Executive Members

Honorary Executive Member

Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard

Honorary Executive Member

Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard is a highly regarded social worker, educator, researcher, community activist and advocate of social change. She has worked in mental health at the provincial level, in rural community practice at the municipal level, and, since 1990, as a professor at the Dalhousie School of Social Work, where she also served as director for a decade. In 2016, she was appointed Special Advisor on Diversity and Inclusiveness at Dalhousie University and she is the first African Nova Scotian to hold a tenure track position at Dalhousie University, to be promoted to full professor, and Professor Emeritus. Dr. Thomas Bernard has worked with provincial organizations to bring diversity to the political processes in Nova Scotia and teach community members about Canada’s legislative process and citizen engagement. She is a founding member of the Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW) which helps address the needs of marginalized citizens, especially those of African descent. As a former member of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, and as its past Chair, was instrumental in the development of advice to ministers regarding frameworks for gender violence prevention and health equity. At the national level, she has served as a member of the National Coalition of Advisory Councils on the Status of Women. She has served as an expert witness in human rights cases and has presented at many local, national and international forums. Dr. Thomas Bernard has received many honours for her work and community leadership, notably the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada. Dr Bernard was appointed to the Senate of Canada in November 2016, by The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau. At its 40th Anniversary Conference in 2019, Senator Bernard was made an Honourary Member of ABSW and appointed to its Executive.``

Meet the Board

Get to know our executive board and what makes them special.

Rajean Willis, BSW, MSW


Rajean is a Clinical Social Worker with Correctional Services Canada, Community Mental Health Services. She also works casually with the Nova Scotia Health Authority Mental Health and Addictions Services. Rajean’s areas of specialization and interest include working across the age spectrum – youth, adults, and elders with Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Gambling, Violence, Cultural Sensitivity and Afrocentrism, Community Engagement and Development and Grief & Loss.

Veronica Marsman, BSW, MSW

Past President

Veronica was the President of ABSW for the past eight years. As President, Veronica was instrumental in securing funding for our first full-time staff as well as securing office space for ABSW at the Akoma Family Centre. Veronica provided daily support to the ABSW Outreach Social Worker and the Social Worker hired to work on initiatives funded from grants. Veronica’s goal for ABSW remains to have another chapter in Canada and to have all Black Social Workers in the province recognize the value of the organization and support the work that is being conducted.

Rachelle Sweeting

Vice President

Rachelle Sweeting is a Registered Social Worker from Halifax, Nova Scotia, with roots in the historic Black Community of North Preston. She holds a BA from Mount Saint Vincent University and a BSW and MSW from Dalhousie University. Over the past 8 years, Rachelle has held various positions in the field of Social Work, including a Child Protection Social Worker with the Department of Community Services (DCS). During her time with DCS, she was a founding member of “Because We Matter” which was a small group of Black staff that developed to highlight and address experiences of racism within the Department. This work ultimately led to significant changes in Child Welfare policy and practice which continue today. In May 2019, she was recognized for this work and received the Minister’s Award. Following her time with DCS, she worked as a Continuing Care Coordinator with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and currently, she works as a Case Manager at Veterans Affairs Canada. She is the Chair of ABSW’s Child Welfare Committee and is passionate about advocating for culturally appropriate services and systemic changes for Black children/youth and their families. Rachelle commits her time providing education and training around Anti-Black Racism; as well as raising awareness around social issues that impact marginalized populations. She is a strong advocate for the African Nova Scotian community and remains dedicated to the work that contributes to the health and well-being of people of African descent.

Vivian Dixon, BSW, MSW


Vivian is currently employed as the Workplace Diversity Coordinator with the Women Unlimited Association – a not-for-profit women’s organization that promotes the full participation of women in trades and technology by addressing the systemic barriers that limit the participation of diverse women in these fields. Vivian has a strong passion for social justice, working with women and youth in areas of mental health and family therapy. Vivian is an active volunteer, community & church member sitting on several boards and committees; she recently accepted the position as Treasurer with the ABSW.

Yvette Jarvis


Yvette Jarvis is employed as program coordinator with Women Unlimited at the NSCC Institute of Technology campus. She is a student at Dalhousie University working towards a BSW. Yvette plays an active role as member, advocate and volunteer within her community. She joined ABSW in June 2018 and accepted the position of secretary in June 2019.