Susana’s interest and activism in human rights grew from her parents’ experience as immigrants, who forced to leave their home country, Lebanon, and journeyed to South America in search for a better life during the Civil War of 1975. She graduated with her B.S. in International Relations and Public Affairs from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, USA, where she worked with the St. Mary’s Law School Center for Legal and Social Justice. She has also worked alongside immigration attorneys to help DREAMers, young undocumented immigrants that arrived to the United States as children, apply for temporary immigration relief. She then worked at Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas as a paralegal for their Immigration and Human Rights Department. In 2017, she returned to her home country, Venezuela, were she helped coordinate peaceful actions to protest human rights violations.
Dianna E. Almanza is grateful for the opportunity to explore more profoundly the links between rights, law, and peacebuilding within human rights and conflict. Moreover, she seeks to further develop expertise of how she can contribute, and affect the rise of human rights through the empowerment of local communities around the world. She holds a Master of Arts in International Human Rights, with a specialization in Conflict Resolution, from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, at the University of Denver.
Elliot is a Houston, Texas native with prior field experience in conflicts zones. Upon graduating from Columbia University with a MSc. in Conflict Resolution and Negotiation, he sought an opportunity to work more closely with social movements at the local level. Elliot joined the SJA team in October 2017 in order to broaden his knowledge and experience of peacebuilding practices.
Irene Benitez, Development Coordinator
Irene Benitez, originally from Cali, Colombia, lived and worked in Austria for 25 years prior to 2017. She has just returned home to Colombia, and is excited to have joined the FORPP team during an important time of transition.
Emily Schmitz, Operations Coordinator
A former FOR-USA accompanier, Emily holds a degree in Arts and Global Studies from the University of Minnesota. She has also worked in translation and, more recently, as part of an investigation on increasing security or human rights defenders in Colombia. Emily was appointed to this newly-created post in the summer of 2016.
Adilah Nasir, Program Coordinator
Chris Courtheyn currently completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A fellow of the Inter-American Foundation’s Grassroots Development Program, his dissertation is titled, “‘Memory is the strength of our resistance:’ A performance geography of peace, memory, territory, and politics in the San José Peace Community, Colombia.” Chris has traveled, studied, and conducted research in Chile, Brazil, and Colombia, earning a BA in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. He worked as a FOR Peace Presence accompanier in San José de Apartadó between 2008 and 2010. This incredibly transformational experience enhanced his understandings of nonviolent resistance, political organizing, and teamwork, as well as inspiring him to enroll in graduate school. Chris sees protective accompaniment as a transformational politics for both accompaniers and those they accompany, in which they create new forms of international solidarity and peace. To support subsequent accompaniers and maintain the organization’s work with the Peace Community and its other partners, Chris served on various FORPP advisory boards after leaving the team, ultimately joining the Board of Directors in 2013.
Irmgard Ehrenberger has been working in the office of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Vienna since 1990. She had her first experiences with nonviolent action in war zones in Iraq, where she joined the Gulf Peace Team to resist the war staged by the US-led coalition in 1990. After the war she organized relief for the Iraqi people who were not only suffering from the impacts of war but also from the sanctions imposed on them by the UN. In 1992, Irmgard co-organized the first peace march to the besieged city of Sarajevo and organized relief for the war-torn city. Furthermore she has been engaged in demilitarization, disarmament and nonviolence training work.
In 2005 Irmgard became aware of the peace community of San José de Apartadó when eight community members were massacred. Since that time she has developed the Austrian FOR program to support FOR Peace Presence by sending Austrian accompaniers, organizing delegations and speaking tours, through advocacy and public consciousness raising in Austria and beyond. Irmgard visited the peace community and other partners twice, in 2006 and 2012. She believes in accompaniment as a non-hierarchical, non paternalistic way to support building a just peace from the bottom up.
Cristina Espinel arrived to Washington, DC in 1980 to complete her education and has a Master’s degree in counseling from George Washington University and is specialized in play therapy. Cristina co-founded the Colombia Human Rights Committee in 1981 and has been an active member ever since. She also co-founded the US Office on Colombia in 1997 and the Mental Health Department of the Clinica del Pueblo in the early 1990s. She founded the counseling program at the Calvary Bilingual/Multicultural Learning Center, today known as Centronia. She is married to Charlie Roberts, lawyer and professinal translator and interpreter. They have two children Julian Roberts (BA in international relations, Tufts University, Medford Massachusetts, 2008); and Sarah Tila Roberts (BA, Hampshire College, Amherst Massachusetts, May 2012).
Born and raised in Austria, Laetitia finished her Master studies in Public Policy at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Erfurt, Germany. Prior to her studies in Public Policy she completed a degree in Political Science at the Universities of Vienna and Geneva. Since her first internship at the Intervention Center for victims of human trafficking in Austria, she’s been interested in human rights issues and therefore completed a course with the Straniak Academy for Human Rights and Democracy and researching on post-conflict issues in the Balkans. Besides working with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights in Vienna, Laetitia also worked for organizations in Geneva and La Paz, Bolivia. She was an international accompanier with FORPP from September 2015 to August 2016 before joining the Board.
Mario A. Murillo is Professor of Communication and Latin American Studies at Hofstra University in New York, and is the author of Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest and Destabilization (Seven Stories, 2004), and Islands of Resistance: Puerto Rico, Vieques and U.S. Policy (Seven Stories, 2001). He has written and reported extensively about Latin America for a variety of publications and media outlets, dedicating many years to covering and reporting
on the internal conflict in Colombia, its implications in terms of human rights, and the role the U.S. has played in the region. In 2008-2009, he spent six months in Colombia as a Fulbright Scholar, where he worked in the Communication Department of the Universidad Pontifícia La Javeriana in Bogotá. His research has focused on the strategic uses of communication of the indigenous movement in Colombia, as well as other community media projects in areas of conflict, the subject of his forthcoming manuscript. A long-time media activist and award-winning journalist, in his many years in radio he has served as program director, director of Public Affairs programming, and a host and producer at WBAI Pacifica Radio, was a feature correspondent for NPR’s Latino USA, and was a regular guest host on WNYC New York Public Radio. He lives in New York City.