Our Leadership

Staff

Reem Razzouk

Reem Razzouk

Director – Programming and Community Development
reem.razzouk@riverbendrocks.ca

Reem Razzouk came from Syria in 2019 to pursue her Master of Arts in Community Engagement, as she is inspired by the strength of empowering communities to thrive and flourish. Before coming to Canada, Reem completed her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Development Studies where she learned about the beauty of diversity to form stronger communities. Between Syria, Bangladesh and Canada, she has work and volunteering experience in working with community organizations and conducting research and evaluation in childhood development and related areas.

Reem joined Riverbend ROCKS because she appreciates the sense of belonging to communities where people know one another and contribute with their different capacities to create greater opportunities for all. For Reem, there is nothing more heartfelt and rewarding than learning and growing with communities.

In her free time, Reem loves to paint portraits, make artificial flowers and read spiritual books.

Helen Gezahegn

Coordinator – Children and Youth Programming
helen.gezahegn@riverbendrocks.ca

Meet Helen Gezahegn, a passionate software engineer deeply devoted to social advocacy.

Her commitment to diversity and inclusivity led her to helm Ada’s Team while an undergrad studying computer science at the University of Alberta. She developed five programs: mentoring underserved high schoolers, tutoring in math, statistics, and computer science, a podcast, a bootcamp, and a fully-funded initiative sending 75+ underrepresented individuals to global tech conferences for free. 

Beyond her tech work, she played a pivotal role in contributing to RISEBRIDGE, a Vancouver Island non-profit committed to advocating for BIPOC communities and addressing the urgent needs of vulnerable individuals. This includes supporting those who are street-entrenched, battling addiction, fleeing domestic violence, and confronting various critical challenges.

After internships in Montreal, Egypt, and Toronto, she nomadically traveled for two years. Now back, energized and eager, she’s ready to give back to the community that nurtured her growth during her youth.

Gumesh Teklay

Coordinator – Community Engagement
gumesh.teklay@riverbendrocks.ca

Meet Gumesh Teklay, an advocate for equity and community development with a technical background in computer engineering.       

Arriving in Canada from Tigray at 8, Gumesh faced the daunting challenge of navigating a new world, language, and cultural landscape. With no prior educational experience, she was placed in the third grade with no additional support. Over time, she learned to speak English, though speaking it proved easier than reading and spelling. Despite the barriers and systemic hurdles emplaced to impede her progress, her determination to defy odds and pursue education remained unyielding.

Raised in the very heart of the community served by Riverbend ROCKS, Gumesh actively participated in local initiatives as a youth from medical camps to after-school programs. She found unwavering support from our former leaders in her ambitions and now alongside tech, she champions opportunities for others driven by a passion to dismantle barriers, foster growth, and build resiliency.

Board of Directors

Christine Ens

CHAIR

Christine Ens believes in connecting people and building community. Now retired, Christine worked at the University of Alberta making employment connections between engineering students and their co-op employers.

As an active member of Riverbend United Church, located down the street from Riverbend ROCKS, she initiated community dinners where residents worked with church members to prepare and share food together. A partnership between the church and Riverbend ROCKS was established, and Christine joined the Riverbend ROCKS board as a liaison between the two groups. She has coordinated summer community dinners, holiday parties and the ESL program.

In addition to volunteering, Christine relishes her role as Grammy, appreciates the time to travel near and far, and loves exploring the river valley in every season.

Sheryl Bowhay

Sheryl Bowhay

VICE CHAIR

Sheryl Bowhay’s passion for community building stems from a successful career specializing in music education and community engagement.

Sheryl believes that music and the arts perform a crucial role in creating a vibrant community and is proud to have been part of the team to bring Art in Our Park to life. Art in our Park, a family-friendly, free arts festival featuring live music, an art market, and interactive elements, brought our community together for 10 years to celebrate creativity and diversity.

She is a past President of Riverbend Community League, and currently serves as Community Liaison, where she champions the role of collaborative gardening in bringing people together to beautify our neighbourhoods and impact food security.

As a founding member of Riverbend ROCKS, she is inspired to learn and work together with neighbours, colleagues, and community partners to create the kind of community where we all feel as though we belong.

Vanessa Desa

PAST CHAIR

Originally from Kenya and living in Edmonton for the last 41 years, Vanessa Desa will gladly talk your ear off about the joys of belonging to a vibrant, caring and deeply connected intercultural and intergenerational community

She is a founding member of Riverbend ROCKS and was part of the original kitchen table conversations that established the collaborative and asset driven community building model that is the foundation of the organization.

Vanessa’s background includes working with the federal government and subsequent experiences as Coordinator for the Strategic Alliance for the Advancement of Immigrant and Refugee Children and Youth (SAAIRCY), and longtime Board Member and Loan Review Committee Member with Windmill Microlending.

These experiences have provided her with deep insights into the resilience of individuals and families, and inspired her passion for building outcome-focused collaborations that are founded on the voice and aspirations of those whom they exist to serve.

Maggie Wheaton

Maggie Wheaton

SECRETARY

Maggie Wheaton’s journey as a seasoned administrative professional with a passion for governance, community engagement, and organizational success, is deeply rooted in her upbringing in a small-town community in Summerville, Nova Scotia.

Growing up, Maggie experienced firsthand how the strength and resilience of a community can inspire a sense of belonging and harmony and shaped her appreciation for the importance of community engagement and collaboration.

Maggie joined the Riverbend ROCKS as an Advisor in September 2022 after attending one of their heart-warming community dinners where she got to meet several families of Brander Gardens and hear stories of the support they receive from their community.

Since then, she has supported the Board of Directors and provided invaluable insights and guidance to further the mission of creating a community where neighbours know one another, diversity is celebrated, and where all kids and families can flourish.

Minyi Li

Minyi Li

TREASURER

Minyi Li has served on the Board of Riverbend ROCKS since January 2021, is happy to be a part of the team that exemplifies integrity and a desire to help the community, and feels fortunate about the opportunity to contribute her time and skills to connect to people and make a positive impact on the community while gaining valuable experiences.

She has a Certified General Accountant (CGA) designation and has over 20 years of accounting and internal audit experience in the Financial Institution.

In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, travelling, and spending quality time with her family.

Dennis Nolan

DIRECTOR

Dennis Nolan is a passionate community volunteer with a background in computer technology and horticulture. He transitioned to a career as a licensed practical nurse, mainly working with senior citizens. After a move to Edmonton in 2006 he continued to work as an LPN. He is now retired.

In his youth Dennis played a lot of soccer and enjoyed coaching and refereeing. This fostered a love of sports and the outdoors. 

Dennis enjoys walking, cycling, pickleball, lawn bowling, gardening, and dancing. He recently started a men’s walking group at Riverbend United Church. It is his desire to get the children and youth out playing soccer in the summer and exploring our beautiful river valley.

Khurram Hudda

Khurram Hudda

DIRECTOR

Khurram Hudda is a dedicated volunteer with a wealth of international experience. He has spent significant time working with refugee and underprivileged communities in both volunteer and professional roles.

His passion for service is exemplified through his extensive work with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) where he made significant contributions as a board member on finance and audit committees, and as a champion for education and quality of life initiatives. He is committed to uplifting underprivileged communities, supporting both local and global initiatives. Additionally, he is a fervent advocate for mental health awareness programs.

Professionally, Khurram serves as a partner and CFO in a local property management firm. His career spans more than 20 years, during which he has amassed a wealth of international experience across multiple industries. His expertise bridges commercial, finance, operational, and system initiatives within both private and non-profit sectors.

Khurram is an accomplished professional who holds a Canadian Certified Public Accountant (CPA, CGA) designation. He has further augmented his expertise by earning an MSc. in Professional Accountancy from the University of London, UK., and securing the Association of Chartered Certified Accounts (ACCA, UK) qualification.

We are confident that Khurram’s extensive knowledge and experience will be a tremendous asset to Riverbend ROCKS. His commitment to service and professional acumen makes him a valuable addition to our team.

Yar Anyieth

DIRECTOR

Yar Anyieth is a youth program coordinator in the non-profit sector, with a background in Political Science and Sociology. In recent years, she has dedicated herself to becoming an engaged community member, exploring her passions, and discovering ways to make the world a better place.

She is a curious person, open to learning about different people and cultures. Additionally, she strongly believes in the power of community as a source of strength, comfort, and healing for all individuals.

In Yar’s free time, you’ll find her indulging in hobbies like watching documentaries, reading, and enjoying some retail therapy.

Experts and Advisors

Robert Agostinis
Tricia Boonstra
Bree Claude
John Gaunt
Elizabeth Gordon
Khurram Hudda
Alison Hughes
Wendy Miller Journault

Najma Karmali
Yasmin Kassamali
Rahim Mulji
Rakhi Pancholi
Paul Samboryk
Funke Smith
Maggie Wheaton