Originally from rural Nova Scotia, Jen has worked within the intersections of nutrition, health and development across Atlantic Canada, Botswana and the Caribbean before calling Vancouver home. A recent graduate from Simon Fraser University’s Masters of Public Health with a Global Health focus, Jen is passionate about identifying and challenging power structures that produce poverty, inequality and disease. She is currently a Registered Dietitian and Treatment, Health and Wellness Coordinator at Positive Living BC, an organization that seeks to empower people living with HIV through mutual support and collective action. A strong believer in health care as a human right, Jen is excited to learn alongside individuals similarly passionate about changing the way the world works in NextUp. When not raising HIV awareness or teaching a course on Complementary and Alternative Medicine at SFU, you can find Jen snowboarding, playing volleyball, listening to live music or confusing people with her east coast expressions.
Growing up, Jen spent more time on theatre and dance than on politics or activism, but the roots of her passion for health justice trace back to her childhood. Jen’s father worked as a doctor in Vancouver’s queer village at the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and his stories of the systemic discrimination HIV-positive individuals faced left a strong impression on Jen.
After graduating from High School, Jen spent several months in Zambia volunteering at a community school. While there, she saw first-hand how well-intentioned and well-resourced programs can fail when designed by outsiders who don’t properly understand community needs.
Jen then went to UBC where she studied International Relations and got involved with the climate movement, notably choreographing a massive climate flashmob at PowerShift in 2009. She appreciated the youth-led, community-driven culture of the climate movement, a stark contrast to the more hierarchically-organized model she’d encountered in the international aid work, but continued to feel drawn to international health work.
Jen currently works as Network Relations Coordinator for Leadnow, as a research assistant for a study on health and legal needs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and as a preschool music teacher. In the future, she hopes to continue combine community-driven culture she experienced in climate campaigns with her passion for international health in a way that means health solutions for communities come from those communities. Jen continues to feel drawn towards international health work, but hopes to integrate aspects of community empowerment by learning how to engage communities in making change for themselves.
Heather was raised in the small community of Merville on Vancouver Island, and moved to Vancouver six years ago to study Communications and Dialogue at SFU. Since graduating, Heather’s diverse volunteer pursuits have included everything from protecting wild salmon and promoting local food security, to advocating against undue surveillance of public space. Over the last few years, she has enjoyed the privilege of working with BC First Nations in the public and non-profit sectors. In 2011, Heather spent 8 months in Sierra Leone with Street Kids International, where she evaluated microfinance programs and supported social enterprise development. Today, she combines these disparate interests as Special Projects Coordinator for Vancouver Native Housing Society, where she runs the Skwachays Healing Lodge and Residence, a unique project providing subsidized housing for Aboriginal artists through social enterprise. Heather also serves as the Chair of the Vancouver Public Space Network, where she advocates for healthy, fun public spaces. If she’s not in the office, she’s either on her bike or the dance floor.
The first thing you’ll notice about Erika is her love of life! She grew up on the basketball courts in Masset, Haida Gwaii. Erika is very connected to her Haida culture and celebrates it though traditional singing and dancing. Erika recently finished a Community Herbalist program from Pacific Rim College that focused on integrative health and traditional medicine. She is proud to be currently taking the Indigenous Studies program at Camosun College. She is passionate about learning the histories and current issues of indigenous people across North America. Erika is also taking leadership in her community and connecting with the land and the elements. In the future, Erika hopes to develop a progressive, culturally-based school system. Travel is another one of her passions. Erika has had a number of different opportunities to share her awesomeness with people internationally. She participated in an elder and youth council in California, she lived in Tanzania as part of the International Aboriginal Youth Intern program through Canada World Youth, and she spent time in Guatemala on a cultural exchange with Mayan people. She is looking forward to returning to Guatemala this December to reconnect with the friends she met during the exchange. In January, she will travel with the Old Masset Youth council to New Zealand for a cultural exchange with Maori people. Erika is keeping BC Ferries afloat by commuting from Victoria to participate in Next Up 6!
Edith was raised in the small town of Carp, Ontario and has been living in BC for 6 years. Through her education she has earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy. On this journey to education, Edith was inspired to learn more about social and environmental justice through engaging in community art, learning about feminist activism, and participating in student run organizations. Many summers working at Easter Seals camps for kids with disabilities also has a huge impact in shaping Edith’s life. Currently, Edith is working as an Occupational Therapist at the Centre for Child Development in Surrey. She works with kids in elementary schools who have many different abilities, and is constantly humbled by them and their families. Edith has become more involved in her union (Health Sciences Association) and is currently the Chief Steward at her work and is an elected member on the provincial bargaining team for this round of contract negotiations. She dreams about a healthcare system with a focus on prevention and community-based care, and wants to be a part of making that a reality!
One of Edith’s passions is creating safe and accessible spaces for people to feel a sense of belonging in their community. Camping and exploring come as second nature to this local farm loving, violin playing, silly making, do-it-yourselfer! Edith has two younger sisters, two cats, and is recently married. Edith is taking the world by the horns in this year’s Next Up cohort #6!
Claudia Chan is an arts and culture enthusiast, educator, foodist, traveller and documentarian. She has the pleasure of collaborating with, learning from and working alongside some of Canada’s most inspiring leaders from journalists, chefs, farmers, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, politicians, policy makers, artists, designers and creatives. With a vif curiosity and zest for life, Claudia is passionate about serving the many different communities in her hometown. Her involvements are a many and range from municipal politics, education, community organizing, language and cultural programming to journalism. She currently pens a column on local green initiatives with Scout Magazine, reports for a radio show on occasion for Radio-Canada, teaches French at Capilano University, and acts as the PR person as well as serves at Harvest Community Foods. In addition to her many roles, she volunteers with Growing Chefs!, sits on the City of Vancouver’s Food Policy Council and co-facilitates an underground collaborative art series called Late Nite Art.
Bard was born in Burnaby, B.C. to a single-working mother who staunchly believed in fighting for a better life for her children. Having emigrated from Hong Kong in her teens, she was the first and only child among her eight siblings to have had the privilege of attending University. Bard’s heart is grounded in a desire to make the sacrifices made by his parents worthwhile, and is also deeply rooted in a belief that our ecological crises are a result of urgent social issues within our community—those of inequity and injustice—that must be addressed if we want a resilient and effective environmental movement.
His work thus far has been generally focused on bridging different ethno-racial and professional communities in the local environmental movement. Bard served for a year on local non-profit RangiChangi Roots Society’s [http://rangichangi.ca] Board of Directors, an organization that worked to facilitate dialogue around local food and ethnically diverse food consumption practices. He led the youth engagement and outreach initiative at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)[http://policyalternatives.ca] on the Climate Justice Project (CJP)[http://policyalternatives.ca/projects/climate-justice-project/] where he developed a new high-school workshop on climate justice and transportation. Most recently, Bard has been working with local non-profit Shark Truth[http://sharktruth.ca] to design programming that will engage the Chinese community with issues beyond shark-finning and marine conservation. He has also assisted with numerous research projects in the Department of Sociology at the University of British Columbia, where Bard has grown to love qualitative research and research methodology.
Bard is grateful to have the opportunity to be part of Next Up, and looks forward to exploring how he can best contribute to social and environmental justice movement.
The name Ainsley Munro isn’t the only Scottish thing about Ainsley Munro – she attests her resilience and strong family values to her Scottish Highlander roots. Growing up in Haliburton with a 27-acre backyard of thick forests and vast meadows, she always had a keen love for nature. Her parents encouraged this passion with summers spent camping, bear watching, and learning how to build shelters in case her infamous skill of getting lost left her stranded in the woods. Her interest in the natural world led her to start an environmental action group in high school after noticing that the school buses idled while waiting for students to board after classes. This group worked on various campaigns to make its school a more socially aware and environmentally sustainable community for students and teachers alike.
Her interest in nature and the environment led her to enter academia at the University of Waterloo, majoring in Environment and Resource Studies. She took advantage of the university’s co-op program to participate in Katimavik, a youth leadership and service program that brings 11 youth together for six months to take part in projects that help change Canadian communities. She volunteered in Quesnel, BC at a rural school, and in Montreal, QC with ATD Quart Monde and Santropol Roulant.
During her undergrad, she became heavily involved in The Otesha Project, a youth-led organization that uses bike touring to deliver theatre plays and interactive workshops for environmental advocacy. Her experiences with Katimavik and Otesha solidified her passion for community engagement and the intentional community lifestyle.
At all times, she strives to enjoy everything life has to offer and continues to engage in life with youthful wonder. Her passions and distractions include listening to folk music, painting, reading fiction, cycling, singing to songbirds and all things outdoorsy.
Amanda Rae Guthrie was born in North Battle ford, Sk, but currently resides in Saskatoon and is attending the University of Saskatchewan. She is completing a bachelor of psychology degree and eventually plans on getting a social work degree as well. While she likes to keep her plans flexible and open to any opportunities that may arise, she hopes to have a fulfilling career within the NGO sector focusing on social justice or working with youth. She has a very optimistic view of our world and sees working with youth as a chance to help our generation and future generations create a better world for everyone.
Amanda is a very passionate and ambitious person with an awesome sense of humour. She loves poetry, loves to paint and hopes to improve and expand on her knitting and cooking skills. Inequality, sexism, capitalism, climate change and olives can be counted amongst her dislikes… especially if the olives have worms on them, which she also does not like. Amanda’s wonderful outlook on life and her drive to propel change and tolerance will be key to helping her make a difference in the fight against inequality and oppression - just like the superhero we all know she is. She envisions a world where people come together based on their similarities rather than fight because of their differences.
Denis Thibeault: a man of wealth (ish) and taste. Born an only child in Sudbury Ontario, he has since become a citizen of the world, fondly recalling memorable visits to Seattle, Greenland, and the most foreign of all: Newfoundland. A true Scotsman of the Armstrong Clan at his heart, he enjoys celtic folk and rock, and shows it while sporting one of his Kilts. He also prides himself in his Franco-Canadian heritage, speaking and swearing in full-blown frenglish often enough to not be named “Dennis”. He makes his journeys through Canada assertively driving to various sporting destinations, particularly for the sake of ice climbing. As a day job, Denis was as a Senior Youth Corrections Officer in the arctic, but switched back to his true passion, Wilderness Therapy. Of an evening, you may find him enjoying a fine pizza (It has all four food groups!) or if he is feeling classy, a fine Panzerotti, along with a fine Maudit dark Unibrou beer or the less chic Labatt Cinquante. While certainly a man of the times, he is truly proud that his cell phone can contact people without any apps and does not take pictures, leaving him a stalwart defender of the finer things in life.