Justin Taverna, President
Justin is the co-founder of First Light Technologies Ltd., a Victoria based company that designs and manufacturers solar and LED lighting products. With over 15 years’ experience designing off grid solar electric systems, he has previously been involved in PODA as their photovoltaic expert. Other volunteer projects include providing solar electric design and technical support for Partners in Health in Haiti, and for multiple schools within BC.
Justin earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Montana State University and a B.S. in Physics from Wheeling Jesuit University. When not on the phone spreading the good word of solar lighting, he enjoys spending time surfing in the brisk waters of the Pacific Northwest, and hiking with his family, friends, two dogs and sometimes cat.
Natalie Hunt, Vice President
Natalie first traveled to Uganda in 2005/06, where a few great things happened: she met her husband, Peter, and first began working with community members in Bwera. She returned to Uganda in 2007, and in 2010/11, to continue to work with Bwera community members on joint projects, to build the school, and to further develop PODA’s relationship with the community.
Natalie now works as a Justice Interviewer with the Ministry of Attorney General, in the BC Government. She holds a Undergraduate Degree in Geography from the University of Victoria, and a Masters Degree in International Development from Simon Fraser University. Natalie’s graduate work was focused on topics of human rights and development. Natalie is also on the Board of Friends of Mengo Hospital (Canada). She finds great joy in the role of being mother to two fine little people, Sonnen and Remy, and is passionate about growing food, the outdoors, politics, and in exploring literature.
Kathy Buettner, Secretary
Kathy is a Policy Analyst for the Ministry of Advanced Education within the Government of BC. She has been a keen supporter and volunteer of PODA before becoming a Board Member. She is also a sighted guide for blind/visually impaired members of her dragon boat team, Outta Sight, sponsored by the BC Blind Sports and Recreation Association.
Kathy had the opportunity to visit Uganda along with other PODA supporters in August 2017 and loved the opportunity that she had to work with the students and teachers at the school. Kathy holds a Bachelor’s degree in both Sociology and Education from the University of Victoria, and she is certified to teach ESL.
Barb Gordon, Treasurer
Barb is a small business owner in Victoria, BC. She specializes in providing accounting, work flow assessments and efficiency reviews to small for-profit and non-profit businesses. She has been on the Board of PODA since 2009 and has made several trips to Uganda. While in Uganda Barb spends time reviewing existing initiatives and laying the groundwork for future projects.
Barb has a Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management from Royal Roads University. She enjoys hiking, a good book and great food. Barb can frequently be found on Galiano Island where her daughter and grand-daughter live.
Linda Silverthorn, Director at Large
Linda’s first involvement with PODA was during the school construction in January 2010. During her teaching career she presented workshops around the province and offered those services to Peter and Natalie Hunt as they planned the trip. She had the privilege to work with the teachers at MLSS developing brain-based strategies that would work in their classrooms.
Two more trips have allowed Linda to see the wonderful changes at the school and marvel at the energy and dedication of the director, Buletwomu Nelson, and many of the staff. On her last trip in 2015 she saw first hand the thoughtful organization for completion of projects by Barb Gordon.
Linda has been involved with fundraising for professional development for MLSS teaching staff and the school’s participation in the Ugandan based Slow Food project, 10,000 Gardens.
Linda currently works with children and families at the Sooke Family Resource Society and sits on the board of Slow Food Vancouver Island. Linda is a Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner and continues her study of that healing art.
Peter Hunt, Director at Large
Peter Hunt is the President and Master Distiller at Victoria Distillers. Prior to that he completed an MSc in molecular biology at UVic and worked for the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre.
Peter first went to Uganda in 2005 with Friends of Mengo Hospital Canada to monitor an HIV treatment project. It was during this trip that he fell in love with Africa and is soon-to-be-wife Natalie. Also during this trip, he connected with Buletwomu Nelson and the Cobra organization in Bwera. PODA was founded in 2007 before the next trip that focused on buying dairy goats and beehives. In 2010/11 Peter worked with a team from Victoria and Uganda to build the secondary school.
Peter also sits on the board of Friends of the Nemaiah Valley and can often be seen toting a camera, chasing his kids or a beautiful landscape.