Meredith Cochrane, Executive Director
Meredith joined EAF in 2022 as their Executive Director. She comes to EAF with 22 years of experience in the not-for-profit sector in the UK and Canada, including 15 years as an Executive Director. She has worked at not-for-profits focusing on issues ranging from global justice, to environment, to mental health. The common thread through them is self-empowerment through knowledge, relationships, community, and most importantly, a strengths based approach. She has a strong track record of building strong, stable organizations that are collaborative in their approach and transformative in their impact. Meredith lives with her young daughter, exploring every forest and sandbox they can find.
Olga Bolshova, Ukrainian Coordinator
Olga joined the team in November 2023 as a coordinator focused on working with Ukrainian families who came to Canada after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Olga has extensive experience working with children with disabilities. In the Ukraine she established an organization, Children with FAS, to raise awareness of the rights of children with disabilities and show society their value.
Together with her husband, she is raising a child with a developmental disability, so she sees the importance of inclusion first hand. Rather than focusing on barriers, she sees opportunities for children with disabilities and encourages other families to recognize that.
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.
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.
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.
Jessica Janes, Coordinator
Jessica has been an Extend-A-Family coordinator since 2009. Extend-A-Family has been a part of her life since she was a youth, supporting her brother and family in exploring opportunities for greater belonging and friendships. Jessica studied Social Work at Humber Collage and worked with Extend-A-Family as a Summer Student which deepened her passion for walking along side young people, the importance of being meaningfully involved in community and growing connections and friendships. Jessica facilitates the Extend-A-Family Adult Sibling Support Group. Jessica is passionate about working in partnership with young people and families, identifying one’s gifts and interests and creating a rich full inclusive life for everyone in community, one person at a time. Outside of work Jessica enjoys soaking in the everyday ordinary moments listening to birds and exploring the outdoors with her 2 lovely girls and husband, going to concerts, sitting around a fire, laughing, and looking up at the moon + stars!
Nusrat Motala, Coordinator
Nusrat has been a Coordinator with Extend-A-Family since 2017. Her first experience with Extend-A-Family was in the role of a Summer Student. Nusrat graduated with Honors Bachelor of Science and received her Developmental Service Worker Diploma. Through her experiences in the developmental services field, Nusrat has realized the importance of building an abundant community through gifts, strengths, and contribution. Nusrat continues to walk alongside family members and support their loved ones in crafting the good life. When she is not working you will find her at Frenchman’s Bay enjoying the sound of water, laughter of her 2 daughters and enjoying the moment with her family.
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.
Marlene Solano, Coordinator
Marlene joined Extend-A-Family as a Coordinator in 2022. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Education degree. She has worked as an educator and in social services in various capacities, always holding onto her strong belief in inclusion and diversity. Marlene loves working with children and believes that they are the best teachers. She is a very passionate and caring person with a real desire to inspire others to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate their individuality. Supporting families to overcome barriers and explore opportunities gives her a sense of pride and purpose. Outside of work, Marlene enjoys the creative arts, learning languages, travelling, rock climbing and spending time with her dog.
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.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Mohamed Abu Shaaban, Board Chair
Mohamed works as a Senior Manager at Ernst & Young (EY) in the Strategy & Transactions advisory group. 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.
Peg Jenner, Vice Chair
Peg Jenner was Co-ordinator and Professor of the Developmental Services Worker Program at Centennial College for almost three decades. After retiring, she continues to teach Social Role Valorization in workshop and small group formats. She served on the board of directors of several organizations and was honoured to join the board of Extend-A-Family Toronto. She believes that supporting families, to support their children with disabilities to fill valued roles in their families, neighbourhoods and communities is very important work. Peg lives with her husband in North York.
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.
Julie Cheah, Director
After graduating with a degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge UK in 1988, I pursued a career as an insurance underwriter with multinational insurance companies in Malaysia and Singapore.
I have lived in multiple countries, from my native Malaysia, to Singapore, China, UK and now Canada, all of which have taught me to be flexible and adaptive to my environment and changing circumstances. I took a break from the corporate world to raise my 2 sons. My younger son has a developmental disability. Navigating the school system to ensure that he had an inclusive education became a full-time job in itself. As he is now a young adult, I have the capacity to build on my love of animals to run a pet care services business. I have also recently been developing and managing my son's fledgling art business.
In my free time I enjoy reading and spending time in nature. I love going for hikes in the beautiful parks in my neighbourhood.
Afnan Shahid, Director
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.
Nawin Mutti, Director
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.
Michael Mueller, Treasurer
Michael brings a wealth of experience in providing assurance services to a diverse array of not-for-profit organizations, acquired through years of work at public accounting firms. He has earned CPA (CA) and CFA designations and is eager to leverage his financial acumen to support Extend a Family. Michael enjoys the sport of Triathlon in his spare time.