“Don’t complain unless you’re at least willing to try.” This is one of N’kem’s many simple yet provocative philosophies on activism. Born in Nova Scotia and raised in culturally diverse Toronto, N’kem is a lover of challenge, learning and imagination. To give herself a dose of that invigorating joy we all need sometimes, N’kem takes solace in podcasts and TED Talks – especially those that propose novel ideas, contain a strong call to action and bring people together.
N’kem’s love of the sciences and public health led her to study biotechnology at Seneca College, biological sciences at the University of Guelph, and then regulatory affairs and quality assurance at Seneca College. She practices this love everyday in her current work with the Canadian Blood Services. N’kem is passionate about issues that allow communities to recognize themselves in the other. She believes the divisions that we create often prevent us from seeing the many similarities and common ground that we share. By connecting with the Next Up community, N’kem hopes to deepen her involvement in local and international projects that promote community involvement, education, media literacy, positive action and inclusivity. Off the clock, N’kem enjoys music of all genres, outdoor running, pottery and sci-fi.
Prajeena has been advocating for issues related to peace building, clean water and sanitation, gender equality and food security in developing countries, particularly in Nepal where she was born. She has managed and evaluated projects funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), WaterAid, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Oxfam, the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and World Education, among other international organizations. She has coordinated policy and advocacy events at a distance with civil society organizations based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka on issues related to gender equality, food security, peace and demilitarization. Having traveled to Uganda, Ethiopia and Ghana, Prajeena has liaised and lobbied with African civil society organizations, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Union, and European and North American partners on aid effectiveness and the increase of development commitments to the world’s least developed countries (currently 48 countries around the world).
Her interest in traveling and experiencing different cultures took her to the Netherlands, where she completed her second master’s degree in Public Policy. It was from there that she traveled to different parts of Europe. In her lifetime, she plans to visit all seven continents of the world. Prajeena currently sits on the board of Peacebuild and serves as a steering committee member for the Women, Peace and Security Network in Canada.
Prajeena enjoys gardening. She has many plants in her apartment, where she often picks fresh herbs for cooking. She also loves biking around but feels that Ottawa is yet to construct enough safe biking lanes for bikers.
Siavash was born in Tehran, raised in Waterloo, and now calls Ottawa home. Having lived in these diverse communities, he has become cognizant of the issues facing each of them. He has become especially passionate about local economic issues, individual rights, and equality. After becoming involved with Waterloo Collegiate Institute’s Human Rights Club and volunteering with Me to We’s Build a Village program in Kenya a few years ago, he decided to pursue a degree in International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa. He largely focuses his passion for local and global activism through participating in party politics and volunteering in community development projects. He aims to set sail for a meaningful life working in the field of human rights and development, while working to strengthen the impact of various activist networks locally.
Tara is a former fashion model turned feminist and women’s rights activist. Fitting the stereotypical physical requirements, Tara was encouraged from a young age to pursue a career in modeling. After finishing a year of an arts and science degree at the University of Guelph, she signed with agents in several different European countries and found herself immersed in a destructive work environment alongside other young women struggling with eating disorders and body image issues. For over a year, she remained working under a high degree of bodily regulation, exploitation and objectification. Exhausted by the experience, Tara returned to Canada confused and unsure of what to do next. Soon after, she re-enrolled at the University of Guelph, switching into business administration, then later into international development. For the first time, she was exposed to the tools she needed to be able to critically engage with global social, economic and political systems. During her time in the program she was fortunate enough to travel to India on a semester abroad, which took her to various parts of the country and gave her the opportunity to live with a host family. Changed by the experience, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in social work with a focus on community development and social and economic policy. In 2009, she moved to Ottawa to complete her degree in social work at Carleton University.
As a Carleton University student, Tara was actively involved in student advocacy. She was co-chair of her departmental students’ association, and served as a student representative to the Senate and Graduate Faculty Board. Since 2009, she has interned with the City for All Women’s Initiative, the International Development Research Centre, and in the office of a member of parliament working on poverty issues. Tara now works at the Canadian Federation of University Women, advocating for policies, programs and services that promote equity and advance gender equality at home and abroad. When Tara is not fighting to end patriarchy, coordinating letter-writing campaigns, or protesting on Parliament Hill, she can be found doing yoga or spending time with her friends.
Tasha enjoys exploring how creativity and social change overlap and has worked with youth using art, film, theatre and social media to support conflict resolution, empowerment and leadership. Tasha has also worked with Canadian Red Cross both locally and internationally, and most recently held the position of Co-Executive Director of YouthCO, a youth-run HIV organization. Currently, Tasha is volunteering with Sanctuary Health, a grassroots collective that supports health care for all refugees and migrants. Throughout her time working and volunteering with non-profit organizations, Tasha has done things like: facilitating workshops on HIV, child rights, and anti-oppression; provided support to survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence; and assisted refugee claimants arriving in Canada. Tasha is an aspiring seamstress. She speaks English, French and Punjabi to varying degrees. She loves earrings, travel (so far she has been to India, the UK, Japan, Kenya, Cuba, Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Ecuador), dancing, fixing stuff, and wearing flip-flops.
With a professional background in project management and legislative research, Stefanie Ratjen has also worked with a variety of community groups, including theImpact on Communities Coalition, the AMS Resource Groups, and the Vancouver Renters’ Union. Currently, she oversees the resource development strategy for the BC Civil Liberties Association. Stefanie holds a BA in Political Science from UBC. On sunny days in Vancouver, you’re likely to find her watching the cranes and reading at CRAB or New Brighton Park.
Shea was born and raised just outside Vancouver in the little community of Tsawwassen, and is very proud to call the BC coast her home. Shea studied Cultural Studies and Communications at McGill, where she wrote for several publications and worked off-campus tutoring elementary-age youth. A passionate traveler, Shea also spent a semester abroad at the University of Melbourne where she became increasingly involved in media democracy. She finished her studies at UVic, where she focused on environmental sustainability and became interested in BC’s local green issues as a volunteer with the Dogwood Initiative. Shea now pursues her passion for environmental sustainability through volunteerism with the David Suzuki Foundation. Today, Shea is Operations Manager of the grassroots organization OpenMedia.ca, where she enjoys her work managing the organization’s membership development and day-to-day functioning, as well as making sure the OpenMedia community is happy and engaged! Shea is eager to access the Next Up network and resources to deepen her knowledge of non-profit organizational development and creative, sustainable fundraising models. When not working or volunteering, Shea is a dedicated runner and a lover of good food and live music.
Sean Peters is a born and bred Vancouverite with a passion for social innovation and strategy. His work spans both near and far as his inspirations for social change are cultivated at home and internationally. After completing his degree at Simon Fraser University in Anthropology and Business, he co-founded Global Agents, a Vancouver-based social incubator recognized by the United Nations. In 2010, he co-founded the Global Catalyst Initiative, which works with early stage social ventures in East Africa. His goal with Global Catalyst is to connect brilliant entrepreneurs with funding and support in the beginning steps of their projects so that promising innovators can scale their impact. Sean currently sits on the board of Shark Truth and acts as an advisor to a variety of emerging social ventures. Sean has previously worked with Procter & Gamble in business development and has also consulted with Terasen Gas, UBC and the National Research Council. Sean is a past recipient of the SFU Impact Award and was recently recognized as one of the 100 Disruptive Heroes by Hackingworks. On sunny days you’ll find him in the company of a good book on the seawall in Vancouver or climbing rocks in Squamish.
Rachel was born and raised in Vancouver to a family rooted in social justice. Her activism started at the tender age of 12 when she successfully lobbied against Gatorade corporate sponsorship of her elementary school’s sports day.
She continued her dedication to activism after moving to Montreal where she got involved with Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) and the student movement, while studying History and Photography at Concordia University.
Rachel brought the inspiration of Quebec student movement back with her to Vancouver, where she now lives. Modeled off the student movement’s red square, she has played a lead role in spreading the blue water drop as a symbol of unity and opposition to the building and expansion of pipelines, the increase of tankers off our coast, and the development of the tar sands.
In addition to fighting for climate justice, Rachel works at Thunderbird Elementary school as a Support Worker for kids living with disabilities. She speaks English, French and Spanish. She loves to play ice hockey, make music, and dance, and is passionate about making, eating and analysing food.
Jolan Bailey is a gifted political organizer who skillfully brings people together to work for environmental justice. He grew up in Kelowna in family with strong Christian beliefs. While aspects of this upbringing were problematic for Jolan, he credits his family’s faith with having instilled in him the compassion that has informed much of his later work as an activist. In his teens, Jolan began to question hegemonic forms of masculinity, partially through theatre. When in his high school tried to ban students from performing a play about homosexuality, Jolan challenged the school. Through this experience, Jolan began to understand the ways that true compassion often requires pushing for institutional change.
Jolan left Kelowna for university, and majored in Environmental Studies and Economics at the University of Victoria. He was intrigued by the way these two disciplines often talked about similar topics but with strikingly different lenses. Upon completing his bachelor’s degree Jolan began a year-long internship working on ForestEthics’ Tar Sands campaign. Jolan soon found himself struggling to maintain a balance between the work he cared passionately about, and his own personal sustainability. Needing time to reflect and recharge, Jolan then took several months off to bike from Tillamook, Oregan to Guanajuato, Mexico.
Upon returning from his trip, Jolan was rehired by ForestEthics as the Canadian Outreach Coordinator. In this role, he has coordinated massive opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project. Jolan excels at logistical coordination, strategic thinking and encouraging cooperation between organizations, skills which contributed greatly to the success of the Defend our Coast day of action in October 2012. This spring, he will be working with Leadnow.ca on citizen engagement and action for upcoming BC election.
When not organizing action for progressive causes, Jolan enjoys spending time with his partner,cooking with berbere, and playing the ukulele.