Introducing Gilberto Algar-Faria: RAVEN’s new Development Manager

Gilberto Algar-Faria (he/him) is an uninvited guest and settler of Angolan, English, and Portuguese descent. The first and last bits of his name—Gilberto and Faria—are Portuguese, while Algar is an old English name. Although Angola has featured least in his life, he notes that it seems to have been the most important in the way that other people defined him while growing up in England, likely influencing the ways he’s focused on more rights-based causes as well.

What do you expect your day-to-day work at RAVEN to look like? Or what do you hope it looks like?

I fill that role between the director, who’s interested in the high-level strategy, and the fantastic team of coordinators and grant writers who make this vision into a reality. RAVEN is unusual in that we rely on an amazing, significant and devoted supporter base from individual donors giving one-off or monthly and from businesses of all sizes. I find joy during every working day in speaking to our wonderful individual donors, thanking them, learning from them, seeing what their giving goals are, and  keeping them informed about our organization’s work. A large part of this role is gratitude and consistently thanking our supporters for the donations they make. I think I remember reading somewhere that giving gratitude is a wonderful daily practice for one’s own happiness, and I can safely say that it works! 

The other part of my role is working with our incredible grants team. RAVEN distinguishes itself in that we don’t apply to any government grants, but instead we work with a lot of different foundations. Each of these will have different needs in terms of how we communicate with them, so I’m here to make sure that we are applying for funding, keeping foundations updated with our programs, and reporting back on achievements in the right way (and on time!)

Gilberto smiling, sits in front of long grass
photos by Jamie-Leigh Gonzales

What drew you to work with RAVEN? 

Supporting Indigenous rights and environmental justice, simply put, feels like an essential cause, and I was drawn by the fact that the organization plays a supporting role, rather than trying to make decisions on behalf of Nations. Selfishly, being able to leverage my skills to contribute to the work of an organization like RAVEN feels great and is a huge privilege.

The team itself also drew me in. A nonprofit in this environment says a lot about itself with its communications and how it comes across externally. It’s really obvious when a nonprofit is a stressful place to work, or when their workload isn’t organized. The communications I saw from RAVEN caught my attention immediately. The campaigns were so eloquently explained, the website communicated so much of the work and its importance, and it was clear to me what RAVEN was doing. So being able to look from outside and just know that there must be, at the core, a very hard working and functional team—that was a significant draw for me, too.

Are there any kind of specific life experiences that you feel led you to this job?

I mean, in terms of being here in the first place, that was entirely due to my partner securing a postdoctoral fellowship here. She and I moved from England in 2021, arriving here as uninvited guests and settlers on the unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ Peoples, where we still reside now. In terms of moving towards rights-based causes, that is a longer story. Growing up, I became more aware of my Angolan heritage. But it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I really started engaging with the recent history there, including the war, and how that affected my family. This was really around the same time that I started considering that there were other elements to my identity other than the English context that I was raised within. 

Prior to working in the nonprofit sector, I was an academic. Growing up, I started to understand, though thinking about Angola, cycles of colonialism and various forms of violence. I think that is what drew me towards researching peacebuilding, which is an area of study and practice that focuses on building sustainable forms of peace following the end of a war. I was the kind of academic who was more practitioner, and I used my academic role to go and talk to people and organize workshops. During my PhD, I worked primarily in Sri Lanka, although I also ran some research interviews in Cambodia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Kosovo. Through the research in Sri Lanka, I was looking at how people defined peace for themselves and how they negotiated those forms of peace in sometimes subtle ways that might be invisible to some. Following this, I became an expert witness in the UK for Sri Lankan asylum cases, or refugee claimant cases as they would be called here. I worked on over 40 cases, over a period spanning a little under a decade. Within those cases, I was always engaging with the accounts people gave of the forms of persecution they faced which in turn had caused their displacement. That experience of working with people’s accounts made me think more about forms of displacement and persecution, which are common to anyone who has been subjected to war, and/or forms of colonial violence. 

Gilberto sitting on a pink bench holding a cup of coffee

When I came to Canada, I started working at a charity called the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST), which provides mental health services to newcomer survivors of war and torture. This was my first proper move into the realm of nonprofits. I suppose my move into working for VAST came somewhat naturally from my reflections about my own family’s background, as some of them were themselves displaced by war. During this time, I was also increasingly acknowledging the tensions between the various human rights frameworks, which are often state-centric, top-down approaches, and grassroots approaches to rights and justice. 

What’s something that brings you joy when you’re out on the land or connecting to the water? How do you find joy there? 

I find joy through running, hiking and paddleboarding, and to a lesser extent, kayaking and surfing (let’s be clear: I am not very good at the latter two, but I still enjoy them!).  When it comes to the water-based activities, I think it might just be the physical closeness to the water that I enjoy—being just above. I had an experience recently where I ill-advisedly fell asleep on a paddle board. It was in Deep Cove and the water was still and I was surrounded by people. I was lying down and when I woke up I looked up, and the water was below my head. It felt like I was looking down at the sky. It’s the only time I’ve ever had that feeling in my life. I was very much kind of facing out into space, while being held on the surface of the water, and there was something really lovely about that.

Feeling the water, respecting the water when the tide turns, or the wind when it picks up when you’re in a little kayak, you learn respect for the fact that when it is calm, the water is just allowing you to have a lovely time. When it changes, you notice how powerless you are to go against its will.

Running and hiking on trails is also wonderful for me. I feel more connected when I’m pushing that oxygen through my lungs. Maybe it’s because when you’re out in that environment you are shaded with the trees, and they are providing you with this beautiful air. There’s something about it that I can’t quite put into words. And, just like the water, the terrain so often reminds me to respect it and not to get complacent about the route I’m taking, or the stuff I’m packing to sustain me.

I find joy connecting with the land and water in these ways, often with my partner and our dog (who, by the way, has made it clear that he’s exclusively there for the land-based experiences).

What is something that brings you joy other than this?

I absolutely adore making coffee. From learning about where the beans are from, through all the nerdy details about how the beans were grown and prepared, to how they were roasted, I love all of it. As you’ve probably noticed, I love granular detail. One of my biggest challenges is trying not to put 100% into every single thing I do, because it makes me way too slow. I’m working on that, but this coffee routine satisfies that need to get really specific with things. Grinding the beans, extracting the coffee the right way, steaming the milk, it’s such an art and I love engaging with that for whatever reason. 

Gilberto sitting on a pink bench drinking a cup of coffee

I know my staff bio says it on the website, but I have legitimately also been trying to write a novel for about five years, like so many people of my age who think they have something to say! I really enjoy the practice of trying to write. For me, it’s dystopian fiction that I find most interesting. Probably due to my background, I’m really interested in how the state tries to control people. The best dystopian fiction speaks to what’s already happening and has been happening for a long time, as well as of course serving as a cautionary tale. Reflecting on this genre gives me even more food for thought, and there’s a therapeutic quality to writing out this story version of something I have been researching and reflecting on for some time. I loved teaching when I was an academic because it allowed me to explore these ideas with people, and in a way, I find writing around these issues through fiction to be another approach to engaging with the same set of questions, in conversation with others.

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