Samya has been working with the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians since 2015 in different capacities including as a Project Coordinator, Project Manager; and has been the Executive Director of CASSA since 2017.
Samya attained her Masters of Public Policy degree from the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance in June 2013. Prior to her Masters, Samya attained an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political Science from the University of Toronto. She has written policy papers on transportation, immigration & race relations, child care, housing, international development, economic development & innovation, and health care.
Prior to her employment at CASSA, Samya worked at the Affordable Housing Office at the City of Toronto as a Research Associate and Policy Consultant. During her time at the Affordable Housing Office, she worked on various housing-related portfolios supporting low-income and marginalized communities including Toronto Community Housing, and Affordable Homeownership. As a Toronto Urban Fellow for the City of Toronto, Samya worked at the Municipal Licensing and Standards division, conducting by-law reviews of business industries in Toronto.
Anti-Hate Project Manager
Employment Equity Coordinator
Cynthia Saxena is a graduate of the University of Toronto where she majored in Political Science and Equity Studies. Cynthia has worked as a Junior Professional Consultant at UNICEF’s Regional Office in Bangkok where she was part of the Education team and worked on the Girl’s Education Initiative to ensure every girl learns and thrives. She has also worked at UNESCO in New Delhi in the education team during the COVID-lockdown in India where she created a teacher training course to help them manage students’ mental health. She has also interned at an NGO in India, worked in Public Affairs at the Ontario Legislative Building, and in marketing outreach with a renowned Author. Having lived in Canada and India, worked and studied in Berlin, Brussels, and Bangkok, Cynthia has been exposed to different types of governance models, cultural influences, and on- ground realities, equipping her with a very nuanced understanding of the world and polishing her emotional intelligence.
Health Equity Coordinator
Mahdiba Chowdhury is a graduate student specialized in Mental Health Studies from the University of Toronto. As CASSA’s Health Equity Coordinator, Mahdiba was responsible for planning, organizing, and coordinating CASSA’s 9th and upcoming 10th Annual Health Equity Summit. She also worked closely with community partners in the development of ethnocultural education and promotional materials. Mahdiba also works with UHN as a Qualitative Research Analyst investigating social, cultural, and religious barriers to accessing living donation and transplantation in South Asian and African, Caribbean and Black communities. She’s interested in learning knowledge-translation to enhance client-centered care, and promoting inclusivity for vulnerable groups.
Social and Racial Equity Planning Coordinator
Khalood is the Social and Racial Equity Planning Coordinator at CASSA. She is also a graduate student at the University of Toronto, pursuing her Master’s of Arts in Development, Policy and Power and Human Geography. She has experience conducting community-based research and dialogues on social justice and equity issues. At CASSA, she is responsible for researching issues South Asians face in the City of Toronto, drafting and implementing strategies to advance CASSA’s racial justice and equity work, identifying and communicating ways in which the City of Torontocan address issues of racism, and coordinating with other partnering organizations with similar mandates.
Shania Bhopa is an enthusiastic health communicator, youth advocate and a self starter at her core. Shania has experience in the non-profit sector, communications and knowledge translation. She is a level one Doctoral Global Health Student and a recipient of the Canada Graduate Scholarship Masters Award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Shania’s research interests include, lifestyle medicine, patient-physician communication, mental health, immigrant health and global health. She is passionate about wellness and holistic health at a community and global level and hopes to promote the access of health services to all. Shania recently published a children’s book to address complex health systems, in an accessible way. The book focused on the gut-brain connection and mindfulness and was peer reviewed by her Mother a Naturopath and her sister a Physician, offering young people a holistic perspective to health. In her free time, she hosts a global health podcast, is a personal trainer, and indulges in content creation through her wellness blog.
Yomna Omar is the Project Coordinator for CASSA’s ‘Legal Education for Refugee Women’ project. She earned a Master of Science degree in Global Health from McMaster University and holds staff and volunteer positions at various nonprofits. She is currently the Senior Global Programs Associate at Millie’s Bookshelf, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring displaced people worldwide have access to adequate reading resources to promote literacy and health education. Yomna also works as an Emergency Responder with the Canadian Red Cross; taking part in the COVID response.
Prior to this, Yomna provided logistical coordination and interpretation services and delivered training on sexual and reproductive health and SGBV in Greek refugee settlements with The Unmentionables, a nonprofit that provided sexual and reproductive health education, protection, and access to resources to refugees around the world.
Vaccine Engagement Project Coordinator
Wardah is a graduate of the University of Cambridge where she completed her master’s thesis on citizenship and ethnic minority rights in Pakistan. Her research also explores diaspora experiences, the intersection of ethnicity & gender, and South Asia’s place in history-writing more broadly.
Invested in community-building, Wardah believes in empowering local activists to ensure sustainable social change. With past experience working for Toronto-based organizations, she is committed to encouraging dialogue and advocating for the interests of South Asians.
At CASSA, Wardah co-ordinates COVID-19 vaccine engagement which she styles as a collaborative, grassroots effort to ensure the equitable access of information resources.
Human Resources Generalist
Gurbinder is the Human Resource Generalist for CASSA. She is a result-oriented professional with plenty of experience in HR operations. She is skilled in encompassing diversity & inclusion, talent and culture strategies, performance management, employee engagement, consulting, talent acquisition forecast and planning; design and implementation of policy and procedures in consideration with provincial and federal legislation. She has successful experience in working with complex business environments. She can swiftly align the organizational values to its structure, systems, and operational processes. Before CASSA, she was managing the Human Resources operations for Accor Plus and currently volunteering as a Human Resource Consultant with Single Mothers in Progress.
Anti-hate Project Associate & Social Media Coordinator
Akhila is a student at the University of Toronto completing a Hon. Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She is passionate about mental health care for marginalized populations and hopes to pursue a career as a therapist focusing on trauma healing for women of colour. Akhila wants to utilize anti-racist and anti-oppressive frameworks with a mental health lens to cultivate empathetic forms of communication between people and create radical systemic change. Currently at CASSA, Akhila is responsible for doing research on social justice issues affecting racialized communities and finding resources to build a social media toolkit for the Anti-Hate initiative. Akhila hopes to pursue an MEd in psychotherapy after she graduates this year. Outside of her work for CASSA, she volunteers at the Greater Distress Centers of Toronto and runs a mentorship program for the Psychological Health Society at UofT.
Abiagom Dibia is the Administrative Assistant and Membership Coordinator for CASSA. He has rich experience in Data Analysis and providing executive-level administrative & operational support. He has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics, Certificate in Business Analysis from Sheridan College, Certificate in Customer Service Excellence and a Qualified Arbitrator of Toronto Commercial Arbitration Society.
He works with teams and provides support on all Administrative related tasks to ensure the smooth running of the Organization’s internal administration and its cost-effectiveness. He demonstrates the capacity to think strategically, exercise good judgement, a perceivable expertise in solving complex problems and critical thinking.
As a recent graduate of the Health Sciences program from McMaster, Sakshi is pursuing her Masters in Global Health and currently a Principal Investigator in caregiver health research project. Sakshi has greatly immersed herself in Global and Public Health through working with a CCGHR Chapter, serving as a Youth Advisor on the CCGHR Youth Committee and currently working as the Vice-Chair of the Global Health Students and Young Professionals Summit.
Upon working in several part-time roles as a Website Consultant, Promotions Coordinator and Media & Graphics Coordinator, Sakshi enjoys utilizing her creative skills towards outreach initiatives.
Currently, Sakshi is responsible for all things social media, promotions, website, the CASSA podcast and blog in her role as Communications Coordinator at CASSA and hopes to bring her creative skills to success when working towards CASSA’s goals.
Muslim Community Outreach Coordinator
Lakhdeep Singh Dhaliwal
Hate Crime Reporting Project Coordinator
Upon completion of a Master’s Degree in Education, Lakhdeep went on to become certified as an International Language Instructor and held various positions in academia such as Elementary School Teacher, Language Assessment Officer, LINC & ESL Teacher, College Instructor, and IELTS Invigilator. Lakhdeep has a passion and purpose for front line leadership in the field of Anti Racism, Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion and has worked with school boards across North America during New Teacher Induction Programs in both public and private settings. In 2011, he wrote a proposal to the community capital fund of the Ontario Trillium Foundation where 60 submissions saw only 21 awarded. The result was the largest in Ontario history and the Trillium Foundation’s half million dollar grant became the catalyst for building construction of Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Cambridge.
More recently, Lakhdeep fully transitioned from Instructor at Conestoga College School of Health & Life Sciences and Community Services to Vice President of Equity Education with unlearn and Next Generation Program Facilitator with The Mosaic Institute.
Anti-Hate & Equity in Education Project Associate
Naima Raza is currently entering her second year of the Masters of Teaching program at the University of Toronto. She has experience working with South Asian communities as the former Civic Engagement Coordinator for CASSA, and working with Muslim communities through the Muslim Justice Collective. Naima also has experience working in multiple areas of the education sector through the Lambton Kent District School Board and Ontario Ministry of Education. Naima completed her Bachelor’s of Arts in Urban Studies and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.
Farhat is the Finance Manager at CASSA. She has a Masters degree in Business Administration with specialization in Finance and over a decade of experience in accounting in corporate and non-profit sector. Farhat manages all aspects of financial record keeping including budgets, financial reports, payroll, bank reconciliations, cash flow analysis and more. She also assists with the annual audit and updates the management about the fund raising needs of the organization from time to time.
GBV Project Coordinator
As a political activist and community organizer, Dinoba has worked extensively in the field of gender equity at the intersection of race. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Toronto, and later obtained a Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs degree from the University of British Columbia. Dinoba’s passion for addressing gender and racial inequity influenced her work at the United Nations Children’s Fund at the Regional Office of South Asia in Nepal. There she was placed in the Education Section where she was instrumental in writing country profiles on the barriers to education faced by South Asian girls in rural communities. Dinoba’s work in South Asia was furthered through her involvement in the Canadian Tamils’ Humanitarian Association where she visited rural Batticaloa, Sri Lanka to help coordinate efforts to build a community center serving nearby villages. Most recently, she has co-published a policy report on the Rome Statute’s understanding of conflict-related sexual violence. Outside of the office, Dinoba is a classically-trained Bharathanatyam dancer who completed her arangetram. She speaks fluent Tamil and loves all things connecting to her roots.
Tamil Intake Specialist
Tamil has completed Electronics & Communication Engineering at Madurai Kamaraj University, India. She was a Process and Product Quality Improvement Specialist at TVS and Nokia. She has been an internal auditor and visited China and Brazil for audits. She has undergone Six Sigma Green Belt training in Finland.
She has worked in different areas like accounting, administration, and interpretation. She is an active member in organizing events in the community for kids, families, and seniors. She is passionate about teaching the Tamil language and culture to kids in the community. She loves to try different recipes and explore new things.
Punjabi Intake Specialist
Charchit Atri is the Intake Specialist – Punjabi for CASSA’s COVID-19 Relief helpline. He is currently pursuing an Ontario Secondary School Diploma in International Business and Technology. He will be starting at the University of Toronto in September for Computer Science. Currently, at CASSA, Charchit is responsible for assisting callers with their inquiries related to COVID-19. He supports the cause of informing the public about the virus and what measures they can take to prevent transmission. Charchit has a passion for helping others, and during these times, he has taken this opportunity to pursue his passion in support of others. Between doing academic work and fulfilling his position at CASSA, Charchit stays busy with music, whether that be listening, playing, or making music.
Bangla Intake Specialist
Anika is completing an Hon. Bachelor of Science, majoring in neuroscience and mental health studies from the University of Toronto Scarborough. Her future goals include pursuing a Master of Social Work specializing in the health and mental health of marginalized communities. Anika is passionate about making women from marginalized communities feel comfortable seeking help. Anika has a variety of experiences in quantitative and qualitative research specifically in mental health and developmental psychology. She acquired valuable research experience from her research assistant positions at the memory clinic in St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto. Anika is a big foodie, loves trying new cuisines from around the world. Her hobbies include travelling and reading. During her free time, she also loves listening to podcasts.
Zainab Raza Mehdi
Urdu Intake Specialist
Zainab Mehdi completed her Bachelors in Science with majors in Chemistry. Before CASSA, she worked as a lead Montessori teacher for over 2 years and as an assistant marketing manager for a software house focusing on Data recovery software. Currently, at CASSA, she is responsible for handling all calls and assisting community members with their COVID-19 queries. She also coordinates with her project lead, ensures timely responses to clients, and coordinates registration of clients. Zainab has been an active community volunteer for children with special needs, as well she has participated in many community events supporting seniors.
Student Intern - Collaborative to Combat Online Hate
Shreya studies at the University of Toronto and am working toward a Honours Bachelor of Arts degree with a focus on Political Sciences and City Studies. She is passionate about the importance of advocating for individuals in marginalized communities and providing them with the tools they need to be able to have equitable opportunities within the nation they reside in. She hopes to earn a Law Degree after graduating, and work within the human rights sector to continue to fight racial injustice globally. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, working out, and baking.
My name is Nimra and I am a second-year student at Centennial College pursuing a social service work diploma. I am passionate about working with people and analyzing social issues and finding solutions for them. I have volunteered at organizations that allowed me to work with a diverse group of people from the South Asian community as well as work with my community’s youth. I will be doing my internship at CASSA as part of the Vaccine Engagement Team and will assist with the efforts being made by CASSA to expand the 2021 outreach campaign in the South Asian communities of Toronto.