Meet The Team
“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.
Kevin Crofton has worked with Watari for 13 years and is Watari’s youth programs manager. Kevin worked as a youth and family worker for the Burnaby school system for 10 years, provided youth outreach support and coordinated Watari’s Integrated Community Outreach Program which provides one to one outreach support for at risk indigenous youth. Kevin has also written and directed numerous youth theatre productions in Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast.
Jill came west 40 years ago, graduated from the University of Victoria, and moved to Vancouver with her musician husband, where they raised their three children, and several dogs and cats. Jill worked in the child protection field in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for 25 years before switching gears and becoming a bookkeeper. With a never-ending supply of financials to keep her motivated and engaged, she enjoys making the financial side of Watari as stress-free and user-friendly as possible for staff. Outside of her role at Watari, Jill is an avid gardener, book reader and soccer player.
Ingrid is Watari’s Executive Director. Before taking up the role in 2018, she served as Watari’s Latin American drug & alcohol counsellor for 20 years. A lifelong volunteer, she brought her commitment to inclusivity and social justice with her from Guatemala (Place of Many Trees) to Turtle Island in 1990.
When she arrived in Vancouver, she saw the need for supportive networks between newcomers like herself and existing communities in her new home. She started building relationships that — over two decades later — remain integral to the supportive programming at Watari.
Ingrid lives in Vancouver with her family, which includes a cat, a ferret and an ancient beloved dog.
“I believe that we all deserve to be treated with respect.”
Since Grace started with Watari in 2018, she has brought a warmth and care to our Community that is irreplaceable. Her job title is Administrative Assistant but we know her as so much more. Her laugh is contagious and is constantly sharing humour with us all.
We call her “Our Amazing Grace”. She treats everyone that walks in our doors with respect and dignity knowing that they belong to someone and they all deserve our care.
In her spare time Grace loves to write poetry, hang out with her dog Rocky, spend quality time with her daughter and enjoys being outdoors by the water.
Afuwa discovered spreadsheets when she started working at Watari in 2016, and hasn’t looked back. She was born in Guyana (Land of Many Waters), on Karinya, Lokono, and Akawaio land, and works on the territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Squamish Nations. A dedicated nonprofit and arts worker, Afuwa holds a BA from Thompson Rivers University and a Diploma in Accounting (2020) from BCIT. She is honoured to support the work of community and connection alongside her teammates at Watari, and is still trying to catch up with Karina.
“I believe that all beings deserve to be seen and heard without judgment.”
Amen started working with Watari in April of 2020 as a practicum student. She is now working as a Substance Misuse Counsellor for the CACT team and is currently working towards her Master of Counselling Degree. Amen has worked in the mental health field for over 12 years in a variety of capacities. Here at Watari, Amen provides one to one counselling, advocacy, and support. She also facilitates an expressive arts therapy “storytelling” group at Watari. Working from a trauma informed lens utilizing a holistic approach, Amen believes that each individual has a unique story and their story should be given the space to be heard and validated with compassion. Amen has used the support of her spirituality in overcoming obstacles in her life. She values and honors the many forms of spirituality that individuals present with at Watari.
On her spare time, she enjoys spending quality time with her family and their new little kitten. Amen is always quick to explore new cultural experiences. She enjoys yin yoga, meditation, and walks in the forest. She finds connecting to nature very healing.
With over a decade of experience being a foster parent, one-to-one, outreach, mental health and youth worker, Andrew strives to provide unbiased advocacy and help to the people he supports. With an emphasis on social justice, he aims to connect everyone to the services they deserve. He believes that everybody is entitled to housing and support services and is proud to work for Watari, because of their inclusive and low-barrier programing. He is committed to honour and respect Indigenous presence as well as the unceded land rights of all Coast Salish traditional territories.
Angelo has been working with Watari for 3 years as a Facilitator, and now as an Outreach Support Worker at Downtown Community Courts as a partnership with Watari. He is also Artistic Director of S.I.T.E. Theatre and has been facilitating Theatre of the Oppressed for 12 years.
“I believe when there is heart and true commitment you can achieve great goals”
Berta is originally from Mexico, she arrived with her family in Vancouver in 1998. She has a bachelor’s degree in Educational and Clinical Psychology and a Post-degree in Mental Health. Her practice involved individual work and support groups. She has vast experience working with vulnerable populations and has a great understanding of diversity due to her work with refugees, LGBTQ groups, persons experiencing homelessness, drug users, and persons with special needs and with mental illnesses. Berta works with the Latin American community at Watari, providing substance misuse counselling. She does outreach work, advocacy and liaise with other service providers. Berta also provides counselling for temporary farm workers. Her work has been to empower the people she supports for making their own and better decisions for their life. Berta’s passion is to help and serve others with compassion and an open heart.
In her free time, she enjoys watching TV series and movies and spending time with her husband and daughter.
“I believe in the importance of building one’s strength in order to foster resiliency and a healthy life style.”
Brynne has being holding individual sessions as the Child and Youth Counsellor & Art Therapist for 2 years. In this role, she empowers individuals by nurturing their relationship with art so that they can, in time, support themselves through this creative form of expression. Brynne sits beside those affected by substances between the ages of 4 and 25, specializing with those impacted by trauma, children in foster care, migrant families, and those within the queer community. She received her Master of Counselling: Art Therapy degree right here in Vancouver, BC and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts: Art Education degree from Arizona State University. When she is not supporting community members at Watari, Brynne can be found rock climbing, traveling, and cooking vegetarian meals
Catherine has been with the team since November 2019, and has experience in youth work and street outreach. She supports people navigating the criminal justice system and advocates from a person-centered approach. She is part of an assertive case management team composed of a probation officer, nurse, occupational therapist, psychiatrist, and income assistance worker, with the goal of reducing recidivism rates and reducing hospital admissions. She is person-centered, works from a harm reduction philosophy, and places emphasis on meeting people where they’re at. Catherine is passionate about social justice, mental health awareness, and the Downtown Eastside community. When Catherine isn’t working, she is connecting with nature, working out, and biking.
Chris as a migrant has the experience of how hard it is to migrate to Canada, first being a volunteer in Watari and being supported by the wonderful Watari group.Now Chris works as an outreach worker for the Migrant to Migrant program in addition to supporting the COMET program (Chronic Offender Management Enforcement Team) for Downtown Community court where he must collaborate with a team composed of a probation officer a Vancouver VPD police officer and a psychiatrist, in his time Chris is always with his children listening to music, mostly salsa.
“I recognize and value the potential that all individuals hold to live their lives in a manner that is meaningful to them.”
Dustin runs the Youth Excelling and Attaining Housing (YEAH!) Program at Watari. Dustin’s belief in the value and potential that all individuals hold guides his work in the YEAH! Program, as he supports youth and young adults with moving forward with vocational aspirations, educational interests, finding and maintaining housing, integrating into their community, and building positive interpersonal connections. Dustin has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and is currently working towards a Master of Counselling Degree. When he is not busy with the YEAH! Program and school work, he may be found travelling, learning languages, or baking shortbread cookies.
“I believe that nobody should be hungry or go to sleep without food.”
Eloina Alberto is a Food Security coordinator 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.
“I believe that just having that certain someone to hear you can make a tremendous difference in the lives of the youth in this world.”
Jodi is from the Haisla and Homalco Nations. She joined the Watari youth outreach team in August 2020. She has been doing youth work since 2017. Jodi has started off her journey in this field as a student at the Native Education College in the Family & Community Counselling Program, where she has received her diploma. Her most notable position was with the Collingwood Neighbourhood House, where she was an Indigenous youth worker. She is very passionate about providing the youths that she works with, with her undivided attention. Something she strives for everyday is to let the youth know that they have at least one support in their corner.
Also, in her spare time you may find her exploring her culture.
“John believes in and practices looking through the trauma informed lens while supporting those struggling with substance misuse.”
John is a spiritual man. He is Indigenous from the Xwmelch’stn (people of the water) village and is part of the Squamish nation Coast Salish people. He is also Haida Gwaii from Old Massett village on the Haida Gwaii Islands.
John has a gift of connecting with people on many levels. He believes meeting people where they are at, helping and guiding them to walk in a good way. John is very passionate about his culture, traditions, and protocols. He is willing to learn and be respectful of all different teachings. John is also eager to share his knowledge, culture, and spirituality, through drumming, singing, ceremony, and traditional medicines. He also loves to practice holistic healing and wellness.
“I believe that mental health support is a precious element for developing the resilience of every community member, which contributes to a better society, country, and world”
Karina has been at Watari since 2018. She recently obtained a certificate in Fundraising Management at BCIT. Karina is motivated to see healthy communities and found, in Watari, a place to put her fundraising and development organizational abilities, to provide better services to the community. When she is not pursuing a career as a fundraiser, she is enjoying nature and the mountains on her feet or on two wheels (bicycle).
Krystal has been a member of the youth outreach team at Watari since 2019 and has been doing youth work since 2009, most notably as the cultural lead at Young Bears Lodge: A First Nations youth treatment program run by UNYA. Hailing from New Aiyansh and holding strong Nisga’a heritage, she has a passion for incorporating cultural practices and teachings into her work as an outreach worker and has been integral in the creation of First Nations programming for youth at Watari, as well as facilitating cultural programming for elementary students within the Vancouver School Board. Krystal holds a diploma in family and community addictions counselling from the Native Education College. In her spare time, she can be found harvesting medicine and spending time with her family.
“I believe that every youth deserves a chance”
Since 2017, Lavern has been running the Youth Excelling & Attaining Housing (YEAH!) Parenting Program (formerly known as TIP2). Lavern has a Bachelor in Child & Youth Care Counselling .She is dedicated to see her youths succeed in all aspects of their lives. Lavern has a positive attitude and always quick to lend a hand. She wins the hearts of her youths by being present and connected. Lavern has a smile that can light up a room, and speaks with respect when interacting with the youth in her program You can find Lavern relaxing in nature, listening to music while working out at the gym, or just spending time with her family
Romina migrated to Canada from Chile five years ago, and became part of the team in June 2020, supporting agricultural migrant workers around BC. She believes that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect; promoting the value that each one means to the community.
Mom of two children who have been an important part of the work that she does with the community. In her spare time, she enjoys walking, especially in the woods.
Sadie started at Watari as a receptionist for the summer in 2020, through the Canada Summer Jobs Program. She was so happy when she was asked to stay on in a new position working on Watari’s online presence, data collection, and IT support, in addition to continuing to help at reception part-time. Sadie is passionate about helping people and supporting Watari in the incredible work they do. Her friendly and positive energy allows those around her to feel welcome. In her spare time, Sadie likes to read, write, play soccer, and spend time with her family and her rabbit, Butterscotch.
“When people walk into Watari, I want them to feel like they are seen and that they matter.”
Sandra started working as a Substance Misuse Counsellor in 2002 and has been lucky to have worked in the many programs at Watari. Sandra believes in her community driven work at Watari and tries to incorporate an approach that best matches the needs of the people she supports. Coming from a Narrative Therapy background Sandra likes to include solution focused, Mindful Awareness and strength based conversations. Sandra is trained in Gottman Couples Therapy and Sitar Family Therapy. This allows her to invite couples and family strengthening into her work. Sandra is a strong advocate in keeping families together and will work hard along side parents to keep children out of care.
Sandra’s personal growth includes practices of meditation and can be seen wandering the halls at Watari inviting people to meditate. In her spare time she is riding her bike, gardening and planning her next trip.
As William Shakespeare said: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” I believe we are the ones who create our own stories of life.
Veronica believes if there is enough love and trust between the counsellor and the people she supports, miracles will happen. Her purpose as a substance misuse counsellor developed through her own journey, personal experiences and awakening, which included struggles with getting lost in her teens, depression after giving birth to her children, using substances to find happiness. She has traveled through darkness and light and eventually found the inner peace. She learned to accept who she is and others, to see goodness in everyone and beauty in everything. Substance misuse is just a learned behaviour and if it’s learned we can unlearn it provided that we have the necessary tools to cope and replace it with sustainable new and healthy behaviour.
Veronica loves meditating, singing, dancing, hiking, gardening, cooking veggie food, art and craft, playing music, and travelling. Anything creative, fun, and healthy to body and mind.