Alumni: Next Up Calgary 2011-2012

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The crew: Ashley Fairall, Barend Dronkers, Cat Wood, Daniel Pagan, Firyal Mohamed, James Nguen, Joel Laforest, Kathleen Gordon, Leah Kelley, Matt Masoumi, Nathan Lamphres, Sarah Khan

Ashley Fairall

Ashley is a new comer to Calgary, moving to the big city from Edmonton at the beginning of 2011. Social worker, yogi, feminist, activist, and mother – there are many hats she wears and tears, labels she rejects and accepts, and social constructs she bends and breaks.

Ashley attended the Social Work Program at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton in 2009, and is currently working towards a certification in traditional Himalayan style yoga through Sunshine Yoga Academy in Calgary. In Fall 2012, she will return to Edmonton to continue working on her social work degree, and be closer to family.

Through her experiences in volunteering with a variety of organizations specifically directed towards working with at-risk women and populations, she has become passionately involved in the process of women helping women, promoting the idea of acceptance and celebration of sexual health and human sexuality, and the importance of creating space with in these conversations for the development of intergenerational learning.

Ashley ‘s guiding principle in life comes through a positive piece of graffiti she spotted in the downtown core that suggested, “be optimistic it feels better”. She parallels this inspirational muse to the words of one of her personal idols who passionately stated, “Optimism is better than despair”. She believes positive thinking leads to positive action, which in turn, leads to positive and progressive change – socially, environmentally, and economically.

Barend Dronkers

Barend is passionate about building a sustainable society that does not rely on fossil fuels and that promotes healthy, sustainable life-styles. He understands that the problems we face in society are multi-dimensional. With the Earth’s population surpassing 7 billion people, 1/3 of these people living in poverty and growing, and the world un-able to control present rates of consumption, there exist very obvious reasons to drive change.

Barend realizes change through his work with Engineers Without Borders in the Corporate Engagement Team; coordinating the Urban Energy Diet Challenge as part of the Energy Diet Challenge Program in partnership with Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada; and promoting the bicycle as a primary mode of transport in Calgary through the Tour de Nuit Society.

Taking a leap from Calgary to Africa, The Run to End Poverty is Barend’s biggest investment in energy yet. The run is aimed to engage with the active running community in Calgary, linking international development, fundraising and behaviour change in one exciting event. Barend looks forward to leading this event through to a second successful year.

In his spare time, nothing comes close to the feeling of awe and adventure in the great outdoors. Hiking, backpacking, cycling (and bike touring), rock, ice climbing, ski touring… you name it, he does it. Barend is a trip leader with the Alpine Club of Canada and thoroughly enjoys sharing his experiences outside.

Barend is excited to work with all of the NextUp participants to make this world a better place starting with local initiatives that drive global change.

Cat Wood

After seven years taking in the west coast, Cat has recently made a home for herself in Calgary. Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, she spent her days dancing, drawing, painting, challenging assumptions and contemplating a better world.

These interests initially drew Cat to Victoria, BC where she studied Political Science and Applied Ethics at UVic; however, it was the sense of community and examples of strength surrounding her that compelled her to stay. This time informed her enthusiasm for community development and the pursuit of more just, loving and sustainable ways of being. Through her work and involvement in the community, she has strived to support efforts that bridge individual experiences with injustice to social, political and economic policies and barriers that impact society, and organize collaboratively to achieve meaningful systemic change.

Cat currently works at the YWCA of Calgary as Coordinator, Quality Assurance, supporting the agency’s service programs in evaluating and communicating the impact of their work. Previously, she has held positions as an outreach organizer, leadership development facilitator, server and bartender. Her pass times continue to include painting, drawing and reading; although, Cat spends most of her time these days with her exploring the offerings of her new home.

Daniel Pagan

Daniel Pagan is a radical pragmatist with a strong interest in human rights. Born in Muscat, Oman, Pagan considers himself a world traveler; someone who loves learning something new every day and challenges himself to improve his weaknesses.

At the University of Calgary, he did a double major in Classical Studies and Law/Society interdisciplinary, as well as served as an advocate for affordable education and better accessibility for students with disabilities in the Students Union and the Gauntlet newspaper. Daniel has a thirst for learning new things and how the world works. He has a huge curiosity in regards to fixing the system and just can’t help but ask questions and “poke the bear” with a dose of wit and sarcasm.

Due to his deafness, his eyes are open to how minority groups have to struggle and fight for rights,in spite of privileged backgrounds. He is planning on applying to law schools in the future to study human rights law and to fight against inequality.

Daniel joined NextUp out of a desire to learn more about how to improve his advocacy and outreach. If he is not busy with law school prep or writing, he loves to read variety of work based on religion, politics, economics, history, etc or fiction and graphic novels for fun with a cold bottle of Imperial Pale Ale beer or plays with his pet beagle, Buddy.

Firyal Mohamed

A recent graduate of the University of Calgary, Firyal holds a BSc Environmental Science and a BA Development Studies. She comes to Next-Up with a strong passion for social and environmental justice and is interested in new and creative ways of engaging with the local Calgarian community. A peacemaker in training, Firyal is currently exploring the field of peace studies to bridge her interdisciplinary academic interests, with a focus on environmental conflicts. She has an opportunity to expand her knowledge in the areas of peace work through her on-going participation with the Consortium for Peace Studies, her completion of the Caux Scholars Program in Switzerland and her continued involvement with Initiatives of Change locally. Firyal recently participated in the United Nations 17th Conference of Parties (COP) climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa and is now working actively, through various projects and a panel discussion at the University of Calgary, to share her experiences from a civil society perspective. Firyal’s community service contributions directly relate her academic interests to her activism in the areas of youth leadership and social and environmental justice. She is a firm believer that the daily practice of being mindful and deliberate in one’s personal actions is essential to achieving sustainable and effective change at the global level.

James Nguen

James Nguen is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and a member of South Sudan community in Calgary, Alberta. Mr. Nguen earned a Diploma in liberal Art, Mount Royal University 2008 and B.A in Development Studies at the University of Calgary 2010.

Mr. Nguen is the founder of the Biluany Water and Literacy Society, co-founder of the “Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan Association of Calgary” and a subject of the Award Winning documentary “The Long Journey Home of James Nguen.” Mr. Nguen is a Public Speaker and a fierce advocate of world peace and child rights to education. He was featured in “Avenue Magazine 2008” Advocate Newspaper 2009 and University of Calgary’s U Magazine 2011.”

Currently, Mr. Nguen works as a School Support Counsellor at the Calgary Board of Education in partnership with the Wood’s Home. On a voluntarily bases, Mr. Nguen is a Chief Executive Director of Biluany Water and Literacy Society and External Relations officer for the South Sudan Civil Society for Development.

In the past two years, Mr.Nguen spoke in well over 256 social events and facilitated dozen forums across Alberta. For example, Nguen spoke in Teacher’s Conventions, symposiums, Schools, Organizations’ conferences, Churches, Ted Calgary and recently at the Grant Macwan University on United Nation Day.

Mr. Nguen came to Canada as a refugee South Sudan on September 26, 2001, fifteen years after he was forced to leave his homeland at the age of seven. Mr. Nguen story provides a psychological, social, political and cultural context for the understanding of the refugee experiences and the impact of conflict on human populations. From South Sudan to Calgary, Alberta Canada, he has endured and overcome incredible hardship that is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Kathleen Gordon

Kathleen is currently finishing her degree in English at the University of Calgary. She is interested in how literature can promote understanding and acceptance in society, leading to a greater sense of community in order to work towards common goals. She plans to pursue a career in journalism through which she hopes to inform, educate, and promote equality. She believes in the significance of peoples’ stories, and finds it important that we carry these stories with us.

Kathleen is an active member of her community; she has shaved her head for cancer, participated in tree planting, was a member of STAND, a student group pushing the Canadian government to take action to end the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and volunteered at the Brenda Strafford Centre, a second-stage shelter for women and their children who have fled domestic violence. She also organized a sponsored silence to raise money for and bring awareness to the spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently she is the Vice President of Events for Oxfam and Director of Communications for Students for a Free Tibet at the University of Calgary. She is also an active member of the Somali Students’ Association and Journalists for Human Rights. Kathleen is committed to raising awareness about the impact oil exploration in the Amazon has on indigenous groups.

Kathleen is deeply concerned about the environment and human rights, and hopes that she can bring awareness and hope to these issues and more. She believes in accepting no limitations for one’s life, and thinks that following your bliss is the key to success. When she is not researching, learning, and working on issues of social justice, Kathleen enjoys reading anything from Hemingway to Stan Lee, writing, and practicing guitar. She is inspired by art, conversation, and unreserved kindness.

Leah Kelley

Leah is a Calgary born, queer, feminist, community activist who is passionate about eradicating poverty, violence, and systems of oppression. She would like to see a society where everyone has equitable access to resources and opportunities. She is a Registered Social Worker, employed at The Women’s Centre as a Social Issues Coordinator. Leah also volunteers her time as a coordinator for the Calgary Dyke March Committee, and takes the occasional volunteer position as an emcee at fundraising events for local community groups.

In addition to participating in different marches and rallies around the city (and a brief stint as a radical cheerleader), Leah spent last fall in Costa Rica as a volunteer with El Centro de Estudios Para la Paz (The Center for Peace Studies). Her hobbies include; biking, reading historical fiction, singing, traveling and drinking coffee. She hopes to convert many more protest and rally buttons into fridge magnets for her “activist refrigerator.”

Matt Masoumi

Bio coming…






Nathan Lamphres

For Nathan, life is enriched by edges, change and diversity. Edges locate and define. Change creates the constant gift of choice. Diversity provides the distinction to notice beauty. Edges, change and diversity are the glue that holds together a just and resilient society – providing structure, malleability and tolerance. Nathan seeks to deepen justice and resilience.

Nathan was raised in Alberta. He’s worked many jobs over the years: environmental educator, mountain guide, youth worker, construction worker and lawn mower. He has held (paid) jobs milking red squirrels in the Yukon, chasing wolves in the Rockies and enumerating a threatened bird species in the south of France. More recently, Nathan assisted the State of Maryland and the City of Durban, South Africa integrate climate adaptation into their long-term planning, held an internship with UNESCO in Paris looking at the transfer of social science knowledge to Southern academics and policymakers, and assessed the business case of a biofuel stove distribution network in Maharastra, India.

He has a BSc in Environmental and Conservation Sciences from the University of Alberta and a Master Degree in City Planning from MIT. Nathan is currently a Senior Policy Analyst at the Pembina Institute where he works largely on oilsands policy. In his spare time, Nathan like to run, backcountry ski, rock climb and is actively involved in his church where he chairs their social justice committee.

Sarah Khan

Born in the bustling city of Karachi, Pakistan, Sarah moved with her family to Kuwait when she was two years old. She was with her mother visiting family in Pakistan, when life in this sleepy desert country changed in the summer of 1990 with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. History records this period as the “Gulf War”, a victorious time for those whose political agendas were achieved at the expense of a paltry few… thousands. This was a particularly harrowing experience for a little girl at risk of losing her father in the crossfire. Miraculously, after months of no contact her father finally reunited with the family. Whenever despondency overcomes her, Sarah reminds herself of this difficult time in her life and centres herself with gratitude.

From sandstorms to snowstorms, from plus 50 C to minus 30 C, Sarah has adjusted well to life in Calgary since moving here from Kuwait in 1997. Having pursued her BA in Economics and English at the University of Calgary, Sarah is looking to combine her love for activism and writing through citizen journalism. Fortunately as Program Assistant at the Consortium for Peace Studies, she is never lacking in inspiration meeting esteemed rabble-rousers from around the world. Her commitment to Project Ploughshares Calgary, as well as the Calgary Centre for Global Community also affords her this opportunity.

Presently, the relentless US drone attacks plaguing Northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan, at a rate of every four days since 2004, is an issue of particular concern to Sarah. A citizen of the former, her ancestral roots are in the latter. The morbid picture of dehumanised pilots effecting devastation from the comfortable confines of a remote air-force base in Nevada, contrasted against the dark shadowy outline of drones hovering over the terrified civilians beneath, is one she finds especially disquieting.