Deborah Hollins
Executive Director
Deborah is a social worker with a rich history of working with marginalized and vulnerable people and community development.  She came to NFLA in 2012 with an abiding belief in resilience and healing. As such, she works to cultivate equity, to live a balanced life that is deeply connected to community, and to apply ethical values to actualize meaningful social change.   

Contact Deborah:
250-754-3331 (201)

Mia Maarika
Programs Coordinator

Volunteer Counselling Program and Senior Peer Counselling Program. (V.C.P. & S.C.P.)

Mia’s background is in Nursing/Psychiatric Nursing. She is a Registered Professional Counsellor. She grew up in Sweden and came to Canada when she was 23 years old. She has been involved at NFLA for 10 years and has coordinated the counselling program for almost 8 years. Her passions are personal growth, spirituality, meditation, nature, books and her awesome children.

Contact Mia:
250-754-3331 (203)

Donna Berthiaume
Manager of Financial Services

Donna graduated from VIU with her Associate in Commerce specializing in Accounting.  She has an extensive background in both “for profit” and “not for profit” bookkeeping and financial management.  Donna was born in Montreal and moved west until she found her home in Nanaimo. Loving the ocean, forests and the people, Nanaimo is the place for her.  

Contact Donna:
250-754-3331 (204)

Tracey Leslie
Senior Program Coordinator

Better at Home Program

Nanaimo, Lantzville, Gabriola and Ladysmith Regions 

Tracey’s passion has been in the field of Recreation Therapy over the past 30+ years, working with the older adult population in various settings across Canada. She feels lucky to have the privilege to serve seniors in our community, enhancing quality of life, and promoting independence and a sense of well-being. Through this work, she has learned how important it is to be in the moment, share experiences, and build a sense of community. Tracey holds a Bachelor of Recreation from Dalhousie University and a Gerontology Diploma from Mount Saint Vincent University. Since residing here in Nanaimo for the past 7 years, Tracey enjoys the opportunity to volunteer in her community (Age Friendly Designation [WHO] for City of Nanaimo), exploring the beautiful island whether hiking, kayaking, or through road trips, taking photos, and playing golf.

Contact Tracey:
250-754-3331 (202)

Sacia Burton
Program Coordinator (T.A.P.S)

Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors

Sacia brings a diverse array of experience to their role from time spent in politics, nonprofit, hospitality, and tourism. They are passionate about good food and spending time in nature. Sacia holds a BA in Politics and Philosophy from Vancouver Island University. Though originally hailing from Prince Edward Island, Sacia has called Snuneymuxw/Nanaimo home for 10 years. In their spare time, Sacia enjoys longboarding, embroidery, yoga, kayaking, and admiring sea creatures in the intertidal zone.

They use she/they pronouns.

Contact Sacia:
250-754-3331 (716)

Kirsten Brooker
Seniors Housing Navigator

Senior Housing Information and Navigation Ease Program (S.H.I.N.E.)

Kirsten first got involved with the Nanaimo Family Life Association through our Volunteer Counselling Program in 2016. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Global Studies from Vancouver Island University where she developed a profound passion for inclusive community development and social advocacy through her involvement with a variety of academic decision-making structures and on-campus organizations. This includes serving as Student Representative on the VIU Board of Governors and VIU Senate, Chairperson for the VIU Students’ Union Local 61 and WUSC Student Refugee Program Resettlement Volunteer. Kirsten has lived in Nanaimo for most of her life and believes that this city has the greatest potential to be a leader for inclusive and sustainable community development in the province.

Contact Kirsten:
250-754-3331 (427)

Esther Charlie
Program Coordinator

Indigenous-Informed Sexual Assault Response Program (IISARP)

Esther is Indigenous from the Nlaka’pamux Nation in Lytton, BC. Though she was removed from her traditional territory as a child, she has returned to connect to her extended family, traditional land, and cultural teachings. Today, feeling blessed by the experiences that have influenced the woman she has become. “My passion is and has always been working to support and improve the quality of life for First Nations individuals, families, and communities.”
Esther has resided on Vancouver Island for over 30 years and in the Snuneymuxw Territory for over 20 years. She has been blessed to work with and support several of the Coast Salish Elders, families, and individuals. Many who have generously shared their experience, teachings, and cultural ways. “This has supported my own well-being and provides some understanding of the Indigenous people of this territory.”
Esther brings extensive experience working in First Nation organizations and Community Services providers on and off reserve. She brings over 15 years of experience developing and coordinating programs, group facilitation, trauma counselling, leadership development, and providing support and advocacy to individuals, families, and community members.
“I am honored and look forward to working with the NFLA team and with the partners of this collaborative effort, to develop and coordinate a program and training, that will respect and honor the diversity of Indigenous people who have experienced domestic and sexualized violence.”

Contact Esther:
250-327-9452/ 250-754-3331 (513)

Casey Brisson

Gender Journeys

Casey is a transgender enby (non-binary person) who was introduced to NFLA when they first started attending Gender Journeys in December 2018. Originally born in Saskatchewan, they have spent the last 14 years making what feels to be their true home on Vancouver Island. Previously they worked as a copywriter, volunteered with Canada Learning Code, and studied at Vancouver Island University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and digital media. They are deeply empathetic, passionate about communication and social issues facing LGBTQIA2S+ people, and being involved in the local community. When at all possible, they can be found with their child, making art of all sorts, and writing poetry by the river.

Contact Casey:
250-754-3331 (710)

Sarah Cameron
Outreach Community Support Worker

Gender Journeys
Sarah has spent most of her life on Vancouver Island and has lived on the traditional territory of Snuneymuxw First Nation for 14 years. For the last six years, Sarah has worked in Mental Health and Addictions, and she has a passion for advocating for people affected by addiction. Sarah enjoys teaching and being a helper, and draws on decades of experience as a music teacher and performing musician. She is a member of the Community Advisory Group of TransCareBC, and member of Nanaimo’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Inclusiveness as a representative of transgender and gender nonconforming community members. In recent years, she has very much enjoyed her work as a facilitator for a local gender support group. As a vocal advocate who is visible and out in her community, Sarah educates allies, supports other transgender and nonbinary folks, and celebrates our LGBTQIA2+ community.

Contact Sarah:
250-754-3331 (425)

Hannah Smith
Program Assistant

 Indigenous-Informed Sexual Assault Response Program (IISARP)

Hannah Smith started off with NFLA in July 2020 as the administrative assistant. She has recently moved into a Program Assistant role with the Indigenous-Informed Sexual Assault Response Program and is very excited to be moving up in the organization.

She brings passion and dedication to all that she does. She holds a certificate in Administration/Office Procedures and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing.

When she’s not in the office, Hannah can be found in the woods or on the beach with her two dogs. When not outdoors, she enjoys all sorts of creative pursuits, from embroidering to writing to crafting polymer jewelry.

Contact Hannah: 
250-754-3331 (513)

Amy Hall
Administrative Assistant

Amy Hall is passionate about making meaningful connections with people, and uses her empathy and compassion to help wherever she can. Amy brings a rich variety of experiences, from running in home childcare, to member-organizer at the VIU students’ union. She cherishes her children family above all else, and spends every possible moment exploring the backcountry and kayaking with them.

Maria Cerna
Program Assistant

Safe Seniors, Strong Communities (S.S.S.C.)

Maria immigrated to Canada in 2008 from Mexico, where family and community are very important pillars in life. She believes that seniors deserve to be safe and secure, and that no one should have to struggle on their own late in life. Maria’s background as a hospice Care Aide in Vancouver, working with patients and their families, has inspired her to continue working in organizations devoted to making communities stronger. She is very happy about being part of Nanaimo Family Life Association team as the SSSC Program Assistant and continue supporting those in need of help and in particular our isolated seniors.

Maria has been in Vancouver Island for over a year. She loves connecting with nature and photographing the many beautiful places around the island.

Contact Maria:
250-754-3331 (209)

Covid-19 Hours and Response

Our current hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, 9:00--4:00 pm.

We are open to the public on a limited basis. Only 2 people may be in the waiting room at a time. If full, please wait outside or in your car.

If you have any cold, influenza, or Covid-19 symptoms, you will not be permitted into the building.

We continue to practice social distancing. Please maintain 2 metres distance. Face masks are mandatory.

Our counselling program continues to operate, offering sessions over the phone, online, and in person. Walk-in counselling is unavailable at this time. If you are in need of counselling support, please call us at (250) 754-3331 or email Mia at

If you are an older adult, aged 65+, looking for support at this time, please visit Safe Seniors, Strong Communities website.

Safe Seniors, Strong Communities Website