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Our Refugee Advocates Are Our Most Valuable Assets

Since its foundation in 2001, Nile Sisters Development Initiative ( NSDI ) has made it a priority to involve stakeholders. Our staff is a genuine reflection of this goal.

Breanne Lash, Senior Program Manager

Breanne Lash, Senior Program ManagerHaving moved throughout the U.S. as a youth, Breanne experienced the rich diversity of the United States that solidified her devotion to global and domestic community work.

Breanne is an alumna of Northern Michigan University, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in International Studies, focusing on Anthropology and Spanish. During her undergraduate studies, she completed some coursework in Sevilla, Spain. Also, she volunteered in Kehancha, Kenya, where she provided health education on women’s health.

Professionally, Breanne has worked in the nonprofit sector for over ten years, shaping youth empowerment programs, violence prevention, and health and nutrition initiatives in underserved communities of Chicago, Illinois, Dallas, Texas, and Anchorage, Alaska.

As the Senior Program Manager, Breanne

Gia Oliphant, MHA, Admission Counselor

Gia Oliphant, MHA, Admission CounselorThrough her close connection with her grandmother, Gia witnessed her grandmother’s care and compassion devoted to her career as a nurse. She was inspired to follow in her footsteps. Gia’s passion for taking care of others guides her work, supporting others on their path to success.

Gia received her bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administrative Management with a focus on Medical Records. She holds a Master’s in Healthcare Administrative Management from the University of Phoenix.

With over 15 years in the medical field, Gia has answered her calling, encouraging medical students to succeed and contributing to the joy of others. Starting as a Medical Assistant, she elevated to a Clinical Coordinator at a vocational training school. Gia guided medical students to find fulfilling careers in their fields of interest. She then continued that drive within a nonprofit organization as their Administration Coordinator for medical students. There she enrolled, encouraged, and guided those who had a passion for nursing.

As the Admission Counselor for LearnMore », Gia

  • Conducts outreach and enrolls prospective students
  • Offers continued support to matriculated students by coordinating state testing, course orientation, and professional development opportunities

Farah Abunadi, Program Manager

Farah Abunadi, Program ManagerBorn into a family of refugees and immigrants, Farah directly experienced the hardships faced by those forced to flee their homelands. Her identity and background allow for a deep understanding of many inequities within communities and a drive to address them.

Farah is an alumna of San Diego State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. While pursuing her degree, Farah held membership with both the Muslim Student Association and Arab Student Association. Additionally, she obtained a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults and is fluent in multiple Arabic dialects.
With over seven years of experience in the nonprofit sector, she has worked in refugee communities in San Diego and the Zaatari Refugee Camp of Jordan. She has also worked in public media and hunger relief organizations in San Diego and language education programs in Amman.

As a Program Manager at NSDI, Farah

Anya Kuzma, Health Advocacy Specialist

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Immigrating to the United States from Poland as a child, Anya had no prior knowledge of the English language or American culture. For this reason, Anya directs her energy to assist newcomer communities in prospering and thriving in their new homeland.

Anya holds both a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree in history from San Diego State University and the University of New Mexico, respectively. While pursuing her degrees, Anya was an active member of the History Honors Society.

Working in the nonprofit sector since 2008, she conducted outreach in San Diego on behalf of a tobacco prevention program, focusing on voluntary tobacco-free policy initiatives at healthcare facilities, multi-unit housing properties, and faith communities. Anya draws from her decade-plus experience to engage youth, community stakeholders, and faith-based organizations in education advocacy efforts.

As the Health Advocacy Specialist at NSDI, Anya

  • Supports diverse faith-based organizations to adopt and implement comprehensive tobacco-free policies.
  • Guide a regional youth-led coalition.
  • Provide education and awareness of tobacco-control issues to community members and decision-makers.

Sarah Vo, Bookkeeper

Sarah Vo

Raised in a family that believes in social justice, Sarah has been an active proponent of social justice since her middle school days in San Diego. She strongly believes in working for an organization whose mission aligns closely with her beliefs.

Sarah is an alumna of the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy and minor in Spanish Literature. During her time at university, she participated in the funding, development, and maintenance of the Ethnic Studies department.

She entered the workforce as an ESL and Spanish bilingual teacher, working with immigrant students, ensuring that both students and their families received the necessary support and equal access to available resources in Oakland and Chula Vista, and Brooklyn, New York. After moving back to San Diego, Sarah transitioned to the accounting field, accumulating over ten years of experience.

As the bookkeeper for NSDI, Sarah

  • Processes invoices from multiple vendors and reconcile purchasing orders to vendor invoices
  • Check figures, postings, and documents for correct entry, mathematical accuracy, and proper codes
  • Maintain accurate and complete records of important documents and data

Sam Bedwell, JD, External and Government Affairs Director

Sam Bedwell

Having lived abroad for over 20 years, Sam gained a global perspective while living throughout Europe and Africa. During this time, Sam developed fluency in Italian and Spanish, as well as his passion for serving diverse, intersectional communities.

Sam received his bachelor’s degree in Biology from San Diego State University and holds a Law Degree from California Western School of Law. He continued his studies at universities abroad, including the University of Maryland in Germany and Italy.

In his professional capacity, Sam has a broad background in business, political consulting, and nonprofit development. He has extensive experience negotiating a wide variety of business relationships and agreements, including licensing agreements, sales contracts, and lease agreements.

Additionally, Sam is a skilled communicator, adept at working in culturally and politically diverse and fast-changing environments. Sam participates in civic engagement and policy development efforts within his community while also volunteering on local and national political campaigns and for many nonprofit boards.

As the External and Government Affairs Director for NSDI, Sam

  • Connects with public stakeholders and manages the donor and grant development.
  • Works with decision makers to expand the organization’s advocacy network and public support.
  • Assists with the administration of the vocational training program

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