Elly Saidi is the driving force behind the operations and programs of UWV. Born in Iran and fleeing to India as a child together with her family, Elly was witness to the impact of state and religious persecution at a very early age. In India, she experienced the poverty and challenges facing women and children around her. Her family immigrated as Baha’i religious refugees to Canada, where Elly quickly came to deeply value the abundance, opportunities, tolerance and religious freedoms Canada offered its citizens. Nevertheless, her early experiences forged her life view of the necessity of service to those less fortunate. In adulthood, her commitment to help others has led Elly to engage in overseas relief and development efforts in Uganda with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and in China, Honduras, and the war torn countries of Eastern Europe. Building on her commitments to equity and compassion, Elly has founded UWV to actively foster environments, characterized by inclusiveness, individual responsibility, and justice, that stimulate the inherent capacity within every individual to grow and develop both themselves and the communities in which they live.
Carl Byers has conducted business across the globe for over 25 years, stimulating business expansion, assisting academic institutions, supporting the development of NGOs, and facilitating the delivery of conflict reduction and reconciliation programs for former combatants and abductees. He has provided organizations with strategic guidance, has facilitated strategy formulation, and has guided execution to secure funding, establish partnerships, and effectively meet growth and outcome objectives. Throughout his international experience he observed a common theme – the combination of deep inequity, frustration, and hopelessness that exists as individuals in vulnerable and post-conflict societies try to build secure livelihoods and strong communities. Carl believes there is an opportunity to do things differently – to allow individuals and communities to define their own needs, to provide support without dependency, and to facilitate or re-build the conditions for individuals to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve greatness. It is that belief that has led him to co-found UWV, and to support the strategic operations of the organization and its programs with his unique expertise combining individual and small business capacity development with academic grounding in Engineering, Business, and Human Security and Peacebuilding.