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Staff

From five high-need locations across the United States, our staff provide holistic services to courageous immigrant women and girls fleeing 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 the protection of 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

 

Sara Amin

Communications and Marketing Manager

Sara Amin joined Tahirih in 2016. As Marketing Manager, Sara leads the development and execution of an organization-wide marketing plan that drives the engagement of priority audiences through targeted, multi-channel communications about Tahirih’s mission, progress, and opportunities for continued impact. Prior to joining Tahirih, Sara served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation in Texas and as Senior Marketing Associate with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Sara’s appreciation for cultural differences stems from her family’s time spent abroad, starting with her first trip to Egypt at the age of 1. Since then she has visited Canada, Cyprus, France, Israel, India, England, Spain and Holland. Egypt holds a special place in Sara’s heart because the entirety of her father’s side of the family resides in Cairo or Alexandria.

“The truth is – I am one of the lucky ones. I have the privilege of using my voice on behalf of those who have been silenced … those who never knew their own voice … those who so desperately want to shout their dreams! I believe if we have the power to create lasting change, we should use every ounce of strength to stand up for what is right, what is just. The Tahirih Justice Center is an inspiration to women everywhere – it says you can change your stars, you can aspire to be whomever and whatever you so desire.”

Education: University of Maryland, College Park, B.A.

Hometown: Rockville, Maryland

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.

Tahirih’s vision 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

Lynnae Batts

Senior Systems Technology Analyst

Lynnae Batts joined Tahirih in 2012. As the Senior Systems Technology Analyst, Lynnae is a CompTIA Security+ certified professional who manages IT solutions by coordinating across teams to analyze their systems and procedures and recommend strategic changes to increase productivity, reduce costs and accomplish other business goals.  Prior to Tahirih, Lynnae was a Resource Coordinator at the National Legal Aid & Defender Association in Washington, DC, and a State Office Enumerator at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

“What inspires me about Tahirih’s mission is how it has penetrated the culture of the organization. So not only do we broadcast the mission to help immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based violence, but we also believe in the hope and operate in that hope of our mission as if we have achieved true equality for all.”

Education: University of Maryland, College Park, BA; University of Maryland University College, MS (in progress)

Hometown: Maryland

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

Julie M. Carpenter

Senior Litigation Counsel

Julie M. Carpenter joined Tahirih in 2017. As Litigation Attorney, Julie helps identify those areas of immigration law where impact litigation raising civil rights and immigration claims common to many of our clients is appropriate, and then to implement that litigation. Tahirih’s policy team plans to challenge new immigration rules and actions that threaten to undermine the protections afforded under current law to immigrant survivors of violence. Prior to Tahirih, Julie was a partner and litigator at Jenner & Block in Washington DC for nearly 28 years where she was a member of the First Amendment and the Government Contracts Practice Groups. She also served as the Chair of the Pro Bono Committee. She supervised and litigated a dozen human trafficking cases as well as constitutional challenges on a wide variety of issues.

Education: College of William and Mary, BA; University of North Carolina, JD

Languages: Some French, and enough siSwati, Arabic, Turkish, Italian, and Spanish to offer a polite greeting, thanks, and farewell.

Hometown: Hendersonville, NC

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

Carey Eisenberg

Major Gifts Officer

Carey Eisenberg joined Tahirih in 2015. As the Major Gifts Officer, Carey is responsible for implementing new cultivation and data-driven strategies that deepen Tahirih’s major donor pool, broaden the base of support, and increase donor contributions and retention. Carey brings with her over two decades of sales and marketing expertise, database knowledge, and business development from a variety of industries. Prior to Tahirih, Carey was a Senior Biotechnology Sales Representative at Amgen Inc. and a Senior Sales Representative for Eli Lilly and Company. She has lived abroad in Spain and Costa Rica.

“I am passionate about equality for women and children. Tahirih’s holistic approach inspires me to work as hard as I can to end violence against women and girls.”

Education: George Washington University, MBA; University of Rochester, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Julia Frankenbach

Grant Writer

Julia joined Tahirih in 2019. As Grant Writer for the national foundation grants team, Julia is responsible for overseeing and developing the grants portfolios for Tahirih’s San Francisco Bay Area and Houston offices. Prior to joining Tahirih, Julia studied U.S. immigration history at the University of Colorado, Boulder and worked as Project Specialist for the Mono Lake Committee. Julia has lived abroad in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mexico.

“I am inspired by the commitment of Tahirih’s leadership to addressing not just the needs of our individual clients but also the systemic issues that continue to force women and girls to seek refuge from violence.”

Education: University of Colorado Boulder, M.A.; Mount Holyoke College, B.A.

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Woodland, California

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

Rachel Pak

Policy Communications Associate

Rachel joined Tahirih in 2019. As the Policy Communications Associate, Rachel is responsible for generating and supporting external communications related to Tahirih’s program activities and policy advocacy. Prior to joining Tahirih, Rachel was the Communications Coordinator at Semilla Nueva, a Guatemala City non-profit focused on agriculture and reducing malnutrition within the region. She was also a Program Assistant with Vital Voices, supporting the implementation of programs on gender-based violence prevention and response. Rachel was a 2016 Princeton in Latin America fellow and spent her fellowship year working in communications for Pueblo a Pueblo, a community development non-profit located in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala.

Rachel has lived and volunteered in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico and studied political science in Argentina. She also spent two years living and working in non-profit communications in the rural highlands of Guatemala, as well as the country’s sprawling capital.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s cultural humility and unwavering commitment to serve courageous immigrant girls and women.”

Education: University of Maryland, College Park, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: North Potomac, Maryland

Rahi Patel

Development Strategy and Operations Associate

Rahi Patel joined Tahirih in 2016. As Development Strategy and Operations Associate, he provides administrative support to Tahirih’s executive staff and development team. Prior to Tahirih, Rahi was a Communications Fellow at Polaris and a Prevention Education Fellow at FAIR Girls. He has also spent 3 weeks in Rwanda focusing on women and youth development.

 

“It is incredibly inspiring to be supporting such courageous women and girls. I feel so privileged to be part of an organization that helps heroines regain their freedom and dignity.”

Education: American University, BA

Hometown: Howell, New Jersey

Jeanne Smoot

Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy

As Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy, Jeanne is principally focused on leading the development of legal and policy proposals to address forced marriage in the United States. Prior to moving into to her role as senior counsel, Jeanne led Tahirih’s public policy team for over a decade, fighting to reduce vulnerabilities of immigrant women and girls and to empower them as survivors.

Among other achievements, Jeanne helped draft and secure enactment of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) to prevent the abuse and exploitation of so-called “mail-order brides,” helped galvanize recognition of forced marriage as a domestic human rights problem in the United States with a groundbreaking national survey and the launch of a new Tahirih initiative, helped draft legislation to fix aspects of the broken asylum system that harm women and girls fleeing gender-based persecution and co-wrote a report to bring attention to the steep path that women face to receive asylum protection in the United States.

Jeanne also helped lead successful efforts to defend and expand protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and in the passage of a Senate bill to reform immigration laws.

“I am inspired by how extraordinary the women and girls we serve are, who rise above and move beyond a relationship, family, or community that has hindered and hurt them, seeking instead the love and respect that—despite all they’ve been told and shown to the contrary—they somehow know in their hearts that they deserve.”

Education

Jeanne is a graduate of Harvard University Law School and Harvard-Radcliffe College. She obtained her master’s degree from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. From 2011 to 2012, she served as a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School.

In the Media

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 Assistant

Ana joined Tahirih in 2018. As Communications Assistant, 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

Kylie Walker

Graphic Designer

Kylie Walker joined Tahirih in 2016. As Graphic Designer, Kylie works with the Development and Communications team to create print and digital visual pieces that communicate Tahirih’s mission. Prior to Tahirih, Kylie 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.

“It is truly an honor to be part of an organization that supports brave women and girls on their journey to justice.”

Education: University of Vermont, BA

Hometown: Rutland, Vermont