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Staff

From five high-need locations across the United States, our staff provide interdisciplinary, trauma-informed services to immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. Located in Greater DC, our executive and national teams support the needs of our local offices and our policy advocacy. Our staff exhibit a high level of cultural competency, speak multiple languages, and, above all, are committed to supporting our clients.

Sahra Agahi

Forced Marriage Initiative Project Associate

Sahra Agahi joined Tahirih in 2019. As Executive & Development Assistant, Sahra is responsible for providing administrative support to both the Chief Executive Officer and Development & Communications team. Before joining Tahirih, Sahra served in the Women’s Empowerment department at the Alameda County Family Justice Center in Oakland, California supporting the development of a new program centered on navigating trauma for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. While at the ACFJC, Sahra earned her certificate as a Domestic Violence Counselor. Sahra has lived in the Czech Republic and Zambia, where she attended secondary school. She has also traveled extensively throughout India, China, the Philippines, Western Europe, and the Middle East while conducting human rights-based research. 

Since I was a young girl, I’ve been inspired by the vital human rights work Tahirih has centered itself around- unapologetically fighting for justice, equality, and human dignity for immigrant women and children around the world. It is a great privilege and honor to serve these courageous heroines and contribute to this incredible team as an unwavering voice for the voiceless.

Education: University of California, Berkeley, BA

Languages: Persian

Hometown: Irvine, California

 

Pamela Antwi-Nimarko

Grant Writer

Pamela joined Tahirih in 2021 as a Grant Writer. As a grant writer, Pamela is responsible for writing grant proposals and reports to funders who support Tahirih’s five local offices, communicating to current and potential funders the mission of Tahirih and the importance of supporting the organization. Prior to joining Tahirih, Pamela served as a grant writer and communications associate for New Vision Youth Services, Inc. in Virginia and as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Virginia Modeling Analysis and Simulation Centre at Old Dominion University (ODU). Pamela was born in Ghana where she spent most of her life. Pamela has lived and studied in the United Kingdom (UK).

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to assist courageous immigrant women and girls fleeing their country because of sexual assault and gender-based violence.”

Education: Old Dominion University, PhD (ABD)

Rimpal Kaur Bajwa

Public Policy Innovator

Rimpal Kaur Bajwa joined Tahirih in 2022. As a Public Policy Innovator, she works to support Tahirih’s mission of serving immigrants facing gender-based violence through advocacy and public policy research and compilation. Prior to joining Tahirih, Rimpal previously interned at the United States Equal Opportunity Commission and Grantmakers for Girls of Color.

Rimpal won the Americans United essay contest by writing a piece highlighting the dangers of Islamophobia in American government, institutions, and culture in direct response to the then-recent passage of the Muslim Ban. Upon coming to Georgetown University, she founded the Georgetown Sikh Student Association to help create a space for Sikh-Americans to find community on campus. She was recently awarded the Critical Language Scholarship for the study of Punjabi in India. During the summer of 2022, Rimpal lived and studied Punjabi in an intensive and immersive study abroad program based in Chandigarh, Punjab.

I am inspired by Tahirih’s mission to center the voices, experiences and needs of immigrant women and girls, who are relegated to the margins of society and forced to endure countless forms of oppression in silence. Through their resistant work, Tahirih has encouraged me to reimagine a gender-equal world where power and agency is respected in everyone—regardless of their identity.

Education: Georgetown University, BS

Languages: English, Punjabi, Spanish, Hindi

Hometown: Puyallup, Washington

Caitlin Burnett

Government Grants Manager

Caitlin Burnett originally joined Tahirih in 2011, but returned in 2017. As Government Grants Manager, Caitlin helps to secure and steward the variety of government funds which support Tahirih’s services to survivors across the country. During her time away from Tahirih, she was Grants Officer for Public Justice, an organization dedicated to using impact litigation to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses. Before joining Tahirih in 2011, she was in institutional fundraising for a community-based organization serving immigrants and refugees.

“I believe that everyone, as a global citizen, has a role to play in upholding the human rights of our most vulnerable neighbors. I am inspired by the compassion, non-partisanship, and dedication to excellence which are deliberately woven into Tahirih’s organizational DNA, and proud to support holistic services for women and girls seeking freedom from violence.”

Education: Ithaca College, BA; American University, Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management

Hometown: Williamsburg, MA

Richard Caldarone

Litigation Counsel

Richard Caldarone joined Tahirih in 2019. As Litigation Counsel working in our National office, Richard coordinates and manages litigation on Tahirih’s behalf with pro bono law firms, assists immigration staff attorneys with appeals in federal court, and assists in identifying appropriate litigation to further Tahirih’s goals. Richard has lived and studied in both Japan and the United Kingdom prior to joining Tahirih.

“I am inspired by the courage of Tahirih’s clients, its tenacious and dedicated advocacy on behalf of those clients, and its vision of complete equality”

Education: Yale University, JD; Princeton University, MA; University of Oxford, BA; Northwestern University, BA and BMus

Languages: Basic French, German, Japanese

Hometown: York, Pennsylvania

Molly Conrad

Government Grants Associate

Molly Conrad joined Tahirih in 2019. As Government Grants Associate in the National office, Molly is responsible for grant writing and reporting, prospecting new opportunities for institutional support, and securing the resources necessary to provide services to Tahirih’s clients. Prior to joining Tahirih, Molly worked for the State of Florida Department of Children and Families as a Policy Analyst for the Refugee Services Program. As a student, Molly completed an internship in Rabat, Morocco, where she focused on children’s rights and adoption.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to empowering women and girls to live without fear.”

Education: Florida State University, BS

Languages: French and Arabic

Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida

Alexis Fekete-Shukla

Grant Writer

As Grant Writer, Alexis is responsible for writing grant proposals and reports for funders who support Tahirih’s five local offices, informing current and potential foundation funders about Tahirih’s important work and our progress against proposed goals. Alexis joined Tahirih in 2022.

Prior to joining Tahirih, Alexis was the Director of Advancement and Planning at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, where she led grant writing and all other fundraising activities and chaired the Museum’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility steering committee—Museums Empowered. She has also worked as a grant writer at the Lied Center of Kansas performing arts center, interned at the Robert J. Dole Archive and Special Collections, and served as Children’s Liaison for two years at the Milton Public Library.

“I admire Tahirih’s three-pronged approach of social services and legal representation, outreach and training, and policy advocacy that provide both immediate and long-term support for immigrant survivors of violence.”

Education: University of Kansas, MA; Marshall University, BA

Hometown: Harts, West Virginia

 

Alex Goyette

Senior Public Policy Associate

Alex joined Tahirih in 2017 as a Policy Associate. He supports the policy team’s advocacy initiatives to pass legislation, develop regulations, transform policies, and set legislative precedents. Prior to joining Tahirih, Alex worked as an interpreter and administrative assistant at Bayside Pediatrics in Annapolis, and interned with the International Rescue Committee in Baltimore. He has studied abroad in Spain and Argentina.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s vision of a world in which men and women work as equals for the benefit of humanity, and it’s commitment to serving the needs of those at the intersections of multiple forms of vulnerability”

Education: American University, MA; University of Delaware, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Crofton, Maryland

Beth Ann Hellert

Grants Finance Manager

Beth Ann Hellert joined Tahirih in 2009. As the Grants Finance Manager, she manages Tahirih’s financial grant reporting and related projects. Prior to joining Tahirih, Beth Ann was the Director of Business Operations at the American National Red Cross in the Plasma Services Divison. Before that, she was the Manager of their Business Operations. She spent an academic year at the Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico.

I am inspired by the courage of the women and girls who seek Tahirih’s assistance and their drive to improve their lives and those of their children. I am also inspired by my colleagues’ tireless commitment and work in service to these women to help them achieve safety and dignity.

Education: University of Texas at Austin, MBA; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Fairfax, VA

Jessica Horning

Reporting and Data Associate

Jessica Horning joined Tahirih in 2017. As the Reporting and Data Associate, Jessica studies internal data to ensure accurate grant reporting and impact analyses. Prior to joining Tahirih, Jessica worked as a research associate with Wider Opportunities for Women in Washington, DC and interned with the Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition in Austin, Texas. Jessica spent much of her childhood abroad and has lived in Germany, Russia and Thailand.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to the safety and dignity of women and girls both directly from a legal standpoint, and indirectly through partnerships and grants to provide for physical and emotional needs as well.”

Education:  James Madison University, BSW; University of Texas at Austin, MSSW
Languages: French, Spanish
Hometown: Manassas, Virginia

Meredith Kiryakov

Communications Coordinator/Writer

Meredith joined Tahirih in 2019 as a grant writer. In 2022, Meredith joined the communications team as the Communications Coordinator/Writer where she supports Tahirih’s work through content creation and project management. Prior to joining Tahirih, Meredith served as a Senior Program Associate at IBTCI, a USAID contractor, and as a Research Assistant at Democracy International. Meredith has studied and worked abroad in Spain and Kenya.

“I am inspired by the courageous immigrant survivors of gender-based violence that Tahirih serves who are overcoming incredible obstacles to build better, safer lives for themselves and their families, and by the tireless work of my colleagues to support them and raise awareness about gender-based violence.”

Education: George Washington University, MA; University of Virginia, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Alexandria, Virginia

Karla Flores

Media Relations Coordinator

Karla Flores joined Tahirih in 2021. As the Media Relations Coordinator, Karla is responsible for raising visibility of the work we do within the organization. From pitching stories to multiple media outlets, to prepping survivors for interviews about their story. Karla has 6 years of experience in the broadcast news industry. She started her career as a journalist when she worked for Telemundo Washington DC in 2015. Then, in 2018, she began working as a bilingual reporter and anchor in Washington DC for NBC Universal. While working as a reporter, Karla told hundreds of stories about immigration and human rights.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s vision to end gender-based violence and their fight to provide women and girls a safer home.”

Education: George Mason University

Languages: Spanish and English

Hometown: Burke, VA

Ron Lapitan

Constituent Data Assistant

Ron joined Tahirih in 2018. As a Constituent Data Assistant, Ron is responsible for maintaining accurate donations data and coordinating the nationwide acknowledgements process. Prior to joining Tahirih, Ron served as Community Outreach Coordinator with the Center for Health and Human Rights.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s drive to give all women and girls a chance at living without fear.”

Education: George Mason University, BA

Languages: Farsi

Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia

Brittany Marshall

Supervising Finance Manager, Government Grants

Brittany Marshall joined Tahirih in 2017. As Grants Finance Manager, Brittany is responsible for the grants management, compliance, and accounting services; preparation of budget proposals and reports; and broad customer service to both internal and external stakeholders including Tahirih program directors and sub-grantees. Prior to joining Tahirih, she served as the Program Manager for Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation managing the provision of college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. Brittany also served as the Operations Manager for the United States Veterans Initiative, the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of comprehensive services to homeless and at-risk veterans.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to gender equality and the common interest of staff and partners to advance women in fulfilling their mission in all departments of life, that they may be on the same level as men and enjoy equal rights.”

Education: Virginia State University, BS; Trinity Washington University, MSA

Hometown: Washington, DC

Rachel Sheridan

Litigation Counsel

Rachel joined Tahirih in 2018. As Litigation Counsel on our National team and working in our San Francisco Bay Area office, Rachel supports judicial and administrative appeals, impact litigation, and policy advocacy. She previously served as a Staff Attorney at Tahirih and a litigator in Washington, DC. Rachel has traveled extensively in Central and South America.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to seeking justice hand-in-hand with immigrant women and children who have survived gender-based violence. It’s an honor to work every day to build a more gender-equal society.”

Education: Georgetown University Law Center, JD; Northwestern University, BS

Hometown: Palo Alto, California

Languages: Spanish

Emma Storm

Digital Communications Manager

Emma joined Tahirih in 2022. As Tahirih’s Digital Communications Manager, Emma is responsible for planning and implementing strategies to grow Tahirih’s digital presence and online communities as part of the national communications team. Prior to joining Tahirih, Emma served as Digital Marketing Manager at OPERA America, where she led national communications campaigns and facilitated learning and support for marketing professionals at North American arts organizations. She currently serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications at Opera NexGen. Emma is a writer for Opera America Magazine and her work has been featured by Capacity Interactive: Digital Marketing Consulting for the Arts.

I am inspired every day by Tahirih’s wholistic, intentional, and collaborative approach to walking alongside survivors on their journey to safety and justice.

Education: Temple University, BM

Hometown: Fredonia, NY

Tatiana Suftina

Finance Manager, Government Grants

Tatiana joined Tahirih in 2019. As Finance Manager, Government Grants for our National office, Tatiana is responsible for preparing budgets and grant adjustment notices; preparing and submitting reports to meet monthly, quarterly and annual compliance requirements; supporting the annual financial audit; and ensuring Tahirih fully leverages grant resources to serve women and girls fleeing violence. Prior to joining Tahirih, Tatiana worked as a Grants Manager at Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice and as a Budget Analyst and Grants Specialist at the Loudoun County Government, Department of Fire and Rescue. Tatiana was born and raised in Moldova and spent 8 years in Toronto, Canada before moving to the United States.

“I am inspired by the variety of services that Tahirih provides to immigrant women and girls helping them flee the violence and start a new life with no fear.”

Education: Moldovan Academy of Economic Studies

Languages: English, Russian, basic French, basic Romanian

Hometown: Chisinau, Moldova

Irena Sullivan

Senior Immigration Policy Counsel

Irena Sullivan originally joined Tahirih in 1998, and has re-joined in 2016. As a Senior Immigration Policy Counsel at Tahirih, Irena advocates within all areas of government, which includes lobbying for or against certain laws, drafting and proposing new laws, engaging with high level government decision-makers on policy matters, and initiating impact litigation. Advocacy is always done in a bipartisan manner and may also include outreach and education to stakeholders, and participation in coalitions and working groups with other advocates. Prior to Tahirih, Irena worked as Associate Counsel for the Refugee & Asylum Law Division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizenship & Immigration Services and as Division Director for the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration. She also previously worked as the Director of Legal Services for the Tahirih Justice Center.

“Tahirih holds a very special place in my heart both personally and professionally. Tahirih gives voice to the voiceless, by fearlessly exposing a subject that has historically been obscured – violence against women specifically because of their gender. A cornerstone of Tahirih’s mission is that both men and women must engage equally in the struggle against gender-based violence in order to prevail. The wisdom of this premise, as well as the courage inherent in Tahirih’s mission and work, is what inspires and energizes me on a daily basis.”

Education: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, BA; American University, JD

Languages: French, basic Polish and Hebrew

Hometown: Newton, MA

Casey Swegman

Director of Public Policy

Casey Swegman joined Tahirih in 2013. As the Forced Marriage Initiative Project Manager, Casey oversees the provision of specialized social services and safety planning to individuals facing or fleeing forced marriage, as well as technical assistance to service providers across the country. Casey also supports the growth of the national coalition working on the issue of forced marriage in the United States and manages the Forced Marriage Initiative website. Prior to joining Tahirih, Casey was a Special Needs Care Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee and a refugee caseworker at the Refugee Support Center in Nairobi, Kenya, where she lived for two years.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s unconditional dedication to excellence and innovation in serving immigrant women and girls.”

Education: Georgetown University, MA; Drexel University, BS

Hometown: Burtonsville, MD

Hellitz Villegas

Forced Marriage Initiative Project Manager

Hellitz Villegas joined Tahirih in 2018. As the Forced Marriage Initiative Project Associate, Hellitz provides direct services to individuals in the U.S. facing or fleeing forced marriage, responds to requests for technical assistance nationally, conducts education and outreach, and helps to craft policy solutions. Prior to joining Tahirih, Hellitz worked with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as a hotline advocate with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville, Florida’s Rape Recovery Team. In addition, she held several positions with Hubbard House, a domestic violence center in Jacksonville, where she facilitated support groups, conducted intakes for children, and served as a resident advocate in the Hubbard House emergency shelter, providing care to shelter residents and responding to crisis calls on the hotline. Hellitz is also an experienced criminal court victim advocate, assisting clients with intake, protection orders, and relocation as well as providing external referrals. With over eight years of experience in the social advocacy setting, Hellitz’s career has focused on advising those in crisis by providing support in both therapeutic and educational settings.

“I am excited to work for Tahirih as they provide holistic, client-centered services for women and girls to know that a life without violence is possible!”

Education: University of North Florida, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Bayamón, Puerto Rico

Meaghan Whalen

Director of Development

Meaghan Whalen joined Tahirih in 2022. As Director of Development in the national office, Meaghan helps support the organization in achieving its fundraising objectives. She brings over a decade of fundraising experience and is excited to collaborate with the wider team to further strengthen and advance the fundraising program and to cultivate meaningful relationships with Tahirih’s stakeholders. Before Tahirih, she served as a Major Gifts Officer of Food & Friends and as Assistant Director of Development with Jesuit Refugee Service/USA both in Washington, DC.

The vision of a gender-equal society and holistic, client-centered services provided for immigrant women and girls inspires my work at Tahirih.

Education: Rockhurst University, BA

Hometown: Kansas