Charles Roberts, Chief Executive Officer

Meet Charles

As our Chief Executive Officer, Charles provides guidance and oversight across the organization to further our vision and mission. He’s a big believer in servant leadership and looks to assist our staff, the board of directors, and our partners.

What do you love about what you do?

I especially love journeying with our unique organizational-wide team, who all contribute in a valuable way, while sharing in genuinely authentic relationships at the same time.

What would an ideal free day look like for you?

If I had a free day to enjoy something selfishly, I would always choose an adventure that includes some kind of outdoor adventure.

What is something you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t gotten around to it?

I’ve been wanting to spend more time in Northern Canada.

“We are so incredibly thankful for everyone who partners with us as we work hard to make a positive and lasting impact, here in Canada and around the world.”

Derek Boyce, Chief Financial Officer

As a charity, we’re lucky to have a guy like Derek overseeing all of the donations that come into the organization. Not surprisingly, he loves a well-thought-out spreadsheet.

What do you love about what you do?
I love that I get to be a part of all aspects of LiveDifferent, instead of just focusing on one program.
What would an ideal free day look like for you?
It would start with a quality coffee, a good breakfast, a couple of hours on a dirtbike or ATV on some trails, then an afternoon nap before spending some quality time with my family. Then maybe follow it all up with a good hockey game (either played or watched).
What is the best Halloween costume that you’ve had?
I once just carried around a loaf of bread and said I was the Gingerbread man.

Jennifer Quong, Director of International Programs

As the Director of International Programs, I am looking forward to making a positive impact on the communities that LiveDifferent works with and has developed lasting relationships with. I will draw on my years of experience and leadership training to ensure that each team feels supported and continues to focus on the priceless work being done with our Builds Program, Academy Program and educational programs in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Thailand. I believe that fostering a culture of kindness and compassion is key to the continued success of all programs within LiveDifferent and I’m thrilled to be working alongside so many talented people as we bring life-changing opportunities to so many both within Canada and abroad.

What do you love about what you do?
I love that the work I do truly and honestly changes lives. There is nothing like waking up in the morning knowing that the job you are being tasked to do will result in positive change for those involved.

What would an ideal free day look like for you?
An ideal day free would be a day at my cottage – sitting on the dock in the sun enjoying the company of good friends and family.

What is something you’ve been meaning to try (and why), but haven’t gotten around to it?
Photography – I would love to be able to use my phone to capture amazing moments and memories that are happening around me. The moments of our lives are so important and I love looking at great pictures. I just wish I was better at making those moments look great in a picture.

Ryan Wood, Chief Impact Officer

Ryan Wood is our Chief Impact Officer. He has spoken to thousands of high school students across Canada, given leadership to our road teams since 2004, has led multiple Builds, and along with his wife, Michelle, is now based in Saskatchewan. Ryan is known for 3 huge obsessions: his children Amelia, Gracie and Keaton, his hang-gliding career (ask him how his last landing of 2007 went!), and raw fish with scandalous amounts of wasabi!

Johnny Henderson, Director of School & Community Programs

Overseeing the team that executes our programming across Canada, Johnny plays a key role in the development of all experiences, content, and materials that end up in schools and communities from coast-to-coast.

Johnny has spoken to hundreds of thousands of high school students across Canada and is a dynamic communicator with a deep passion to see lives transformed and empowered. Johnny is the creative mastermind behind LiveDifferent’s youth program’s videos and stories since 2011 and now is overseeing the program as the Director of School and Community Programs.

What do you love about what you do?
I love seeing students’ eyes widen as they begin to dream and imagine all the ways they can impact this world.
What would an ideal free day look like for you?
Playing Settlers with my beautiful wife.
It’s karaoke night and you have no choice but to perform. What song would you choose and why?
Tenacious D – Tribute… because I have a decent Jack Black impression.

Elissa Grohne, Director of Community Engagement

As Director of Community Engagement, Elissa’s leadership in the communications department helps to extend LiveDifferent’s program reach and increase brand awareness by creating meaningful engagements with youth, donors, partners and communities.

What do you love about what you do?
I love knowing my work makes a difference; the ability to create powerful content that resonates with youth and inspires them to take positive action in their communities makes me happy. I also love sharing those stories of the impact that LiveDifferent’s programs have on individuals and the shaping of their communities.
What would an ideal free day look like for you?
Spending time with friends and family and taking my dog on some sort of outdoor adventure, followed by a game of tennis and eggs benny brunch with my husband. The day would end with a nightcap on our tailgate while watching the sunset over the Rocky Mountains.
What is something you’ve been meaning to try (and why), but haven’t gotten around to it?
Rock climbing! I have the urge to climb the side of mountains every time I visit the Kananaskis or Banff areas, but I’m still working up the courage to do it.

Sarah Bourque, Executive Assistant to the CEO

Sarah helps to facilitate the work of the CEO, in particular in areas of development and team support.

What do you love about what you do?
The connections that are made. Getting to work in so many different roles has given me the chance to connect with so many incredible people from around the world. I am a people person, and the way this organization brings people together is what I love most about my time with LiveDifferent. Life is about people, of course.
What would an ideal free day look like for you?
Morning coffee by the lake, a family hike, a dinner that I didn’t have to cook served in our Muskoka room by sunset, ending with watching a Leaf game.
What is something you’ve been meaning to try (and why), but haven’t gotten around to it?
I’m totally obsessed with the Formula 1 show on Netflix and would love to try that (if people can even try that as a hobby, I have no idea).

Tyler Leighton, Coordinator of International Programs

Tyler started as a Build Volunteer, then worked as a volunteer staff member before joining our team officially this past year. He has jumped into several different positions over the years. From Leading Builds in the DR & Mexico, facilitating our Summer Interns, Co-Leading the Academy Program and working closely with our Communications team on Photography and Social Media. His love and passion for LiveDifferent are endless!

What do you love about what you do?
The connections that are made. Getting to work in so many different roles has given me the chance to connect with so many incredible people from around the world. I am a people person, and the way this organization brings people together is what I love most about my time with LiveDifferent. Life is about people, of course.
It’s karaoke night and you have no choice but to perform. What song would you choose and why?
I love a good Karaoke night. It would probably end up being a famous Broadway song or a really classic pop ballad like “My Heart Will Go On” or “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

Angelina Garcia, Community Advisor, Mexico

Angelina’s role with LiveDifferent is to receive the applications that families send in when they are looking for support with a house. With the help of Ana, she determines which families we will Build with. She is also one of our gifted translators on-site and has strong connections with the community which makes her a huge asset to our team in Mexico.

What do you love about what you do?
I love my job, I love connecting with people and meeting new people. It fascinates me and makes me very happy to see how families are so greatly blessed with beautiful houses where they can live, be protected and safe and have a better future.
What would an ideal free day look like for you?
The perfect free day would definitely be somewhere by a large pool. Also going on walks, playing volleyball, riding a bike and eating of course.
You’re stranded on an island and can only have 5 things with you. What are they?
1) Food, 2) water, 3) matches, 4) a lantern, and 5) bug spray.
What is something you’d love to try one day?
I would love one day to try and go to the Olympics….to watch. That would be really cool.

Mary Anne Roy, Community Engagement Manager

Mary Anne came to LiveDifferent with over a decade of experience working with marginalized and street-involved youth and has a strong passion for addressing the issues of Indigenous youth in Canada. She builds relationships with educators and youth leaders while helping plan, organize, and execute our programming.

What do you love about what you do?
I love building relationships with schools and organizations while seeing youth’s lives across Canada (and the world) impacted and changed by our programs. And as a manager, I love supporting and motivating the team to set goals and grow in their strengths and passions.

What would an ideal free day look like for you?
It needs to be in the summer… but starting the day with a snuggle with my two girls and then a fresh cup of coffee. Followed by getting outside in the sunshine to either go swimming or hiking and then a good bonfire and maybe a movie on the couch with our favourite snacks to finish off the day.

What is something you’ve been meaning to try (and why), but haven’t gotten around to it?
Bungee Jumping!! I have wanted to do it for so long. I’ll try almost any fun and thrill-seeking experience, but this is at the top of my list. I just can’t find anyone to go with me! Any takers?

Rose Friesen, Manager of Operations, Mexico

Rose has six years of management experience in the non-profit sector. After 12 years of living in Mexico, she brings a bilingual, cross-cultural perspective to her role of overseeing LiveDifferent’s programs in Mexico: Builds and Academy. Using her social work background, Rose leads the team in their work in the San Quintin valley and hosts teams from Canada. They select the families and projects that LiveDifferent will be partnering with, prepare the guesthouse, and facilitate the cross-cultural service learning trips. She also handles the administrative tasks of our non-profit operations for LiveDifferent’s Canadian and Mexican entities.

What do you love about what you do?
I love sharing what I have loved about living in Mexico with our guests. It’s inspiring to see how people who were strangers at the beginning of the week, from two different cultures, can work together to make a tangible difference in the quality of life of families. I have seen many young people’s lives impacted during their time here.
What would an ideal free day look like for you?
It would involve exploring and/or relaxing in the beautiful outdoors – the lake, the beach, the forest or a city park if I can’t get out of the city. It would also include some delicious food, a good book, and great friends.
If you had to choose one meal to have for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Grilled steak and veggies.

Elias Legaria, Program Assistant, Mexico

Elias is in charge of leading our Build teams during house Build projects, he is our foreman, contractor, teacher and guide for everything construction down in Mexico. Elias also helps to maintain the LiveDifferent Guest House property, he is Mr. Fix-it – we don’t know what we would do without him.

What do you love about what you do?
I love to see the faces of the families on celebration day, and their reactions. Also, that first day when we go and pour the cement pad for a new home, we see the empty lots, or the previous homes of the families and we can see the purpose of our work and why we are here.
If you had to choose one meal to have for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Birria is my favourite food. It is a type of beef soup, with vegetables and you can eat it as soup, or you can eat just the meat on tacos.
What is something you’ve been meaning to try (and why), but haven’t gotten around to it?
I would like to fly on an airplane because I would like to try something new that I’ve never done before. On my first trip, I would like to go to La Paz, Mexico City, or Oaxaca to see a new part of Mexico.

Ana Santos, Program Assistant, Mexico

Ana wears many hats at LiveDifferent. She is our Head Cook for all of our Build teams, runs the kitchen at the Guest House, and also helps to maintain the property alongside her husband Elias. She is around to clean, and prep for all the groups that we host, and she also works with Angelina to visit potential Build families and organize applications.

What do you love about what you do?
I love my job with this organization, being a part of the groups and being included in realizing the dreams that the families have. It is important to me that these families have a place to live, and that makes me happy.
You’re stranded on an island and can only have 5 things with you. What are they?
1) Lots of food, 2) water, 3) my cell phone, 4) a warm blanket, and 5) my clothes

Frantzo Begin, Country Host, Dominican Republic/Haiti

We like to call Frantzo our “Fixer” – and he has greatly earned this title! Frantzo has been working with our LiveDifferent Build teams since 2007. Any problem you have or need help with, he has a solution in either Creole, French, Spanish, English, and German. Frantzo, his wife, and their sons Junior and Grace-Lee live part-time in Dominican Republic and Haiti. Like many of us, Fantzo has a dream, and with this dream, he hopes to see Haiti as a thriving and prosperous nation. We like that dream, too!

Mirlande Laguerre, Program Assistant, Haiti

As the Program Assistant in Haiti, Mirlande helps with the administration, logistics and supervising LiveDifferent’s projects: Freedom Village and École L’Union. She manages all incoming and outgoing administrative flows of the programs.

What do you love about what you do?
The connection that exists between the people I work with, and in the way we are collaborating to bring change to others. That really makes me feel valued and appreciated for all I do.

What would an ideal free day look like for you?
Most of my free time I always spend it with my family because it’s the time where we can talk and share together.

It’s karaoke night and you have no choice but to perform. What song would you choose and why?
The song I would choose is A Million Tongue by Sinach. Because every time I listen to that song, it reminds me I live by grace and I will never stop thanking God for that.

Rafael Estrella, Operations Assistant, Dominican Republic

Rafael was born and raised in a small community near Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic called Montellano. He lives with his beautiful wife, Linda, and their three kids, Ruth, Raily and Ryan in a quiet neighbourhood. Ruth is sweet and shy while Riley is full of energy and life, and Ryan is still a cute little baby.

Rafael came to know LiveDifferent while working as a receptionist at the resort (Sosua By The Sea) that volunteers stay at during their Builds. Despite regularly working overnight shifts, it was clear that Rafael’s translating skillset, passion, and seemingly unrelenting energy were going to be a perfect fit for the work that we do. He’s been an incredibly valuable team member since joining in 2012.

Being surrounded by beautiful Dominican countryside, mountains, and forests, Rafael enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors. He also loves the work that he does, connecting with people. Whether it’s the people we work with within the different communities or the volunteers from Canada, he wants to know who you are and what your story is. He has a great memory, and a sparkling smile, and always makes new and returning volunteers feel welcomed.

Joy Yu, Gratitude and Engagement Specialist

Joy has been a longtime LiveDifferent employee in various roles, the most recent being Gratitude and Engagement Specialist. She is responsible for supporting partner gratitude and engagement through communication initiatives, social media and special event planning.

What do you love about what you do?

I love connecting with new people and building on existing relationships.

What would an ideal free day look like for you?

I would love to spend a day out in nature hiking with family and friends.

You’re stranded on an island and can only have 5 things with you. What are they?

Stand-up paddle board, hammock, swiss army knife, unlimited sushi, and an iPod (with a solar-powered charger).

Brittany Gillespie, Road Team Leader

Brittany is a Road Team Leader with LiveDifferent. Her role as the Team Leader is to care for the physical and emotional health and overall experience of the team and to ensure they deliver an effective and powerful presentation.

Before Brittany rejoined LiveDifferent, she was a Youth Worker at the Youth Centre in her hometown.

What do you love about what you do?

What I love about my job is that I get to be the person I needed as a kid, build lifelong relationships with my teammates, and being able to deliver a super cool presentation to students.

What would an ideal free day look like for you?

An Ideal free day for me is, Sleep in till 9 go for brunch with friends, then go home curl up with a blanket and read a book or watch a movie. Or even going to an escape room! I love those!!

It’s karaoke night and you have no choice but to perform. What song would you choose and why?

That’s a good question! I can’t just choose one so I’ll put two, the first song would be, I’d Rather Go Blind, by Etta James. I am in love with this song and love to sing it just as much as this next song which is, I Will Always Love You, by Whitney Houston. I don’t think I need to say why I’d choose this one it speaks for itself, Love, Love, Love, Her!

Rhiannon Taylor, Road Team Leader

Originally from Scotland, Rhiannon moved to Canada to work as a snowsports instructor in November 2022. After falling in love with the country, she decided to stay longer and seek a job where she could feel fulfilled by helping others—that’s where she found LiveDifferent.

You’re stranded on an island and can only have 5 things with you. What are they?

Being stranded on a desert island sounds great! I guess I would make myself comfortable. I’d bring a hammock, suncream (Scottish skin can’t handle anything over 10 degrees), Pina Coladas (many), a masseuse, and a personal chef with a background in foraging.

What is something you’ve been meaning to try (and why), but haven’t gotten around to it?

Telemarking! I love skiing and I love being ridiculous and this combines the two things perfectly.

Kerry Brandt, Chairman of Board of Directors

Kerry lives in Rosenort, MB, where along with his beautiful wife, Barb, he has raised three amazing kids. Kerry and Barb had a dream of being a part of hope and change in a tangible way, so for Christmas 2008, they joined us in Mexico for their first LiveDifferent Build. That initial trip resulted in many more Builds and is also how Kerry ended up as the Chairman of our Board of Directors. Kerry is a co-owner of Brandt Trucking, which is a family-run business. He heads up sales and marketing, and spends his days researching potential customers – and dreaming of when he can visit our LiveDifferent communities again! Kerry and Barb have a house full of teenagers. He is a volunteer firefighter in his own community, and from time to time, those fires are under his own roof! As our Chairman, Kerry is excited to be a part of what is happening in LiveDifferent. His support is evident in his kind words, thoughtful gifts and steak BBQs!

Will Bergmann, Board of Directors

Will Bergmann grew up on the family operation, south of Winnipeg, and he and his wife, Jen, returned to the farm about seven years ago to farm and start their family. The farm was also acknowledged for its social media presence, with Will being known for championing agriculture through writing and photography that shares farm life with a wide audience. He is an advocate for LiveDifferent and has experienced our Canadian Youth Program firsthand by volunteering on one of our tours. It has been great to have him be a voice as a member of our Board of Directors.

Ace Burpee, Board of Directors

Ace’s introduction to LiveDifferent was through a friendship with a current board member, Brad Mason. Ace was approached to host the annual Winnipeg gala, where he started to learn the culture and mission of LiveDifferent. Ace has travelled to Haiti with LiveDifferent and is happy to lend a hand in any way possible. Ace is a champion of mental health and has enjoyed long relationships with the Schizophrenia Society of MB, the United Way of Winnipeg, the Canadian Animal Blood Bank, Cancer Care Manitoba, and the Dream Factory. He grew up in rural Manitoba and lives in Winnipeg where he hosts a morning radio show. Ace is super into fishing, Connect 4, and geography.

Paige Derksen, Board of Directors

Paige Derksen Rodrigues is a dedicated realtor residing and working in Winnipeg. With a heart for community involvement, Paige’s journey with LiveDifferent began around ten years ago when her aunt, uncle, and cousins, who were already engaged with the organization, shared their experiences of participating in various builds. Inspired by their stories, Paige and her immediate family started attending LiveDifferent galas and providing financial support from the inception of the event.

Driven by a personal desire to contribute on a deeper level, Paige took the initiative to involve her work team in supporting the Freedom Village. Every year, a portion of their commissions from each transaction goes towards ensuring the safety and well-being of a girl living in the village.

Given her profession as a realtor, Paige recognizes the importance of secure housing and finds it fulfilling to give back to the community in this manner. Looking ahead, Paige’s goals for the upcoming year include embarking on her first build experience, making it a cherished annual tradition with her family.

When not engrossed in her demanding schedule, Paige finds solace in traveling, spending quality time with loved ones, exploring Winnipeg’s diverse culinary scene, and unwinding at home alongside her husband and beloved rescue pup, Patrik.

Devin Hollis, Board of Directors

Devin was first introduced to LiveDifferent in 2013 when he travelled to the Dominican Republic with a group of World Vision Youth Ambassadors. Since then, he has returned to the Dominican Republic and Haiti to experience the amazing work being done by LiveDifferent. So moved by the impact made by LiveDifferent, Devin eagerly jumped at the opportunity to join the board. Devin brings over fifteen years of marketing experience supporting mission-based organizations including Special Olympics Manitoba, World Vision Canada, University of Winnipeg Disability Resource Centre, Habitat for Humanity, Canadian Blood Services, Michigan Medicine, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Originally from Winnipeg, Devin has lived in Halifax, Toronto, and Hamilton, but currently resides in San Francisco, California with his beautiful wife Rachel and their two dogs.

Rob Hooper, Board of Directors

Rob became aware of LiveDifferent in 2012 when a friend at WestJet asked him if he would help buy uniforms for school kids in Haiti. This adventure led him to meet Cole Brown on numerous occasions where they broke bread, drank wine, and dreamed of what might be possible in Haiti. Eventually, Rob was introduced to the CEO, Charles Roberts, and a plan to support LiveDifferent was hatched. More particularly, Rob wanted to be involved in the planning and execution of the build of the Freedom Village in Haiti. A long-term partnership was forged. Fortunately, Rob was asked to join the Board several years later and enthusiastically accepted. Rob brings to the LiveDifferent Board 28 years of legal experience, which has allowed him to support many charities over the past three decades. Through his involvement with Wheelchair Basketball Canada, Living Rock, Big Brothers Big Sisters (locally, provincially, and nationally) and his previous board experience with human trafficking organizations, he brings a great deal of additional experience and perspective. Rob was born and raised in small-town New Brunswick where he spends most of his summer. He resides with his partner, Jennifer, and her very active son, Harry, in downtown Hamilton.

Brad Mason, Board of Directors

Brad’s first introduction to LiveDifferent came back in 2012 when he came to the Dominican Republic with a group of family, friends, and co-workers to participate in a Build. During that trip, he also spent a day in Haiti to witness the work being done there. When he returned, he became a supporter of our work internationally which continues to this day. After the tragic loss of his daughter Samantha, Brad and his wife Judy-Lynn started The Samantha Mason Foundation and began partnering with the work we do to reach youth with messages of inspiration and hope right here in Canada. Professionally, Brad has over 35 years of progressive experience in the industrial construction industry and has helped build DMS Industrial Constructors and Servco Canada into incredibly successful companies. A philanthropist who is committed to giving back, he has added LiveDifferent to the list of organizations that he serves regularly. While Brad has been around for a while, we’re thrilled to have him on the Board.

Renée McGurry, Board of Directors

Renée McGurry is presently working as a Treaty Education Support Teacher for the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba. She recently retired from St. James-Assiniboia School Division in Winnipeg. In her 35 years as an educator, she has worked in classrooms ranging from grades 4-9, with the last eight years as the Indigenous Education Coordinator for the division. Through professional development, Renée has provided educators with the knowledge, support, and resources needed to weave Indigenous perspectives into classrooms, schools and division-wide programming. She has been recognized by Manitoba Education as one of their Aboriginal educators of the month and has been the recipient of the Trailblazer and Leadership award from the Aboriginal Circle of Educators. Renée is presently volunteering on a number of boards and committees that focus on Indigenous education. As a former colleague stated, “Renée McGurry has been guiding the journey of many, who collectively will have a profound effect on Indigenous youth and educators for years to come.” We’re thrilled to have her join the LiveDifferent family.

Kim McIntyre-Leighton, Board of Directors

Kim’s first encounter with LiveDifferent was when she and her family joined us for a Build Trip in Mexico in 2008. Bitten by the “hope” bug, she has returned many times as a volunteer to our Mexico location, and even taken to hosting our road teams in her home in Winnipeg! For the past 12 years, Kim has been the CEO of WASO (Work and Social Opportunities), which supports adults living with intellectual disabilities. She comes to us with a wealth of experience in board governance and has focused experience in areas of finance, ethics, and human resources for non-profit agencies. We are glad to have her and look forward to working together in the days ahead.

Sheila North, Board of Directors

A member of Bunibonibee Cree Nation (also known as Oxford House), Sheila has seen firsthand how LiveDifferent’s youth empowerment programs are significantly impacting the lives of youth. Sheila is a great advocate for youth and for LiveDifferent. She is passionate about working to raise awareness about the national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and can be found actively building bridges to create greater awareness among Canadians with regards to Indigenous peoples. Sheila is also known for her work in media as a journalist for the CBC and a correspondent for CTV News. Additionally, Sheila has recently served as the Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) from 2015 to 2018. Sheila has developed an impressive skill set that we are thrilled to have added to our Board of Directors.


Meet the team

Our team is made up of passionate people who live a lifestyle that puts people first.

Charles Roberts

Chief Executive Officer

Derek Boyce

Chief Financial Officer

Jennifer Quong

Director of International Programs

Ryan Wood

Chief Impact Officer

Johnny Henderson

Director of School & Community Programs

Elissa Grohne

Director of Community Engagement

Sarah Bourque

Executive Assistant to the CEO

Tyler Leighton

Coordinator of International Programs

Angelina Garcia

Community Advisor, Mexico

Mary Anne Roy

Community Engagement Manager

Rose Friesen

Manager of Operations, Mexico

Elias Legaria

Program Assistant, Mexico

Ana Santos

Program Assistant, Mexico

Frantzo Begin

Country Host, Dominican Republic/Haiti

Mirlande Laguerre

Program Assistant, Haiti

Rafael Estrella

Operations Assistant, Dominican Republic

Joy Yu

Gratitude and Engagement Specialist

Brittany Gillespie

Road Team Leader

Rhiannon Taylor

Road Team Leader


Board of Directors

Our board of directors manages and stewards the organization. Through their oversight and commitment, we're able to make a difference.

Kerry Brandt

Chairman of Board of Directors

Will Bergmann

Board of Directors

Ace Burpee

Board of Directors

Paige Derksen

Board of Directors

Devin Hollis

Board of Directors

Rob Hooper

Board of Directors

Brad Mason

Board of Directors

Renée McGurry

Board of Directors

Kim McIntyre-Leighton

Board of Directors

Sheila North

Board of Directors

Want to join our team? See all the upcoming opportunities.