Madeline Austen, Information & Referral ManagerMadeline

When I first started with SOS in 2006, my role was Crisis Line Program Coordinator and in that position my duties included monitoring the coverage of the crisis line, recruiting for volunteers and training volunteers and SOS staff for the crisis line. Over time the position has changed somewhat and now includes management of 211. With the help of an Assistant, Ismenia Castillo, we strive to provide as many resources from the RMWB as possible so that when people call 211 for information about our region is available for them to access.

I believe my greatest strength in my role is my desire to help others when they are hurting, along with an observation for detail and how every piece fits in with the big picture/scheme of things. My role is important to me because I have a desire to contribute to our society in a positive and meaningful way.

My role is important to others because when I do my part of making sure people are equipped to take calls on the crisis line and that as many resources as possible are at the fingertips of the community through 211, then I feel I have contributed to the health and well-being of our community.

I joined SOS and accepted my current role because I saw it as an opportunity to serve and a place where the use of my skills could be utilized.

Linda Sovdi, Health and Wellness ManagerLinda

As the Health and Wellness Manager at SOS, Linda takes a very personal approach to her work. When working with a client, she makes sure that they are aware of her mantra: “I am my job as much as I do my job.” Based on her experiences in her own life, Linda understands the different thoughts, feelings, and triggers that are synonymous with suffering from a loss of serious tragedy. By making a personal connection with each of her clients, she helps those in need make the first brave steps in the healing process.

Before accepting her role as the Health and Wellness Manager in 2014, Linda began at SOS in 2010 as the Grief and Loss Program Coordinator. In her time with the company, she has been responsible with providing different services and support groups to not only SOS, but the Wood Buffalo community. Among these services include her one on one grief and loss support sessions, Bereaved Parents Support Group, the Sleeping Angels Support Group, workshops on grief and loss at Keyano College, and suicide prevention sessions in the public school system. Throughout all her service and support groups, she bring years of experience, maturity and professionalism when dealing with clients, the community or my peers.

Linda has a received various different forms of training and certification during her time at SOS, but relies heavily on her sense of compassion and empathy when working with those in need. She understands that her area of work deals with very sensitive subjects and topics that many people are not comfortable articulating. One of Linda’s most rewarding experiences in her role at the company is seeing people transition from despondent and hopeless to experiencing hope, healing, and well-being. Recognizing that information diminishes fear, Linda reminds her clients that what they are feeling during times of bereavement and grief is not only normal, but part of the healing process.

Patience Akenbor, Executive AssistantPatience Akenbor

Patience joined the SOS team in February, 2016. She brings with her over five years’ experience in IT, targeted advertising, business intelligence, operations and finance.

Patience has spent most of her work years in the operations and finance department of reputable organisations within and outside the social profit sector. As the executive assistant at SOS, Patience is responsible for all aspects of the organization’s administrative procedures. She is excited to be working again in the social profit sector and looks forward to serving the families of Wood Buffalo.

Isy Castillo, Mentor & Information and Referral AssistantIsy

Isy has a background in Child and Youth Studies and Social Service work. Isy has worked in many different settings with youth, and has a drive to empower youth to find their strengths. Isy enjoys listening to music, travelling, and watching inspirational documentaries. Isy believes her greatest strength as a youth worker is her intuitive nature and empathetic spirit she shares with those in need. Isy started at SOS in 2013 as a youth worker mentoring children and youth to introduce resiliency skills into their lives. In the Child and Youth Program, Isy was able to work with many different types of youths, providing support and empowering their lives.

Isy sees the value and the change that can occur when having a mentor in one’s life. She is passionate in her job as a mentor, and hopes to shine some light in mentees lives by having them feeling supported, cared for, and valued as an individual.

Currently, Isy assists with the Information and Referral Program by bringing awareness to the community about the 211 Alberta service that has recently launched in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Isy knows the importance of feeling connected in the community and the benefits of having that information communicated to other service providers can have.

Isy believes that we can make a big difference in another person’s life by just listening and being present with them. In her roles at SOS, Isy recognises how community engagement can enhance one’s wellbeing.

Dylan Fougere, MentorDylan

Being the eldest of a family of five brothers, Dylan believes that the skills of being a mentor have been instilled in him at a very early age. After studying Religion and Environmental Science at Mount Allison University, Dylan began exploring the field of leadership management in his studies at Carleton University and Keyano College. During his education, he also played and coached football. As a high school football coach, Dylan encouraged his athletes to focus on the larger picture of what was before them. Rather than focusing solely on winning the game, Dylan motivated his team to focus on cooperation, discipline, and accountability. This sort of motivation, he believes, made for a smooth transition into his role as a youth mentor.

Dylan’s first experience with SOS was in 2013 as a volunteer for the Summer Rec Program. Later in 2015, he returned to the company full-time as a Youth Mentor. In this role, Dylan travels to multiple schools in the Wood Buffalo region to offer one-on-one mentoring with youths, and to participate in various classroom settings to help foster a positive learning environment, and boost student moral. His background in football and active living has aided Dylan in his efforts to encourage physical fitness to his mentees.

Dylan recognizes that among the most important influences in early childhood development is the presence of a stable adult role model. From his experience as a coach, and as a youth mentor, he can sense when a mentee is fully embracing the opportunity to connect with a mentor. This willingness to engage in a personal discourse, Dylan believes, could be a hint to an absence of a mentor presence in this child’s life. Perhaps the most underlying reason Dylan values his work is because he of his belief that everyone, regardless of age, should always have someone with whom they can connect and engage.

Pattie Dwyer, Youth Engagement FacilitatorPattie

Pattie Dwyer has been working with youth in a variety of different avenues for over a decade. Some of these avenues include dramatic arts, creative writing and yoga. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Unversity of Lethbridge and a Visual and Performing Arts diploma from Keyano College. Pattie also works with a local company called Uptown, with Suncor for The Performing Arts where she instructs the drama portion of a musical theatre program for youth.

Pattie takes great pride in helping students to step into their own authenticity, while awakening their purpose and passion which increase a belief in their own greatness. Everyone human being has a passion filled purpose.

Ifeoma Rita Uzorchukwuamaka, Volunteer CoordinatorRita-Picture

Ifeoma joined the SOS team in September of 2016. Ifeoma has a background in Medical Office Assistance and is currently a Provisional Registered Social Worker. She has worked in various setting of the Social Service Sector as a health care aid for adult and children and as a child behavioural and development worker.

As the Volunteer Coordinator at SOS, Ifeoma is responsible for organizing and training all SOS volunteers for the Crisis Lines. Ifeoma finds delight in reading, travelling, dancing, religious activities and spending time with family and friends. Ifeoma believes that all individuals have the capacity for a change in their lives and should be given the choice to plan their recovery in order to develop their own resiliency.

Lydia Bednarz, MentorLydia-Picture

Lydia studied at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario, where she received her Developmental Services Worker diploma. Through education and experience, Lydia has gained comprehensive knowledge of childhood development. She has been working in direct childcare for the majority of the past seven years, in a variety of different settings, including schools, daycares, and group home facilities.

Lydia took on her role as a child and youth mentor because she has a passion for helping people. She believes that there is no better feeling than witnessing a child feel empowered as they grow and learn. Lydia understands the immense value of positive peer relationships, and is driven to help fuel the quality of mentoring relationships within our community.

James Rouse, MentorJames-Picture

James is the newest mentor at SOS, starting in October of 2016.

James hails from the small town of Sussex, New Brunswick, where he was raised alongside his 2 brothers and 3 sisters. He attended St. Thomas University in Fredericton and obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He hopes to someday return to university to study child development, teaching English as a second language and education.

James has spent the last 3 years in Japan, where he taught in large public schools in the Osaka region. There, he realized his passion for working with youth. He has seen success taking on a mentor role in his schools, where he connected with students struggling with self-esteem issues, loneliness and lack of motivation. He firmly believes that every child has a story to tell, and many just need someone to listen and care without judgement.

James hopes to help the youth of Fort McMurray realize their own passions and to build upon the skills they already have.

Lize Bam, Health and Wellness CoordinatorLize

Lize joined the SOS team in January 2017 as the Health and Wellness Coordinator.

In her role, working in a program that has a high focus on providing grief and loss support to individuals and families, Lize is eager to find every possible avenue for getting our resources, supports and services in the hands and lives of our community members. Lize’s strong and varied skill set is a welcomed addition to the agency. She believes in healthy communication and is equipped in helping others identify their strengths and weaknesses in their communication skills. She believes the ability to communicate well especially when an individual’s life has been compromised is a key factor in becoming resilient and seeking out the resources and help required on a path to wellness.

Lize has obtained a Bachelor of Psychology, specialising in community mental health, and a Master of Arts in Industrial Psychology from the North West University of South-Africa. Previously she has worked within the petro-chemical industry as an Industrial Psychologist. As an Industrial Psychologist, her role was focused on individual as well as team development within the organisation.

Lize is happy to be part of the social profit sector and looks forward to serving the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.