annualized savings and served 3 products valued at $6M+ in
automation savings in Telecommunications. When I’m not looking up creative
ways to facilitate improvement conversations, I love playing games with
engaging stories (Life is Strange, Heavy Rain, Mass Effect), reading suspense
novels by Dean Koontz, and meeting up with people for coffee!
Mohammed is a business professional who graduated from the University
of Palestine/Gaza with honors in the field of Business Administration and
Accounting studies. His professional background is in various fields such as a
university lecturer, sales administrator and operations manager, and a project
coordinator. Seeing the challenges people around the world face on a daily
basis, Mohammed has directed his educational and professional experience
towards easing and solving life’s difficulties and ending violence. He has seven
years of experience promoting democracy, supporting the development
of an organizational culture that reflects the full programming spectrum
(humanitarian development) value, accountability and high performance.
In 2010, Mohammed received a scholarship sponsored by U.S Department
of State and the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA) to spend one
academic year in the United States as an exchange student and an ambassador
for peace. Since then he has carried the mission of making the world a better
place and help others.
My name is Kue K’nyawmupoe and I’m a former Karen refugee from Thailand.
Eleven years ago, my family and I came to Canada as government-assisted
refugees. We knew little English when we first arrived and the first few years
were challenging. Despite the challenges I faced, I knew I wanted to give
back and help the next refugee in line. My passion for working with refugee
individuals grew when I participated in a project called “Our Community Our
Voice” as a research assistant in 2015. The stories and barriers that participants
encounter as newcomers and refugees in Canada were relatable to mine. From
2017 to early 2019, I was a member of the Surrey Refugee Youth Team, learning
to thrive in leading and facilitating, as well as connecting with the Indigenous
youth in Surrey. I’m beyond excited to be a part of the Beyond Borders with the
Refugee Livelihood Lab.
Hi! My name is Kamaljit. I came to Vancouver as an international student
from India, and I will be completing my associate degree in General Arts at
Columbia College by the end of this year. During my time as a student at
Columbia College, I have been involved with standing up for those who face
diverse injustices as I could be between classes and work. Whether working as
a student advocate representing over 2,000 students, organizing workshops on
workers’ rights for students, or presenting academic papers on issues related
to social justice, I have been focused and passionate about doing community
work and speaking up to help others. I prefer reading books and articles
instead of spending time on social media—and I am currently reading Karl Marx
(the man who is inescapable).
Shila is an immigrant from Indonesia living on unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. She is a Registered Social Worker, a civic engagement enthusiast, and a passionate advocate for economic justice, drug policy reform, and the right for all people to have housing. While a student at the University of British Columbia, she earned a distinguished scholarship for her work in LGBTQ rights advocacy in her home country and for her community leadership in Vancouver. Rooted in the East Javanese culture she grew up in, Shila deeply believes in the power of sharing food and laughter in building connections and fostering a sense of belonging.
Eda explores life with infectious curiosity and awe. As a child growing up in
Turkey, Eda discovered her deep connection to health and well-being while
spending time in the hospital and health centre where her Mother was a
Healthcare worker. At an early age her Mother instilled in her the importance of
maintaining a balanced mind-body-spirit as a preventative approach to health.
Living a purposeful life is her quest and she blends different aspects to create
a holistic approach to health and wellness for herself and others. Eda seeks
inspiration from nature, design, music, dance, ideas, and books. Recently, she
worked with the Ministry of Health to develop a Community Health Centre and
was a strong advocate for underserved populations. She has been working
at various non-profit organizations for almost a decade. Eda teaches yoga
and practices Sufi whirling as a way to commune with the divine. Working
with mentors all around the world, she believes in the ability of individual
and collective energy to shift dynamics and facilitate healing. Eda trusts that
everyone has a unique gift; she works with people to discover their gift and
encourages them share it with their community. Her approach to life and
health is inspiring and empowering.
Mariam is a Pakistani-Canadian with 20 years of experience in social work,
collecting and archiving oral history, cultural poverty alleviation, reproductive
health service access in rural areas of Pakistan, adult pre-literacy programs,
and working with refugee families and children. She is a certified Intercultural
Diversity Practitioner and Coordinator of Social and Civic Engagement at
MOSAIC. She grew up in Pakistan, moving between Canada and Pakistan since
1999. She moved back to Canada in 2015 after her mentor and friend, Sabeen
Mahmud, a human rights activist and social justice advocate, was killed for
defending marginalized groups. Social justice has since become her goal; she
feels fortunate to be able to strive towards a more just society and hopes to
work in policy change in the future.
Hasti is currently acquiring a Sociology degree with a minor in Gender, Sexuality and Woman studies at SFU. Being a first-generation immigrant, she understands the hardships of moving to Canada like finding a balance between integrating into western society while keeping true to her Iranian heritage. Hasti enjoys group settings; she is grateful for living in a country where there are people from all walks of life, unique views and cultures. She is thrilled to be a part of the Beyond Borders program in hopes of meeting others who are passionate about bringing about change in the community, especially in regards to credential recognition and finding a job. In her spare time, Hasti loves to sit by the beach and watch the ocean waves, and snowboard in the winter.
Minab Yetbarek, originally from Eritrea, is a Business Management undergrad
with a penchant for Philosophy and aspires to become a Lawyer specializing
in Human-Rights. He has a passion for the humanities and the arts, and volunteers for all manner of community organizations. With a pleasant disposition
and curiosity to match, he has a friendly and welcoming attitude that puts
everyone he meets at ease. He hopes to use his Juris-Doctor degree to help and
protect the immigrant community of which he is a part. He has lived in Canada
for the last 6 years. With six siblings and a loving mother, family is above all.
Sina is passionate about working and advocating for women’s related issues
and raising awareness about the power we have to stop discrimination and
racism in our community’s to create a racism-free and inclusive environment.
Sina has worked with BWSS that takes action to end violence against women
and girls as a crises line. She has gained invaluable experience from learning
about her own and other women’s experiences. Moreover, the importance of
working from a decolonizing and intersectional framework through a feminist
anti-oppression perspective. She is currently in her last year of studying global
stewardship at Capilano University.
April (pronouns: she/they) grew up and spent the first half of their life in
the Philippines. They have been living on unceded Coast Salish lands since
2005 and continuously working towards understanding what it means to be
a Filipino settlers on unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples. April
currently works as a front-end developer and designer for New/Mode, an
engagement platform for social change. They are also one of the co-founders of
TechInColour. TechInColour is a project that helps build networks, skills, career
learnings, and scholarship opportunities to Black, Indigenous, and people of
colour (BIPoC) communities. When they are not solving problems one pixel at
a time, you can find them playing squash, doing pottery, cooking or playing
music with their ukulele.
Jo Shin (she/her) is a User Researcher who creates cohesive experiences
between people, places and things through design. She is driven by a desire
to empower people – as technology users, consumers and citizens. Outside of
the office, Jo advocates for marginalized communities as a Co-Founder/CoOrganizer of TechInColour, a community hub for people of colour in tech. She
serves on the boards of Megaphone Magazine and Hope in Shadows, two antipoverty non-profits in Vancouver and has volunteered her Korean language
skills for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Jo Shin is a proud Westie from
Sydney (Australia), and the first descendant of her first-generation KoreanAustralian family. A Canadian immigrant herself, she became a citizen in 2019.
She’s very excited to vote in the upcoming federal elections.
I am a recent Health Sciences graduate from SFU and am interested in how
social justice plays a role in health equity and reducing barriers to healthcare
for vulnerable populations. My interests and involvement at SFU have led me
to projects in health promotion, mental health, youth engagement, as well as
research in newcomer and refugee health needs. I am currently the Co-Lead for
Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses, an initiative promoting mental well-being
and healthy relationships with substances on BC post-secondary campuses. I
enjoy watching Netflix, telling puns and buying books from thrift stores that I’ll
My name is Hermela Mekonen and I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I
came to Canada as a refugee at the age of 5 and since then, I have always
been passionate about creating change. I have been working within my own
community and am very passionate about developing as a stronger leader.
This year, we founded BOTA which is a group that is focused on addressing
challenges within our communities and creating an incubator for young
Ethiopian and Eritrean youth. We are hoping to focus on providing resources to
new migrants, and disadvantaged peoples! I am so excited to learn and be a part
of this cohort and collaborate with other leaders!
Samar Kassem is a Palestinian Muslim born and raised away from her homeland.
Samar is a pharmacy school graduate who immigrated to Canada nineteen years
ago with her husband and four children. She enjoys interacting with diverse
people. Over the past six years, she supported new immigrants and refugees
through volunteer and work. Currently, she is a Guided Pathways Coach at
DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society. Samar enjoys spending time with
her family and friends, baking Arabic sweets, and being a mom to four beautiful
children. Samar wants to make a difference in her community by bridging the
gaps between immigrants and refugees, and their new home –Canada.
Silvia Di Blasio: is a certified facilitator/coach in different areas which include settlement and support to migrant workers and refugees to Canada, the Work that Reconnects, eLearning support and consultancy and community resilence; her training includes adult facilitation, career counselling and sustainability design, among others and more than 30 years working with diverse organizations, communities and groups in areas that include social and environmental justice and community resilience. Through the years, Silvia has specialized in three areas of transformational resilience: bouncing beyond as opposed to bouncing back; food sovereignty and regenerative livelihood design. Silvia works for three organizations in diverse capacity as a facilitator/eLearning assistant, coordinator and career counsellor/settlement worker: Gaia Education, the Work that Reconnects Network and DIVERSECity. In each of her jobs, Silvia has experienced and witnessed the complex interactions between social and environmental issues which influence people in uneven ways. Her goal with the Refugee Livelihood Lab is to explore and co-create ways to build a more socially and environmentally aware, compassive, inclusive and regenerative society for all.