OUR TEAM

 

Staff

Cate Downey, Office Manager 

Cate is the Office Manager and has worked for Extend-A-Family since 1996.  Also, she is the daughter of founding parents, and a member of the Adult Sibling Group since its inception in 2010.  Being a sibling, Cate has shared her experience and has had connections with NABORS, two housing co-operative boards, written articles, and has been an advocate both for her family and for her community.  She lives very happily in Hamilton with her husband and children.

Ruth Fernandes, Executive Director 

Ruth got to know about Extend-A-Family several years ago at a Parent night. She was touched with the stories about friendship and inclusion that families and hosts shared. She and her own family were excited to be a host family and they learned about the value of participation in neighborhood and community. Her birth family has shaped her interest in issues of social justice as well as the joys of belonging to a faith community. Ruth has a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master of Social Work degree from India. Her work in the area of adoption brought her close to seeing the joys and struggles that adoptive families experience in building relationships. She has been a Coordinator with Extend-A-Family for 19 years and more recently took on the role of Executive Director. The values of inclusion and belonging shape her vision for Extend-A-Family. She enjoys music and staying active.

Kim Southern- Paulsen, Coordinator 

Kim has filled the role of Extend-A-Family coordinator since 2007. During her time at Extend-A-Family her learning has never stopped. She has been privileged to learn from the many children and youth she walks alongside and their families. Kim discovered a passion for inclusive education and communities partially because of the learning at Extend-A-Family, mostly due to her personal life journey. Kim has participated on school board advisory committees, formerly on the board of directors for Integration Action for Inclusion and currently participates on Community Living Ontario Family Engagement Steering Committee. When Kim is not working or learning about principled approaches to community inclusion, she would be with her family, or taking in nature.

Marissa Wolicki, Coordinator 

Marissa completed a Bachelor of Arts degree as well as a Master of Social Work degree from Wilfrid Laurier University. Marissa is committed to working collaboratively and compassionately with families. Further, she is dedicated to creating inclusive environments for the families that she works with, while connecting and educating those about inclusive practices. She is passionate about ongoing learning and creating a reflective, collaborative approach to her work. She hopes that she provides a welcoming environment where families feel heard, understood, and empowered.

Anne Murray, Coordinator

Anne completed her Bachelor of Nursing Science as a Registered Nurse and Masters of Adult Education. Working and studying in India, Scotland and Canada in Community Health Nursing, has enhanced her passion about building connections, creating safe, healthy and valued roles in communities, and personal learning through cultural diversity. 

She is involved with families in the community who have children with developmental disabilities, with the goal to build inclusive communities and embrace the strength of diversity.  As a life time learner, she values and appreciates the openness of families and individuals as they courageously express themselves with their life stories. 

With families, educators and youth, Anne facilitates ways to recognize, reduce and develop strategies for managing the stressors in their lives to build resiliency.  She is collaborative, compassionate and believes that deep listening supports individuals to discover their own problem solving. She shares her passion for improving the mental health of children and youth faced with the challenges of living in a fast paced, highly technical world, with changing family dynamics.  Her learning has been enhanced with parenting three children and being actively involved in community life.

Salvatore Rocchese, Coordinator

Salvatore graduated with honors from George Brown college through the Community Worker program. He has been an active advocate for vulnerable individuals and believes that no one should be left out and totally included. Salvatore truly believes in social justice and building safe communities.  Salvatore has a passion for facilitating groups and fostering relationships. He believes that there are social opportunities out there, all you need is an open mind and believe in the human spirit. Salvatore has been with Extend-A-Family since September 2002, through his work, he has been blessed in working with families side by side and creating social opportunities that would enrich their lives.  Salvatore has been blessed to have the opportunity to work at an organization that allows him to utilize his skills and strengthen his belief in acceptance and self-worth.  Salvatore loves long walks, spending time with family and friends, travelling and cherishes life to the fullest.

Kristen Carhart, Coordinator

Kristen has been a Coordinator and Safe and Secure Futures-East Facilitator since 2016. Kristen holds a Social Service Worker diploma and several post-graduate certificates. Her professional background has been in Social services and Case management. She has been providing advocacy, facilitation, and assistance navigating services and supports for the past 16 years. She has had the honor of walking alongside many inspirational and resilient individuals, who have shaped her core belief in belonging, acceptance, and inclusion. She is a seeker of information, loves art and creating, and strongly believes that diversity and differences strengthen our communities. When she is not working you can find her exploring nature with her partner and daughter.

Michelle Pervin, Coordinator

Michelle Pervin is one of the Coordinators for Extend-A-Family. She is currently completing her Master of Education from York University. In 2020 she graduated from York University’s Bachelor of Education Program and became an Ontario Certified Teacher. Michelle also graduated from Wilfrid Laurier in 2017 with Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology. She also obtained a diploma in Early Childhood Education in 2018. Michelle has a keen interest in integration and inclusiveness for all individuals. As a sibling, she has witnessed her brother’s experience first hand which has inspired and motivated her to devote her career to promoting inclusion.  In her spare time, Michelle enjoys cycling and rock climbing.

Daniel Persaud, Coordinator

Daniel has been a Coordinator at Extend-A-Family since 2021. Daniel completed his Honorary Bachelor’s Degree In Child and Youth Care, a Diploma in Social Service Work and an advanced Diploma in Child and Youth Care Accelerated. Daniel has a strong passion in working with children, youth, adolescents and families. Daniel developed a strong sense of devotion in inclusion and education and is always willing to create inclusive environments for the families that he works with. 

Daniel loves nature and the beauty that the world has to show. He loves hiking, long adventures, music festivals, road trips, music, exploring and spending time with family and friends.

Antonia Heer, Coordinator

Antonia is a part of the Extend-A-Family team as a Coordinator. Antonia obtained her Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Sociology where she has engaged in studies such as: anti-oppressive/racism, mental health & disability; women, gender & society; equity, diversity, inclusion in society, and more. She was able to apply her knowledge working with diverse and marginalized youth & families within the education and non-profit sector. Her experience and education contributed to Antonia’s passion for social justice & advocacy work. She is a strong believer in inclusion, diversity, and equality, which she is committed to practicing in her everyday life. Antonia enjoys being around people and learning from them through their experiences, talents, and ideas that they have to offer. You can even find Antonia out and about exploring nature and seeking adventure.

 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Jennifer Wilson, Director

Jenn Wilson is a dynamic leader with over 15 years experience in the non-profit sector and is the President & CEO of DAREarts. She has a BA in Disability Studies with a Minor in Organizational Leadership as well as a Diploma in Outdoor Recreation Management and has served on the Board since 2013.

Filomena Nait, Vice-Chair

Parent of a child with developmental disability. Worked in a leadership role for a large national retailer for over 22 years, monitoring and improving team performance. Served as a member on the Parent Council Committee at her son’s school for several years and advocating for inclusion. Serving the Board since 2013.

Mohamed Abu Shaaban, Board Treasurer

Mohamed works as a Manager at Ernst & Young (EY) with specialization in assurance over Banking & Capital Markets clients. He has a passion to give back to the community and fell in love with Extend-A-Family’s visions and goals to create an inclusive community and build relationships across members. Serving the board since January 2020.

Christine LeClair, Secretary

Mother of a son with a developmental disability; long-time member of another organization serving people with disabilities. Serving the Board since 2003.

Nawin Mutti, Member

Working in the hospitality industry (hotels). I have been a part of Extend-A-Family for most of my life as I have a developmental disability myself. I am committed to the idea of inclusion for the betterment of our community. I have done workshops and training on inclusion since high school. In addition, I have been giving speeches on the strengths of differently abled people since 2015. Serving the Board since 2018.

Afnan Shahid, Member

I am currently a student at The Michener Institute in the medical laboratory technology program working towards a diploma. I moved to Canada in 2013 and completed my senior year in high school before proceeding to obtain a BSc from the University of Toronto. From the very beginning, I started to get involved in some community work outside of school with Extend-A-Family being one of my firsts! I participated as a host for EAF during my senior year and was thoroughly enriched by the experience. I went on to do more community work outside of school over the years and got involved in a few youth programs that involved conflict resolution, healthy childhood development, and bringing fun science activities to classrooms of all grades! I've also been a part of mentorship programs and Student Council, working to build resilience, encourage independent growth and overall improve the student life experience, while enjoying the process of it all.

I always find that I end up getting so much more out of my volunteering experiences than I am able to give back. And it is with that gratitude, I am once again eager to join EAF in their mission and vital role in the community.