Eric Schwartz, President
Eric Schwartz became President of Refugees International in June 2017. Eric has had a three-decade career focused on humanitarian and human rights issues. Between 2009 and 2011, he served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. As Assistant Secretary, he was credited with strengthening the State Department’s humanitarian advocacy around the world, initiating and implementing critical enhancements to the U.S. refugee resettlement program and raising the profile of global migration issues in U.S. foreign policy. He was the senior human rights and humanitarian official at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, managing humanitarian responses to crises in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. He also served as the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery after the 2004 Asian Tsunami; as Washington Director of Asia Watch (now the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch); and Staff Consultant to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, among other positions in the U.S. government, at the UN and in the non-profit sector. Just prior to arriving at Refugees International, Eric served a six-year term as Dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. During much of that period, he also served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and, ultimately, as the Commission’s vice chair. He holds a law degree from New York University School of Law, a Master of Public Affairs degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, and a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from the State University of New York at Binghamton.
KENDRA DAVIS, VICE PRESIDENT for External relations
Kendra Davis joined Refugees International in April 2013 as Vice President for Philanthropy and now serves as Vice President for External Relations, overseeing the organization’s development and communications efforts. Before she joined RI, Kendra was Director of the International Donor Advised Giving Program at United Way Worldwide, where she oversaw 700 grant projects annually in more than 100 countries and was responsible for $7 million in program expansion. Kendra enjoyed a 10‐year career at the U.S. State Department, where she was head of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor’s program division. In that capacity, she oversaw the grant evaluation and awards process for $500 million in Congressionally‐appropriated funds. In addition, she served as a program officer in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, where she oversaw public diplomacy initiatives in Europe/Eurasia. She received two Superior Honor Awards, two Benjamin Franklin Awards and the Foreign Service Institute’s Adjunct Faculty Award for her work at the State Department. Before her tenure at the State Department, Kendra managed a variety of international grant programs at the League of Women Voters Education Fund, including a program designed to enfranchise 100,000 Bosnian refugees living in the US. Kendra holds a BA in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Princeton University and an MA in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Michigan. She speaks Russian and served on board of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria from 2010-2016.
STEVEN MOST, DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AND OPERATIONS
Steven Most joined Refugees International in July 2010. His professional experience includes administration, budgets, contract writing, donor relations, finance, grant management, human resources, project management, and proposal writing for NGOs, government, international organizations, and the UN. Many of these experiences were gained while providing humanitarian assistance to crises involving displaced persons. Mr. Most's education is in business administration and international economics.
ROWENA AVERIA, SENIOR ACCOUNTANT
Rowena Averia joined Refugees International in October 2012. A certified public accountant, Ms. Averia has 15 years of experience in public accounting. She started her audit work with Arthur Andersen in Manila, Philippines working with clients in the banking, finance, and manufacturing industries. She has also worked in Indonesia as part of the internal audit department in one of the biggest conglomerates in the country. Prior to joining RI, Ms. Averia worked as an external auditor and accounting consultant working primarily with non- profit organizations. Ms. Averia holds a Bachelor of Science in Commerce Degree Major in Accounting from Assumption College in Makati, Philippines and she passed the Philippine CPA Licensure Exams in October of 1989.
MATTHEW BECHTEL, DEVELOPMENT OFFICER
Matthew Bechtel joined Refugees International in September of 2010 as Database Administrator and became Development Officer in September 2014. He processes, cleans, and analyzes donation data to inform future campaigns, improve the general development strategy, and provide timely service to RI’s donors. Before coming to RI, Matthew served for a year in the Americorps VISTA program at the Crispus Attucks Association of York, PA as the Community Outreach Coordinator. Mr. Bechtel holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Religion from Gettysburg College.
Gail Chalef, Senior Communications Officer
Gail Chalef joined Refugees International in September 2016 as Senior Communications Officer. Prior to joining RI, Gail served as Director of Communications for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution. She joined Brookings in 2007 after a 17-year career with CNN and CNN International. During her years at CNN, Gail played a central role in coverage of major national and international news stories, including the first Gulf War, the Bosnian War, the election of Nelson Mandela, the first Russian presidential election, the 9/11attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the funeral of Pope John Paul and the conclave that followed. She received an Emmy Award for CNN’s 9/11 coverage, a Peabody Award for CNN’s Hurricane Katrina coverage, and an Emmy nomination for Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Palestinian President Yassir Arafat. Gail has also worked in politics as a broadcast media liaison during the 2012 Democratic Convention and an Assistant Press Secretary on the Mondale-Ferraro Campaign in 1984.
ALYSSA EISENSTEIN, PRESS AND INFORMATION OFFICER
Alyssa Eisenstein joined Refugees International in February 2015 as the Press and Information Officer. Prior to joining RI, Alyssa served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua where she worked to improve access to maternal healthcare and the health education curriculum at local schools. Alyssa holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where she also majored in International Studies and African Studies. She has interned for the communications teams at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Washington, DC; the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Uganda; the International Crisis Group in Washington, DC; and for the office of U.S. Senator Richard Durbin in Chicago. Alyssa also spent time reporting on human rights in Africa for eNews in Johannesburg, South Africa and as a documentary filmmaker in Uganda.
DARYL GRISGRABER, SENIOR ADVOCATE
Prior to joining RI, Daryl worked at a local NGO in Cairo where she managed projects providing refugees with legal assistance and psychosocial services. She also spent six years at Amnesty International USA where she handled several aspects of the organization’s refugee program including legal support to asylum seekers, advocacy on domestic and international refugee policy, and crisis response development. Earlier, Daryl was the executive director of a small research-oriented NGO that provided services to refugees and asylum seekers in detention in the United States. She has a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
ANN HOLLINGSWORTH, SENIOR policy advisor
Ann Hollingsworth joined Refugees International in January 2014. In her role as Senior Policy Advisor, Ann leads RI’s advocacy efforts within the U.S. foreign policy community. Prior to working with Refugees International, Ann represented International Crisis Group as Senior Analyst for U.S. Advocacy and Research, participating in targeted advocacy with leading Washington policy audiences, including the State Department, the White House, the Department of Defense, USAID, and Congress, as well as think-tanks and other international organizations. She provided political and strategic analysis and covered all Crisis Group areas of reporting, with primary responsibility for advocacy and research for the Africa portfolio. Ann has been a featured panelist in a variety of foreign policy events, most notably with the State Department, the Brookings Institution, and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Ann has participated in field research on conflict minerals in Burundi and disaster relief management in Sri Lanka, which included working with IDP’s in tsunami-affected areas. She also served in the office of U.S. Senator Ernest F. Hollings, then Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. She earned a Master’s degree in International Development from Tulane University and a B.A. in Communications from the College of Charleston, South Carolina.
Alexandra Lamarche, Advocate
Alexandra Lamarche joined Refugees International in October 2017 as the Advocate focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa and Peacekeeping. Prior to joining the RI team, Alexandra held various positions in the Canadian government and worked on issues of conflict, reconciliation and migration in the Central African Republic, Chad, Lebanon, Mauritania, Côté d'Ivoire and Uganda. She holds a Masters in Conflict, Security and Development from the University of Sussex in the UK and Bachelor of Social Sciences in Conflict Studies and Human Rights from the University of Ottawa, Canada. Alexandra is fluent in both French and English.
Izza Leghtas, Senior Advocate
Izza Leghtas joined Refugees International in September 2016 as Senior Advocate focusing on Europe. Prior to joining RI, Izza worked as a researcher on Western Europe at Human Rights Watch. She covered issues related to migration, rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, discrimination and criminal justice. Before joining Human Rights Watch, Izza worked at Amnesty International’s International Secretariat in London as a researcher covering France and Spain and then as a researcher on the Maghreb, focusing on Tunisia and Morocco. Prior to that she worked as a legal assistant to a judge at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. Izza holds a law degree from the University of Montpellier, France, a Masters in European litigation from the University of Luxembourg and an LLM from the College of Europe in Bruges. She is fluent in English, Arabic, and French, and also speaks Spanish.
TAMALA SCOTT, SENIOR DEVELOPMENT OFFICER
Ms. Scott joined RI in July 2015. She has over 15 years of expertise in the areas of Corporate Development and Fundraising, Major Gifts, Special Events, Individual and Planned Giving and Grant Management and Advocacy. She gained this experience while working for nonprofits such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Childhelp USA, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Community Health Charities and the United Negro College Fund. In these positions, Ms. Scott has helped to raise millions of dollars for worthy causes that impact children, veterans, students and families locally in communities where we all live and work. Ms. Scott holds a B.A. in Communications and Mass Media from Temple University.
DANIEL P. SULLIVAN, SENIOR ADVOCATE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Dan Sullivan joined RI in April 2016 as Senior Advocate focusing on Myanmar, Central America, and other areas affected by mass displacement. Dan spent the previous five years with United to End Genocide (formerly Save Darfur), first as a Senior Policy Analyst then as Director of Policy and Government Relations, leading strategic planning, report writing, and development of policy recommendations on Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. He has over a decade of human rights and foreign policy experience having worked for the Brookings Institution, Human Rights First, and the Albright Stonebridge Group, where he assisted former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in her role as co-chair of the Genocide Prevention Task Force. Dan has been a featured speaker at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the London School of Economics, and before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and Senate Human Rights Caucus. He has done several media interviews including with Radio France International, CBC Radio, Al-Hurra TV, and Voice of America TV and his work has been published in The Journal of Modern African Studies, the Journal of Peace Research, The Hill, Huffington Post, and The Nation. Dan has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Management from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Harvard University.
ALICE THOMAS, CLIMATE DISPLACEMENT PROGRAM MANAGER
Alice Thomas joined Refugees International (RI) in 2010 to launch the Climate Displacement Program and advocate on behalf of vulnerable communities displaced by extreme weather and climate change. Since joining RI, Thomas has conducted more than a dozen independent assessments of the protection and assistance needs of people displaced by climate-related disasters, including the 2016 drought in Zimbabwe, historic flooding and landslides in Myanmar in 2015, and Super-Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2014. She has presented her findings to high-level government and U.N. officials, and at numerous think tanks, including the Brookings Institution and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She is also an expert advisor to the Platform on Disaster Displacement (Nansen Initiative) and a member of the Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility, which provides technical support to state parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Prior to joining RI, Thomas was a staff attorney in the International Program at EarthJustice where she devised legal strategies to mitigate climate pollution and address climate impacts on vulnerable populations. From 2002 to 2006, she served as deputy director of the American Bar Association’s Asia Law Initiative where she oversaw environmental good governance programs in Asia. She has a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a Bachelor’s degree in History from Princeton University.
FRANCISCA VIGAUD-WALSH, SENIOR ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS
Francisca Vigaud-Walsh joined Refugees International (RI) in July 2015. She comes to RI from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) where she most recently served as the organization’s researcher for the Central African Republic. Prior to that, she served as the IRC’s most senior policy and advocacy advisor for women’s protection and empowerment. Francisca has over a decade of field experience in the protection sector, with a specialization in gender-based violence (GBV.) She launched her career with IRC’s resettlement office in Miami, and continued onto Church World Service and UNHCR, where she conducted refugee status determinations and resettlement eligibility verification and processing for refugees throughout East, Central and West Africa. In 2006 she joined Catholic Relief Services (CRS) where she held numerous management positions overseas. Francisca later served as the Technical Advisor for Sexual & Gender-Based Violence Programs with CRS’ Emergency Response Team, deploying to conflict and disaster-affected communities worldwide. Francisca holds an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, where she concentrated on Conflict Management and International Human Rights Law, as well as a BA in International Relations from American University. Francisca is also a graduate of the 2005 Institute for International Mediation and Conflict Resolution in South Africa.
MARK YARNELL, UN Liaison and Senior Advocate
Mark joined Refugees International (RI) in December 2011. Since then, he has led field assessments to Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, as well as conducted research in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Senegal. Mark has testified before the US Congress Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and been a guest on NPR, PBS, BBC, Al Jazeera, and CBC. Prior to joining RI, Mark was a Stimson Center Congressional Fellow, based in the office of Senator Richard Lugar. He has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a field officer with Merlin, a medical relief organization, and as a food security consultant for Oxfam. Additionally, he was a program associate at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and a senior program associate at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. Mark earned a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University and was a teaching assistant to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He grew up in Ottawa, Canada.
Vanda Berninger, Strategic Partnerships Consultant
Vanda is leading Refugees International’s effort to establish and coordinate a network of strategic and advocacy partners, which will seek innovative and long-term solutions to manage displacement crises and raise the visibility of refugees and displaced individuals. Vanda completed her studies with a Master’s degree in anthropology and political science from the Goethe-University in Frankfurt, after immigrating to Germany during a civil war in former Yugoslavia/Croatia. She actively participated in German politics as a board member of the Green Party in Frankfurt/Main and served as spokesperson for immigration and refugee policy for the party entities in the state of Hesse. Vanda also joined fight against human trafficking in directing budget, external relations, and program development for the Organization Against Sexual and Racist Exploitation, and collaborated with the Engineering Capacity Building Program (ECBP), a GIZ/CIM international development initiative established by the German and Ethiopian governments to promote science and engineering training programs in Ethiopia. In Brussels, Belgium, Vanda served as a liaison to southeastern European countries for the Institute for European Training and Integration. In that capacity, she helped strengthen the collaboration between the European Union and potential EU membership candidates by facilitating trainings on EU regulations and opportunities. Since moving to the U.S. in 2009, Vanda acted as an Executive Coach and Adjunct Professor for Intercultural Communication at the County College of Morris.
DAWN CALABIA, HONORARY ADVISOR
Dawn Calabia joined Refugees International in 2004. Ms. Calabia follows executive and legislative branch developments, works to increase RI’s impact in Congress, and provides special assistance on RI’s statelessness, Burma, women’s rights, and climate advocacy. Ms. Calabia has 30 years of experience with foreign policy analysis, human rights issues, and public advocacy. She served over ten years with the United Nations, as Acting Director of the United Nations’ Washington Information Office and as External Relations Director for U.S. governmental and non-governmental relations for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Earlier, she was the Director of Refugee Policy and Development for the U.S. Catholic Conference Migration office, one of the country’s oldest service organizations for refugees and asylum seekers. Ms. Calabia worked on Capitol Hill for eleven years as a staff consultant to the House International Relations Committee specializing in refugee, human rights, and development issues, and as the senior legislative staffer to Representative Stephen J. Solarz (D-NY). One of the founders of the Women’s Refugee Commission, housed at the International Rescue Committee, Ms. Calabia has led numerous fact-finding missions to Central America, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa. In December 1996, she was honored by President Clinton for her human rights work with refugee women and children. She holds a Master of Social Services degree from Fordham University and a Bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in New York.
JEFF CRISP, HONORARY ADVISOR
Jeff Crisp joined Refugees International in September 2013. Previously, he served as Head of the Policy Development and Evaluation Service at the headquarters of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Geneva, a position that he held since 2006. Jeff has also held senior positions with the Global Commission on International Migration, where he served as Director of Policy and Research; the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian issues; and the British Refugee Council. Jeff has first-hand experience of refugee situations and humanitarian operations in more than 60 countries around the world, and in May-June 2013 he led an evaluation mission to examine the international response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. He has published and lectured extensively on refugee, humanitarian, and migration issues, and he was responsible for the publication of two editions of UNHCR’s flagship publication, “The State of the World’s Refugees.” His most recent publications have focused on the issues of refugee protection and solutions in urban areas, protracted refugee situations, the linkage between refugee protection and international migration, as well as the gap between humanitarian relief and development aid. A British national, Jeff has a Master’s degree and a PhD in African Studies and Political Science from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.