Former Team Members

Former Team Members

Sophie Duval (July 2015 – January 2017, January 2017 – June 2017 staff)

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Sophie grew up in La Rochelle (France) and she graduated at the Institute of Political Sciences of Bordeaux with a Master’s degree in Political Sciences and International Relations. During her studies, Sophie coursed two years in Colombia at Rosario University where she fell in love with the culture and the history of this country. She concentrated her attention on Colombian internally displaced people for her Master’s thesis and on the role of the international humanitarian community in the aftermath of a potential peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, during an internship at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. After different research works about the evolution of the humanitarian action in Latin America, the gender approach in the Colombian public policy for victims of the armed conflict and the human rights impact of oil corporations in the region of Meta, Sophie looks forward to be involved in the field and is very excited about joining FOR international accompaniment team.

Márton Diószegi (November 2015 – December 2016)

DSCN4022Born in Budapest, Márton (Maresz) spent several years back and forth between the United States and Hungary, eventually graduating from Corvinus University of Budapest with a Masters in International Relations with a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies. Having written his master’s theses on the transformation of the Colombian conflict, he has been eager to live and work in Colombia for quite some time. Prior to joining FOR, he worked as a community outreach person at Belmont Race Track in New York where he taught computer literacy and English to Latin American migrants working at the track, while also teaching language and computer skills to seniors. Having lived in a number of urban jungles (Istanbul, Mexico D.F., NYC) he hopes to enjoy rural life in the Peace Community before exploring the Bogotá metropolis.

Sandra Amolo (January 2016 – December 2016)

SandraSandra grew up between Kenya and the United States, completing her bachelors in Business Administration with a minor in Global Studies from Seattle University. Her final undergrad project focused on the impact of eco-tourism initiatives on indigenous communities in Belize, and a feasibility study about the creation of a Q’eqchi education center at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Center in western Belize. Learning about the challenges of indigenous people seeking recognition of their rights to land and justice moved her to be more involved with marginalized communities in the United States. After college, Sandra spent six years working in grassroots organizations dedicated to social and environmental justice in Washington and California. Sandra joined FOR Peace Presence to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of international relations between the United States and countries in Latin America. She is especially interested in the connections between business and human rights in Colombia. She looks forward to making connections between social movements happening in Colombia, Kenya, and the United States to amplify the voices of communities resisting displacement and economic injustice.

Laetitia Sengseis (September 2015 – August 2016)

IMG-20150811-WA0002Born 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 decided to join the FORPP Team as she got inspired to contribute and learn more about non-violence and international accompaniment.

Adila Nasir (February 2015 – February 2016)

Adila grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and holds an Advanced LL.M in Public International Law (specialization International Criminal Law) from Leiden University, The Netherlands. She has previously worked with the International Criminal Court, the Centre for Public Policy Studies (Malaysia) and was also part of a Steering Committee for Accredited Election Observers for the 13th General Election of Malaysia. Sometimes she serendipitously finds herself building shelters for Tibetans in China’s Nujiang valley, harvesting cacao beans and killer bees in Ecuador, or navigating the open ocean of Colombia’s Atlantic coast. Currently her interest lies in finding manners in which people can reorganize and empower themselves on an individual and community level, especially amidst dissonant social conditions. From this stems her desire to join the efforts of FOR Peace Presence in Colombia. Check out her blog.

Julia Schutt (October 2014 – November 2015)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJulia is a Massachusetts native, but moved to Colombia from Colorado, where she graduated from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver with a Masters in International Human Rights. While at Korbel, Julia concentrated her studies on Colombia, with an emphasis on human rights in the context of the armed conflict. She also researched and reported on corporate human rights violations and responses in Latin America as part of the Corporations and Human Rights Database Project. Julia has spent time in Neiva, participating in a course on Gender and Transitional Justice and collaborating on research with the Grupo de Investigación Yumatambo at the Universidad Surcolombiana, and in Bogotá, interning with the Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos. Julia is thrilled to be back in Colombia, and cannot wait to immerse herself in the world of international accompaniment.

Michaela Soellinger (March 2013 – October 2015)

mikiaatbertas1-e1414550616846-237x300After growing up in the Upper Austrian countryside, Michaela studied physics and specialized in magnetic resonance imaging in medicine. Besides academics she tried to satisfy her passion for relating to people with different sociocultural backgrounds by volunteering, e.g. accompanying asylum seekers. A few years ago Michaela decided to focus on peace work and went to Guatemala to volunteer as an International Accompanier. She fell in love with the idea of International Accompaniment and studied peace and conflict transformation. In March 2013 Michaela joined the  FOR Peace Presence Team.

 

Robin Llewellyn (July – September 2015)

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Robin (Robinson) is from Wales, and studied International Relations and Human Rights before settling on a career as a freelance journalist. Having written about land conflicts in Latin America from Guatemala to Peru he is eager to contribute to Peace Presence’s work with the Peace Village of San Jose. Outside of work Robin loves riding horses, a skill that will be used on the hills of Apartadó, and playing football – preferably against children so he can show off his abilities without losing the ball.

Nikki Drake (July 2014 – June 2015)

NikkiDrakeI grew up in Idaho…beautiful state of mountains, renowned whitewater rivers, and yes, the famous potato. After graduating from Boise State University (of Smurf Turf fame) with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Spanish, I completed a year of AmeriCorps service with Habitat for Humanity in Upstate New York. From there I relocated to Brooklyn and worked for several years at a not-for-profit organization that provides educational and therapeutic services for children with developmental delays. Since university I had wanted to work in the field of international human rights and social justice, and I decided to kick off a change in career path with extended travel and work through South America, which included amazing experiences in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. After two years on the road, I settled in Colombia, where I worked for Witness for Peace, an international NGO supporting peace and justice in the Americas. I am extremely happy to be joining the FOR Peace Presence team and continuing the important work of accompaniment and advocacy in Colombia

Kaya Marie Allan Sugerman (January 2014 – April 2015)

P1080398Kaya grew up jointly in Kona, Hawaii and Los Angeles, California. In 2012 she completed her B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies with a focus on International Conflict Resolution and Political Ecology at the University of California, Berkeley. It was there that she developed a passion for investigating grassroots resistance to environmental exploitation and human rights abuses. She spent time in Malaysia working with a research institute and reporting on a consent policy which could curb the appropriation of indigenous traditional knowledge and customary lands by both foreign and national corporations and governments. As a seeker, activist, and writer, deciding to work with La Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó presented itself as a grand opportunity to learn how one group has developed nonviolent alternatives to Colombia’s long-standing, violent, and in part US-funded conflict.

Gale Stafford (November 2013 – April 2015)

 Gale StaffordGale (or Virginia, as she is known by her middle name in the field) grew up in Massachusetts, learning about creativity, teamwork, and Spanish. It was in high school with past FORista Janice when she first learned about Colombia and some of the conflict within it. Gale has spent the last several years at Bennington College in the hills of southwest Vermont, investigating various education systems and how they relate to democracy and socioeconomic disparity, and thinking about how students and teachers learn and connect with each other both within classrooms and without. There she completed both her BA and her MA in Teaching, and is looking forward to flexing her understandings of how communities work and support each other, both within the Community and on the Peace Presence team. To learn more about Gale’s experience, check out her blog here.

Isabel Moris Look (January 2014 – January 2015)

 Isabel spent half her childhood in Colombia, and the other half in Maryland suburbs. She found the solidarity movement during her studies at American University, while focusing on peace and conflict resolution, and participated in a very memorable delegation to Colombia, organized by Witness for Peace, visiting some of the peace communities, whom she promised she would visit again. After graduation, and some traveling, she returned to work and interned at Peace Brigades International in Washington D.C., working closely with governmental and non-profit institutions like the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the US Office on Colombia (USOC), United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and the Organization of American States (OAS). Where she learned more about coordinated action in the US, political activism, and international refugee law.

Luke Finn (June 2013 – June 2014)

Luke Fynn, VolunteerLuke grew up in Qatar, studied in the UK, and arrived in Colombia via UN-NGO Working Groups in New York.  He has variously been a barman in Doha, a Masters student in Manchester, and a professional butterfly hunter in Panama.  His time at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute in Manchester encouraged him to understand conflicts as human problems with human solutions, and his girlfriend encouraged him to go live in a Colombian jungle on general principle.  In addition to the past heroes of the non-violence movement, Luke draws inspiration from the words of grassroots community leaders such as Russell T. Jones and Mark Berry.  Read Luke’s blog to learn more about his journey as a human rights accompanier, or the NACLA blog he wrote for.

Jake Jenzen (September 2013 – February 2014)

 Jake Jacobo started as an engineer from San Francisco, California.  After studying at Chulalongkorn University as a Rotary Peace Fellow, he also accompanied in Guatemala.  Over five years of environmental and human rights work throughout the Americas, Jacobo is dedicated to solidarity between the continent and peoples against their exploitation and expropriation of labour and earth.  His strong relationships with indigenous refugee communities of Panamá planted the seed for this move further south.  When not creating communities within this global south, Jacobo likes to call Washington-DC a 2nd home.  There he also spent years as a civil servant for the US EPA, while staying active and integrated with Central American immigrant neighborhoods.  Jacobo is excited to be apart of these non-violent movements in Colombia and learn the real data, inspiring faces, and tools for la lucha on the solidarity road ahead at home.  He is an avid cyclist and looks forward to bicycling those curves in tandem with others.

Jamie Connatser (February 2013 – February 2014)

Jamie Connatser, Volunteer
Jamie is from Houston, TX and has lived in Austin, TX for the past 8 years. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2003 and worked as a case manager for ten years, first with Harris County Social Services and then with Goodwill Industries of Central Texas. She was also one of the founders of Treasure City Thrift, an anarchist thrift store project in Austin, TX and served as a volunteer collective member for six years. Jamie has also been trained in permaculture and Western herbalism. She loves vegetarian food, books, Iyengar yoga, bicycles, and composting.

Emily Schmitz (March 2011 – November 2013)

 

Emily Schmitz, VolunteerEmily was born in Milwaukee.  A fine city.  She graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in art and global studies.  Among other things, she has worked translating, teaching English, and juggled in the streets of Colombia.  In exchange for picking a whole bunch of weeds she got some sheep’s wool which she spun, dyed with local campo materials, and knitted into a handbag while in the Peace Community. Read her article about the People’s Summit in Cartagena here and watch the video here.

Gina Spigarelli (March 2011 – July 2013)

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Gina grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and studied English Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She has lived in Latin America for seven years and has worked in a variety of human rights issues including: labor rights, immigration, education, women’s rights, rural public health, social housing and north-south political relations. She is interested in making the world a better place, peaceful defiance against militant repression, governments and constituents, chocolate and cheese, laughter, kindness, trees, lakes, flowers, the sun, fog, rain, sunsets, moonrises and pretty much all things outside, quality conversation, honesty, poetry and literature, writing, revolution, dance, visual art, circus arts, live music, people, the individual and the whole, sustainability, peace, and above all: love. Read her blog here.

Elisabeth Rohrmoser (August 2011 – November 2012)

elisabethElisabeth’s blog can be read here.

Charlotte Melly (November 2011 – November 2012)

charlotteCharlotte’s blog can be read here.

David Benitez-Romero (July 2012 – September 2012)

davidDavid considers himself an Angelino but grew up in the Salinas Valley, a mythical land where the sweat of agricultural communities helped define perseverance, hard work, and purpose. Often wanting to romanticize to forgive the internal conflicts that continue to exist in Salinas, David fantasizes about the valley´s surreal imagery whose vast landscapes and childhood reminiscences had the power to stimulate John Steinbeck´s literary masterpieces. After graduating high school, David served in the Marine Corps and discovered passion for travel and his love for people. During these formative years, he traveled to many under developed countries, and through these experiences learned to see the world through a diverse lens. Prior to joining FOR and until this day, David continues to feel the need to serve, and after his Honorable Discharge from the Marines worked as a police officer in Los Angeles for several years until deciding to pursue his education. David attended the University of California Los Angeles, where he majored in Political Science and minored in Latin American Studies, and hopes to attend law school in the near future.

Dominique Aulisio (March 2012 – July 2012)

dominiqueDominique Aulisio is from Lakeland, FL. She recently graduated with a B.A. in Women’s Studies from the University of Central Florida. During college, she spent much of her time as a volunteer organizer with the National Farmworker Ministry’s Youth and Young Adult Network and the Student Labor Action Project.

With these organizations she worked on numerous projects to build community support for farmworkers and other low wage workers struggling to win dignity in their workplaces and lives. Dominique is grateful for this opportunity to accompany the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in their struggle to remain on their land in the midst of conflict and to build an alternative to violence in their region. She is also excited about strengthening the ties between our movements in Colombia and the U.S., which are so necessary in the struggle for global justice. She will rarely pass up an opportunity to dance salsa, and is thrilled to learn more about Colombian folkloric dancing, music, and other cultural traditions while in “la tierrita.” You can check out her blog here.

Isaac Beachy (March 2010 — July 2012)

isakAfter graduating with a degree in Peace, Justice and Conflict studies from Goshen College Isaac had a short stint at a Christmas tree farm before joining FOR’s accompaniment project in Colombia. Isaac had encountered the idea of accompaniment work and the history of FOR in his studies and was especially attracted by the level of strategic thinking and sensitivity he found in FOR’s volunteers and staff.

He grew up in Harrisonburg, Virginia and thinks it is very pretty there. Isaac has left behind two younger sisters, an older brother, and two parents (who he thinks are all very pretty too). You can read his personal blog here.

Jonathan Patberg (October 2010 — March 2012)

jonJon graduated kind-of-cum laud from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He dabbled in a little bit of everything but became most interested in human rights and rolled on out of there with a degree in International Studies. While he understands he should probably do himself good and live in Seattle, WA, Jonathan knows that ultimately he will never be able to break the Midwestern ties and will probably end up with a front room full of hand-made crafts, and maybe a few mop-dolls, in a farmhouse in Northwest Ohio, “the heart of it all.” He is looking forward to living in La Union, testing his ability to withstand stress, make difficult decisions, overcome boredom and maintain a garden. Read his blog here.

Sean Martin Cranley (August 2010 — October 2011)

seanFor over two years I have lived in Colombia, exploring new worlds and discovering myself. In shantytown neighborhoods on the margin of Bogotá’s urban sprawl, I learned that destitute populations could both create alternative systems to violence and replicate cycles of oppression. Likewise, I comprehended that hope could be cultivated in neighborhood organizations, in subsistence household gardens and in youth affected by regimes of rampant aggression. Overtime, I grew to understand that big outcomes could be produced by small projects; that is, local communal projects could engender solutions to death squads and systematic abandonment. As a result, I have since embarked on my lifelong journey to actively participate and positively contribute to these alternative projects. Furthermore, I seek to reflect these unperceived social realities through poetic prose, without compromising the veracity of the facts.

In the San José Peace Community, I aim to contribute to the security of subsistence farmers, who look to germinate new forms of life in the war torn Colombian countryside.

Marion Hiptmair (November 2009 — March 2011)

marionAfter having grown up with 5 brothers and sisters in a small village in Austria/Europe, Marion studied Environmental Engineering and worked for different environmental organizations. In 2006 she went to Tumaco, Colombia to do an internship for her studies, when she got caught by this wonderful country and its people.

At the Peace University in Schlaining, Austria, Marion did a workshop on non-violence led by IFOR Austria and Hildegard Goss-Mayr. In conversations after the workshop she became interested in joining the accompaniment project of IFOR USA in the peace community of San Jose de Apartado. Marion started her gorgeous time of beans, rice and peace community in November 2009.

Peter Cousins (January 2009 — November 2010)

peterPeter Cousins grew up in Cornwall, UK, and went on to study German and Spanish language and literature at undergraduate level. Following graduation, he worked in inner-city Glasgow with asylum seekers, in Cambridge with homeless people and for local government in Cornwall.

These experiences sowed the seeds of an increasing interest in peace work, and in 2007 Peter returned to studies, apparently Mastering the Art of Conflict Resolution at Bradford University. Joining the FOR team in Colombia in January 2009 enabled him to combine his love of the Spanish-speaking work and his commitment to conflict and peace issues.

Rachel Dickson (March 2009 — October 2010)

rachelRachel Dickson studied Spanish Area Studies and International Studies at Kenyon College in Ohio. She has worked for a bilingual political magazine in Guatemala, has taught English in Colombia, has studied philosophy and history in Cuba, interned at In These Times magazine, and worked on counter-recruitment at American Friends Service Committee in Chicago. Read Rachel’s blog here.

Chris Courtheyn (2008 – 2009, 2010)

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Chris Courtheyn is a native of Santa Cruz, California. He served on the San José team from February ’08 to February ’09, and after falling in love with the people and process of the Peace Community, returned again from February to May 2010.

Chris’ desire to work as a human rights accompanier in Colombia stemmed from his Catholic upbringing, engagement with nonviolent teachings at Santa Cruz’s Resource Center for Nonviolence, and his B.A. degree in Latin American Studies from UC Berkeley. He is currently a graduate student in Geography at UNC Chapel Hill. An avid music fan and guitarist, Chris can often be found grooving to reggae, Afro-beat, salsa and Colombian música del pacífico. Read Chris’s blog here.

Moira Birss  (2008-2010 and early 2011)

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Having served as the last Freeman Fellow in the FOR Colombia Program, Moira joined the FOR team in Colombia in mid 2008. Before joining forces with FOR, Moira worked on researching community-based models of alternative economies, advocating for affordable housing, and promoting environmental protection. Moira graduated with honors from the University of Michigan. Moira now serves as the Colombian Project Representative in Washington for Peace Brigades International. Read Moira’s blog, here, for lots of stories of her time on the FOR team.

Janice Gallagher (2006-2007)

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Janice Gallagher was on the team in 2006-2007. Janice was drawn to human rights work in Colombia after doing solidarity and organizing work in the US and Nicaragua. After being on the team, Janice started a PhD in political science at Cornell University, where she focuses on social movements’ impact on the rule of law. She has worked extensively in Mexico, and was part of the leadership team of the Caravan for Peace in the Summer of 2012.

Dan Malakoff (2005, 2007)

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Dan Malakoff spent a year accompanying the Peace Community starting in March 2005 and returned for short stint in 2007. Today he lives in Pittsburgh, PA, teaching writing at the University of Pittsburgh, working as a carpenter, and writing fiction.

Sarah Weintraub (2003-2005, 2007, 2008)

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Hi, I’m Sarah. I’m a consultant, writer, and interpreter. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and spent a number of deeply formative years in Colombia with the FOR Peace Presence. The time I spent there continues to shape my life, and I continue to be involved with and support the project. After leaving Colombia I spent a few years studying and practicing Buddhism at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and a few years as the Executive Director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, a small Buddhist/activist nonprofit. I now live in rural Sonoma County with my love where we are building an off-grid tiny house and sheparding a flock of 150 sheep. Please visit our tiny house website seedswithwings.com.
(Sarah has been part of the advisory committee 2006-present)

More Team Members 2002 – 2009 coming very soon!