Team

Co-Founders of Grace Rwanda Society 

Elizabeth Mujawamaliya Johnson


Elizabeth was born in Rwanda and lived through the Rwandan Tutsi genocide in 1994. While in Rwanda, she worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, Care Australia and World Vision. Elizabeth holds a MA in Leadership and a BBA in HRM. She moved back to Rwanda in 2016, where she is currently volunteering fulltime as a servant leader for Grace Rwanda & Ineza Foundation. As a Rotarian, Elizabeth has a drive to serve above self and has a drive for international development.

Marie Louise Kaligirwa

Marie Louise was born in Rwanda and lived through the Rwandan Tutsi genocide in 1994. While in Rwanda, Marie Louise was an accountant for the US Embassy and for British Petroleum. She immigrated to Canada in 1998 and is currently working with physically challenged people to support their quality of life. For the love of her country, Marie Louise wants to change Rwandan children’s lives by promoting and developing education reforms.

 

Board Members

 

Paul Rugwiro Johnson

Paul is one the founders of Grace Rwanda and currently serves as a Director, President and Chairman of the Board. Paul retired in 2015 and worked in the Tire sales and service industry for 35 years, operating a self employed tire business for 27 years, under contract to Kal Tire in Langley, BC. He moved to Rwanda in 2016, where he is currently volunteering fulltime with Grace Rwanda & Ineza Foundation. Paul is also an active member of Rotary International and Rotary World Help, working in and around the world for the needs of both his community and others.

Rena Novotny

Rena NovotnyRena is a businesswoman with much of her work involving multi-stakeholder, high conflict situations. This informed a passion towards conflict transformation in general and restorative justice in particular. She began reading about Rwanda, its history, culture and struggle to rise above the past, and felt compelled to get involved in capacity building. Rena is pursuing a master’s degree in conflict analysis and management, volunteers as a restorative justice mediator, and is interested in problem solving at all levels of community, starting in the school yard.

Mersedeh Ghassemieh

Mercedeh HeadshotMersedeh is a member of the Iranian diaspora,  who has obtained a PhD in Education in London, England and lives in Coquitlam. The SFU and Trinity Western grad has previous experience fundraising to build homes in Ecuador with the Jonathan Foundation and has volunteered with World Vision. She also has a background in education management and social justice issues.

 

Mary-Jo Ohl

Gr board memberAfter 36 years as an elementary school teacher librarian I am going to Rwanda this August for three weeks. As part of a team I hope to share my love of literature and children, as well as my knowledge of how to run a library. After the genocide in Rwanda there are few books available and reading is not part of the culture, many children have never held a book. Making both fiction and non-fiction reading fun and interesting is one of my strengths. I will be taking books for all ages as well as library materials such as cards and pockets. Here is a link to our Go Fund Me page for Grace Rwanda.

Abran Johnson

GR board memberAbran has volunteered with Grace Rwanda Society since 2011. She has participated in raising awareness and promoting the importance of literacy in Canadian schools; while bringing communities together with the mission of helping the children and youth of Rwanda through the contribution and participation of Canadian schools.
Born in Rwanda and educated in the Canadian school system, Abran appreciates what she had and aims to share with Canadian students the need of reading resources in Rwanda, as well as, the life that Rwandan children live – as she experienced it. In turn, this created a positive change and she mobilized the students to help Grace Rwanda in its mission of promoting education and reading culture for children and youth in Rwanda.
She holds a Bachelor degree in International Relations, and she is currently a civil servant in Canada, and serves as a Grace Rwanda board member since 2015.


Advisors

Franco Bordignon

Franco is the founder and owner of Bordignon Marble & Granite Ltd. in Vancouver. In October of 2008, Franco met Ret ‘d. Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire at a speech in Vancouver which inspired him to  give to the people of Rwanda. The former vice chair of Grace Rwanda’s board has assisted Grace Rwanda on several trips. He helped oversee the completion of schoolrooms in Rwinkwavu school in the Eastern Province in 2010. And in 2011 he distributed books to schools as part of Grace Rwanda’s mini-libraries initiative.

Dr. Helen M. Burt

Helen received her pharmacy undergraduate degree in England and emigrated to Canada in 1976. She has been a professor and researcher in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia for over 30 years. She first visited Rwanda in 2009 to do volunteer work with a Canadian NGO and some guest teaching at the National University of Rwanda. She has been returning ever since.

Randene Neill

Randene-NeillRandene has been involved with Grace Rwanda since 2011, after visiting Rwanda with her husband in 2008, and meeting Elizabeth and Marie Louise.  She is passionate about the wonderful work Grace Rwanda does in Rwanda, and hopes to be part of the charity for a long time.  She was a journalist at Global TV in Vancouver, B.C.

 

Benjamin Sibanda

Ben SibandaBenjamin served as an elementary school teacher in three provinces in Zimbabwe between 1984 and 2000. His involvement in humanitarian work includes volunteer work for Child Find Alberta and Toronto’s Tropicana Community Services. He has served as a regional trainer for UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network in Southern Africa and contributed to the UNESCO World Heritage Youth Forum and Culture of Peace Festival for English Speaking Africa.

Elaine Springgay

ElaineSpringgayElaine is currently working for FAO in Italy and has been working in international development for four years, developing and supporting sustainable environmental programs in Ghana, Canada and the Philippines. She graduated with a BSc. in Physical Geography and History from the University of Toronto and Masters in Forestry from the Australian National University. Elaine brings her passion for sustainable grassroots development and expertise in program management and organizational and enterprise development to Grace Rwanda.

Elaine O’Connor

HeadshotElaine served as Grace Rwanda’s communications manager, and she is currently working as a Senior Consultant, Communications & Public Affairs at Fraser Health. She’s an award-wining journalist and communications specialist with a decade of experience in Canadian media. She is trained in public relations and social media and has a passion for working with innovative non-profits. She first reported from Rwanda in 2008 and continued to write about the country on a blog about B.C. charities, and in a 2014 ebook, B.C. Without Borders: 50 British Columbians Leading the Fight Against Global Poverty.