MEET THE TEAM

Executive Team

  • Rachel Kiddell-Monroe

    Founder and Executive Director

    Rachel Kiddell-Monroe is a lawyer, a humanitarian practitioner and an advocate. She is a Board Director at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a founding President of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and a Professor of Practice at McGill University. Rachel believes putting people and their community first is key to creating a more humane, just, and fair society.

  • Violeta Chapela

    Medical Advisor and Program Lead

    Violeta Chapela is a doctor with humanitarian experience in the areas of sexual violence, migration, sexual and reproductive health, mental health for victims of violence and primary healthcare in exclusion and war zones. Violeta also has an interest in strengthening community networks from a gender perspective.

  • Sumeet Sodhi

    Medical Director and Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator

    Sumeet is a family physician in the Toronto Western Hospital Family Health Team, an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, and the Academic Lead for the Indigenous Health Partners Program at the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. Sumeet has led many global health initiatives, including indigenous health, diabetes, HIV, TB, primary care integration, community-based programming and chronic illness care.

  • Bayan Alabda

    Executive Assistant

    Bayan holds a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering and is now pursuing her second degree in psychology at Concordia University. She is the Executive Assistant at SeeChange, where she provides administrative, financial, and operational support to the team. Bayan is interested in researching war trauma, family violence, and its effects on memory and daily life. Her goal is to complete her education and earn a PHD in the field so that she can support marginalized communities.

  • Jasmine Cumetti

    D-DEI Lead

    Jasmine Cumetti holds a B. Comm. in organizational behaviour and psychology from McGill University and is currently completing a M. Sc. in International Business at HEC. Jasmine coordinates efforts to foster decoloniality within the organization. She believes that an inquisitive and introspective process of decolonizing our minds is an important first step in becoming an agent of change and cultivating a society which is truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive at its core.

Canadian Initiatives Team

  • Naomi Tatty

    Intercultural Health Lead

    Naomi Tatty, from Iqaluit, Nunavut, was nominated “Inuit Woman of the Year” because of her tireless volunteer work assisting Inuit families in need across Canada and advocacy for Inuit culture and wellbeing. Fluent in Inuktitut and English, Naomi, is a strong advocate on the issue of tuberculosis in Inuit communities. Naomi is also well known by community members for organizing fundraisers to assist with the cost of travel and funeral expenses for those who have lost a loved one. Naomi proudly helps to keep Inuit culture strong by sharing her skills in sewing and the Inuktitut language. When asked what advice Naomi had for other Inuit women, she said, “Always give a helping hand and treat people with respect.”

  • Dawit Yimam

    Canada Program Lead

    Dawit was born and raised in Ethiopia, Eastern Africa, and is a public health and emergency management professional with a double master’s degree in public health (MPH) and Disaster and Emergency Management and more than 15 Years of working experience in Public Health and Emergency Management Programs in different organizations including World Health Organization (WHO), Bill and Melinda gates Foundation, Save The Children and Canadian Red Cross in different parts of the world mainly in Africa and Southeast Asia. Dawit used to work for First Nation Health Authority in Northern Ontario as an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator which gives me a perspective and deep understanding of the history and culture of indigenous communities in Canada.

  • Samantha Poncabare

    TB Project Lead

    Samantha holds a Bachelor in International Development from the University of McGill, Montreal, Canada. She has been working at SeeChange since 2020, bringing executive, admin, finance, fundraising and operational support as the Executive Assistant. Building on this experience, she recently stepped into the role of Project Coordinator, co-leading the Tuberculosis initiative in Nunavut, Canada.

  • Malcolm Ranta

    Local Director

    Malcolm Ranta is the Executive Director of Ilisaqsivik Society. He is also Director of Operations for the social enterprise Tukumaaq Incorporated. Malcolm has years of experience working in Nunavut in government and non-profit sectors. He has worked in public health and community development with remote and urban Indigenous communities. Malcolm is also a wannabe weekend hunter.

Global Initiatives Team

  • Jessica Farber

    Project Lead and Community Readiness Coordinator

    Jessica Farber is leading SeeChange project with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), piloting the CommunityFirst approach in vulnerabilised communities globally. She works with community leaders and institutional partners to organise, prepare and respond to health crises. She also has experience in outreach, advocacy and project coordination with forced migrants and asylum seekers in Montreal and Mexico. Jessica holds a B.A. in International Development from McGill University.

  • Megan Corbett-Thompson

    CommunityFirst Fellow and Project Coordinator

    Megan Corbett-Thompson holds a BSc in Ecological Determinants of Health from McGill University. She has gained diverse experience in protection work, community mobilization and environmental health promotion alongside NGOs in Latin America. Megan is committed to community empowerment and upholding the dignity of all persons. She holds a fellowship from York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research (DIGHR).

Board of Directors

  • Huguette Ekambi Mbella

    President

    Huguette Ekambi Mbella is a global citizen – Cameroon-born, Paris-educated, Washington DC-based – with deep expertise in governance, risk management, and control functions. She is pursuing a distinguished career at the International Finance Corporation (IFC, member of the World Bank Group) and has served profit and not-for-profit international finance institutions across Europe and North America. Ms. Mbella is passionate about unlocking human potential, expanding financial inclusion, and all things Art related.

  • Denis Blanchette

    Director

    Denis Blanchette has spent 30 years bringing community first. He worked with communities in Africa and Latin America. After working at the Supreme Court of Canada, he is now a partner at one of Canada’s leading law firms supporting Indigenous communities. Denis is recognized as a leading practitioner in Indigenous law in Best Lawyers in Canada 2020.

  • Carol Devine

    Director

    Carol Devine was a founding member of SeeChange and is a Humanitarian Affairs Advisor with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Canada. Carol was a 2016 fellow of the Ecologic Institute’s Arctic Summer College. She is a member of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research Humanities Expert Group and a Community Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research.

  • Yves Abanda

    Director

    Yves is a French-Cameroonian McGill graduate from a Liberal Sciences Bachelors in Physics and Environment. Among his current interests are sustainable self-determination, colonization of the mind, deep adaptation, food sovereignty, energy transition, alternative and popular education, low tech, and modes of governance compatible with collective intelligence. He co-founded SymBioSyn in 2017 with some fellow students that shared his passion to find ways to live well together. Currently, he works at the University du Nous to learn more about Shared Governance methods.

  • Michelle Osry

    Director

    Over the past 25 years, Michelle Osry has worked across North America, Europe and Africa as an academic and investment banker She is now a partner at Deloitte Canada, where she leads the firm’s Family Enterprise Consulting practice. Michelle is Vice Chair of the Family Enterprise Xchange, a Canadian organization dedicated to empowering enterprising families and their advisors.

  • Jasper Monroe-Blanchette

    Director

    Jasper Monroe-Blanchette studies Forestry at Cégep de Chicoutimi. Through his studies, he is working towards getting involved with Indigenous communities in relation to forest management. Jasper loves wild places and finds his calling in mountains and forests. He is a yoga teacher and finds his peace in practicing traditional forms, which include qigong and kung fu as well as yoga.

Board of Advisors

  • Stephen Lewis

    Stephen Lewis is co-director of the international advocacy organization AIDS-Free World and co-chair of the board of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. He has previously served as the UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, as Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, and as Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

  • Igah Sanguya

    Igah Sanguya currently sits on the Board of the Ilisaqsivik Society and serves as the Community Health Representative of Clyde River, Nunavut. In the past, Igah has also served on the Board of Directors of Pauktuutit and the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network.

  • Jerry Natanine

    Jerry Natanine was born and raised in Clyde River, Nunavut. He has been working with Ilisaqsivik for several years. He completed Ilisaqsivik’s Our Life’s Journey: Inuit Counsellor Training Program. Jerry has held many leadership roles in Clyde River, including Chair of the Hunters and Trappers Organization. Jerry is currently Mayor of Clyde River for a second time.

  • Jennifer Furin

    Dr. Jennifer Furin is an infectious diseases clinician and medical anthropologist who has spent 25 years working to address TB and HIV in vulnerable populations. She is a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and serves as a consultant for a variety of organizations to support person-centered care. She specializes in the care of children with drug-resistant forms of TB.

  • James Orbinski

    James Orbinski is professor and Director of York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research. As a medical doctor, a humanitarian practitioner, a best-selling author, and a global health scholar, Dr. Orbinski believes in actively engaging and shaping our world so that it is more just, fair, and humane.

  • Courtney Howard

    Dr. Courtney Howard is an Emergency Physician in Canada’s subarctic, and board President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). She was the first author on the 2017 and 2018 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Briefings for Canadian Policymakers, as well as being the 2018 International Policy Director for the Lancet Countdown.

  • Daniel Solomon

    Daniel Soloman is a businessman and trustee of the Heathside Charitable Trust which is a family charity based in London, United Kingdom. The charity funds projects both in the UK and overseas.

  • Georgia White

    Georgia White is a Strategy and Policy Associate at the international advocacy organization AIDS-Free World. Over the past decade, Georgia has worked in the United States, Cambodia and her home country of Australia as an advocate and policy expert on health and social justice issues.

  • Grace Yang

    Grace Yang is the Chief Trouble Maker at TEDxMontrealWomen, curating and encouraging speakers to step outside of their comfort zones to deliver their most compelling talks. She leads a dynamic team of volunteers and fosters a creative culture where everyone can grow together. Previously, Grace worked in the investment industry on both the buy and sell sides of the Street.

Partners & Collaborators

  • Ilisaqsivik Society

    Community Partner

    Community initiated and community-based Inuit organization located in Clyde River, Nunavut. Ilisaqsivik Society is dedicated to promoting community wellness by providing space, resources, and programming that helps families and individuals find healing and develop their strengths. Ilisaqsivik Society is a Canadian registered charity and brings two decades of Inuit-based experience in training and community empowerment.

    Learn more

  • Pathy Family Foundation

    Funding Partner

    The Pathy Family Foundation (PFF) is Canadian foundation that works to build vibrant communities and promote equal opportunities for all. PFF invests in people, organizations and ideas that empower marginalized groups in Canada and globally. PFF is partnering with SeeChange and Ilisaqsivik Society to run a program based on trauma-informed TB empowerment activities in Inuit communities across Nunavut.

    Learn more

  • Government of Nunavut Department of Health

    Government Partner

    In partnership with SeeChange, the GN Department of Health is developing strategies to enable communities to develop autonomy and ownership of their health outcomes as part of their goal is to improve health outcomes and decrease health inequity by increasing Inuit involvement in and ownership of public health strategies in Nunavut.

    Learn more

  • MSF Transformational Investment Capacity (TIC)

    Institutional Partner

    Building on and complementing already existing Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders (MSF) community engagement initiatives, SeeChange is adapting the CommunityFirst framework to create a model for MSF that meaningfully involves communities at every phase of the project cycle, including handover and emergency preparedness. Currently piloting in indigenous communities in Peru and Sierra Leone.

    Learn more

  • Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI)

    Government Partner

    SeeChange has partnered with CFLI, ECO-RE and the Lenca Women of Reitoca to strengthen and empower women’s leadership to improve the COVID-19 response and recovery in Reitoca, Honduras through skills development workshops, feminist leadership training, knowledge sharing, and mental health support.

    Learn more

  • University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine

    Academic Partner

    SeeChange is a proud recipient of the COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Impact Grant Program (Co-RIG) with the University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine, a research grant to investigate the outcomes of the CommunityFirst COVID-19 Roadmap to create a CommunityFirst Toolkit for Indigenous communities in Canada to adopt and adapt.

  • Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research (DIGHR), York University

    Academic Partner

    The DIGHR has partnered with SeeChange to advance research on CommunityFirst responses and how they are contributing to the global health and humanitarianism research agenda.

    Learn more

  • Mitacs

    Academic Partner

    SeeChange is partnering with Mitacs to develop a Decolonisation, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Framework.

    Learn more

  • McGill Summer Institute in Infectious Diseases and Global Health

    Academic Partner

    SeeChange is hosting a seminar course on Decolonising Humanitarian Action at the McGill Summer Institute in Infectious Diseases and Global Health.

    Learn more

  • University Los Andes

    Academic Partner

    SeeChange is hosting seminars on Global Health and CommunityFirst responses at University Los Andes, Bogota, Colombia.

    Learn more

  • lululemon Here to Be

    Funding Partner

    SeeChange is a proud recipient of the Here to Be grant, lululemon’s social impact program that disrupts inequity in wellbeing through movement, mindfulness, and advocacy.

    Learn more

  • Power Corporation of Canada

    Funding Partner

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Dec 21, 2020

After two hurricanes in a deadly pandemic, communities are left to respond

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Words byMegan Corbett-Thompson
Jessica Farber
Photos by ECO-RE
Colectiva de Mujeres Jóvenes Feministas en San Pedro Sula

On November 5th, ECO-RE, our Honduran partner organization, sent us the news that they were being hit by Hurricane Eta. There were long power outages, bridges were being ripped apart, towns were submerged, and entire cities were without contact. People were fleeing from their homes and had nowhere to go.

Eta had made landfall on Nicaragua’s north-eastern shores as a Category 4 hurricane, and was slowly moving across the northern part of the country, into eastern Honduras. For three days it continued northwestward into Guatemala, Mexico and then dissipating into the Caribbean[1].

Hundreds of thousands of people lost everything they owned in the floods caused by the hurricane. An estimated 4.9 million people were affected across Central America and Mexico [2]. Overall, at least 200 fatalities across Central America were attributed to the storm [3].

In Guatemala, rain tore the side of a mountain collapsing and burying the village of Quejá, in the region of Alta Verapaz, killing dozens of people [4]. In the valley surrounding San Pedro Sula, thousands of people were trapped for days on rooftops without food or water due to the overflow of rivers and flood canals [5].

Overhead photo of flooded homes in Honduras

Our partners in Honduras told us the government had abandoned their people. The authorities did not order evacuations of at-risk areas until the areas were underwater. Hoping to stimulate the economy, the government had scheduled a holiday that weekend. On November 1st information regarding the strength of the storm was released, however a day later officials were encouraging people to go on vacation [6].

Living through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the already fragile country plunged into a devastation reminiscent of that of Hurricane Mitch. The acts of solidarity the citizens demonstrated such as the rescue operations, people opening their homes to those that had lost theirs, food distributions and many more were the only rays of hope pushing people forward.

Temporary shelters for the displaced were set up by citizens and the government. According to official reports, 55,300 people in Honduras and 17,600 people in Guatemala were in shelters as of November 15th [7]. Shelter conditions were dire, with many reporting overcrowding, incidents of gender-based violence, family separation, a lack of food, potable water, electricity, non-food items and health supplies, and inadequate COVID-19 prevention measures [8].

Community Natural Disaster Planning
Community Natural Disaster Planning

“Receiving inputs from professionals from diverse contexts and backgrounds we adapted the CommunityFirst COVID-19 Roadmap to support community-led responses in the face of natural disasters during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

ECO-RE had been providing food baskets and other essential supplies to these shelters located around Tegucigalpa and in the Northern regions of the country, and wanted to do more to provide dignified support to the thousands of displaced.

Since July, SeeChange and ECO-RE have worked together to accompany the Indigenous Lenca community of Reitoca as they used the CommunityFirst COVID-19 Roadmap to strengthen their pandemic response. Our colleagues at ECO-RE suggested that we adapt the COVID-19 Roadmap methodology for disaster response purposes.

With community health experts and natural disaster emergency logistics experts, we drafted the CommunityFirst Roadmap for Dignified Shelters. Receiving inputs from professionals from diverse contexts and backgrounds we adapted the CommunityFirst COVID-19 Roadmap to support community-led responses in the face of natural disasters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this Roadmap is to promote access to a safe, protected and dignified environment for those affected by a crisis, with a special lens on vulnerable populations.

Three days later on November 16th, a second hurricane hit. Hurricane Iota, the 30th named storm of the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever recorded, had reached a Category 5, with winds of over 245 km/h, it wrecked the islands of the outlying Colombian Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina [9]. Becoming the first Category 5 hurricane to strike Colombia directly, the storm destroyed 98 percent of the infrastructure of the island of Providencia [10].

As Iota made landfall in Nicaragua as a high-end Category 4 hurricane, only 24 km south of where Eta had previously made landfall 13 days prior [11], our partners on the ground were bracing for this second much larger storm. SeeChange organized a call with the community members in Reitoca in the department of Francisco Morazán and Amapala, an island in the department of Valle.

“I feel more safe knowing that we have a Roadmap to follow. This Roadmap is not only for now, but for what’s to come.”

Raquel
Leader of the Organized Women of Reitoca

The community members expressed that the roadmap reinforced their decision-making capacities in the face of a natural disaster; whether to evacuate or to stay in their homes, how to set up a refuge in the safest space in the community, identifying which community members were the most vulnerable and would need to relocate.

The roadmap is divided into four sections: alert, organize, prepare and respond, and supports communities to mobilize their resources and knowledge in the face of a natural disaster. “I feel more safe knowing that we have a Roadmap to follow,” Raquel, a leader of the Organized Women of Reitoca, shared. “This Roadmap is not only for now, but for what’s to come.”

Hurricane Iota cut a path nearly identical to Eta across Central America [12]. The impact was extremely severe; Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua alone reported at least 7.3 million people affected between the storms [13]. The back-to-back storms drove 404,000 people to shelters in Honduras and Guatemala [14]. The repercussions of the two hurricanes could cause the level of poverty in Honduras, already at more than 60%, to rise by 10% surpassing 70% of the population according to analysts [15].

The end of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season broke records with the most named storms in history. Hurricane Iota was the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic this late in the year [16]. This year the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published empirical data confirming that global warming is making hurricanes stronger, wetter and generally more destructive [17].

Eta and Iota’s aftermath, combined with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, yielded health, ecological and economic consequences on a mass scale that will be seen for decades to come. The destruction of the countries affected, together with the effects of gang violence and climate change making subsistence agriculture increasingly difficult, is likely to spur a new wave of migration. Without basic rights being provided by the government, the people are left to rely on each other. Communities, especially indigenous communities, are at the frontline in the response to the hurricanes and the pandemic, and we must support their efforts to reinforce long-term sustainable solutions.