Board of Directors
The UNAC-V Board of Directors consists of a varied group of professionals, all operating in a volunteer capacity.
Each member holds their own passions and interests, and through our sub-committees, this comes together through various events the team hosts in Vancouver annually.
Jessica Steele (she/her/elle) is a climate justice activist, ocean conservationist and youth engager, striving to tread lightly and with intention on the unceded, traditional and ancestral lands of the Coast Salish Peoples. After completing a BSc in Biology (Specialization in Marine Biology) from UVic in 2015, Jessica did an International Youth Internship Placement (IYIP) with the Institut Africain de Gestion Urbaine in Dakar, Senegal where she worked on waste management projects. In 2017, Jessica joined Ocean Wise Conservation Association’s national ocean education initiatives working as an Educator on the Mobile Programs team and as a Program Coordinator for Ocean Bridge/Portail Ocean. She is currently a Sr. Referrals Analyst with səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) where she upholds Indigenous Rights through Consultation on environmental assessment projects.
Jessica sits on the PWRDF National Youth Council and on the KAIROS Canada Ecological Justice Circle. In 2018, she attended the UNFCCC’s COP24 on behalf of KAIROS Canada and she is part of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC)’s delegation to the 2020 UN Oceans Conference (postponed due to COVID-19). Jessica loves jumping in the ocean, riding her bike, summer picnics and backpacking backcountry trails.
Jessie K. Sunner was born in Melbourne, Australia and raised in Surrey, B.C. Jessie is In-House Legal Counsel for the Hospital Employees’ Union, where she specializes in labour relations, employment, and human rights law. Jessie received her B.A. in Criminology from Simon Fraser University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Calgary. During law school, Jessie was a criminal justice intern with the United Nations Office on Drugs in Crime in Bangkok, Thailand. In her role at the U.N.O.D.C., Jessie worked on legislative amendments, including developing amendments and safeguards for child protection laws in Thailand and drafting anti-human trafficking laws for Laos. Through her work with the United Nations, she has also had the privilege of attending various conferences and speaking engagements in Bangkok, Thailand and Vancouver, Canada. One of these opportunities included partaking as a youth delegate in the 2017 U.N. Defence Ministerial Youth Forum which took place in Vancouver, B.C. Jessie participated in consultations with over 100 youth from around Canada and addressed issues most pertinent to youth regarding national peace and security. The findings of these consultations were presented to various National Ministers during the youth forum and also compiled into a formal report that was presented to the Minister of Youth, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In addition to her role as Co-Vice President for the U.N.A.C. – Vancouver Branch, Jessie also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surrey Police Board and the Surrey Women’s Centre. She has also previously volunteered with a number of national and international organizations including Level, Pro Bono Students Canada, and Help, Learn and Discover.
Nora is a development practitioner with project management and sustainable development experience. Nora worked in Western Balkans countries, Latin America, Central Asia and Canada coordinating, managing and facilitating strategic processes for the UN, civil society, private sector and the government. Her work spans from humanitarian and post-conflict settings to peace-building context of supporting institutions to advance national and global development agendas.
Nora currently serves as a Sustainable Development Officer with the UN Regional Development Coordination Office for Europe and Central Asia, in Istanbul, Turkey. Prior to that she served as the Head of the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Kosovo; a Manager for UNDP and UNOPS projects as well as a consultant on sustainable development for the UN globally and BCCIC in Canada.
With civil society and private sector, Nora assisted communities build bridges through mediation as a Deputy Director for Center for Conflict Management, coordinated refugee/emergency programs with World Vision International in Kosovo and Albania; and worked as a Junior Architect with Integra Architecture in Vancouver, Canada and with Pro-Arch Planning in Prishtina.
Nora holds a Master’s Degree in Economy of Culture, University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Italy; Specialization on Gender and sexuality studies, Dartmouth College, US and a Master’s in Architecture, University of Prishtina, Kosovo.
Nora serves as a Co-Vice Chair of the UN Association Canada, Vancouver; a Founder/Board Member of a family philanthropic “Foundation Salih and Isa Nushi”, providing bursaries to the most vulnerable university students in Kosovo; and a Member of the Association of Kosovo Architects.
US Congressman Eliot Engel awarded a Recognition Letter to Nora for her leadership to enabling Kosovo’s government eligibility to access USD 49 million for economic development and transparent governance from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation in 2015.
(Sue) Soon-Lan Lee Switzer
Soon-Lan is an educator in higher education. She is certified as a Career Development Practitioner, Human Resources Management, and has completed an Essential Skills Practitioner Training Certificate. Soon-Lan is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in higher education administration and leadership at the Royal Roads University. Soon-Lan focused on learner-centred education and learner’s learning experiences as an educator, instructor and career development facilitator.
Soon-Lan has facilitated the Sustainable Employment and Environmental Directions (SEED) program for three years, a federally funded program designed to help vulnerable youth at-risk find and keep employment. Soon-Lan believes that continuous learning and a positive attitude are key aspects of her career philosophy.
Born and raised in South Korea, Soon-Lan has moved to Canada in 2007. As a refugee committee member, Soon-Lan supported refugee families from Syria and Burma through settlement and community services. Soon-Lan dedicated her time to supporting immigrant youth through the Vancouver School District and is currently a mentor to professional immigrants through the Immigrant Employment Council of BC. Soon-Lan continues to expand her contributions so her footsteps will be meaningful.
Koyali Burman is an accomplished community engagement and economic development strategist. She has a decade of expertise in research, strategic planning, monitoring, and evaluation locally and internationally. She is an experienced researcher and educator for sustainable local and international development. She has a background in community Originally from India, she holds a Master of Arts in Adult & Higher Education from UBC. She has held various board of directors and advisory positions in Canada, advising strategic paths and advancing development causes. These have included sustainable local economic development; gender-sensitive strategy for ICT in open Schooling; Entrepreneurship a strategy for local economic development; mentorship for women and girls; Global Citizenship and workplace diversity and inclusion. She holds a leadership position and have spoken about international migration and community economic development in Vancouver and India.
In 2018, she received a prestigious Pan Asian Recognition award for her leadership role in supporting Pan Asian communities in British Columbia, with a curiosity about the global community. Koyali is passionate about supporting the United Nations Association in Canada and support the Sustainable Development Goals to build strong, safe, and resilient communities that will be inclusive and innovative for decades to come.
Rosio Godomar was born in Peru and now lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is a nutritionist and keen amateur photographer, having worked with UN World Food Program and UN Food and Agriculture Organization for more than 20 years. Additionally, Rosario worked in humanitarian and emergency programs in Africa (Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Sudan, Ethiopia and Liberia) and the Middle East (Iraq), as well as South Asia (Pakistan and Afghanistan). She has studied nutrition in Lima, Peru and Germany, with an MSc in Human Nutrition from the Federal University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In 2014, Rosario started the Education Girls Network (EGN) initiative to sponsor young female students from under privileged rural families in Maryland County, Liberia, West Africa, to complete their education in order to become teachers. This initiative was created based on the challenges facing girls who want an education in Liberia. Rosario changed course and from 2011 to 2017 worked as the food service supervisor in the Burnaby Hospital with Fraser Health. Currently Rosario volunteers as a mentor with MOSAIC Workplace Connections Program in Vancouver, in addition to the Treasurer of the Board of the United Nations Association, Vancouver Branch.
Greg Neumann is a Social Studies teacher with 30 years of experience in the Burnaby School District. As a department head at Byrne Creek Community School, he is part of a progressive team of dedicated teachers committed to educating future voting citizens to be critical thinkers in the most diverse community of students in the world. He brings experience in online course development, school technology liaison, and a Masters in Curriculum, Teaching & Learning with an emphasis on Computer-Mediated Communication to the Executive.
His experience spans school-based Professional Development, Technology, and Finance Committees as well as district-level assessment committee work. Greg is an administrator for summer school in Burnaby and Vice-President of the BC Social Studies Teachers’ Association. A team sports enthusiast Greg stays healthy marathon running. His preoccupation though is family – his wife Darlene, and daughters Maxine and Kennedy.
Deirdre is a long-time public school teacher and tech enthusiast. She has dedicated her personal and professional life to promoting global awareness. Even as one person in the face of unimaginable global issues, Deirdre believes she has the power to ignite interest and concern for what is going on in the world, and make positive change.
Deirdre’s professional life has included time with the BC Ministry of Education and a stint as a Faculty Advisor in Professional Development Programs at Simon Fraser University. Her work with Model United Nations education, videoconferencing and staff development resulted in receiving a National Technology Innovation award, VANOC Olympic Committee recognition, Social Studies Teacher of the Year and the Gibbard Memorial Award.
Her alma mater is the University of British Columbia where she earned a BA in International Relations and an MA in Curriculum Studies.
She loves the sport of rowing and is currently exploring what Metis heritage means as a professional in an urban setting in addition to the intersectionality of technology, gender and leadership.
Karen A. Truscott has worked as legal counsel in British Columbia since her Bar Admission in 1991. She received her B.A. (major in English) from the University of Calgary and her LL.B. from the University of Alberta (Edmonton). She is currently pursuing a graduate program (LL.M.) specializing in alternative dispute resolution through Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. She has received certificates and diplomas in continuing education programs from several organizations, including the University of British Columbia in peer counselling and the Justice Institute of British Columbia in conflict resolution.
Karen has extensive volunteer experience, and serves as a regional member for the Association of Justice Counsel (Governing Council), and is a member of its Negotiation Team for collective bargaining. Karen has also served as a volunteer for such diverse organizations as the Canadian Cancer Society (Cancer Information Service, Relay for Life, and Camp Goodtimes), the Canadian Red Cross Society (International Services Committee), and BC Children’s Hospital (Summits of Hope). She has also acted as a representative for the United Way of Calgary and Area as a campaign associate, and for the United Way of the Lower Mainland in the capacity of workplace campaign co-chair.
Rhiannon Dominy-Pergentile started volunteering at an early age with a varied selection of organisations in capacities such as volunteer coordinator, public relations and chairperson. These included Roots & Shoots, Free the Children, Me to We, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International in addition the United Nations in Canada, Vancouver Branch. Throughout her work, Rhiannon explored her passion for social and environmental justice, looking to create a unique career path for herself.
Gaining diplomas in criminology and forensic anthropology from Camosun College, Rhiannon gained a BA in Justice Studies from Royal Roads University. Her professional life has fostered the development of her executive administrative and HR toolbox. Presently, she works as a public servant with the BC Government Criminal Courts, aiming to further pursue education in the fields of investigative journalism, public policy and emergency preparedness. When not working or further her knowledge-base, you can find Rhiannon deep into one of a dozen books she has on the go, or out exploring the beautiful sights the West Coast has to offer.
Jocelyn Pittel identifies as a humanitarian, activist, International Project Developer, specializing in fundraising and creating both public and private partnerships. She has developed excellent operational, financial, marketing and product development skills and has held positions as senior corporate executive in the private sector. Jocelyn was the President of her own company, Focused Alliances Corporation, an International Development Company. She has worked on funding development projects in many countries throughout South Africa, Asia and South America for over 25 years. Additionally, Jocelyn has put together funding for $160Million public private partnership in South Africa, created a $25Million housing project for the Cook Islands, funded a black pearl project in the island of Manihiki, and developed farming projects in Peru in the Amazon. She worked with OPIC, World Bank, USAID, OECD, Asian Development Bank, International Finance Corporation and Private Banks.
Jocelyn is currently working on a development project; Cambodia Farmers Cooperative, helping farmers create better lives by supporting their agricultural efforts. She provides financing to the farmers to buy cows and raise them. As the cows mature and females have calves, opportunities are created to increase their livestock and at the same time increase their income hopefully ending the poverty cycle.
With over 20 years of marketing, media and communications experience, Alfred represents the next generation of social entrepreneur in Canada. Educated at Oxford, he has created and managed integrated marketing campaigns for international brands in New York, London, LA and Hong Kong.
Patsy George is a retired public servant and social worker with an MA in Social Work and two Honorary Doctorates of Law from the University of the Fraser Valley and the University of British Columbia, respectively.
Patsy has specialized in community development, working across Canada from Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia prior to arriving in BC in 1975. She was the Director of Immigrant and Settlement Services for BC before she retired. Patsy has served on the Immigration and Refugee Board and was appointed to the commission responsible for reviewing government policies and laws of Family and Children’s services.
As the president of the International Council on Social Welfare, she represented Canada at various UN summits, forums and conferences, contributing to the development of international agreements, protocols to fight poverty, enhance social cohesion, human rights and international development. For her volunteer work, the Senate of Canada, City of Vancouver, M.O.S.A.I.C., United Way and others, have recognized Patsy. She holds both the Queen’s the Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada. She is a past president of UNAC-V, Vancouver Branch.
George Somerwill started his career in the media and communications world working for the BBC World Service in Africa in the early seventies. In 1976, he joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), eventually as executive producer of a top daily current affairs radio programme, spending three years as a producer in the CBC’s Paris office. During his journalism career, George travelled to some of the world’s worst trouble spots – Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, to cover the revolutions and the 1984 famine. Following a brief stint with the Canadian International Development Agency, in the early nineties, George joined the NGO CARE International, working in communications and fundraising for emergency programming in Zimbabwe, Somalia and Rwanda. It was while working with CARE in Angola that he was recruited by UN – DPKO in 1996 to work on demobilization in UNAVEM III.
While taking up a humanitarian post with the Oil-For-Food Programme (OFFP), George was recruited to be the Baghdad spokesperson and Head of Public Information for the OFFP. A stint with UNICEF in Pakistan followed as the world’s attention focused on Afghanistan which was followed by a return to DPKO and the Horn of Africa, serving in the public information office of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 1994 George joined the fledging UNMIS in Khartoum as the Chief of Public Information, a challenging assignment unto itself. George ended his UN career in 2011 with the UN Mission in Liberia serving as Director of Public Information. George has an MA in Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (University of York, UK), and is married with one son.
Dara is the Vice-President, Grants and Community Initiatives at the Vancouver Foundation, where she leads a team of 17 and is responsible for deploying $15 million annually in grants. Previously Dara served as the Executive Director of Social Venture Partners, the Vancouver affiliate of an international network of engaged philanthropists who invest time, money and professional expertise in building capacity for local nonprofits. Prior to that Dara served as the Executive Director of QMUNITY, BC’s Queer, Trans and Two-Spirit Resource Centre, focused on equity and inclusion.
Trained as an urban planner with a background in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, Dara brings over 20 years’ experience working in social-profits and local government. For three years Dara consulted with UN-Habitat on their inaugural Youth Advisory Board, helping mainstream youth participation throughout the organization. Dara currently serves as the Vice-Chair of Pivot Legal Society, tackling the root causes of poverty and social exclusion across Canada. She is also the co-founder of Lezervations, a nonprofit that facilitates social and business networking events for queer and trans women. When not working in social change, she spends her down time as a mediocre volleyball player.
Joy Ruiz holds a BA in Mass Communication, took up Accounting through, Simon Fraser University, in addition to Real Estate from University of British Columbia. Overall, Joy has dabbled in a variety of work; MOA, Photography, French Cuisine with Wine Pairing, and is working towards an extended diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership at Pearson, UK and a MBA at Bucks, New University in England. Joy is currently the owner/manager of Shoppe in Style and Lente Photography, and works with the VGH in various departments. Joy has finished some certificate courses at Yale and Harvard University and is continuing her studies towards Early Education/Leadership at Harvard. Joy is also pursuing her Master’s Degree in the field of Psychology and Behavior.
Her interests include promoting women’s rights, being a spokesperson for education in the Greater Vancouver area, and working with Habitat for Humanity in the Philippines with former Presidents Carter and Gloria Arroyo. Joy has extensive experience in the financial sector, and was very active with “Life in the Spirit” and “Tuloy sa Don Bosco,” helping those less fortunate, specifically vulnerable demographics such as children who cannot afford education in the Philippines. Joy and her family have also been helping the people affected by calamities through partnerships and sponsorships with Philippine National Red Cross.
Amanda Shatzko is an international and intercultural communications scholar, practitioner, and creativity ambassador. She has a passion for pushing creativity boundaries by exploring visual communications and for improving organizations and municipal government’s social responsibility through artistic experiences. Her research interests include visual semiotics, public art, intercultural branding, social engagement, and cultural diplomacy. Amanda is the Board President of the Arts Council of the North Okanagan and Vice-Chair to the Regional District of the North Okanagan’s Culture Plan Advisory Team. Along with being a current board member of the United Nations Association in Canada, Vancouver Branch, she has received various awards and scholarships.
Amanda regularly speaks in the media about bold and creative, action-oriented endeavours. Additionally, Amanda has led artistic projects for community participants, and was commissioned by the Government of Canada as an official 2010 Vancouver Olympic artist. In 2017, Amanda was named a ‘Young Canadian Leader’ by UNAC-V, and invited to join the Active Citizens Social Enterprise program in partnership with the British Council. She developed and founded social enterprise Creative Global Citizens. Amanda is currently obtaining an MA from Royal Roads University, has a BFA from Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design, and certificates from Sotheby’s Institute of Art NY, UC Berkeley, and MIT. She is a member of the BC Museum Association, Alliance for Art and Culture, Canadian International Council, and an active patron of the arts, youth, and culture inclusive initiatives.
Jeff Brooks brings extensive experience to UNAC-V, Vancouver as the former City of Vancouver Director of Social Planning. He was responsible during this 11-year tenure for developing, implementing and evaluating Vancouver’s comprehensive program of social development within the City. This position provided City Council with information, advice and policy recommendations with respect to health and social issues, as well as providing recommendations to Council on the provision of financial support to community organizations. Major areas of focus include neighbourhood initiatives, childcare programs, youth and family issues, substances, and mental health matters, as well as grants programs, including community services, childcare support, and capital grants recommendations. Earlier professional experience includes over 20 additional years of employment in Vancouver and the broader British Columbia provincial environment, again focusing on public service-oriented initiatives, including Director of Clinics Programs (DCHC, Pine and Drake Clinics) for Vancouver Health Department.
Since Jeff’s retirement, he has served on the Board of Directors for Mosaic 2007-2017, Advisor to Urban Native Youth Association –Native Youth Centre (UNYA) 2008-current, Board of Directors PHS (Portland Hotel Society) 2017-current, and Vancouver City Council – Bird Advisory Committee 2012-current.
Melanie Walker changed course from a career in business management, to that of Development Studies with the University of Calgary, while attending the University of Delhi, India, focusing on South Asian Studies. Thereafter, Melanie earned an MA in Culture and Society, whereby she travelled back to India where she lived in a rural village, conducting Ethnographic research on displacement-induced development and its effect on Indigenous populations. She has 20 years’ experience, as a volunteer and paid professional in the non-profit sector.
Highlights include: an internship with the BC Civil Liberties Association, and Dr. Mohini Giri, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, in India. Additionally, she has had the privilege to work for the UN in varying capacities. Melanie fulfilled roles at the UN Refugee Agency in India as a Refugee Status Determination Officer, in Vancouver as the Regional Coordinator for the United Nations Association of Canada, and in Guyana with UNDP, managing an Indigenous land-titling project. Melanie is a Consultation and Accommodation Manager for Tsleil-Waututh Nation, upholding Indigenous rights through consultation with stakeholders and multi-levels of government. In her free time, Melanie enjoys local events/festivals, yoga, reading, or visiting friends/family. Her most memorable experience was meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Karly Morgan is currently in her 3rd year of a BA in Social Work at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. She transferred from Kwantlen Polytechnic University where she graduated with distinction from the certificate of NGO and Non-profit Studies program. As part of the program, Karly lead organizing the Think Global Link Local 2019 (TGLL) in collaboration with UNAC Vancouver.
In 2020 Karly was hired by the University to assist the class in producing TGLL and received a nomination to join the board of directors at UNAC-V, on which she now proudly serves. Karly was previously employed as a support worker to persons with disabilities and she has extensive experience as a peer harm reduction worker both in outreach and nightlife environments. She has pursued volunteerism in harm reduction and many other capacities at music festivals on local, regional and international scales. As she is part Haida First Nations, Karly hopes to use her social work degree to serve small, Indigenous communities with a focus on mental health and addictions, advocacy, and community building.
Dr. Geetanjali Gill is an Assistant Professor in Global Development Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, BC. Geetanjali has also worked for more than fifteen years as a development practitioner in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, UK, and Canada. Her experience includes positions with UNDP in Mauritius and Seychelles, and UNECA in Ethiopia. Geetanjali has completed a BA specialist degree in International Development Studies (Co-op) at the University of Toronto, a Master’s in Social Policy and Planning in Developing Countries at the London School of Economics (LSE, UK), and a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Sussex (UK).
Geetanjali’s development interests lie in addressing intersectional gender inequalities. She continues to engage with development organizations in Canada and internationally as a trainer and scholar-practitioner. She is currently carrying out collaborative research and projects with NGOs, funded by the Government of Canada and other donors, on gender-based violence amongst refugees in Uganda and Lebanon, the empowerment of persons with albinism (particularly women and girls) in Sierra Leone, and gender norms and education outcomes in Mozambique, Ghana, and Rwanda. For more information: https://www.ufv.ca/gds/faculty/gill-geetanjali.htm
Sameer Esmail is currently in his third year of a joint Bachelor of Arts and Master of Management degree program at the University of British Columbia, specializing in International Relations. He is an open-minded and collaborative leader with a passion for advancing human rights and the ideals of global citizenship around the world. Sameer currently works in the Political/Economic Section at the U.S. Consulate General in Vancouver, producing research on bilateral issues between Canada and the United States, especially those in B.C. and Yukon.
Sameer is also a 2021 Canadian Youth Delegate to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development with Young Diplomats of Canada. In addition to managing the delegation’s public affairs, Sameer is responsible for the areas of International and Intergovernmental Cooperation as well as Entrepreneurship and Innovation as they relate to the delegation’s core mission of building strong policy recommendations on the Future of Work. Sameer has also represented Canada on a trade mission to Singapore and Malaysia with Global Vision in 2019.
Sameer has worked to improve financial literacy by co-leading the UBC’s chapter of PennyDrops, a national student-run non-profit organization. Sameer also serves on the Board of the Gamar Foundation and the CityHive Youth Advisory.
Dariel Filwood is the Communications Coordinator for the United Nations Canada Vancouver Branch. Passionate about making a difference in the world through human rights and education; Dariel is currently pursuing her Master’s of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia with a focus on humanitarianism and diplomatic relations. After graduating with her BBA in 2016, Dariel incorporated her tutoring business, Tutor Wing, where she predominantly works with newcomers to Canada from South Korea. After having the opportunity to travel to South Korea, she became interested in pursuing her graduate education in the hopes of working towards a peaceful and compassionate future between the global community and North Korea. Furthermore, she wishes to utilize her education in policy to advocate for minority rights, equal opportunity in education and jobs, as well as alliances between all genders, races, and income levels.