Staff

Experiences Canada staff are available Monday through Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm (Eastern Standard Time) to answer any and all of your questions.  

 

Deirdre Laframboise

CEO

Deirdre is an executive leader with over 30 years experience working in the areas of education, sustainability, air quality, health, and related policy work. As Executive Director she led several national not for profits including Canadian Climate Forum, Canadian Water Resources Association and Canadian Organic Growers. She co-founded and led the award-winning charity Clean Air Champions over twelve years delivering programming to youth in schools focused on healthy living and the environment. Deirdre has served on several national science and research advisory bodies including Farmers for Climate Solutions’ Board, the National Lung Health Framework Steering Committee, University of Waterloo’s GET Facts/CIHR Knowledge Mobilization Steering Committee, and Catastrophe Indexes and Quantification Inc. Advisory Committee. Deirdre was awarded ‘Alumni of the Year’ from the Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo (2013) where she earned her Bachelor Environmental Studies (minor in Biology). Her Master’s degree in Environmental Resources Management (minor in Business Administration), is from York University. Deirdre was a member of the national equestrian team and continues to live an active lifestyle participating regularly in many outdoor sports. In her down time she enjoys gardening, family-time, exploring, science and books, and cooking.

Claire Laliberte

Senior Director of Finance and Operations

Claire is a Chartered Professional Accountant with over 30 years of experience who has worked in the non-profit sector for the last 10 years. As an Executive leader in finance and operations, the focus is to build strong infrastructure to ensure policies and procedures maintain the heart of the business. Resources are always stretched and staff wear many hats, but the satisfaction comes when the youth experience an exchange in another province, in another culture, in another language…and it changes their lives forever. Claire has a strong interest in the youth of today having raised three children and welcoming a grandson into the family fold. She enjoys the outdoors, golfing, biking, gardening and travel. Claire has been a painter for over 25 years and can get lost in the colours on a canvas.

Gail Bowkett

Senior Director Programs and Development

Gail Bowkett is the Senior Director, Programs and Development at Experiences Canada. Gail brings more than 20 years’ experience in program management, international development, international relations, advocacy, policy research and analysis to this role and is passionate about the effective delivery of Experiences Canada’s programming and development activities. Gail has managed programs and conducted policy research on a number of issues including international higher education, skill development, experiential learning, research, science and innovation policy. Gail holds a Master of International Business Administration degree from the Schulich School of Business at York University, and an Honours Bachelor degree in Russian language and literature from Carleton University. In her free time Gail enjoys spending time with her family and friends, biking, reading, baking and travelling. 

Mairi Thomson

Director Marketing & Communications

Mairi brings more than 25 years of experience in marketing and communications, in various profit and non-profit sectors, with educating through storytelling at the heart of what she does. She has had the privilege to collaborate with youth in various capacities throughout her career; most recently at The Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa where she helped Youth Ambassadors share their life stories. With youth development and enrichment at the core of what we do here at Experiences Canada, Mairi is passionate about our mission to make experiential learning opportunities available to all Canadian youth, with the opportunity to explore our incredible country and all it has to offer. When not hiking with her family and two Border Collies on Ottawa/Gatineau’s incredible nature trails, Mairi loves to travel. She especially enjoys visiting archeological sites such as Oaxaca’s Monte Álban, and Italy’s Herculaneum, and is already planning her next adventure. 

Jules Alie

Event Specialist

Jules comes to Experiences Canada with an extensive background in high performance sport. Working with the Canadian Soccer Association and Canadian Lacrosse Association, Jules travelled to nine countries as a team manager and administrator at two world championships, the 2015 Pan American Games Toronto and a host of other international tournaments and training camps. Most recently Jules worked with Ashbury College as the school’s alumni relations and advancement coordinator, organizing events and managing communications for the institution’s alumni constituency. In his spare time, Jules supports his alma mater, Mount Allison University, as a volunteer member of the men’s soccer alumni executive committee, where he recently created and funded a bursary in his name for incoming, Black Canadian students.

Darren Prashad

Manager of Youth Exchanges

Darren has dedicated his career to helping bring peoples’ sustainable travel dreams come true both in the for profit and nonprofit sectors. He believes in collecting moments and not things and encourages all travelers to do the same. Darren’s interest in travel began over 20 years ago when he moved to Honduras after growing up in Ottawa. His father was posted with the Canadian foreign service, and he had the opportunity to travel throughout the country and learn about Canadian aid and development projects. Since then, he has traveled to over 25 countries and is always looking for new adventures. Darren has worked in the tourism sector for 12 years. He has also worked in corporate social responsibility with an international non-governmental organization focused on bringing clean water to undeveloped countries. Most recently Darren combined his passion for travel and sustainability and worked for the Students On Ice Foundation as the head of expedition logistics. Problem solving and getting things done are his specialties. His personal motto is “adventure is the best way to learn”.

Hawi Belay

Exchanges Coordinator

Hawi is an Exchange Program Coordinator with Experiences Canada. She started working with us in October 2023. She grew up in Ethiopia and when she was 19, Hawi came to Ottawa as an international student to complete her BA at the University of Ottawa in Political Science and Public Administration. Her passion for supporting young people started while being a student volunteering and for different organizations that put youth’s life and ideas at the forefront. After graduating university, Hawi naturally decided to pursue youth development as a career and became involved with organization to realize her passion about supporting young people’s dreams, growth and self-discovery. In her free time, Hawi likes to go on long walks, sit by the river listening to music and explore new coffee shops. Otherwise, you can find Hawi on the couch with a warm drink watching a warm show.

Mei-Ling Patterson

Communications Coordinator

Mei-Ling is a Communications Coordinator at Experiences Canada. She began her passion for youth development working as a bilingual Youth Leader for the organization’s Career Choices, Youth Forum on Allyship, and Money 101 programs. She is passionate about climate and environmental justice and holds a BA (Honours) in Environment and Urban Sustainability with a minor in French Studies from Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU). She’s also a MASc candidate at TMU in the Environmental Applied Science and Management program. When she’s not busy writing her thesis she volunteers as the Chief Communications Officer at Shake Up The Establishment. She also enjoys yoga and meditation.

Kellen Turner

Outreach Coordinator

Kellen is an Outreach Coordinator at Experiences Canada. Having spent the last 4 years in Marketing and Coordination, they are passionate about understanding and engaging others, believing that ‘you must connect with people if you want to work with people’. With a Diploma (Honours) in Communications – Digital and Radio Broadcasting, Kellen brings a unique perspective on Outreach, specializing in developing ideal targets and brand identity. They understand the importance of empowering and supporting youth, having spent the last 5 years as a volunteer youth basketball coach. Outside of work, Kellen is an active supporter of social justice and 2SLGBTQI+ initiatives, loves music, and enjoys spending time with their cat.

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