Our Team

VCST is run by a dedicated board of directors and a part-time coordinator:

Sharmarke Mohamed, President

Sharmarke works at Victoria Immigrant Refugee Centre Society, (VIRCS) and he is also be a member of the Canadian Council for Refugees, (CCR) Executive Committee and various CCR committees. He has a strong desire to participate, explore solutions and be an advocate for newcomers to Canada and refugees overseas.

Prior to joining VCST, he spent over 5 years working with asylum seekers, migrants and refugees in the Middle East, where he worked with several organizations, including Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance, Egypt AMERA, Psychosocial Training Institute Cairo and as a research assistant at Center Migration Refugee Studies, CMRS at American University in Cairo, AUC.

Sharmarke holds a BA in Business Technology from the University of Cape Breton and is also a certified community psychosocial worker from CMRS at AUC, Egypt.

Ken Agar-Newman, Vice-President

Ken has been working as a registered nurse for many years and found his passion for human rights when he traveled overland from London to New Delhi at age eighteen.

He is one of the founding members of VCST and has been involved with a number of projects of relevance to stopping torture including: supporting article 10 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture in relation to the education of nurses and others; supporting a coherent and clear voice by the nursing profession against specific cases of torture; and establishing a body to ensure oversight in connection with universal standards of nursing (medical) practice related to torture prevention and whistle blowing.

Crystal James, Co-Secretary

Crystal brings with her a passion for promoting social justice, equity and human rights. She has a background in research and English-language teaching and, since returning to live in Victoria located on unceded Coast Salish territory, has worked with people facing barriers including mental health, addictions, homelessness, and settlement issues related to immigration. Crystal has worked as a Settlement Intake Worker for the Inter-Cultural Association, and works as a Crisis Counselor for the Kiwanis Emergency Youth Shelter as well as a volunteer primary responder for the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. She is currently completing her Master of Social Work at the University of Victoria and is particularly interested in working with survivors of trauma. Crystal is thrilled for the privilege of working alongside survivors, board members, and the community to promote healing and to highlight issues of refugees locally and within a broader political, historical, global, and socio-economic context.

Gaylene Turner, Co-Secretary

Gaylene has worked in the human services field for over twenty years, building a career of working with people and supporting human rights in a variety of contexts. Her experience includes working to support victims of crime and other forms of trauma through Victim Services, working for both adults and for children and youth. This work She also is knowledgeable and has experience with settlement issues and cross-cultural communication. Gaylene was the Coordinator of Settlement Services (4 years) and a Mentoring Facilitator (1 year), running a mentorship program for skilled professionals at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Studies, and has earned her Masters of Counselling degree and credentials as a Registered Clinical Counsellor. Gaylene is currently working at the Victoria Child Abuse Prevention and Counselling Centre as a Child, Youth, and Family counsellor. She provides support to young people and their families who have experienced sexualized violence and other forms of trauma, often of a complex nature. She also has her own counselling practice in Victoria, B.C.

Gaylene brings with her a gratefulness to work and live on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people, a passion for justice and for giving back to the community, and a desire to help lessen the impact of suffering in the world. The area of trauma is of particular importance to her practice and work.

Peter Golden, Treasurer

Peter has been a lawyer for over twenty years in Victoria with an emphasis on immigration and refugee law. In addition to volunteering for various local organizations Peter has traveled abroad to promote international human rights. He has also been an independent election observer in Mexico and El Salvador.

Sabine Lehr, Past-President

Sabine Lehr (MBA, PhD) is adjunct professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Victoria where she teaches predominantly in the Master in Community Development Program. She has also worked in senior positions in the immigrant and refugee settlement sector in Victoria since early 2012. Originally from Germany where she worked as a project manager with the World Wide Fund for Nature, Sabine immigrated to Canada in 1996. She has undertaken research work overseas in Ghana and Cuba, and has worked for one year in Rwanda as  management coach for organizations of persons with disability.

Álvaro Moreno, Member at large

Álvaro Moreno has over 25 years of experience in the research, planning, management and evaluation of social and community change projects and programs, both in Canada and Overseas. Areas of experience include participatory research and education, planning and evaluation, human rights education, democratic development, social and community economic development, environmental education, diversity awareness and anti-racism education. Álvaro is currently the Settlement Director with the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society,  Álvaro holds an MSc in Sociology from the University of Alberta and in his home country (El Salvador) he was an Agricultural Engineer.

Gagan Leekha, VCST Coordinator

Gagan has been involved with VCST since 2011. She has over 20 years of experience working on issues related to environmental and social justice and has worked with many local organizations including Sierra Club BC, Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, and Esquimalt Neighbourhood House. She brings a variety of skills to VCST including fundraising, project management and event planning. Gagan continues to be inspired by the dedication of the VCST board and she feels honoured to work alongside them to find ways to better support survivors of torture in our community.