Our Team

  • Heather ScarffSenior Director

    “I believe there is always hope, that every story deserves to be heard and every life witnessed and valued.”

    Heather is a valued and tremendous asset to Watari with her ability to wear many hats.  She began her journey here in September 2006 first with her strong administrative and community based skills with the Shannon Spirit Project, then eventually added other roles as Intake Worker, Community Addictions Counsellor and the Community Teams Supervisor as well.  However, her passion lies in the work she does with the people we support.

    Heather draws on her life experiences of being a strong spiritual Indigenous woman which include her favourite roles as a mother, wife and Gigi.  Her lifetime of different experiences have helped connect her to a deeper understanding of some of the struggles the people we support face.

    On her down time, Heather enjoys quality time with her husband, daughter and other family members.  Her favourite interests are music, laughter and nature.

  • Eloina AlbertoDirector of Community Services and Outreach

    “I believe that nobody should be hungry or go to sleep without food.”

    Eloina Alberto is Director of Food Programs at Watari Counselling & Support Services. She is a Latin American migrant woman who came to Canada 4 years ago.  As a nurse in her home country, she is very passionate about supporting those who are in need.  She is concerned about food security in the DTES and is grateful to contribute with compassion and dignity to the people we support.

  • Jill RatcliffeDirector of 320 & V6A Garden Club Lead

    Jill is of mixed Metis and European ancestry, and grew up on the East Coast on Mi’kma’ki territory. She has been working as a radical organizer and in grassroots food security for two decades, with a dynamic range of experience at the staff, management, and board level.

    As the Director of 320 Alexander and project lead for the V6A Garden Club at the DTES Urban Farm, she brings invaluable leadership, care, and commitment to the work of creating community-led food sovereignty together from the ground up.

    In her free time, Jill is a musician, gardener, and beader.

  • Marlin RamazziniBookkeeper


    “Walk this life bringing to every person that pass by: a smile, respect, understanding, help and collaboration”

    Marlin started working in accounting back in her native Guatemala at age 15. She brings to Watari her experience working in manufacturing, foods, health, education and entertainment, just to mention a few. She has been a volunteer for different organizations since her arrival in Canada in 1990. She has been involved in fundraising thousands of dollars for different not for profit projects for health, education, arts and housing. She is involved in her community in the lower mainland bringing them music, volunteer and attending events.

    Marlin is inspired and loves working at Watari, as she said, “it is a wonderful team of people; inclusive, respectful, and friendly environment; Watari, has a positive impact in the community it serves.” She is grateful to work and give her contribution to the work that Watari does.

    Marlin loves to spend time with her family, loves travelling, hiking, running, arts, music and acting. She loves bringing people together and making them happy. She has toured in more than 50 countries, speaks Spanish, English and some Italian. Marlin loves to learn new things every day. Also, you may see her performing in various festivals, movies or tv shows.

  • Lara Crollco-Chair

    As a Vancouverite for the past 10 years, Lara is passionate about making B.C. better for all, and is commmitted to focusing on issues and opportunities that face the Downtown East Side. Originally from Abbotsford, Lara earned a Masters of Public Policy from Simon Fraser University, and holds a BA in Economics from the University of British Columbia. On the weekend, Lara enjoys swimming, reading and pottery.

  • Gurpreet ChopraSecretary

    Gurpreet Chopra was born and raised in Vancouver and is currently an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia in his fourth year of a biochemistry program, and is passionate about working in the community that has given so much to him in the past. He is currently doing dementia-related research at St. Paul’s Hospital and spends his free time volunteering at a needle exchange, volunteering at BC Children’s Hospital, taking calls at the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC, and leading a humanitarian-based club at UBC focused on community advocacy following the asset-based community development model.

    With Watari, he hopes to bring his experiences directly working with vulnerable populations and help grow the capacity of Watari to support more individuals of diverse backgrounds for years to come. With such experiences, he has gained valuable insight into the implications associated with addictions, mental illness, disability, inequality, sense of community, and the diverse socio-economic situations people are in that factor into the growing crises we see locally and nationally.

    He was drawn to Watari because of their beliefs on empowering people by taking individualized approaches to providing services that play towards one’s innate strengths, capabilities, and desire for wellness. The philosophy behind Watari’s approach to services is something he strongly agrees with and is impressed by their long-standing commitment to bridging opportunities, resources, and choices to people in the community, as well as their active advocacy for vulnerable and marginalized people.

    Gurpreet is excited and honoured to serve on the Board of Directors and looks forward to continuing and expanding on Watari’s philosophy of providing innovative, community driven programs/services.

  • Ahmad NakhaeiYouth Substance Misuse Counsellor, Expressive Arts Therapist


    “I believe in every individual’s innate ability and power to heal”

    Ahmad is an Expressive Arts Therapist and a community counsellor. His work with the Surrey School Board gave him many opportunities to work with at risk children and new refugees. Providing therapy through different art modalities to provoke imagination and enhance creative expression.

    He has worked extensively with a variety of demographics who have been impacted by trauma and complex trauma including refugee claimants who experienced adversity in their countries, during their journey to Canada, and while they were awaiting their refugee hearing.

    His passion for supporting marginalized communities led him to get involved and help bridge language and capacity gaps with multiple organizations, including Kinbrace Refugee Claimant and Housing Support, Canadian Red Cross, SOS, ISS of BC, and Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture.

    Ahmad’s work is inspired by his own life experience as a refugee from Iran.

    In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, hiking, reading, and movies.

  • Wendy SantizoOutreach Support Worker for Downtown Community Court

    Wendy is a human rights advocate and community-based educator, working with the Chronic Offender Management Enforcement Team of Vancouver’s DCC; a problem solving court addressing the underlying issues of crime through community engagement. Wendy has experience working with Crisis Lines providing emotional support, safety planning, referral to resources and services for groups in vulnerable positions or turning points. She also has experience as an English/Spanish simultaneous interpreter and translator.

    Wendy is passionate about historical memory and theatre of the oppressed for transformative change, and is currently participating in an international diploma program on emancipating alternative pedagogies.

  • El PurdeyDTES Community Kitchens (DECK) Coordinator


    El has 5 years of experience working the DTES in various frontline positions with a focus on Harm Reduction. During that time, their most cherished work experiences were sitting and eating with the community and hosting bingo night. In their work as DECK Coordinator, they are working with community members and organizers and following the guidance of elders and knowledge keepers to build and strengthen a mutual aid network throughout DTES food programs. El believes in Food Sovereignty and that every community has the right to determine its diet and shape its food system.

  • Casey VickersChair

    Casey Vickers (they/them/theirs) is a uninvited settler of European ancestry who lives and works on the ancient, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), skxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations – colonially known as Vancouver, BC. They have worked in the social service sector to advance equity and justice for all women and other folks vulnerablized by their gender in the DTES for 20 years. They are the proud co-chair of Watari’s Board of Directors and are currently the Program Manager at VWHC.