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Our Staff

staff-darenDaren George Wet’suwet’en – Staff (on medical leave)
Daren George was born and raised in Telkwa BC, where he lives today. Daren grew up seeing the love of Jesus in his grandparents and he admits he knew Christ in his head, but not his heart. After years of searching and bondage God spared his life and he dramatically changed, committing his life to serving the Lord. Daren is a well-respected leader. Prior to his conversion his leadership skills led him into native politics. Currently he sits on the board of directors for several ministries and is in leadership at his home church, Kyah Bible Fellowship. In 2010 he answered God’s call by terminating his employment of 30 years and joining the ministry staff of Rising Above. Daren is committed to raising up native leaders through healing and discipleship.

Terry Martin – Director of OperationsIMG_4814-001
After completing his M.A. in Biblical Counselling from Providence Theological Seminary, Terry was asked to complete some administrative projects for Rising Above. In response to the growing need for administrative support, Terry came on staff in 2003. He currently manages the office, finances and events. He and his wife Brenda and three children reside in Niverville, Manitoba.

Nicole Banman – Administrative Assistant, head office
Nicole and her husband Jeff live in Otterburne, MB where Jeff directs Mile Two Discipleship School. They have two school-age children. Nicole enjoys administrative work and has office experience with two other charitable organizations. She is very happy for the opportunity to serve with Rising Above and be a part of the ministry.


Bonita Ledua MA MAFT (Marriage and Family Therapy)- General Director,  Ishaawin Counselling Centre

Bonita serves both as the director and a marriage and family counselor at Ishaawin. She enjoys working with family members of all ages as they engage in activities and play therapy, working to improve their family dynamics. She helps struggling couples improve their marriages and assists those experiencing psychological stress due to the trauma of childhood abuse, grief and loss, or difficulties with interpersonal relationships and/or life transitions. Bonita also serves as the Executive Director of NorthWind Family Ministries. She and her husband, Bera, have developed two centres for Canadian Aboriginal children, youth and families over the past 25 years. Their programs incorporated recreation, counselling, life development and skills training, and biblical lessons. Bonita enjoys hiking, camping, or just hanging out with her husband, four adult children, daughter-in-law, and any number of friends that come along.


Christina Long – Associate Counsellor, Ishaawin Counselling Centre 

Christina is a member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. She completed a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University. She brings 17 years of counseling experience and 44 years of marriage and parenting to her practice. Christina focuses on helping clients struggling with relationship difficulties, grief and loss, abuse and trauma, anxiety and depression, and marital conflict. She and her husband attend Redwood Park Church and together co-directed Marriage Ministries for over fifteen years. Christina enjoys gardening, reading, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. One of her favourite quotes is “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis.


Donna-Lynn Wiitala – Intern Counsellor, Ishaawin Counselling Centredonna-wide

Donna is a graduate of the Masters of Education program at Lakehead University and is a student in the Masters of Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University. She brings 15 years of experience teaching children to her placement at Ishaawin, as well as many years leading Sunday School.  Donna enjoys working with people of all ages and is particularly interested in play and creative therapy.  She assists those experiencing trauma, grief, and loss with healing relationships, personal healing and life transitions.  Donna loves animals, especially her cat Livvie and also enjoys spending time with friends and family. She is a member of Fort William First Nation Band.

Carolyn Whatley – Executive Assistant, Ishaawin Counselling Centre

Carolyn is a candidate in the Masters of Social Justice program at Lakehead University and hopes to pursue research in the area of childhood trauma. As a former ESL teacher and homeschool parent, Carolyn enjoys learning alongside people of all ages and is currently volunteering as a Life Skills Coach with NorthWind Family Ministry.  She and her husband, Ryan, are raising 4 biological children as well as foster children through Dilico Anishinabek Family Care.  They also had a fifth child who died from cancer at the age of 9.   Carolyn enjoys spending time serving in the community, in the outdoors, and often has a house full of friends and family.

Julie McKenna – Associate Counsellor, Ishaawin Counselling Centre

Julie received her Master of Arts in Counselling from Providence Seminary. She also earned a B.Sc. in Food Science and a Graduate Diploma in Education. Originally from Sydney Australia, Julie moved to Thunder Bay in 1989 where she taught high school Science & Family Studies (primarily Food & Nutrition Sciences) for 25 years. She retired from teaching in 2015. Julie has experience in organizing and facilitating support groups. She started Celebrate Recovery in Thunder Bay and ran it for three years. She also helped establish and facilitate the Natural Helpers Student Peer Counsellor program in high schools across the city for seven years. Julie has been a board member of New Life Ministries Thunder Bay since 2012. She also worked as program staff for two years in the women’s program at Hope House, providing emotional, mental, physical and spiritual support for residents. As a new staff member at Ishaawin, Julie is looking forward to formalizing her counselling practice with areas of focus including eating disorders, body image issues, depression and anxiety. Julie enjoys reading, expressing her creativity, and outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, kayaking and cross country skiing along. She also enjoys spending time with family, both near and far.

Johan and Kerrie Strydom – Parry Sound, ON

Johan and Kerrie  have ministered in a variety of countries for over 20 years among several different cultural groups. Johan, a South African, began his work in the early 90’s among the Zulu people of South Africa.  In 1996, he moved to Sudan to work among the Northern Sudanese Muslims.  He met Kerrie, a Canadian, in Sudan where she was teaching English.  They married in 2003 and continued working in Sudan until 2008 when they moved to Canada to work in the areas of mobilization and communications with their former organization.  They currently live in Parry Sound, Ontario with their two children where they are currently working among the First Nations communities, in different areas, including Grief Recovery and Leadership Development.



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