Interim Community Organizer and Leadership Development Coordinator
Viveca Ellis is the Interim Community Organizer for the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition. A passionate advocate for reducing poverty with lived experience of it herself, Viveca is a community organizer who has worked to bring the voices and experiences of women, parents and others living in poverty to the forefront of public policy discussions and solutions. In 2017, Viveca was appointed to the Minister’s Forum on Poverty Reduction to impact the genesis of B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy. Viveca coordinates the Community Action Network, a community-based leadership program for people with lived experience of poverty, as well as the #AllOnBoard campaign advocating for affordable and accessible public transit for at-risk and marginalized communities. She is a co-founder of the Single Mothers’ Alliance of BC and current Board Chair, a Director with Health Justice, and sits on the Public Finance Policy Analyst & Public Interest Research Advisory Committee with the BC Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Stakeholder Advisory Committee.
PAST TEAM MEMBERS AND VOLUNTEERS
Indigenous Community Organizer
Shae grew up all over Metro-Vancouver- from Marpole to North Delta; though her parents and their families are all from Grande Prairie, Alberta. As a young Indigenous woman who grew up in and out of government care, Shae-Lynn’s passion for advocacy ignited when she turned 19 and “aged out.” It was at that time she discovered that while she felt isolated, she wasn’t alone. Many of her peers from care were also struggling to access limited (or non-existent) affordable housing and adult mental health services. Since then, Shae is grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and grow at organizations such as Aunt Leah’s Place, Collective Impact: TRRUST, FirstCall BC, The McCreary Centre Society, and The Discourse. She is happiest when she is caught in a mosh or out in nature.
Communications and Outreach Assistant
Omar Chu is the Communications and Outreach Assistant at the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, where he helps with social media, designing campaign materials and looking for creative ways to engage the public in the fight against poverty in BC. He has a BA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford, and since coming home, he has done his best to support social movements seeking systemic change. Omar learned about the BCPRC through his volunteer work with the Poverty Free Action Team and with First Call: the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. He is happiest when he’s hanging out with his cousins, playing hockey, or best of all, playing hockey with his cousins.
Northern Poverty Reduction Coordinator
Kerry Pateman is a professional planner with many years experience in public sector community land use planning and policy development, including several years as Senior Planner with the City of Prince George. After leaving the City, Kerry has been an independent consultant, working for various northern communities, preparing public planning documents. For the past 14 years she has also worked as Coordinator of the Prince George Community Partners Addressing Homelessness. This work has led to several local contracts for the federal government on homelessness. Kerry also served as a faculty member of the University of Northern BC in the Bachelor of Planning program.
It is Kerry’s work with the Prince George Community Partners Addressing Homelessness for the past 14 years that has fostered a keen interest in Social Planning and social issues facing communities. She has been active in serving on various city committees to do with homelessness and housing and was a member of the City’s Select Committee on a Healthy City Framework.
Kerry has lived in Prince George for almost 40 years, now with two adult sons and two wonderful granddaughters. She loves to travel and spend time with family and friends.
Trish Garner is a passionate advocate for social justice. Having gained her experience working with Raise the Rates, an anti-poverty group based in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, she is now the Community Organizer of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, a broad-based network of over 400 organizations throughout BC. She is the co-author of A Poverty Reduction Plan for BC and a regular media contributor and commentator.
In 2008, she co-founded the Poverty Olympics, a community festival that highlighted the disparity between public spending on the Olympics and people living in poverty, and in 2010, she coordinated the Poverty Olympics Torch Relay around the province ending with a 100 km walk from Langley to Vancouver.
Trish graduated from SFU with a PhD from the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies in 2011. Originally from England, she now lives in Vancouver with her partner, 3 wonderful children, and 3 chickens.
Okanagan Poverty Reduction Coordinator
Christine Mettler is the Poverty Reduction Coordinator for the Okanagan area. She has a diverse background in community organizing, communications, campaigning, group facilitation and policy. Christine has long been dedicated to environmental and social justice, working with community-based grassroots groups to national organizations. Her other day job is working with a national non-profit initiative that strives to support communities in defending their local freshwater bodies. She has a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from York University, an undergraduate in Political Science from McMaster, and two graduate certificates — one in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the other in Integrated Watershed Management. Since moving to British Columbia from Ontario, Christine has fallen in love with the mountains. She loves to rock climb, hike and paddle. She probably feels the most free when floating on deep powder in the backcountry on her snowboard.
Northern Poverty Reduction Coordinator
Laura Bennett is the Poverty Reduction Northern Coordinator and is based in Prince George. Over the years she volunteered for multiple service organizations and not-for-profits. She has been a trainer, facilitator, and planner for a many of local events, which has given her a great deal of experience working with variety of people.
Laura was born in 100 Mile House and has slowly moved north. Being a long time resident of Northern BC gives her the needed insight into the unique challenges that face the organizations outside of large urban areas.
Her passion is to make the world a safe place for all vulnerable people. She feels that it is important for all people to have a voice and realise their worth. Community and giving back is very important to Laura and she is thrilled to have found work that meshes so well with her values.
In her day-to-day life she is the president of Nechako Community Theatrics Society where she oversees administrative procedures, acts, sings, and directs. She has two adult sons and two young grandsons that are the light of her life.
Tanyss is passionate about community development and social justice. With a background in youth engagement and community outreach, she is excited to learn from and contribute to several projects during her practicum at the BCPRC. Her love for working with people has led her to pursue a Masters of Social Work at UBC, where she focuses on learning about trauma-informed social work, participatory research, and rural and remote community development. After several years in the Yukon, Tanyss has developed a deep appreciation for wild spaces, wood stoves, and berry-picking.
Communications and Outreach Assistant
Gil Aguilar is the Campaigns and Communications Assistant at the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, where he helps with social media, designing campaign materials and looking for creative ways to engage the public in the fight against poverty in BC. Originally from Mexico, he has been part of many social justice issues, such as the struggle for migrant workers’ rights, indigenous sovereignty and housing justice. On his free time, Gil enjoys riding his bicycle, playing with computers, and doodling.
Poverty Free Action Team Youth Coordinator
Carolina worked as the Youth Coordinator of the Poverty Free Action Team. During her time at the BC PRC Carolina supported outreach activities at several community events and coordinated the team’s actions. Born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, Carolina came to Canada to pursue a Masters of Planning at UBC. She dreams of a fair world where everyone has the same opportunities to succeed. Carolina loves co-creating spaces where people have the opportunity to develop new ways of relating with each other and the world; one of this projects is a women biking collective.
Poverty Reduction and Corporate Welfare Researcher
Averill worked with the BC PRC during the completion of her Bachelor’s of Social Work Degree through the University of Victoria. Previously, she completed her Social Work Diploma at Mount Royal University in 2007 and has been working with marginalized populations for nearly 10 years. Her front line experience has given her a strong foundation to understand the impacts of poverty, particularly on women and children fleeing abuse, people struggling with mental illness and addictions, as well as immigrants. During her time with the BC PRC she conducted statistical analysis on the most recent BC poverty data, as well as the provincial budget to highlight major discrepancies between poverty reduction measures versus tax cuts for corporate and high income earners.
She is planning on pursuing her Masters in Public Health with a focus on social indicators of health. She believes using an innovative upstream approach to address systemic issues can help communities thrive and prevent harm in future generations.
In her spare time, Averill can usually be found outside enjoying the Lower Mainland’s beautiful natural environments or devising her next creative endeavour.
Dana Burgess lives with her two daughters in Nelson BC. She finished her diploma in social work through Selkirk College with (the coalition) as her practicum. She works for a non-profit society as a poverty law advocate and raises awareness in the community around the struggles of poverty. When she is not caring for children or working she can be found in the garden or camping at the lake.
Determinants of Health fact-sheet researcher
Nosheen Ali hails from Karachi, Pakistan. Having completed her BSC in Nursing from The Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery in 2011, she is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health degree with concentration in Global Health from Simon Fraser University. She has worked as a Registered Nurse in Special Care Medicine Unit for a year and then as a Cardiac Rehabilitation Nurse at The Aga Khan Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Center. She has received “Best Nurse” award from the Department of Cardiology and “Best Cardiac Nurse” award from the Department of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Center at The Aga Khan University. She also worked as a preceptor, mentoring and enabling nursing students to work independently after graduation as a Registered Nurse.
Nosheen’s academic interests include strategies to address health disparities specific to women and children and global health issues, specifically in resource poor countries.
During her practicum at BCPRC, Nosheen did research to create a fact sheet linking poverty with health problems. She also contacted member organizations to update their contact information with BCPRC.
In her spare time, Nosheen likes to keep on top of current affairs, keeping herself updated with the public health issues around the world . Being a little bit of a foodie, she likes to try out new restaurants with her friends and travelling to new places.
Kelly M. Christensen
“BC’s Hardest Working” Project Coordinator
Kelly started out in the southern United States, where they witnessed from the very beginning the profoundly negative impacts that systemic poverty can have on a community. They attended the University of Mississippi in their home state, where they received an honours BA in International Studies from the Croft Institute in 2009. After moving to the west coast that same year, Kelly worked with a variety of non-profit organizations who provide services to youth and other mariginalized populations, including Seattle’s The Vera Project and Global Visionaries. In 2011 they were accepted into the MA in Asia Pacific Policy Studies program at the University of Birtish Columbia. As part of their MA studies, they engaged in a practicum as a project coordinator for the BC Poverty Reduction coalition’s “BC’s Hardest Working” interview series, highlighting poverty and inequality in BC. This experience, coupled with their final report entitled “Experiences of Poverty Among Asia Pacific Immigrants in BC’s Lower Mainland: The Need for Progressive, Alleviation Focused Reform”, allowed them to complete their degree in 2013.
Kelly currently enjoys serving their community as a freelance new media designer and communications coordinator based in Vancouver, BC. In their spare time you can find them watching romantic comedies, making comics, and checking out copious quantitites of cookbooks from the local library.
“BC’s Hardest Working” interviewer and photographer
Virginia was born and raised in Alberta. She completed studies at the University of Alberta in 2010, obtaining a B.A. in sociology with a focus on qualitative research methods and a minor in creative writing.
After graduation, she headed toward the lush forests of the west coast and enjoyed two years of Vancouver’s city lights before making her way back to the landscape of her youth. During her time in BC, she volunteered to conduct interviews and take photos for the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s “BC’s Hardest Working” project.
After returning to Edmonton, Virginia worked as Research and Communications Assistant at the Edmonton Social Planning Council, where she edited, “The fACTivist,” a quarterly newsletter containing volunteer-written articles on topics related to income inequality. She is currently a public-sector management consultant. Her interest in complex social issues, including poverty and the oppression of women and aboriginal peoples, continues to inform her work.
When left to her own devices, Virginia can be found reading online magazine articles about psychology, social justice, and alternative health. She enjoys long walks, going to concerts, listening to CBC Radio, and spending time with her family, friends, and cat. She is also an aspiring writer and yogi.
“Poverty is a Queer & Trans Issue” fact-sheet researcher
Thelma is a native of Anambra, Nigeria, and has lived in Canada for the past six years. In 2013, she graduated from the University of British Columbia (UBC), with a Bachelor of Arts degree, having majored in Economics and minored in Psychology.
Amongst other things, she has worked as a Fundraising Campaign Lead at Plan International Development Agency and as a Teaching Assistant at UBC.
Her time at the British Columbia Poverty Reduction Coalition (BCPRC) encouraged her to understand extreme poverty as a phenomenon that exists not only in developing nations, but also developed nations. Some of the work she did at the organization include; co-authoring an opinion editorial on the effectiveness of poverty reduction plans, and writing a fact sheet containing information and statistics on queer and trans poverty in the province. She was also a part of the BCPRC action committee.
Thelma is currently pursuing a Master of Philosophy degree in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge, where she is currently located. Beyond her educational interests, Thelma is also very passionate about tea and everything remotely related to tea, kindness, and people who play instruments.
Queer and Trans Poverty Research Project Coordinator
Jonny Sopotiuk is a progressive prairie queer activist and artist. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he currently lives in East Vancouver and works as a Communications and Organizing Officer with the B.C. Government and Services Employees’ Union (BCGEU).
Through the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition Jonny implemented the Queer and Trans Poverty Research Project. The project started a comprehensive review and compilation of research related to queer and trans poverty across North America. The goal of the project is raise awareness and advocate for more targeted resources for queer and trans people living in poverty.
Prior to his work with the coalition Jonny was thoroughly involved with a variety of social justice organizations in the queer and trans community and student and labour movements in Manitoba. In 2009, he chaired the Target Poverty campaign for a poverty-free Manitoba.
The Target Poverty campaign, in collaboration with Make Poverty History Manitoba, brought together a broad network of individuals and organizations under a common message and goal. It was instrumental in pushing the Government of Manitoba to adopt targets, timelines and indicators of success for the All Aboard poverty reduction and social inclusion plan.
Outside of his community involvement Jonny can usually be found working in his art and design studio. His practice explores identity and politics and involves sculpture, installation, ceramics and photography.