BOARD OF DIRECTORS
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.
Linda was born and raised in Vancouver and has spent the last 20+ years working as a residential real estate agent at Dexter Realty.
Linda loves Vancouver and wants to share her extensive knowledge and deep affection for the neighborhoods, architecture and history of the city with her clients. Her approach to client service recognizes the importance of developing strong relationships while at the same time having fun. Linda has built her business on repeat clients and referrals.
Linda attended UBC and BCIT. Prior to entering the real estate industry Linda worked for Canada’s largest video distributor. Working in this emerging industry gave her the opportunity to experience a variety of job positions requiring creating thinking and innovative approaches.
Linda is grateful to be able to give back and help to effect change through volunteer work in the community.
When not serving her real estate clients or volunteering Linda can be found spending time with her son, hiking the local trails or exploring the neighborhoods of Vancouver with her furry sidekick, Ava.
Sunny was on the Board of Directors at Watari in 2018, and returned to the position in 2021. During his sabbatical from Watari, he attended law school, which equipped him with skills and knowledge that he now contributes to Watari. His professional experience includes working at UBC as a student advisor for several years. He has had the privilege to volunteer with a number of community organizations, including the Urban Native Youth Association in the Downtown Eastside, the Indigenous Law Students’ Association at Thompson Rivers University, and Kanyawegi Support for Orphans and Widows in Kenya.
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.
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 a proud Member-at-large of Watari’s Board of Directors and are currently the Program Manager at VWHC.
Sara has been a CPA since 2005. She worked in public practice for 7 years at BDO Dunwoody and KPMG working on a range of audit clients including not for profit, government and private enterprise, after which she worked in the mining industry for 8 years in a variety of financial roles. To this day she continues a role in financial oversight of investment assets that support their communities. Sara grew up in Burnaby and lived in Vancouver for almost 20 years.
Hi, my name is Grace Tait. I was born in Prince Rupert BC of the Tsimshian Nation, under my fathers family of Lax Kw’alaams BC. Our family moved to Vancouver, specifically in the DTES Vancouver, over 40 years ago. I am the mother of two wonderful adult children and raised my family in East Van. Now I am the proud nana to two beautiful grand-children also. I come from a hereditary Chiefs family from Kitkatla BC, on my mother’s side. My mom’s family history and lineage goes back thousands of years. I was raised to be very proud of where I come from and many Elder’s in my family, helped to raise me.
Saffina joined Watari Counselling & Support Services Society in 2020. She currently works for Reaching Home: Canada’s Homeless Strategy; a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness in the region. This culminates her two passions of finance and social services. Safinna brings knowledge from working in the financial service sector and is passionate about sustainable and impactful investing and the cooperative movement. She also has experience in the social services field; particularly with youth experiencing addiction and women fleeing violence. She has been a longtime advocate of girls and women locally and globally and is an active member of the Girl Guides of Canada. Safinna holds a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies from Simon Fraser University.