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Meet our team

Trish Garner
Community Organizer

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.

Omar Chu
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 systematic change. Before taking on this new role with the BCPRC, Omar volunteered 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.


PAST TEAM MEMBERS AND VOLUNTEERS
Tanyss Knowles
Practicum Student

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.

Gil Aguilar
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.

Carolina Camargo
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.

Averill Hanson
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

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.

Nosheen Ali
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.

Virginia Dowdell
“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.

Thelma Obiakor
“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.

Jonny Sopotiuk
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.