"HOH volunteers are positive, engaging and display true interest in the youth they are matched with. The HOH executive show determination and leadership in ensuring that youth involved in their program are considered first and foremost."
- Conforti Family, Markham ON
Hand Over Hand Community Organization is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering a community where people with disabilities will feel safe, accepted and supported through peer networks.
We started Hand Over Hand at a local high school in 2005 because there was a lack of peer-driven, affordable programs for youth with developmental disabilities in York Region. We want to harness the drive of other young adults to better our community by uniting and embracing difference.
Our continuing mission is to create collective understanding, empowerment and mobilization for young people in the community of York Region through awareness, peer-programming, and visibility. We maintain the goal to not only help fulfill the personal ambitions of our members with disabilities, but also address issues, such as education and accessibility within our society.
Why are we named Hand Over Hand?
In the special education field, ‘hand over hand’ typically means showing a student how to complete an activity by putting the teacher’s hand on top of the student’s hand to model the activity. We wanted to change this term and framework to suit our mission. Imagine a team of people in a circle, putting their hands over each other before a game to do a cheer. What our name means to us, is that peers can work together and support each other as a team to fulfill similar goals in an equitable way.
Board of Directors
Vinita Bijur, President of the Board
Vinita Bijur has been a part of Hand Over Hand since 2005, when she was in her last year of high school. At the time, Vinita couldn’t think of any better way to make a difference in the world than by running Hand Over Hand with her best friends. She still can’t. After completing an undergraduate degree, an MBA, and being a founding member of the board, Vinita is ecstatic to be part of an organization that constantly strives to reach new heights. Her goal as a Hand Over Hand Director is to build a strong and dedicated volunteer base. She can’t wait to see what’s next.
Lynn Chau, Chair of the Board
Lynn Chau is an original founder of Hand Over Hand and currently is Chair of the Board. She is excited to return to HOH and be part of the next chapter of its growth with some of the people she considers to be the best in the world. With an educational background in business, Lynn has been part of organizations in both the non-profit and private sectors. She has worked for AIESEC, the world's largest student-run non-profit organization, where she took on local- and national-level duties in human resources and alumni relations, including coaching and mentoring. She has also taken on roles in sales, brand strategy, and general management across various private sector industries in three different global markets, including her own entrepreneurial venture. In returning to HOH, she hopes to bring a fresh approach that bridges her experience from all of these worlds to unlock the next stage of transformational growth for the organization.
Sean Messenger, Executive Director
Sean Messenger joined Hand Over Hand in 2013 as a Junior Executive on the Volunteer Recruitment and Management team. In 2014 he transitioned into the role of Senior Executive of the newly created Analytics Committee, followed by a 3 year tenure as VP Internal Operations. In 2019, Sean joined the Board of Directors and accepted the role of Executive Director of Hand Over Hand to lead the organization's operational activities. Outside of Hand Over Hand, Sean is a Senior Manager for a medical device market research firm. Sean graduated from the University of Waterloo, specializing in Biotechnology and minoring in Economics. For fun, Sean likes to play the guitar and was a performer at Hand Over Hand’s very first Family Music Festival!
Melissa Ngo, Secretary of the Board
Melissa Ngo is a Director and VP of Community Outreach of Hand Over Hand, and is proud to be one of the co-founders of this organization. Melissa knew she would be involved in the field of disability rights from a very young age, and the passion she has garnered throughout her life continues to this day. After completing a BA at the University of Toronto in Equity Studies, she immersed herself in over 10 years of work with the disability community. She currently works at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and is in the Inclusive Design graduate program at OCADU. Melissa is grateful for the community that has been built together over the years and strives to increase the networks within York Region to provide more accessible and safe spaces for people with disabilities.
Rosa Chu, Treasurer of the Board
Rosa Chu has been a part of Hand Over Hand since 2005. She graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in pharmacology and nuclear medicine technology. She is currently a Director, and Fundraising and Finance Executive of Hand Over Hand. Rosa believes that Hand Over Hand provides a great opportunity not only for Hand Over Hand members to make friends and develop their social skills, but also for volunteers to improve their communication and organization skills. Through Hand Over Hand, she hopes to help raise awareness in the community about various disabilities, and to try to erase the stigma associated with disabilities so that everyone can be treated fairly and with respect.
Internal Operations Committee
Rosa Chu, VP Internal Operations
Rosa Chu has been a part of Hand Over Hand since 2005. She graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in pharmacology and nuclear medicine technology. She is proud to be a Founding Director and VP of Internal Operations of Hand Over Hand. Rosa believes that Hand Over Hand provides a great opportunity not only for Hand Over Hand members to make friends and develop their social skills, but also for volunteers to improve their communication and organization skills. Through Hand Over Hand, she hopes to help raise awareness in the community about various disabilities, and to try to erase the stigma associated with disabilities so that everyone can be treated fairly and with respect.
Michelle Chan, VP Internal Operations
Michelle Chan joined Hand Over Hand in 2014 as part of the Volunteer Recruitment and Management Committee. She holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University, with a specialty in biomedical/biochemical engineering. Michelle commits her time to HOH because she believes that the work that’s been done by this team to build a strong and supportive community have been phenomenal, and she wants take part to guarantee that this important work continues. She also wants to ensure that volunteers gain rewarding experiences and are able to contribute and collaborate to a great cause!
Natalie Colaiacovo, Member Resources Manager
Natalie Colaiacovo joined Hand Over Hand in 2015. She has a background in library and information studies and currently works as a librarian at Centennial College. At Hand Over Hand, Natalie works on the internal operations team to coordinate our Social Group Program, planning monthly events from bowling, to gingerbread house decorating, to nature walks and more. Through her time at Hand Over Hand, Natalie has most enjoyed forming friendships and getting to personally know Hand Over Hand's unique and diverse membership.
Justin Chiu, Training and Development Manager
Justin has completed his Masters at the University of Western Ontario and he has been volunteering with Hand Over Hand since 2011 where he started as a general volunteer. Since then Justin has moved his way up to the Junior Exec position for Fundraising and Finance, then the Senior Exec for Volunteer Recruitment and Management, the Training and Development Manager, and now holds the position of Volunteer Retention Manager! Over the years he has been given a great and fun opportunity to work with an amazing group of people, and he hopes to see even more join them!
Vinita Bijur, Development Manager
Vinita Bijur has been a part of Hand Over Hand since 2005, when she was in her last year of high school. At the time, Vinita couldn’t think of any better way to make a difference in the world than by running Hand Over Hand with her best friends. She still can’t. Nine years, one undergrad degree and two jobs later, Vinita is ecstatic to be part of an organization that constantly strives to reach new heights. Her goal as a Hand Over Hand Director is to build a strong and dedicated volunteer base. She can’t wait to see what’s next.
Anna Chu, Manager
Anna Chu has been involved with Hand Over Hand since the organization began in 2005. She is a founding board member, and previously held leadership roles as the VP of Communications, and as the Executive Director of Hand Over Hand. She holds degrees in pharmacology and nuclear medicine technology from the University of Toronto. Anna joined Hand Over Hand because she felt that this would be an amazing opportunity for her to learn more about disabilities, and to create friendships while developing her communication and interpersonal skills. She hopes that Hand Over Hand can continue to provide a safe and welcoming environment where individuals of all abilities can interact, and to offer to people with disabilities, services that are unavailable or difficult to access in York Region.
Community Outreach Committee
Melissa Ngo, VP Community Outreach
Melissa Ngo is a Director and VP of Community Outreach of Hand Over Hand, and is proud to be one of the co-founders of this organization in 2005. Melissa knew she would be involved in the field of disability rights from a very young age, and the passion she has garnered throughout her life continues to this day. She completed her BA in 2011 with a major in Equity Studies and two minors in Sociology and Linguistics from the University of Toronto, and has over 10 years of work experience with people with disabilities. She is currently completing her Masters of Design in Inclusive Design. Melissa is grateful for the community that has been built together over the years and therefore strives to increase the networks within York Region to provide more accessible and safe spaces for people with disabilities.
Jasmine Cowen, Workshops Manager
Jasmine is a graduate of University of Toronto with degrees in psychology and occupational therapy. Since 2012, Jasmine has been a researcher at U of T on projects that collaborate with people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD). Jasmine’s master’s project draws on critical disability perspectives to explore identities of young adults with IDD, with particular focus on positive disability identities. She worked as a researcher on a project examining links between dementia and mental health at Baycrest Health Sciences, a U of T affiliated hospital in Toronto, and currently works as an Occupational Therapist in education.
Lucy Federico, Social Media Coordinator
Lucy joined HOH as a social group volunteer in the summer of 2016 and had the opportunity to transition into the role of Social Media Manager a few months later! Lucy holds a B.Sc. from McGill university, majoring in biology. She is really excited to work with such a great team to help raise awareness and acceptance of disabilities, while promoting peer-to-peer engagement. Outside of HOH, Lucy is completing medical school, and in her spare time she loves to play soccer.
Parent Engagement Committee
Yuen Ngo, VP Parent Engagement
Yuen Ngo joined Hand Over Hand as a Founding Director to launch the new Parent Support Program in 2013. She has an educational background in Nutrition Management and her work experience includes food service and early childhood care for children with and without disabilities. Yuen comes to Hand Over Hand with her unique and valuable experience as a parent of a son with Autism. She is knowledgeable in navigating services and advocating for her family and her son, and believes that having a support circle is important for other families to learn and to grow with their child. Her goal is to create a peer space for the HOH parents to encourage support and understanding, and to share ideas on new initiatives and solutions in the community.