The AURA Board of Directors is the decision-making body of AURA and is made up of volunteers who bring a wealth of personal and professional experience. The Board of Directors meets on a regular basis as a group in a policy capacity and individual directors support AURA as time allows.
AURA could not be in the position we are today without the tireless dedication of our Board of Directors.
Current AURA Board of Directors
Nadia Heyd - AURA Board Chair
Nadia has served on the AURA Board of Directors since Spring 2017, becoming Board Chair in September 2020. Before joining the Board, Nadia participated in 3 private sponsorships facilitated by AURA, and is currently involved in the private sponsorship of a family of six to Ottawa (facilitation by Anglican Diocese of Ottawa).
Volunteering has played a big role in Nadia’s career choice. Being a volunteer in her children's school more than a decade ago sparked an interest in learning the fundraising profession. She completed the Fundraising Management certificate at Ryerson University's Chang School and has worked as a fundraiser at United Way Greater Toronto and East Scarborough Storefront. She currently serves as Development Officer, Major Gifts and Grants at Community Food Centres Canada. Nadia sees fundraising as a powerful way to support people who are experiencing difficult circumstances in life, and also believes it’s important that all fundraising activities are carried out in ways that are respectful of everyone's dignity, strengths, and humanity.
Nadia grew up in a small town (Uxbridge), moved to Toronto to attend U. of T. (B.Sc. Zoology, Psychology 9T5), and, except for 2 years living in Pittsburgh, PA, has lived here ever since. Nadia, her partner Darrick, and their three children call East Scarborough home, except for a week almost every summer when they paddle out to Algonquin Park’s backcountry to live in the woods.
Steve Greenidge - Treasurer
Steve joined the AURA board in 2021. Steve has spent much of his career in risk, finance, and control. He works in the Internal Audit department of IKO Industries. Steve brings financial expertise to the board and is a designated Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA), and holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Windsor. He believes that Canadian society should welcome and offer support to refugees as they settle in Canada.
Dr. Gemechu Abeshu
Gemechu holds dearly values of believing strongly in the importance of welcoming refugees to Canada, which not only benefits those whose lives have been put at risk in their home country, but also helps Canada to become a more diverse society. This is partly informed by the fact that he is a refugee originally from Ethiopia. He is a social anthropologist doing research on refugees and their settlement process in Canada. He graduated from Antwerp University of Belgium (M.A) and Bayreuth University of Germany (Ph.D.). Volunteering plays a key role in Gemechu’s life and career choice: he volunteers at Access Alliance’s Multicultural Health and Community Services in assisting with refugee related research projects. He is also involved with Oromo Community of Toronto in building intergenerational communications and value sharing.
Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford
If I were to say I had a personal motto it would be from the Gospel of Luke: “Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29) As a proud Canadian, I was so grateful the Liberal Government flung open wide the borders- particularly for Syrian refugees. I believe our country is strengthened by open and liberal immigration and refugee policies. Canada has so much to receive from its new citizens. And I trust Canada can offer a safe harbour for all of humanity.
Professionally I’ve been employed by the Diocese of Toronto for 33 years; 31 years as a priest. I served various parishes concluding with early retirement in January 2020 when I was 58. Why did I retire early? I was beginning to feel that I wanted to do other things, including travel. Moreover, I was feeling I could serve God and humanity elsewhere- there were simply other things to do. Like serve on the board of AURA.
In my most recent parish, the Church of the Epiphany and St. Mark in Parkdale we sponsored in coalition with St. Anne’s, Redeemer Lutheran and Islamic Cultural and Dawah Centre two refugee families (a gay couple from Iran and a Syrian family of 7). I was impressed with the capability of AURA as an organization, and it’s staff, and am delighted to be invited to sit on the board.
I have been partnered to James Hart for 20 years and I have two adult sons, a daughter-in-law- but no grandchildren- yet! We indulge our 10-year-old Boston Terrier, Lola. I am a serious gardener, a keen cyclist and walker, and a member of a couple of book clubs. And I consider myself a ‘pilgrim,’ I’ve walked the Portuguese Camino, conduct urban guided walks and once we’re past this pandemic intend to pilgrim more.
Rebekah is a multilingual United Church member who has lived in English- and French-speaking Canada and Central America. She has a long-standing interest in social justice issues. She is currently involved in refugee sponsorship in the Quinte West area, where she lives with her family. Rebekah has also volunteered with asylum seekers in Montreal, advocating on their behalf to navigate the refugee application process. Professionally, Rebekah has training in environmental science and freshwater ecology, and has worked in scientific research and on government contracts. When she has time to herself, she loves designing origami and working on her paper craft blog.
Nora believes strongly in the importance of welcoming refugees to Canada, which not only helps those whose lives have been put at risk in their home country, but also helps Canada to become a more diverse and compassionate society. Professionally, Nora is a Clinical Psychologist working with children and adolescents. She graduated from Lakehead University (BA(Hons.)) and the University of Guelph (M.A., Ph.D.). In her leisure time, Nora enjoys singing and playing piano.
Victoria has a passion for refugee, asylum seekers, and immigration issues. Victoria is currently in her second year of studies for the Development Studies Graduate Program at York University. She is also completing a Refugee Studies Diploma. Victoria’s research is about the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR) and she is interested in analyzing the role of Sport for Development and Peace in the Olympic Movement as it pertains to the EOR. Besides her academic drives, Victoria is currently on the National Canadian team for Aesthetic Group Gymnastics. Victoria has won the bronze medals at the first ever 2010 Youth Olympic Games and the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games in the group category for Rhythmic Gymnastics. Victoria hopes to attend Law School and become a refugee lawyer.
Sandra is the Director of Community Support Services at Yonge Street Mission, focusing on poverty alleviation among homeless adults in Toronto. As an ordained Anglican priest, Sandra has also served in parish leadership in Toronto, New York and Chennai. Sandra learned about AURA when her Toronto parish sponsored a family during the Syrian refugee crisis. Sandra is committed to local and international social development and has a passion for resettlement which led her to become a supporter of AURA.
Stan was born in England, educated at London University and worked with BBC after graduation. Stan emigrated to Sackville, New Brunswick as high school teacher in 1969 and worked in the Atlantic Provinces before moving to Ontario. Stan worked for the Ontario Government for more than 20 years before retirement. He has a strong Social Justice conscience which dictates his life. At his church in Orono he actively participated in such Social Justice initiatives; Habitat for Humanity, Water for Pikangicum, Anglican Women for Afghan Women, Truth and Reconciliation education awareness initiatives, and work with migrant farm workers in the area.
Stan’s commitment to refugee sponsorship started when he led a community committee sponsoring a Syrian family from Aleppo in 2016 and joined the AURA Board in 2017. He is currently participating in a second sponsorship. He believes that the contribution from refugee sponsorship to Canada has been immense, socially and economically, and that the Canadian sponsorship model is a world leader.
Stan is married with three children and seven grandchildren.