Meet our team
VCST is run by a dedicated board of directors and an Executive Coordinator:
Muna Zaidalkilani – Interim Executive Coordinator
Muna specializes in trauma informed crisis settlement support and anti-violence work. Muna works with refugees that are survivors of war, torture, abuse, gender-based violence, and persecution including cases on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). Muna worked for several years as a Resettlement Assistance Program Counsellors and Crisis Settlement Worker to help settle the largest refugee resettlement movement in Canadian history – Operation Syrian Refugee (OSR) at Immigration Services Society of BC. She was also part of the Violence Prevention Team at MOSAIC to support refugee and newcomer victims of crime and gender-based violence from within Canada. Muna is the Executive Coordinator of Victoria Coalition for Survivors of Torture. Muna is the BC Volunteers Manager at the Women’s Economic Council as part of a national effort to advance women-centered community economic development to improve the lives of women, their families and communities.
Álvaro Moreno – Executive Coordinator – On Leave
Álvaro Moreno has over 25 years of experience in the research, planning, management and evaluation of social and community change projects and programs, both in Canada and Overseas. Areas of experience include participatory research and education, planning and evaluation, human rights education, democratic development, social and community economic development, environmental education, diversity awareness and anti-racism education. Álvaro is currently the Refugee Sponsorship Program Coordinator at the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia. Álvaro holds an MSc in Sociology from the University of Alberta and in his home country (El Salvador) he was an Agricultural Engineer.
Kathryn Finnis – Co-President
From a young age, Kathryn has been passionate about human rights and helping those around her. This desire to lend a helping hand lead her to a career in health care. For the last four years, she has worked within the hospital sector as a regulated pharmacy technician, focusing on sterile product preparations. Since becoming involved with VCST, Kathryn is now looking to further her education and shift into the legal field. Her goal is to focus on giving a voice to marginalized groups and break the stigma surrounding immigration and mental health.
Jibril Mohamed – Co-President
Jibril is originally from Ethiopia and came to Canada as a refugee in 2009. He moved to Victoria in 2016 and he immediately became an active member of the Oromo and Ethiopian Community Association, supporting newcomers in all their settlement and community needs.
Jibril also helps individual members of the Oromo and Ethiopian community acting as an interpreter and translator for any medical needs. He is also a member of the Diocese Refugee Committee, supporting the work of the Anglican Refugee Program.
Jibril is blessed with two beautiful kids, one born in Calgary and the other in Victoria.
Ken Agar-Newman – Founding Member – Co-Treasurer
Ken brings with him several years professional experience working as a Registered Nurse. His passion for human rights stems in part from when he traveled overland from London to New Delhi at age eighteen.
He is one of the founding members of VCST and has been involved with a number of projects of relevance to stopping torture including: Supporting Article 10 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture in relation to the education of nurses and others; supporting a coherent and clear voice by the nursing profession against specific cases of torture; and establishing a body to ensure oversight in connection with universal standards of nursing (medical) practice related to torture prevention and whistle blowing.
Rick Howard – Member at Large
Rick is a retired emergency room registered nurse. Throughout his career, he worked with people of all ages that are victims of torture. Having studied anthropology (B.A.) in university, Rick has always been shocked by the readiness of populations to condone inhuman acts. On a personal level, he has worked to engage labour activism amongst hospital nurses to stop the horrendous treatment of people in the last hours of life relegated to a stretcher in a brightly lit busy ER hallway with very minor success. It became a reminder that physicians and nurses are often active participants in institutional acts of torture.
May Shihadeh – Member at Large
May has over 25 years of volunteering experience working with refugees and newcomers. She moved from St Catherine Ontario 6 years ago to retire. In 2015, 2016 when Victoria received the large amount of Syrian Refugee, BCMA called her for help to translate and since then she never stopped working. May is a Settlement Worker, An Interpreter, A Community Advocate.
Through her work, May has developed a network among government agencies, Police Victim Services, hospitals, school board, legal aid, human rights, etc., and she as been involved in over a dozen of privately sponsored refugee families. May was one of the first Clinical Interpreters who supported VICCIR in 2016, and she was employed by ICA as Settlement Worker, Community Facilitator and Interpreter.
In 2016 May became a member of the BCMA masjid Al-iman, helping the Imam in public relations. She i also a member with Multifaith Society. In 2018 she co-created HERS foundation to support and empower immigrant and refugee women at all ages. In March 2020 May will be starting a Master of Art in Multicultural and International community communication at Royal Roads University, the first of its kind in Canada.
Sharmarke Dubow – Past President
Sharmarke is a former refugee who fled civil war in Somalia at the age of 8 and spent 20 years seeking safe haven until Canada offered a home in 2012.
Sharmarke cast his first vote in October 20, 2018, and at the same time was elected as a Victoria City Councilor. Sharmarke’s passion and commitment to diversity, inclusion, and building equitable, inclusive and compassionate communities and his work for marginalized communities earned recognition and respect as a community leader and a voice for bold and courageous policies. His outstanding activism has garnered him various awards and recognition including the Victoria Community Leadership Awards in 2017.
Dubow comes with extensive experience serving refugee and immigrant populations and community development. He is the past-president of the VCST has worked at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and the Victoria Immigrant Refugee Services Centre.
At the national level, he was a member of the executive committee of the Canadian Council for Refugees. He has served in various organizations and groups as a volunteer, including the Crime Reduction and Education (CRED) Program Steering Committee for the Pacific Centre Family Services Association and the Victoria Tenant Action Group.
Before moving to Canada, he was a human rights advocate and worked with refugee organizations in North Africa.
He is tireless in his efforts to build relationships, collaborate and bring people together to improve the well-being of communities.
Peter Golden – Board Member Emeritus
Peter worked as a dedicated lawyer for over twenty years in Victoria with an emphasis on immigration and refugee law. He is remembered as a leader and a fierce and loyal advocate for people fleeing hardship and danger. In addition to volunteering for various local organizations Peter travelled abroad to promote international human rights. He also worked as an independent election observer in Mexico and El Salvador.