Our work would not be possible without the support and guidance of our Board of Directors and Regional Organizer. We are indebted to their time and commitment. Thank you!!!
Regional Organizer Co Directors
Emily Rhyne grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina before moving to Asheville to attend school at UNCA where she obtained a BA with a focus on Post-Colonial Studies. In Western NC, she found her home in immigrant rights organizing sparking her interest in Latin America and movements against racism and imperialism. After completing her degree, she moved to Ecuador to learn Spanish and worked as an English teacher. She went on to work in Guatemala as a human rights monitor with the US-based organization NISGUA, accompanying Guatemalan human rights defenders at risk of persecution for their political work. Cases she accompanied include indigenous resistance to mega-development projects and survivors demanding justice for past war crimes committed by the Guatemalan State. Since returning to North Carolina, she has worked at local nonprofits as a Spanish interpreter, specializing healthcare education and outreach to immigrants and refugees.3
Aleja Rincón (she/her)
was born in Cúcuta, Colombia and grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy from UVA. She previously worked as the Honduras Program Co-Director, based in El Progreso, Honduras with the WFP Solidarity Collective and has been involved in various organizing spaces related to climate justice, higher education affordability and accessibility, and public housing.
Pao Amézquita (they/them/she/her)
is a queer community organizer and gardener, born in Bogota, Colombia. They have a background in advertising and communication, social justice, food sovereignty and community healing. They moved to the US 6 years ago and became connected with a variety of organizing spaces and movements including Hattie Carthan Community Garden in Brooklyn Bed-stuy, NY, Soul Fire Farm in Petersburg, NY, Black Lives Matter, indigenous Lakota water defenders of Standing Rock #NoDAPL as well as supporting the eternal battle of the indigenous Wayúu in Colombia against the Coal Mine, El Cerrejón. Pao now resides in Orlando, FL and has spent the last several years organizing with the Farmworker Association of Fl through the Apopka Campesinx Gardens, La Vía Campesina, and international climate justice movements.
Board of Directors
Genesis Torres (she/ella) (Co Chair)
Is from Raleigh, North Carolina. She studied Psychology at NCSU. She is of Mexican and Honduran descent which has propelled her interest in immigrant and Latinx activism. Currently, she is in law school building her activism toolkit. She is invested in learning more about the relations and history behind the United States and Latin American countries.
Niccolo Roditti (Co Chair)
Niccolo Roditti was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador but grew up living in Charlotte, NC. Niccolo’s family immigrated when he was two years old and his experiences as an immigrant in America is what made him interested in foreign policy, human and immigration rights. Last semester he studied abroad in Paris, France and was an intern for Benenova, a humanitarian non-profit. Niccolo’s interests in equity for all people in particular the disenfranchised are what lead him to apply for Witness for Peace Southeast and he is really eager to begin collaborating with the team.
Deborah Billins (Treasurer)
Stephanie Smetzen (Secretary)
Mother, Immigrant and Community Organizer in the triangle area, NC, Originally from Mexico, community work is the greatest of my passions because I do not create real and fair change if the voices of the directly oppressed are ignored. That is why I fight for the voice of my migrant and undocumented community to be heard everywhere.
Chelsey is an anthropologist with a passion for Colombia, human rights, and social justice. She received her Master’s of Anthropology from George Mason University. She is currently an anthropology PhD candidate at Vanderbilt University. Her research centers on how gender, racial, and national intersections influence US-Colombia solidarity work. Chelsey has been on several Colombia WfP delegations. Each trip spurred her growing interest in the dynamics of US-Colombia solidarity work.
Gail Phares is one of the co-founders of Witness for Peace and a long-time leader in the Southeast region. For thirty years, Gail has devoted her life to activism and social justice. She lived and worked in Nicaragua and Guatemala as a Maryknoll Sister. She has led 60 delegations to Latin America over the past thirty years. She holds a MA in Latin American Studies from the American University in Washington, DC.