George Somerwill – Co-President
George Somerwill started his career in the media and communications world, working for the BBC World Service for Africa in the early seventies. In 1976, he joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), eventually serving as executive producer of a top daily current affairs radio programme, and spending three years as a producer in the CBC’s Paris office. During his journalism career, George traveled frequently to some of the world’s worst trouble spots, including Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, to cover the revolutions and later, the 1984 famine.
Following a brief stint with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), in the early nineties, George joined CARE International, a non-governmental organization, 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 initially on demobilization in UNAVEM III.
Two years later, while taking up a humanitarian post with the Oil-For-Food Programme (OFFP) in Saddam’s Iraq, George’s journalistic past caught up with him, and he was asked to take over as Baghdad spokesperson and Head of Public Information (Communications) for the OFFP. It was a fascinating three years, trying to deal with the world’s media, while both the Security Council and the UN senior management were themselves far from agreement about how to deal with Iraq.
A stint with UNICEF in Pakistan followed, as the world’s attention focused on Afghanistan and the hunt for bin Laden. This was followed by a return to DPKO and to the Horn of Africa, to serve in the public information office of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).
In 1994, as the ink was not even dry on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan, George joined the fledgling UNMIS in Khartoum as the Chief of Public Information. It was a challenging assignment, as the host government never really accepted the role of the UN and above all they did not appreciate the UN’s attempts to encourage freedom of information through setting up a radio station, or through any other form of communication.
George ended his career in the UN with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), where he also served as Director of Public Information from 2007 to 2011. The government of Africa’s first elected woman president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, had welcomed the UN since 2003, and she challenged us to use as many communications initiatives as possible to promote peace and the development of her country.
George Somerwill has an MA in Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development, from the University of York (UK). He is married and has one son.
Greg Neumann – Co-President
Greg Neumann is a high school Social Studies teacher with 25 years experience in the Burnaby School District. As a member of the department head leadership at Byrne Creek Secondary School he has had the pleasure to be a part of a progressive minded team supporting the most diverse community of students found in the world. He is surrounded by dedicated Social Studies teachers whose commitment to educating our future voting citizens to be critical thinkers is unparalleled. Previous placements include online course developer and teacher, technology liaison, and English and Social Studies teacher at the Youth Detention Centre. Aside from various school-based committees and initiatives, Greg spends summer supervising one of four summer school sites for Burnaby. Another volunteer external commitment has been as Vice-President of the Social Studies specialist association (BCSSTA) which dedicates itself to supporting SS educators around the province with various professional development opportunities and publications. A sports enthusiast, after many years of team sports, Greg has settled into marathon running as a fitness priority. Greg’s main preoccupation is his family – his wife Darlene, and daughters Maxine (14) and Kennedy (17) provide the joy that sustains everything else.
Deirdre Moore – Vice President
A veteran educator and volunteer committed to promoting global awareness, Deirdre is the lead for Global Learning Programs in Burnaby School District, in addition to the Vice President for this Vancouver Branch of the UN Association.
Born and raised in smalltown British Columbia, Deirdre’s passion for global issues evolved through her International Relations degree obtained from UBC, her career as a social studies teacher and the sheer number of interesting people from around the world she has met. Her own travels include Japan, Europe from Germany to Croatia, and a growing number of Canadian and US experiences.
With the realization that, even as one person in the face of unimaginable global issues, she has immense power and influence to ignite interest and concern for what is going on in the world, Deirdre has worked behind the scenes to become an agent for change.
She has enjoyed her promotional work as a co-founder of UN For All, an organization that brings UN-based education into the classroom and to conferences, together with fellow board member George Somerwill. She’s responsible for the creation and implementation of events and programs that develop global understanding and student leadership within the Burnaby School District.
Her personal drive for harmony and lifelong learning lead her to volunteer as e-reporter for the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Canada. The goal of her articles was to bridge cultural understanding, in honour of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and ROK.
Deirdre sees digital technologies as potential tools in the campaign to eradicate hate, violence and misinformation in the world, even though (and because) they are used to promote these. Her most recent learning focus is to master the techniques of the internet and social media and use them both deliberately and scrupulously to promote global awareness and the greater good of communities.
She is the sponsor teacher for the award-winning UN Connections Club of Burnaby School District, in addition to the co-recipient of a National Technology Innovation award for the use of videoconferencing to bridge world-renowned speakers to student audiences. In 2010, Global Learning Programs was recognized by the VANOC Olympic Committee for its success. In 2005, she was awarded Social Studies Teacher of the Year by the provincial association for social studies teachers, the BCSSTA, for her work organizing professional conferences promoting the teaching of historical and current events.
Courtney Szto – Past-President
Courtney Szto started as a UNAC-Vancouver volunteer in 2005 and has been a Board Member since 2007. She was the creator and Director of the UNAC-Vancouver Youth Education Ambassador Program from 2007-2009. Courtney holds a Bachelor of Human Kinetics from UBC and a Master of Science from the University of Toronto’s Department of Exercise Sciences. Her Master’s thesis was a critical analysis of the corporate social responsibility partnership between UNESCO and the women’s professional tennis association (WTA) for global gender equality. She is a PhD Candidate in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses on the intersections of hockey, race, and citizenship, specifically exploring South Asian experiences in hockey. Courtney has worked in event management and is an experienced facilitator of team building and leadership development. In her spare time, she enjoys writing for her own blog, The Rabbit Hole, and Hockey in Society, both of which are critical commentaries on the areas of sport, health and physical cultural studies. She has also contributed pieces for Interrupt Mag, Delirious Hem, Rabble, BlogHer, and The All-Rounder.
Tanya Smith – Past -President (on leave)
Joy Ruiz – Treasurer
Joy Ruiz joined UNAC Vancouver Branch since 2005 as a volunteer and has been a board member since 2010. She has been part of UN Habitat for Humanity in the Philippines with President Carter as the principal endorser.
She has been a volunteer for the “Tuloy sa Don Bosco” foundation, helping street children, and was actively involved with the ” Spirit Of Love” charitable group that helps poor people. She also received a “Certificate of Appreciation for her hard work and dedication” from the World Peace Society. She was a Credit Manager of a bank and worked for about 17 years doing financial analysis and approving loans; she received an honorable mention award as one of the top officers.
Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree major in Mass Communications and will be taking up her Masters degree this year. She also took up Accounting courses at Simon Fraser University, received a Certificate in Management, Medical Office in Metro Training Institute, Canada, Real Estate in the University of British Columbia and Photography in Arts Institute of Vancouver.
Melanie Walker, Secretary
At the age of 30, Melanie decided to change her career, attend university, and turn her part-time passions into her everyday full-time work. She holds a BA in Development Studies from the University of Calgary, during which she attended a semester abroad at the University of Delhi in India; there she focused on South Asian Studies. After earning her BA, Melanie went on to earn an MA in Culture and Society from the University of Calgary. Her MA research took her back to India where she lived in a rural indigenous village, conducting Ethnographic research on displacement-induced development projects and their effect on indigenous, and rural and marginalized populations. She has 20 years experience, both as a volunteer and paid professional in the non-profit sector. Some highlights of her non-profit involvement include: a volunteer internship with the BC Civil Liberties Association in Vancouver, and an internship with Dr. Mohini Giri, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, in India. In addition, she has had the privilege to work for the UN in varying capacities. Her role at UNHCR in India was as a Refugee Status Determination Officer for the UN Refugee Agency and in Vancouver as the Regional Coordinator for the United Nations Association of Canada. Over the past 4 years, she has stayed connected to the University of Calgary as a Sessional Instructor and Research Assistant for various professors. As a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors for the Vancouver Branch of the United Nations Association, she is able to stay involved in her community, helping to educate the greater public about human rights issues and the work of the UN.
Currently, Melanie is a Referrals Analyst – Environmental Assessment Specialist for Tsliel-Waututh Nation. She facilitates consultation and accommodation on behalf of the Nation in respect of large development projects. When the weather is good, she volunteers in a garden at a youth shelter in the Downtown Eastside, or spends her free time enjoying local events and festivals, or visiting friends and family. Melanie is from the Sunshine Coast and currently lives in Vancouver in a tiny apartment (200 sq. ft!) with her own garden.
Tazul Ali – Director-at-Large (on leave)
Karen Truscott – Director-at-Large
Karen A. Truscott has worked as legal counsel at the Department of Justice (Government of Canada) in Vancouver since 1991. She received her B.A. (English) from the University of Calgary in 1982, and her LL.B. from the University of Alberta (Edmonton) in 1988. She is currently pursuing a graduate program (LL.M.) specializing in alternative dispute resolution at Osgoode Hall Law School (York University) in Toronto. Karen believes in the value of lifelong learning, and has also received several certificates and diplomas in continuing education programs. Karen has extensive volunteer experience. She is currently a Board member of the Vancouver Branch of the United Nations Association in Canada. She also serves as a regional member of the Governing Council for the Association of Justice Counsel. Karen also acts as the representative for the Mission & Service Fund of the United Church of Canada for the University Hill congregation. Her previous volunteer work involved such diverse organizations as the Canadian Cancer Society (Cancer Information Service), the Canadian Red Cross Society (International Services Committee), and the United Way of the Lower Mainland.
Shirin Yadegari – Director-at-Large
Shirin brings over 10 years experience as an International Relations Affair Officer in Iran. She has worked on projects with UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO, UNDP, UNFPA and the Japanese Embassy. These projects focused on the health and well-being of marginalized populations like refugees with disabilities, women, child abuse victims, domestic abuse victims and children with mental health and addiction problems. Shirin has been in Canada since 2014 and lives here with her husband and daughter.
Akmal Bazarov – Director-at-Large
Akmal has an MA in International Business Law (from the Tashkent State University of Law) and LLM in Comparative Law from the Central European University. He has 12 years of working experience in the public institutions, international development organizations (UN Agencies like UNDP, UN Women, UNICEF, UNAIDS, and UNV, EU, USAID, different international NGOs like NDI, etc.) and Law firms (YoonYang, Novator-Consult).
Recently he has been involved in doing research for the UN Women in Arab countries, where political changes and humanitarian crisis taking place. I am well familiar with UN Special Missions (UNAMA, UNMISSTOC, MINUSCA, MINUSTAH) in African and Asian countries, where humanitarian issues are still challenging.
Ela Esra Gunad – Director-at-Large
Ela was raised in Turkey and calls Vancouver home since 2012. She is passionate and forceful advocate for social justice and human rights. Ela believes the power of people and dedicated for creating space for people to make a positive change for all. She developed and managed social justice programs applying an intersectional, feminist approach and advocating for the public participation of marginalized groups and the rights of women, refugees, LGBTI, children, and workers. Ela has worked with a variety of organizations around the globe as an activist, campaigner, strategic partnerships and fundraising lead in including Amnesty International, Follow the Women Minority Rights Group International, Battered Women’s Support Services. Currently she is the BC Regional Program Officer at Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education, part of Fresh Voices Youth Advisory Team with Vancouver Foundation as an adult ally, organizing a campaign to make a legislative change that will allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. She joins UNA-Vancouver with a BA in International Relations and a Master’s degree in Human Rights Law.
Ashraf Mohammed – Director-at-Large
Dr. Ashraf Mohammed is Direct of Health Surveillance based IN Vancouver with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). He has been Educator, Health Professional/Epidemiologist and Researcher in Academic and Public Health settings for more than 10 years. He was promoted to Associate Professor at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Cape Town, South Africa). Prior to his relocation to Canada in 2013, he was HOD of the HIV/AIDS Unit where he developed and implemented several programs including the introduction of the Wellness Mobile that was purchased from the funding he procured from European Union which intensified and enhanced TB and HIV screening. As an Adjunct Professor in Vancouver, he taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Premedical Courses at Caribbean Medical University (Vancouver Campus).
His collaboration with WHO on Active Surveillance of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP)/Polio had improved the surveillance resulting in the highest AFP/Polio detection rate in the country. His randomized clinical trial for determining the efficacy of preventing TB in HIV-infected adults had influenced the revision of the South African national TB policy screening guidelines for persons with advanced HIV-infection. In Vancouver, several organizations have invited him to share his wide range of skills in capacity building programs, education, management, research, program implementation, evaluation, monitoring, time management, project management and strategic planning. He has also contributed to the prescribed Life Skills text book for Grade 12. Recent success of his coordination of Conversational English Project for Syrian Refugees at several sites in Vancouver received CBC coverage.
Dr Ashraf Mohammed is a recipient of the prestigious Fogarty Fellowship (Columbia University, New York); and Hubert Humphrey Fellowship at Emory University, where he collaborated with researchers in the TB Elimination Program at CDC, Atlanta. He is a recipient of the Louis Volks Humanitarian Award by Lions Club International in recognition of dedicated and distinguished service and research in the area of TB/HIV/AIDS/STI.
Jessica Steele – Director-at-Large
Jessica Steele recently moved to Vancouver to pursue a career in environmental and sustainability education. With a degree in Marine Biology from the University of Victoria, Jessica brings a wide range of experiences to her new role on the UNA-Vancouver board. Currently, she travels across the country with the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre’s AquaVan delivering ocean science education programs to schools and communities. Previously, she has developed and delivered science education programs in Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations communities on Vancouver Island. She recently completed a placement with the African Institute of Urban Management (Institut Africain de Gestion Urbaine) in Dakar, Senegal where she worked on a variety of waste management projects. Jessica sits on the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) National Youth Council as the Chair of Curriculum and Resources. She is excited to bring her passion for climate justice and Indigenous justice to the work of UNA-Vancouver.
Amanda Shatzko – Director-at-Large
Amanda Shatzko is an international and intercultural communications scholar, practitioner, and creativity ambassador. An experienced elite athlete with a passion for pushing the boundaries of creativity through the exploration of visual communications. Her research interests include visual semiotics, public art, intercultural branding, social engagement, and cultural diplomacy. Shatzko is a consultant, director, artist and advocate dedicated to designing and leading cross-cultural collaborations, and improving organizations and municipal government’s social responsibility through artistic experiences. To date traveling abroad to over 20 countries for projects.
Appointed as Board President of the Arts Council of the North Okanagan leading over 30 organizations and 900+ individual members in visual & performing arts, music, heritage, social and educational groups. Vice-chair to the Regional District of the North Okanagan’s Culture Plan Advisory Team, and public art jury panelist for the City of Richmond. A current board member of the United Nations Association in Canada Vancouver Branch, recipient of the Helen Pitt Award (4x), Vancouver Foundation Scholarship (4x), BC Cowboy Heritage Scholarship, Heritage Canada grant, and named Ambassador of BC for arts and culture in 2015 by the BC Ministry of Sport and Culture Development. Regularly speaking and published in the media (newspaper, magazine, television, radio, and online) about bold and creative, action-oriented endeavors. Amanda has led artistic projects for BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Telus, BMW, Live Nation, Fairmont, Port Metro Vancouver, and commissioned by the Government of Canada as an official 2010 Vancouver Olympic artist.
In 2017, Amanda was named a ‘Young Canadian Leader’ by the United Nations Association in Canada and invited to join the Active Citizens Social Enterprise program in partnership with the British Council. Here she developed and founded social enterprise Creative Global Citizens. Fostering sustainable and socially responsible public art that tackle the UN’s STG’s and corporate social responsibility.
Shatzko 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. 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.
Patsy George is a retired public servant and Social Worker. Born in Kerala, India she immigrated to Canada in 1960. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Windsor and Master of Social Work from the University of Ottawa. She specializes in Community Development work.
Patsy worked as a Community Worker in Ontario, as a Medical Social Worker in Quebec and as the Director of a Family Service agency in Nova Scotia prior to arriving in British Columbia in 1975. In BC she was employed by the province’s public service in the capacities of District Supervisor, Manager of Programs and Advisor on Community Development. She retired in 2001 having served as a Director in the Provincial Ministry of Multiculturalism and Immigration.
Patsy was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada from 1989 to 1992 and has served as President of the BC Association of Social Workers – the first visible minority person to hold that position. She is a founding member and Vice President of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada. Patsy helped to start Pacific Immigrant Resources Society and served as its President. She was a trustee of the Vancouver Public Library, Director of United Way of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland and Director of Legal Services Society of BC. She was the President of International Council on Social Welfare Canada and President of the North American Region of its world body that promotes social development globally. She is also the past President of the Boys and Girls Clubs of BC and the Vice President of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada.
Currently, she is the Secretary of Stephen Lewis Foundation Board of Directors and a Director of Canadian Crossroads International. Patsy has been the recipient of many awards and recognitions including the Order of British Columbia, the Order of Canada and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford.
Dara Parker – Honourary Director
Dara is an Urban Planner with a specialization in social sustainability, global urbanization and participatory governance. She has lived in 5 countries, traveled and/or worked in over 40, and speaks English, advanced French and intermediate Spanish.
With 10 years experience in non-profit project management and local government policy development, Dara has developed an emphasis on strategic planning, cross-cultural communication, designing inclusive and participatory processes, and relationship management.
Dara has been involved with the United Nations Association since 2006, first in a staff capacity and subsequently as a Board Member.