Cancer may separate them - help keep them together

We are seeking support for our dear friend and sister, Joni and her 11 year old daughter Naijah. Joni has recently been diagnosed with multiple metastatic recurrences of a brain cancer she successfully beat back in 2005.

This time it is non-operable and terminal, and despite palliative radiation treatments her time remaining is short. 

Joni has been working on projects in Belize for the past decade and adopted her daughter Naijah there in 2015. In 2018, Joni brought Naijah to Canada intending to establish a new life here -  before cancer intervened. Unfortunately Naijah’s immigration status had not been settled and Joni had not found permanent employment before that diagnosis. The result is that Joni is faced with intimidating legal costs to ensure Naijah can be in Canada while Joni is still with us, and to remain in Canada once Joni is gone (the required legal retainer is currently estimated at $10,000 CAD). She has no income source and - as a consequence of her dedication to service and non-profit organizations - few savings. 

Six month after her recurrence, the savings she did have are now depleted and Joni has had to resort to using credit for the basics of food and shelter.

Joni’s final wish is for her daughter Naijah to grow up and live in Canada surrounded by those who love her. Our friend, a warrior and single-mother, desperately needs help to raise funds for the legal fees associated with Naijah becoming a permanent resident and ultimately, a Canadian citizen. Without this status, 11-year-old Naijah will be sent back, alone, to Belize. With citizenship, Joni’s close friend, Sara, can become Naijah’s legal guardian and Naijah can remain in Canada to have the life Joni dreamed for her.  

Joni’s story - a passion for language and dedication to education

Joni grew up in the small community of Metchosin on Vancouver Island, she went to Belmont highschool and studied at the University of Victoria, where she developed a passion for language.  She obtained a degree in French and History, adding fluency in Spanish developed while studying in Guatemala, and a Master’s degree in Education focusing on international studies at the University of Alberta - before ultimately becoming a teacher in the languages program at Stelly’s Secondary in Saanich, BC. There she became passionate about the Global Perspectives program and took students on journeys to learn new cultures and languages. Through this program she led many groups of students to complete multiple service learning projects in Cuba, Peru, and Belize (and less exotic but equally rewarding journeys to Toronto) during the decade she taught at Stelly’s.

Fourteen years ago, at the age of 35, Joni started getting spontaneous nosebleeds that would not stop. The source was a brain tumour caused by a very rare form of cancer (aesthesioneuroblastoma) that originated on her olfactory nerve. Over the next year, she endured an 8-hour surgery to remove the tumour, permanently losing her sense of smell, and then persevered through a battery of post-op treatments. The cancer was declared in remission.

Although a recurrence was always possible, Joni chose to maximize her new lease on life. An avid traveler in her youth, Joni had a special love for Central America that had deepened through her work bringing students there for immersion and service experiences. Once she got a clean bill of health, she travelled to the island of Caye Caulker in Belize - one of the places where she’d spent large amounts of time prior to her diagnosis.  

Joni knew that opportunities for children on the island were limited, largely because those seeking education beyond elementary school needed to travel to do so - an expense that few families could afford. Many times, local parents asked her if a high school could be built on the Caye and if she knew anyone who could make one happen. Joni formed a partnership with a friend and local entrepreneur and together they developed a plan to build a not-for-profit high school on the island. After countless months of fund-raising, lobbying government, navigating acres of red tape, and generating all the organizational magic needed to find donors, buy land, develop curricula, and hire teachers, Ocean Academy opened to the children of Caye Caulker in 2008 ( The school has continued to thrive for the past decade thanks to Joni’s persistence - hours spent on grant writing, fundraising, teaching, and acting as an administrator - seldom drawing a salary.

Having worked tirelessly at a non-profit organization for the past 12 years, Joni has no savings and is too young to fully access her pension from her years as a teacher in British Columbia. Six months ago, she thought that she’d have ample time to get settled in Victoria, to find work that inspired passion, and to teach her daughter what it means to be Canadian. Unfortunately, Joni’s time is very limited.  Her terminal prognosis is very real.  

Joni has given so much to others.  Please find it in your hearts to help make Joni’s wish for Naijah come true. This little girl’s safety, happiness and future are what is most important to Joni. A contribution of any amount would be greatly appreciated.

40285510_1563408649179014_r.jpegNaijah at Glen Lake, Victoria

40285510_1563408681105861_r.jpegNaijah and some of her Canadian cousins
  • Anonymous 
    • $100 
    • 17 mos
  • Tracey Mellor 
    • $500 
    • 20 mos
  • Sara Hoshooley 
    • $50 
    • 23 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $40 
    • 23 mos
  • Michael Newton 
    • $20 
    • 23 mos
See all

Fundraising team (5)

Ell Bee 
Victoria, BC
Joni Miller 
Carly Hunter 
Team member
Isabel Lizama 
Team member
Vickie Milne 
Team member
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