Simon joined the PAN team in April 2017, taking on two roles within the organization: Executive Assistant and the Collective Impact Network Coordinator, a Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) sponsored initiative being led by PAN acting as the “backbone organization”. Simon has been working and volunteering in the non-profit sector since graduating with a chemistry doctorate 20 years ago. His experience includes leading youth projects with at-risk teens, homeless outreach, facilitating global sustainable community development partnerships and administration. He is actively engaged in the community in Victoria with the Mustard Seed and chairs the Engagement Committee of Lambrick Park Church.
What first piqued your interest in the HIV sector?
As a teenager, I first became aware of AIDS with the tragic illness and premature death of Freddie Mercury – a larger-than-life legend. Stigma, ignorance and fear were rife at that time. Later on, the dire situation across Africa – a whole generation devastated by the disease – became more personal after a 2006 trip to Uganda visiting projects set up to house, educate and improve the prospects of AIDS orphans.
How do you see the impact of your work in the “real world”?
My role is to help support PAN and the work of our Executive Director in every way I can. This, in turn, affects many lives across BC (and Canada) by informing public awareness and political will, and supporting dozens of frontline agencies working directly with those living with HIV and/or HCV, and those affected by the growing Overdose crisis. It is also important the way PAN incorporates the voices, passions and skills of those living with HIV into our Board and staff, as well as directly developing the potential in others. Finally, as I continue to learn in my new role, I get to pass that information on to my circles of influence – reducing stigma, combatting misinformation and celebrating successes.
How do you engage the community in your work?
As a support worker and network facilitator, I work alongside the PAN team in reaching out to Community Based Organizations (CBOs), government agencies, research groups and funders. They are all integral parts of the addressing HIV/HCV and the Overdose crisis.
If you had unlimited funds, which area would you invest in?
Reducing stigma and easily available testing. I think the two go hand-in-hand – so that is why I picked two J
If you were able to choose, what is the natural talent or superpower you’d like to be gifted with and why?
Maybe I’d be Super-Empathy-Man, with the ability to use my (green) Empathic laser beam – shot from my eyes – to melt hardened barriers to understanding, compassion and love. Obviously I’d have to look in the mirror first…