Our Staff

Mario Ayala

Mario Ayala

Refugee Services Director

Originally from El Salvador, Mario has been involved in community work since his arrival to Canada in 1992. In 1994 he became the first Executive Director for the Hispanic Community Centre where he helped Spanish-speaking refugees and immigrants for three years. In 2001, he was chosen, along with wife, as one of the people who made change in the City of Coquitlam.

Before coming to Canada, Mario worked in El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica as university professor, manager for government and private companies, researcher and private consultant for noteworthy organizations such as United Nations Development Program. His education includes a post baccalaureate diploma in Community Economic Development from SFU, two Masters degrees, one in Business Administration and another in business economics, and numerous seminars and congress. Besides conducting many research assignments, Mario has written theses, chapters of text books, case studies, articles for magazines, business plans, feasibility studies and community projects.

During most of his time in Canada, Mario has been working as a private business and community economic development advisor, and has been registered as an international consultant and co-operant for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

In 2007, he joined Inland Refugee Society, first on a part-time basis and then as full-time staff. Now Mario is the Refugee Services Director for IRS that serves almost 50% of asylum seekers in BC.

Inland Refugee Society is celebrating its 30th year of providing uninterrupted assistance and support to refugee claimants in meeting their immediate needs and adapting to their new home.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Brendan O’Leary

Brendan O’Leary

President

Brendan joined the Inland Board as Treasurer in September 2011. In 2013 he was elected President. He is a independent consultant with a diverse business background in cooperative development in Canada, Ireland and Mongolia.

He is an accomplished Strategic Partner with extensive financial experience in strategic support roles undertaken in large international multi-stakeholder projects.

Brendan believes that the IRS provides an important service to refugees to integrate quickly into Canadian society by providing them with immediate support, assistance, and life skills when they arrive here.

Ilona Beiks

Ilona Beiks

Vice President

Ilona became passionate about refugee issues at a young age. The daughter of Latvian refugees she witnessed first hand the challenges refugees face making a new life in a new country. In the late ‘90s she taught English in a Tibetan Refugee settlement in Northern India which resulted in a radio documentary for CBC Radio. “While the plight of refugees is a global issue, I believe that the best place to help is to start in your own backyard.”

Ilona holds a B.Ed (Secondary) from the University of British Columbia and is a Writer, Editor and Communications Consultant with more than 20 years experience in: writing/editing; marketing; corporate branding and identity programs; issues management; stakeholder, media, community and government relations; event planning; publications; and education outreach programs.

 Saul Castanon

Saul Castanon

Treasurer

Saul has several years of experience working for non--profit organizations dealing with community services. He joined IRS as a volunteer in 2013 and quickly identified himself with the needs of the organization. Saul holds an MBA from INCAE Business School and has several years of managerial experience in the financial, real estate and service sectors. He currently works for the financial industry and writes articles on financial advice for the Latin American community.

 Patricia Mahecha

Patricia Mahecha

Patricia’s background is in the health area. She has more than 20 years of experience working with vulnerable population. Since 2009, she has been working as a volunteer to the Canadian Red Cross, first to the First Contact Program helping people who are applying for refugee and after to the Detention Monitoring Program as a health delegate. In 2011, Patricia started to work at Settlement Orientation Services, a NGO that brings help to refugees, since then she has been linked to Inland Refugee Society due to the complementary work that both organization do with refugee claimants.