Deborah Hollins

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.  

Deborah Hollins is the Executive Director of Nanaimo Family Life Association. 

Contact Deborah:
250-754-3331 (201)


Mia Maarika

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.

Mia is Programs Coordinator for the Volunteer Counselling Program and Senior Peer Counselling Program at Nanaimo Family Life Association.

Contact Mia:
250-754-3331 (513)

Donna Berthiaume

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. 

Donna is the Manager of Financial Services at Nanaimo Family Life Association. 

Contact Donna:
250-754-3331 (204)

Tracey Leslie

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.

Tracey is the Senior Program Coordinator of the Better at Home Program for Nanaimo Family Life Association.

Contact Tracey:
250-754-3331 (202)

Elizbeth Holland

Elizabeth started working for Nanaimo Family Life Association as a youth and family counsellor for “our camp 78”, a day camp for vulnerable and at-risk youth. She work in this capacity for 4 years, then went to Victoria to continue her career with youth. 

Elizabeth has work in the counselling field for most of her adult life and is a certified herbalist, birth doula, and has a post-graduate diploma in process-orientated psychology. Elizabeth returned to Nanaimo in 2012 and came back to NFLA to work in the Art Works program with youth. Elizabeth has had many interesting life experiences, including sailing to the South Pacific. She loves being a part of Nanaimo Family Life Association.  

Elizabeth is the Coordinator of the Better at Home Program on Gabriola Island.

Contact Elizabeth:
250 – 764-3331 (726)

Sacia Burton

Sacia brings a diverse array of experience to her role from time spent in politics, nonprofit, hospitality, and tourism. She is passionate about local food and participatory democracy. Sacia holds a BA in Politics and Philosophy from Vancouver Island University. Though originally hailing from Prince Edward Island, she has called Snuneymuxw/Nanaimo home for eight years. In her spare time, Sacia enjoys gardening, embroidery, yoga, kayaking, and making good food with friends.

Sacia Burton is the TAPS Program Coordinator for Nanaimo Family Life Association.

Contact Sacia:
250-754-3331 (203)

Kirsten Brooker

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.

Kirsten is the Seniors Housing Navigator for NFLA’s Senior Housing Information and Navigation Ease Program.

Contact Kirsten:
250-754-3331 (427)

Anne Taylor

Anne moved to the Island 8 years ago and is extremely grateful to be able to live, work, and play on the unceded territory of Snuneymuxw First Nations. She is a social worker by training and brings almost 40 years of experience of counselling, consultation, program development, and training from a feminist and holistic perspective. Much of her work has focused on addressing childhood trauma as well as gender-based violence. Anne has worked extensively with marginalized people including the LBGTQUIA2S+ communities. She has spent many years partnering with Indigenous communities across Canada in an effort to promote reconciliation by addressing the intergenerational trauma wrought by the legacy of residential schools. Anne thrives in a collaborative, creative, and innovative environment. She is passionate about justice, equity, inclusion, and ensuring the dignity of all. In her spare time, Anne can be found puttering around her garden, sitting by the ocean, or taking slow forest walks with her partner.

Anne is the Program Manager for the Gender Journeys Program and the Sexual Assault Response Program.

Contact Anne:
250-754-3331 (717)

Esther Charlie

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.”

Esther is the Program Coordinator for the Sexual Assault Response Program.

Contact Esther:

Casey Brisson

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.

Casey is the facilitator of the Gender Journeys support group.

Contact Casey:
250-754-3331 (710)

Sarah Cameron

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.

Sarah is the Gender Journeys Outreach Community Support Worker.

Contact Sarah:
250-754-3331 (425)

Kurstin Rispin

Kurstin has lived on the unceded traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation for over 30 years and is forever grateful for it. She completed a degree in Indigenous studies in 2017 and has worked in non-profit settings ever since. She is passionate about people and community and is humbled to be able to do the work that she does. In her spare time, she balances her life with gardening and forest walks with her partner, their dog, and their son.

Kurstin is NFLA’s Program Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator.

Contact Kurstin:
250-754-3331 (716)

Zoe Paterson

Zoe was born in Victoria, BC and raised in the Errington/Parksville/Qualicum area. She has lived on the island her whole life. Zoe has always strived to lead with compassion and advocates for inclusion wherever she possibly can. Before starting a family of her own in 2010, Zoe had the opportunity to travel and experience many cultures. Zoe’s most transformative trip was a stint spent volunteering at an orphanage in Ghana for six months when she was 18 years old. Zoe has been working from home as an Administrative Assistant for the last eight years. She is looking forward to helping vulnerable members of our community access the resources and supports available to them through NFLA. Zoe currently lives in Lantzville with her spouse and three children. In her spare time, you can find her chicken farming, cooking, exercising, and juggling busy mom life with her kids and dogs. Zoe believes a healthy family life is at the core of a healthy community.

Zoe Paterson is the Program Assistant.

Contact Zoe:
250-754-3331 (209)

Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith joined Nanaimo Family Life Association in July 2020 after receiving her Applied Business Technology certificate from Vancouver Island University. Along with her recent technical training, she hopes to bring enthusiasm and passion to her work for NFLA. Find her at the front desk, where she’s ready to give you a smile and assist you in accessing the organization’s wonderful list of resources and opportunities. In her spare time, she can be found hiking in the woods with her dogs and partner, creating handmade jewelry/embroidering dolls, or dancing up a storm in her living room.

Hannah is the Administrative Assistant for NFLA.

Contact Hannah:

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