WHO WE ARE
Our team is led by senior partners and includes emerging leaders with advanced degrees in public health, international development, social work, psychology, anthropology and law. The team has extensive field experience in emergency response, community mobilization, systems development, operational research and program evaluation.
The Columbia Group has held senior level positions and previously consulted for such agencies as UNICEF, Save the Children Alliance, UNHCR, UNFPA, Christian Children’s Fund and the International Rescue Committee. We have a strong commitment to helping agencies further strengthen and to systematize child-care and protection in a spirit of respect and collaboration with local cultures and communities.
Neil Boothby, EdD, is an internationally recognized expert and advocate for children affected by war and displacement. As a senior representative of UNICEF, UNHCR and Save the Children, he has worked for more than 20 years with children in crises in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. As director of the Program on Forced Migration and Health and Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at the Mailman School, his research focuses on the psychosocial consequences of organized violence on children. He is also the recipient of several awards for his fieldwork, including the Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award, for his work with child soldiers, the Mickey Leyland Award, for his work on behalf of uprooted people, the United Nation's Golden Achievement Award, for excellence in social sector activities, and Duke University's Humanitarian Service Award.
Lindsay Stark, DrPH, is a Professor in Columbia University's Program on Forced Migration and Health. She has over a decade of experience leading applied research on protection of women and children in humanitarian settings. Dr. Stark has led assessment and evaluation projects in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. She has also helped pioneer the development of new methodologies such as the Neighborhood Method to assess incidence of human rights violations, and a Participatory Ranking Method that has been included in a recent World Health Organization assessment toolkit. She is the author of multiple publications on the rehabilitation and resiliency of former child soldiers and survivors of sexual violence. Dr. Stark is currently serving as the Director of Research and Curriculum at the newly founded Center on Child Protection, based at the University of Indonesia.
Michael Wessells, PhD, is Professor at Columbia University in the Program on Forced Migration and Health, Professor of Psychology at Randolph-Macon College. He has served as President of the Division of Peace Psychology of the American Psychological Association and of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and as Co-Chair of the InterAction Protection Working Group. He is former Co-Chair of the IASC (UN-NGO) Task Force on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings which developed the first inter-agency, consensus guidelines for the field of mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian crises. Currently, he is co-focal point on mental health and psychosocial support for the revision of the Sphere humanitarian standards. He has conducted extensive research on the holistic impacts of war and political violence on children, and he is author of Child soldiers: From violence to protection (Harvard University Press, 2006). He regularly advises UN agencies, governments, and donors on issues of psychosocial support. Throughout Africa and Asia he helps to develop community-based, culturally grounded programs that assist people affected by armed conflict.
Senior Associates and Graduate Researchers
Bree Akesson, LMSW, MPH, PhD(c) has more than ten years of experience working with children, families, and communities affected by poverty, war and disaster. Her recent projects have included an evaluation of psychosocial program activities for children in Chechnya, a review of international safe space programs for young children in emergencies, and a longitudinal study examining the effects of parental incarceration on children and youth. She formerly served as program manager for the Care and Protection of Children in Crisis-Affected Settings (CPC) research initiative, working to strengthen the evidence base of international child protection program interventions. Ms. Akesson is currently a doctoral candidate at McGill University’s School of Social Work, where her work focuses on the effects of political violence on young children and their families in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Jessica Alexander, MIA, MPH, PhD(c) has worked on issues related to children affected by conflict and natural disaster for a number of years. Her evaluation and programmatic projects have spanned Darfur, post-tsunami Sri Lanka and Indonesia, South Sudan, Myanmar and Haiti. Ms. Alexander also has significant experience working on humanitarian reform within the UN, including supporting evaluations of the cluster system and humanitarian financing. In 2006 she served as an expert witness for the Charles Taylor prosecution team for the Special Court of Sierra Leone. Ms Alexander is a Fulbright Scholar and is currently undertaking her PhD in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Susan Bartels, MD, MPH, FRCPC s a practicing physician, board-certified in emergency medicine in both Canada and the U.S. Following medical training she completed a fellowship in International Emergency Medicine and an MPH degree in Global and Population Health at Harvard University. Susan conducts global health research, primarily in conflict and disaster affected areas of the world, with a focus on children and women. Over the past 10 years, she has completed projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and the Middle East. Using a newer research methodology (respondent-driven sampling or RDS), Susan led a study looking at children born from sexual violence related pregnancies in eastern DRC and she is also applying a novel mixed methods research approach in some of her current work. As a physician / public health researcher, Susan is interested in the social determinants of health and she maintains affiliations with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Lauri Benblatt, MPH, MP, LPChas dedicated the past 12 years of her career to global health and disaster/ emergency readiness initiatives, with specialties in disaster behavioral health, displacement, and a growing focus on the socio-behavioral impacts of climate and environmental changes. With prior emphasis as a clinical licensed psychotherapist, her career spans close to 20 years. As such, Lauri’s expertise lies in working with vulnerable and marginalized communities; trauma; refugee/immigrant needs; adolescent, youth and women’s protection and health initiatives; and in bringing a social justice, racial equity and gender-based lens her work. Her work has been in both the public and private sector, including various size NGOs and USAID, SAMHSA and PHI funded projects, where she has gained expertise and proficiencies in research and evaluation, program development and implementation, training and capacity building, and community assessment and engagement. She has worked throughout the U.S, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Haiti & Brazil, and is passionate about social justice and racial equity frameworks, particularly as found through dialogue, music, dance and the creative arts in both her personal and professional endeavors.
Lili Birnbaum, LLM has five years of experience in child protection, human rights and international policy. Her focus on child protection draws on her work with unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) at UNHCR Malaysia, as well as with the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. She has consulted on protection and resettlement cases with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, worked with the foreign policy advisory group Independent Diplomat, conducted child rights research in support of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and assisted human rights and humanitarian aid programs in Israel/oPt and eastern Sri Lanka. Lili holds a BA in International Relations from Brown University and a LLM in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law from the University of Essex.
Peter Buckland, M.Ed. has served as the lead education specialist at the World Bank (WB) where he established and led a program on Education in Fragile States. Over a 30-year career, Mr. Buckland has held significant education positions in the WB, UNICEF, and the South African (his homeland) government. He has undertaken notable research on education in post conflict reconstruction, education governance and finance, and on UN-government partnerships. In addition, Mr. Buckland served as a senior lecturer and Director of the Institute of Education at the University of Bophuthatswana.
Kevin Byrne, M.Sc. has twenty years experience of working with and for vulnerable groups and populations across Africa, Asia and Europe on a range of social protection issues. This includes both policy and legislative development work through technical assistance to national governments and civil society, and management of national and regional programs for international NGOs in complex and sensitive environments, including leadership of several major emergency responses to natural disasters and conflict situations. His professional background is in social work and social research, and he has combined these with a community development approach to provide practical, sustainable, durable solutions for poor communities and marginalised populations. While his particular interests are in education, child protection HIV/AIDS and Migration, he also has managed and implemented health, livelihoods, GBV and psychosocial support projects.
Erin Chu, MPH, MPA has over eight years experience in providing policy analysis and direct program implementation for governments, UN agencies, and INGOs. Most recently she has worked as a management consultant, building capacity of governments in the developing world to implement policy reform, predominately in human resources for health and teacher remuneration. She has worked with government partners in Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan and Indonesia, the latter with the Columbia Group and UNICEF to map child protection information and reporting systems. Her work with NGOs has been at the national and HQ level, serving as Operations Manager and then Acting Country Director for World Relief Southern Sudan; and working with World Vision's NGO liaison office to the United Nations and Security Council to provide policy analysis on child rights and conflict prevention. Erin has a BA in Psychology from Cornell University, and received her Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Health, both fromColumbia University.
Johanna Cunningham, M.Pub&Int.Law, has more than eight years experience working in developing and humanitarian environments. Her experiences include managing a start-up NGO rights based access to health and education for children in Indonesia; assessing and evaluating National Human Rights Institutions in the Asia region to improve monitoring and investigation of rights violations; research and advocacy for better engagement with customary and non-state justice systems; as well as research into practices of violence, abuse and exploitation of children. Most recently she has been working as a Child Protection Specialist with the Children and Armed Conflict program with UNICEF Afghanistan. She has worked with the United Nations and NGOs in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. She has a Masters in Public and International Law from the University of Melbourne, and is currently completing an Ed.M in Counseling Psychology at Columbia University.
Vanessa Currie, MA is a consultant in children’s well-being, protection and participation, using holistic approaches to reimagine community development. Her work focuses on engaging young people, their families and communities in participatory action research, and monitoring and evaluation processes that draw community wisdom forward in partnership with governments, NGOS and civil society. Working in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and South America as well as with Indigenous communities in Canada, Vanessa leads the development of innovative culturally appropriate and child and family centered systems. Community-based child protection mechanisms that reinforce communities’ capacity as agents to support young people are an area of special interest. Vanessa also serves as an Associate with the International Institute for Child Rights and Development at the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria in Canada.
Yvette Efevbera is a skilled professional, researcher, and consultant with a passion for strengthening and developing programs, policies, and systems that support vulnerable children and adolescents in adverse settings. She has a strong base in applied qualitative and quantitative research (particularly for program design), monitoring and evaluation (M&E), human rights and social justice frameworks, and cultural competence in policy, particularly focused on children, adolescents, and young women affected by HIV, conflict, and child marriage. Yvette recently served as M&E Coordinator for mothers2mothers-Malawi, overseeing M&E activities for 66 sites targeted by the NGO and partnering with UNICEF to design an integrated community nutrition and HIV project. She has used research, evaluation, and community activities to support vulnerable populations through work with the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity of the Harvard Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, the Harvard AIDS Initiative's Botswana-PEPFAR partnership, the Open Society Initiative for East Africa, national government agencies, and the United Nations Foundation. She brings experience in policy and human rights, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial support, and educational initiatives from more than 7 countries. Yvette holds a BA, with High Honor in International Relations and African Studies from Michigan State University and a MS in Global Health and Population from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Julia Einbond, J.D. has over eight years of experience as an advocate for women’s and children’s rights, both in the U.S. and internationally. Her work focuses on legal rights and protection for abused and neglected children, children in conflict, and gender-based violence prevention and response. She has worked with Columbia Group partners on gender-based violence in internally displaced person camps in Uganda, and with partner agencies such as UNICEF and UNDP on women’s and children’s involvement with justice systems. Julia has received recognition for her work, including a full tuition Root-Tilden Kern public service scholarship for women, children, and families to attend New York University School of Law. Julia has an A.B. in Social Studies from Harvard University and a J.D. from NYU Law.
Hanna-Tina Fischer, M.Sc. has over six years experience of child protection programming in humanitarian and developmental contexts. She has provided technical support to country programmes and national governments on developing and implementing child protection responses to emergency situations in various countries including Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Southern Sudan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Italy and South Africa. Hanna-Tina has worked with Save the Children, UNICEF, UNHCR, ILO and the International Rescue Committee as well as national NGOs in India and Germany. At the inter-agency level, she recently developed an inter-agency child protection in emergencies competency framework on behalf of the Child Protection Working Group (CPWG). Hanna-Tina has a BA in Anthropology and Communication Studies and an MSc in Development Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Isabel C. Garcia, MPS, LCAT, ATR-BC, MPH(c), is a licensed, board certified child art therapist with over five years of experience in the field of gender issues and trauma. She has previously worked for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN Cares, UNESCO Cooperating Center, International Center for Education and Human Development (CINDE), Catapult, and various INGOs, such as Art for Refugees in Transition and HealthRight International. Her job responsibilities have included research, assessment, program management, capacity building in mental health, child protection, advocacy, gender- based violence prevention, and psychosocial support. Her focus is in the areas of child health, post-conflict health system strengthening, program analysis and evaluation, and curriculum development. She holds dual nationality (American/Colombian) and she has lived and worked on programs in Colombia, Nepal, and the U.S. She is currently a candidate for a Master in Global Public Health degree at NYU’s Global Institute for Public Health.
Kristen Guskovict, M.S. has over 12 years of experience working with children and families impacted by poverty and forced migration. Her experience includes; directing a program which provided approximately 7000 best interest determination recommendations for unaccompanied children in immigration detention each year, managing an intensive case management program for torture survivors, overseeing a technical assistance program, in partnership with the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma and the Bellevue / NYU Program for Survivors of Torture which helped refugee service providers build their capacity to work with mental health crises experienced by their clients. Kristen’s work experience has given her the opportunity to work with unaccompanied refugee minors, trafficking victims and children impacted by the trauma experienced by their parents. Kristen believes that service providers have a responsibility to provide high quality programming to each individual need and has created and evaluated quality assurance programs to help ensure those standards are met. Kristen’s professional experience has led her to be interested in the concept of resilience, she developed a curriculum and accompanying webinar to assist non-professional case managers in their work with refugee families. Kristen holds an M.S. in Global Affairs and Humanitarian Assistance from New York University and is currently pursuing an M.S.W. from Florida International University in Miami, FL.
Georgina Hewes (MA) combines frontline child protection and social care expertise with a broad knowledge of policy and structural challenges in these areas. With over nine years' experience working as a researcher and producer for the BBC World Service and Radio 4, she has investigated and produced a wide range of national and international child protection related content. Georgina has completed an MA in Social Work, alongside other post-graduate psychosocial training in attachment theory and the effects of early abuse and deprivation. Further experience includes assessing and re-structuring organisations as a management consultant, undertaking education and health consultancy in Bolivia, report-writing on the de-institutionalisation of children in Romania for the EC, and training at the charity Childline. Georgina is fluent in written and spoken Spanish, and has working French.
Rebecca Horn, PhD, is a Research Fellow at the Institute for International Health and Development at Queen Margaret University, UK, and a Senior Associate with the Columbia Group. She is a Chartered Psychologist and has managed psychosocial programs in a variety of settings, including Kakuma refugee camp (northern Kenya) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Her work focuses on assessing and enhancing psychosocial wellbeing in communities affected by conflict, and her recent projects have included acting as advisor to Mercy Corps’ psychosocial program with children in Gaza; conducting an assessment of child welfare issues in Gambella region for UNICEF Ethiopia; and developing an instrument to assess emotional wellbeing in a refugee camp.
Mark Jordans, PhD, is a Senior Researcher at HealthNet TPO Amsterdam. Dr. Jordans has over 10 years of experience of working in conflict affected settings, where his work has focused on the development, implementation and evaluation of mental health and psychosocial care systems, especially for children and adolescents. His research interests are on the interplay between research and intervention development addressing the impact of organized violence, social injustice and poverty on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. He has been principle investigator on several studies including the efficacy of a school-based intervention in Nepal; a practice-driven evaluation of a multi-component care package for children in Burundi, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Sudan and Nepal; the development and validation of a brief psychosocial distress screener; the evaluation of reintegration trajectories of former child soldiers in DRC and Burundi. He is co-founder and senior advisor to TPO Nepal.
Kathleen Kostelny, PhD is a researcher, evaluator, and program advisor in the fields of early childhood development, child protection, and children’s psychosocial well-being. She has more than 25 years experience working with international NGOs, UN agencies, and academic and government institutions in the U.S. Dr. Kostelny has served as principal investigator for a number of research projects including an outcome study of the effectiveness of child centered spaces on young children’s well being in internally displaced person camps in northern Uganda, the impact of chronic community violence on children’s well-being in Chicago, and an assessment of the impact of the Israeli military attacks and blockade on the education system in Gaza. She has helped develop community based child protection programs as well as conduct evaluations in emergency and post-conflict contexts including Afghanistan, Timor Leste, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Kenya, India, Aceh, and Sri Lanka, as well as in the U.S. during Hurricane Katrina.
Debbie Landis, MSSW, MIA, PhD(c) has a strong background in child protection and humanitarian affairs, with more than eight years of program management, research, and training experience with international relief and development organizations, including World Vision, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the United States Refugee Program, and Voice of Witness (VOW). She served as the Child Protection Manager for World Vision in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake, providing management and technical support to community-based child protection and psychosocial programs. With the IRC, she has supported humanitarian programming for women, children, and vulnerable populations in the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa, and engaged in program monitoring, reporting, and training initiatives. She has also worked in Ghana with the United States Refugee Program and served as a qualitative research consultant with Voice of Witness (VOW) in Thailand and Bangladesh. She holds Master’s Degrees in International Affairs (MIA) and Social Work (MSSW) from Columbia University, and is a licensed social worker (LMSW). She is currently a PhD candidate in Comparative and International Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, with a concentration in Anthropology.
Julie Lebegue, MIA, PhD, has fifteen years experience of working on social child protection and systems strengthening in Africa, Asia and Europe, including in emergency and post-emergency contexts. She has extensive field experience in humanitarian settings as well as in working for vulnerable groups. She contributed to the development of various international laws, policies and guidelines on social systems, child protection and rule of law at international and local level. She also contributed to the development and implementation of community-based protection mechanisms. Ms. Lebegue has over a decade of leading applied research on protection of children as a university researcher. She worked with leading children’s international agencies, INGOs and academics. She has trained numerous high-level professionals on child and social protection throughout the world. Her network on child protection and social systems is extensive at local and international level. She also managed and implemented child health projects in developing contexts.
Ronnie Lovich, ANP, MS, MPH brings over 20 years of public health experience with particular expertise for programs for children, youth and women. She has worked to bridge important gaps between child protection and HIV response with an aim to strengthen community based protection and care response for most vulnerable children, and prevention response for hidden populations of most vulnerable young people. She has led and supported development and implementation of a large portfolio of multi-sectoral programs to mitigate the impact of AIDS on children, youth and caregivers, and brings expertise with a range of epidemic contexts and mobile populations. She has played a number of interagency leadership roles, serving on the steering committee of the Interagency Task Team on Children and AIDS, M&E working group co-chair, and contributes to a number of other interagency working groups on Children, Youth and AIDS. She is clinically prepared as a nurse practitioner, and holds Masters Degrees in Public Health and Nursing from Columbia University.
Hani Mansourian, MIA, has 8 years of experience working in the areas of child protection, research, monitoring and evaluation, refugees and disaster response. Hani has worked in the immediate aftermath of 4 earthquakes in Iran and Pakistan and in post-conflict environments such as the Congo. Most recently he has worked as the National Health Research and Monitoring & Evaluation (RM&E) Advisor for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in the DR Congo. Hani has also been a child protection specialist with UNICEF where he focused on separated children, tracing and family reunification. In addition, Hani has worked with Afghan and Iraqi refugees in Iran as well as Rwandan and Somali Refugees in Egypt. Hani is fluent in English and Persian and proficient in French and written Arabic.
Michelle May, MS, MAMichelle May, M.S., M.A., is an educational psychologist and child protection consultant currently working for UNICEF Maldives, where she is designing flexible alternative learning programs for out of school children. Before joining UNICEF Maldives, Michelle consulted with both UNICEF State of Palestine, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza. While in Gaza, Michelle created and launched several school-based psychosocial support programs. She also wrote UNRWA Gaza’s life skills curriculum and minimum standards. Michelle has conducted research for the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, the OHCHR Special Rapporteur on Minorities, Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights, and Save the Children UK’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning Department. Michelle has written about unaccompanied Afghan minors in Iran and Europe for the UK’s Guardian and UNICEF. With over 15 years experience domestically and internationally, Michelle’s specialties also include justice for children, children in armed conflict, inclusive education and disabilities.
Siobhan McEvoy-Levy, MPhil, PhD has over a decade of experience conducting international research on youth and conflict, including field research in the US, Europe and the Middle East. Her work focuses on the multidimensional impact of organized violence on children and young people, and the contributions of children and youth to reconciliation and peace-building processes. Her research on children’s needs and roles – including the impact of peer relationships, intergenerational learning and trauma in conflict cycles – and the challenges of youth work and education in conflict zones, has been widely published. She is currently Associate Professor of Political Science and Peace and Conflict Studies at Butler University. From 2001-2003, she was director of an international working group on youth as part of the Research Initiative on the Resolution of Ethnic Conflict (RIREC), at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame.
Sarah Meyer, MPhil, PhD(c) has conducted research on refugee, asylum and trafficking issues in Uganda, Australia, Cambodia and Thailand, with a focus on psychosocial wellbeing and livelihoods. She has training in qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as experience developing training materials and educational programs on international development issues. She has been a tutor for the University of Oxford’s Summer School in Forced Migration and presented on refugee issues at universities in the UK and Canada. She is currently a PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where she is working on a joint project with the International Rescue Committee focusing on child survivors of violence in refugee camps in Thailand and Ethiopia. Her research and academic work has been recognized and supported by numerous grants, include the Rhodes Scholarship, Monash Foundation award and Johns Hopkins Sommer Scholarship.
Katherine Muldoon, MPH,PhD, is a social epidemiologist who uses the traditional analytic methods of epidemiology to investigate the social aspects of health and protections. She has a primarily quantitative skill set and has expertise in study design, survey development and data analysis. Her areas of expertise include sexual and gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS epidemiology, and global child protections. She has over a decade of experience working in sub-Saharan Africa. She has a PhD in Epidemiology and a Masters in Public Health, and is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the CPC Learning Network in collaboration with the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), and is also a senior research associate at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute's Clinical Epidemiology Program. She has authored multiple publications on violence and HIV and is on the Editorial Board at the journal Conflict and Health. She speaks both English and French.
Martha Nelems, MA has over 10 years of experience in child protection as a senior policy analyst, government negotiator, researcher, project manager, facilitator, evaluator and public speaker. She was senior policy analyst in children’s rights at the Canadian International Development Agency where she oversaw the development of a multi-million dollar agency-wide global Child Protection programme. Since then, she has worked with a variety of organizations including UNICEF, the African Development Bank, international and national non-governmental organizations and community based groups. In Jordan, she mentored community-based organisations on how to better involve Iraqi refugee children and their families in the design, implementation and evaluation of child protection initiatives. She is especially interested in helping organisations translate their child protection policies into action and in promoting children's participation within efforts to strengthen national child protection systems. She currently lives in Tunis, Tunisia.
Yeray Novoa, MD, MPH, PhD(c) is a pediatrician with more than 10 years experience working on children´s health. His focus has included child health and nutrition, with an interest in the relationship between children´s health and child protection, and in creating strong links between clinical research and advocacy. He has worked in a number of developing countries and emergency settings with projects related to child health and protection collaborating with projects developed in Haiti, Pemba (Tanzania) and Indonesia by Mensajeros de la Paz, NED foundation and the Center on Child Protection at the University of Indonesia (PUSKAPA UI). Dr. Nóvoa completed his training in pediatrics with a Masters in pediatric endocrinology followed by a two year observership in the pediatric endocrinology department at Mount Sinai Hospital, NY. His search for a greater impact in children´s health and protection led him to receive his MPH from Columbia University´s Mailman School of Public Health, and in his current pursuit of his PhD in Pediatric Health at his home University in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain).
Chen Reis, JD, MPH is an expert on protection issues related to sexual violence and on ethical and safety issues related to collection and use of data on sensitive issues. She has over 15 years of experience working on gender, children’s rights, SGBV and health in various capacities including program management, technical support, policy development and assessment, multidisciplinary research, training, and advocacy. She has worked for over 7 years with the World Health Organization on sexual violence in low and middle income countries and countries affected by humanitarian crises. As a senior researcher with Physicians for Human Rights, she initiated, designed and implemented research projects on health and human rights issues. Ms. Reis has published extensively on a range of human rights and humanitarian topics including sexual violence, children’s rights, HIV and AIDS, and the impact of conflict on women’s health. She is currently Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the Humanitarian Assistance Program at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
Mallika Samaranayake, M.Ed. is the founder and director of the Institute for Participatory Development Institute in Sri Lanka, the immediate past president of the Sri Lanka Evaluation Association, and a Steering Committee member of the Community of Evaluators - South Asia. She has more than 30 years experience advising organizations such as UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, and Oxfam in many countries. Most recently, she served as the national coordinator for UNICEF’s Tsunami Impact Evaluation in Sri Lanka (2008-2009) and as the Asia-Pacific Regional Coordinator (Core Evaluation Team) for the Paris Declaration Evaluation (2009-2010).
Jeanette Schmid PhDis a seasoned researcher, consultant, practitioner, and educator with more than 35 years of experience and a strong interdisciplinary focus. Her qualifications include a social work doctorate, a master in education (School Counseling) and diplomas in Remedial Education and Public Policy, Development and Administration. She also was a registered psycho-oncology counsellor and is trained in mediation and restorative practices. Jeanette’s engagement has been directed by a passion for social justice and her academic interrogation occurs through a critical lens. She was a founding member of the South African anti-apartheid organization ‘Concerned Social Workers’ and has explored the impact of anti-oppressive engagement on professional identity. She has lived and worked in South Africa, Switzerland, the United States of America and Canada and has a nuanced appreciation of global North-South dynamics in the social services arena. She is a skilled researcher and has an extensive publication record. She has made a significant contribution to the conceptualization of child welfare by extending developmental social welfare into the child welfare field and promotes an integrated, indigenized approach to dealing with vulnerable children and families. Jeanette’s research interests further include social policy, organizational development and social service workforce issues. Jeanette has served diverse and marginalized populations, working across race, class, gender, religious, (dis)ability and national backgrounds. She has engaged extensively with refugees, immigrants and resettled populations. Jeanette has a thorough knowledge of the impact of trauma both in the personal and political realms. She is an effective leader, having taken on a number of managerial and board roles. A further area of expertise is community capacity building in such areas as early childhood intervention, crime prevention, family group conferencing, and economic literacy. In sum, Jeanette has the ability to apply practical and theoretical knowledge to a wide range of situations pertaining to children in adversity and to provide in-depth critical analysis.
Wendy Smith, M.Ed. has served as the Education Technical Advisor for the International Rescue Committee, where she developed the organization’s emergency education response in more than 20 countries. She created a regional emergency and reintegration strategy for IRC’s West Africa countries for serving approximately 125,000 refugees and displaced children from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Ms Smith contributed significantly to INEE’s minimum standards in emergency education as well as the creation of the INEE focal point person based at the IRC. Ms Smith has served as a Professor of Sociology in Latin America and worked with inner city schools in New York City, both as a special education teacher and advisor on youth programs for at risk teens. She lives in Bogota, Colombia.
Marc Sommers, PhD has conducted research, assessment and evaluation work in 20 war-affected countries over the past two decades. An expert on youth and education during and after conflict, Sommers has consulted for policy institutes and a broad array of United Nations, non-government and donor agencies. He has also published extensively on youth, children, gender, education, employment, conflict negotiation, child soldiers, urbanization, forced migration, human rights, security and coordination issues in war and post-war contexts. Sommers is finalizing his seventh book, entitled Stuck: Youth in Rwanda, and writing another, called Marley's War: Terror and Transformation in Sierra Leone, that uses Sierra Leone and its youth to probe how terror warfare and popular culture have influenced the war and post-war eras. His third book, Fear in Bongoland: Burundi Refugees in Urban Tanzania, received the 2003 Margaret Mead Award.
Suzan Song MD, MPH, PhD(c) has over ten years of experience working with vulnerable populations in America and post-conflict Africa, from policy, advocacy, research, and clinical perspectives. Through extensive clinical work as a child/adolescent and adult psychiatrist, family therapist, and parent-child psychotherapist she assists in the development, implementation, and evaluation of locally embraced ways of healing spanning all clinical levels. Working from systems of care to ecological psychosocial interventions, she works with refugees in America, and with children and families abroad (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Haiti, and Burundi). Dr. Song has led studies involving family-processes for former child soldiers in Burundi, as well as community-centered interventions for high-risk populations in America by building upon inherent strengths in the community.
Vivi Stavrou, M.Sc. is a social development worker and clinical psychologist. She has worked in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the USA with a wide range of government, non-governmental and private sector agencies. Ms. Stavrou works as a researcher, evaluator, policy and programming specialist in child protection, psychosocial, HIV and AIDS, emergency and post-conflict interventions. Ms. Stavrou is co-chair of the Global Technical Group on Children's Psychosocial Wellbeing (Child Protection and Care Learning Network), an associate member of REPSSI (Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative of south and east Africa), was one of the founding members of the South African Network of Trauma Service Providers (Themba Lesizwe), has been shortlisted for the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights, and served for three years as a staff de-briefer for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Carl Triplehorn, MAHA is an emergency education expert with more than 15 years experience in acute responses to conflict and natural disaster, repatriation, and recovery. He served as Save the Children’s Senior Advisor for Education in Emergencies and in this context led the Alliance’s education responses to both the tsunami (Aceh) and Hurricane Katrina (Louisiana and Mississippi). He also served as an advisor to UNHCR, UNICEF and UNESCO, and contributed extensively to existing global standards for education in emergencies.
Wendy Wheaton, MIA, EdD(c) has more than a decade of experience working on education and child protection programs in emergency-affected settings. She provides technical support to country operations, both at the field and headquarters level, as well as lending her expertise to new assessment, monitoring and evaluation guidelines and tools for emergency and post disaster settings. She has previously worked for the Global Education Cluster, INEE, UNDP, the World Bank and INGOs. Her job responsibilities have included research, assessment, program management, and capacity building in education, child protection, gender-based violence prevention and psychosocial support. She has lived and worked with programs in Kosovo, Ethiopia, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, DRC, and Sudan. She holds dual French/American nationality and is currently a doctoral candidate in international education.
Gary Yu, MPH, DrPH(c) is a second-generation Vietnamese-American born to Vietnamese refugees who escaped their wartorn homeland on April 29, 1975, the day of the Fall of Saigon. He is currently a doctoral candidate in biostatistics at the Mailman School of Public Health. He specializes in randomized clinical trials on school and community based interventions and longitudinal data on child based wellness outcomes. Gary has supported the Columbia Group with analyses in Uganda, Liberia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, the occupied Palestinian territories and Indonesia.
Susan Garland serves as Managing Director for the Columbia Group for Children in Adversity. She is the principal contact and administrator for the group and has a dozen years senior management experience in program development, fundraising and events planning with major charitable organizations. She consults on special projects, fundraising strategies and charitable events.
Peter G. C. Boothby, J.D. has served as Director of Legal Affairs at the Columbia Group for Children in Adversity, LLC since 2009. Boothby oversees and advises company management on all legal matters, including contracts, corporate governance, and government compliance. Boothby holds a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Connecticut Schoolof Law, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Davidson College.