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Meet Our Board

Nina Arbabzadeh

Nina is a public sector professional with experience working for different orders of the government in diverse areas such as education, finance, transportation and housing. She has a Master of Public Policy and a Master of Science in International Political Economy. Nina immigrated to Canada when she was 15, and ever since moving to Toronto has been involved in the delivery of community programs that support the settlement and integration of immigrants and refugees in the city.

Sonya Bourgeois

Sonya is an Associate Director with the City of Toronto specializing in the areas of health promotion and policy development, responding to the drug poisoning crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous to her work with the City of Toronto, she spent time working with the Ontario Public Service as a policy professional in the areas of violence against women, community services and health system strategy, public health, and gender-based policy. She holds a Masters in Social Work from York University, and has published in the areas of women and HIV, and access to abortion in Canada. Sonya is also currently a member of the Board of Directors at the Wellesley Institute in Toronto. Early in her career, she worked as a fundraising professional in the areas of human rights, mental health, and community development. She is a former staff member of The Redwood and loves to ride her bicycle around the City.

Olayinka Ekenkwo

Olayinka Ekenkwo is currently the founder and sole proprietor at the Law Office of Olayinka Ekenkwo.  Prior to starting her law practice, Olayinka worked for several years with the Ontario Public Service first as a legal intern with the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Labour before articling with the Crown Law Office Civil, Ministry of Attorney General.  Olayinka worked as a Human Rights Advisor in the Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Office of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for five years before she left to start her practice in Ajax, Ontario.  Olayinka immigrated to Canada in 2008 after living in the United Kingdom where she went to law school.  She is a Canadian citizen as well as a Nigerian where she was born.  When not practicing law, Olayinka is passionate about working with women and young people.  She is an author and inspirational speaker and coach and enjoys hiking and the outdoors. Olayinka is married with children.

Racheal Lawrence

Racheal was born in Scarborough and is of Jamaican descent. A graduate of York University and Ryerson University, Racheal has worked in the nonprofit sector for the past 15 years. Today she is the Director of Girls’, Youth & Family Programs at YWCA Toronto. Racheal has dedicated significant time to volunteering for grassroots organizations serving young people from marginalized communities. She is committed to seeing social justice embedded in all layers of society. Racheal is currently pursuing a doctorate and loves reading and watching movies in her spare time.

Kathryn Lamothe

As Managing Director and Head of Global Trade Finance, Kathryn leads the Global Trade Finance business as well as the Product & Client Solutions, Innovation, Network Management and Business Intelligence teams supporting all of TD Securities’ Global Transaction Banking business.  She earned her Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) designation in the Assurance practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers before joining TD Bank, where she has gained extensive experience in the areas of treasury, risk management, business strategy, and finance.  Kathryn is passionate about promoting inclusivity both in the community and in the workplace.  Kathryn is co-lead for TD Securities’ 2SLGBTQ+ employee resource group, a member of TD Securities’ Inclusion and Diversity Leadership Council, and an active mentor to many future female leaders.  Outside of work, Kathryn is on the Board of Directors for The Redwood and for Big Brothers and Sisters of Toronto, an organization that provides the opportunity to create strong mentoring relationships between adults and at-risk youth.

Lauriana Mandody

Lauriana is the Head of Finance at HelloFresh Canada. She has over twelve years of professional experience as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) and brings with her a broad range of consulting services to a diverse set of clients across various industries with a focus on consumerpackaged goods. When she is not working, Lauriana is committed to community outreach. She began by sitting on the board of Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Care Centre as the Treasurer in 2009 and Board Chair in 2013. Since then, she has been a board member of the Black Physicians Association, Brooklyn Ballet and currently sits on the board of Elizabeth Fry Toronto. Lauriana has participated in the Regent Park Film Festival Programming Committee, fostered dogs through Save our Scruff and in the past, she has mentored students at Ryerson University, coached students through the CPA exam writing process, participated in volunteer Tax Clinics. She lives in downtown Toronto with her rescue dog, Frankie.

Michael Pelz, PhD

Michael is a Senior Advisor at the Ontario Cabinet Office, holding responsibilities for elections policy and democratic institutions. He has previously worked in consulting and the NGO sector, including leading research on the first ever comprehensive analysis of social and physical infrastructure gaps in Arctic Canada. He is deeply committed to advancing public policy that raises awareness of intersectional forms of discrimination, including supports for survivors of gender-based violence. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto, with research and publications focused on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Eastern Europe. Michael previously studied at the London School of Economics and is an avid swimmer.

Allyson Samuel, CPA, CMA

Allyson has over 20 years of professional accounting experience; she obtained her CMA designation from the Society of Management Accountants of Ontario and holds a Bachelor of Administration degree from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Allyson is currently employed as the Director of Finance and Administration at The Elizabeth Fry Society of Toronto. Elizabeth Fry Toronto delivers gender-based, trauma-informed services and advocates for justice and equity for women and nonbinary people who are criminalized and their families.  Allyson is a big basketball and Raptors fan.

Nadine Sookermany

Nadine is the Executive Director of Fife House, the largest supportive housing provider to people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. She comes to this work as an educator, community activist and advocate with specific experience in the gender-based violence sector. Nadine brings decades of senior non-profit leadership experience to the area of community and social services, health, equity and accessibility, specifically as a change agent with an anti-racism, anti-oppression lens. She holds a Women’s Studies and Political Science degree from the University of Manitoba, along with the completion of graduate courses at the University of Toronto – Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE). Nadine also held the position of professor with the Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Counsellor/Advocate and Social Service Worker programs at George Brown College in Toronto for over 12 years. She is incredibly passionate about community-based health and harm reduction, and this passion has guided her work as a community leader, human resources practitioner and social justice advocate for over 25 years.

Ivana Vaccaro

Ivana is a partner at RV Law LLP and has been practicing exclusively in the area of family law since 2004. She is an accredited family mediator, arbitrator, and parenting coordinator with Mediated Family Results Inc., as well as a Coach and Advisor with the Law Society of Ontario. Ivana is also a part-time member of Tribunals Ontario and an instructor for the Family Mediation Certificate Program, at the School of Continuing Studies for York University. She has authored several articles in the areas of Family Law and Domestic Violence. Ivana is a member the Family Lawyers Association, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario, and Ontario Association for Family Mediation. She is also the proud mother of three children who keep her very busy outside of her practice, continuing education and volunteer work.

Abi Ajibolade, Executive Director

Abi Ajibolade is the Executive Director of The Redwood, an organization recognizing that interpersonal and systemic forms of violence are interconnected. Abi’s goal is to end gender-based violence by connecting women to lifesaving supports so they can survive and thrive after experiencing violence.  She is an attorney called to the Nigerian Bar and has a Certificate of Qualification from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada with extensive experience in women’s and children’s rights advocacy as a social justice worker. She is a Registered Psychotherapist, certified Crisis Prevention Intervention Instructor, and certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor. She is also a licensed facilitator of Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management. Abi also completed the Public Sector Executive Leadership Institute Program from Queen’s University. She co-created The Redwood’s highly acclaimed Safety Assessment Risk Management (SARM) framework, and to date, has delivered the SARM presentation to over twenty-five groups and conferences including the Canadian Domestic Violence Conference, and the 3rd World Conference of Women’s Shelters in The Netherlands, and more recently, led the launch of the SARM training online.  Abi sits on the board of METRAC and the Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH). In 2018, Abi was awarded a scholarship to Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management program. Abi received the Pioneers for Change Award by Skills for Change in 2019. In 2021, Abi received the 9th Annual Spirit of Barbra Schlifer Award presented to women who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to increased access to justice for women who have experienced violence.

The Redwood Board of Directors is currently not accepting applications at this time.