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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

Executive and Development Assistant

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

 

Erin Gar-Yun Andriamahefa

National Foundations Grants Manager

Erin Gar-Yun Andriamahefa joined Tahirih in 2019. As the National Foundations Grants Manager, Erin leads the foundation and grants cultivation and stewardship program. She is responsible for the submission of proposals and reports, and for leading, communicating and monitoring the grants management process. Prior to joining Tahirih, Erin was an independent consultant supporting grant writing, proposal development, facilitation, strategy and action planning and conducting research for various gender justice organizations. Erin supports local DC organization, Collective Action for Safe Spaces and has volunteered as a crisis intervention hotline advocate with the DC Rape Crisis Center. She also works with various groups including The Healing Solidarity Collective, Pop Works Africa and #BWiD (Black Women in Development) to re-imagine the international development sector by challenging and questioning the role of identity, trauma, power, and consent within the interpersonal to institutional relationships that exist as well as the systems of oppression that inherently shape the field. Erin has lived and studied in Rabat, Morocco and interned for the International Center for Research on Women in New Delhi, India, supporting research on masculinity, son preference, violence against single women, intimate partner violence and safe spaces for adolescent girls.

“Working at Tahirih aligns with my personal healing journey and my commitment to support survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence and imagine a world without violence.”

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

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

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

Jaya Franklin

Communications Manager

Jaya Franklin joined Tahirih in 2020. As Communications Manager, Jaya is responsible for engaging, cultivating, and growing the audiences for the Tahirih Justice Center, by developing content related to the center’s programs, initiatives, projects, and events. Prior to joining Tahirih, Jaya served as a Marketing Communications Manager with a national non-profit organization and as an Associate Director of Communications with Georgia State University College of Law.

I am inspired by Tahirih’s mission to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing violence because Tahirih provides essential services that are critical to survival and progression. Tahirih’s holistic approach not only helps those who are currently suffering, but it will change the narrative for the next generation of women and girls.

Education
Clark Atlanta University, BA

Awards and Recognition

  • Co-Founder of Visionary Artistry Magazine
  • Trustee, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Georgia Chapter
  • Local Organizer, Online News Association, Atlanta Chapter
  • Programming Co-Chair, National Association of Black Journalists (Region III)
  • Former Vice President of Digital Media, Atlanta Association of Black Journalists (AABJ)
  • Former Deputy Director of the Southeast, National Association of Black Journalists (Region III)

Hometown
Indianapolis, Indiana

Alex Goyette

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

Grant Writer

Meredith joined Tahirih in 2019. As Grant Writer, Meredith 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. 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 women and girls 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

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

Lourdes S. Eliacin Mars

Grant Writer

Lourdes S. Eliacin Mars joined Tahirih in 2019. As a Grant Writer in our National Office, Lourdes is responsible for writing proposals for Tahirih’s five field offices and conveying to supporters the importance of supporting the organization’s work. Prior to joining Tahirih, Lourdes served as a Deputy Director with The Lambi Fund of Haiti in Washington D.C. and as a Development Officer with The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Arlington, Virginia.  Lourdes was born in Haiti and has studied abroad in Paris, France and Malang, Indonesia.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to provide needed services to resilient immigrant women and children”

Education: George Washington University, MA; University of Central Florida, BA

Languages: Haitian Creole, French

Hometown: Orlando, Florida

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

Allie Mattil

Development Assistant

Allie joined Tahirih in 2019. As a Development Assistant working in our National Office, Allie  is responsible for providing logistical support for Tahirih’s galas and events as well as administrative support to the development and communications team. Prior to joining Tahirih, Allie was an Immigration Paralegal in Washington, DC and an intern Event Coordinator for an education focused nonprofit supporting under-served communities New York, NY. Allie has studied and lived abroad, working with a nonprofit to provide educational support to youth in Tanzania.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s holistic approach and dedication to supporting courageous women and girls who have fled gender-based violence.”

Education: Hunter College, BA.

Hometown: Greenfield, New Hampshire

Chace Pulley

National Pro Se Toolkit Coordinator

Chace Pulley joined Tahirih in 2021. As National Pro Se Toolkit Coordinator, Chace will help design resources that offer information surrounding immigration eligibility requirements for survivors and provide answers to immigration questions. Prior to joining Tahirih, Chace was a student at Haverford College where she was editor in chief of The Clerk, Haverford’s student newspaper, and worked as a Research Assistant for Professor Anita Isaacs where she assisted in compiling the oral histories of Mexican returnees. Chace graduated from Haverford magna cum laude with honors in Political Science and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She also won the James Bready 1939 Prize for Journalistic Writing at Haverford in both 2020 and 2021. Chace grew up in Tokyo, Japan before moving to California for high school. At Haverford, she studied abroad in Wellington, New Zealand where she researched indigenous rights.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s vision to offer life-changing support through both direct services and policy advocacy to unbelievably brave immigrant women and girls.”

Education: Haverford College, BA

Hometown: Hillsborough, California

Piyu Sen

Grant Associate

Piyu Sen joined Tahirih in 2016. As Volunteer Coordinator, she manages and expands Tahirih’s network of pro bono attorneys, medical/social services providers, and other skills-based volunteers in the Houston area. She aids the Houston staff with volunteer retention, valuation, and volunteer data integrity. Prior to Tahirih, she taught in a vigorously academic Montessori classroom in the heart of Houston’s Rice Village. She has also coordinated and established the first children’s literary section at the Houston Independent Book Festival hosted by the Menil Collection from 2011-2012, coordinated entertainment at UTHSC’s annual Stroke Prevention Fair in 2016, aided in the development of small fundraisers in the Houston arts community, and has donated her copy editing skills to Nano Fiction, a flash fiction magazine. She was born in Hyderabad, India and has traveled throughout India, Kashmir, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the continental United States.

“I am inspired by Tahirih Justice Center’s simple but essential mission – to ease the struggle of vulnerable immigrant women and girls, and to bring informed advocacy to the public. As a member of the immigrant community, I am proud to be a part of that mission.”

Education: Bay Path University, BA

Languages: Bengali

Hometown: Long Island, New York

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

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

Forced Marriage Initiative Project Manager

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

Ana Tarlas

Communications Associate

Ana joined Tahirih in 2018. As Communications Associate, Ana is responsible for generating and supporting external communications relating to Tahirih’s activities, including emails to supporters, action alerts, social media posts, web posts, newsletters, event scripts, and blogs. Prior to joining Tahirih, Ana worked as a Library Assistant at the Peace Corps and as an International Communications Intern with the Global Business School Network in Washington, DC.

“I am continually inspired by the strength, courage and bravery of women around the world fleeing violence and seeking freedom for themselves and their children, and Tahirih’s determination to fight alongside these women for equality and justice.”

Education: American University, BA
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Hellitz Villegas

Forced Marriage Initiative Project Associate

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

Ky Walker

Graphic Designer
Image of Ky, a person with short, light brown hair, circular gold wire glasses, and wearing a jean jacket and t-shirt with the words "Abolition is Creative"

Ky Walker joined the Tahirih Justice Center in 2016. As the Graphic Designer, Ky works with the communications team, spearheading Tahirih’s visual branding and facilitating the development of creative communications. Prior to joining Tahirih, Ky was the Community Outreach & Development AmeriCorps*VISTA at the Multilingual & Multicultural Center of Portland Public Schools in Maine and a freelance graphic and web designer. She has lived abroad in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where she taught English and studied Russian language, politics, and history.

“I believe in Tahirih’s work not only to support individual survivors seeking justice, but also to transform the structures that perpetuate oppression and drive our society toward eradicating gender-based violence. It is a long road, but one that must be walked by centering survivors who are faced with intersecting forms of oppression and by addressing the needs of survivors through holistic, trauma-informed approaches.”

Education: University of Vermont, BA

Hometown: Rutland, Vermont

Abiot Zegeye

Human Resources Generalist

Abiot Zegeye joined Tahirih in 2020. As an HR Generalist, Abiot supports a variety of human resources functions with a particular emphasis on recruiting. In addition to supporting organization-wide HR initiatives, Abiot ensures the application of an equity lens to enhance and execute Tahirih’s strategy to acquire highly qualified talent who reflect the rich diversity of the immigrant women and girls we serve.

Prior to joining Tahirih, Abiot spent more than a decade working in the HR field for international development organizations. The most recent role was Global Human Resources Manager for Global Communities and supported global HR initiatives and operation for more than 24 different country offices. Prior to Global Communities, Abiot was an HR Business Partner at Population Services International (PSI), one of the largest global development organizations based in Washington D.C. As an HR Business Partner, Abiot has been working with a wide range of networks across headquarters and different country offices programs with a diverse workforce with PSI world. Abiot also served as an HR leader for PSI in Ethiopia office for seven years.

Abiot has spent most of his life in Ethiopia where he was born, lived, and worked in HR for different organizations until he was relocated with his family to the US in 2017.

Tahirih’s mission, commitment and approach to the equality of women and men; and the commitment to serve immigrant women and girls who are survivors of gender-based violence was true inspiration for my decision to join Tahirih.

Education: Masters of Public Administration (MPA); Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration and Development Management – Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Language: Amharic

Hometown: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia