About Us


The SURVIVORS Story

Survivors of Torture, International is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to caring for survivors of politically motivated torture and their families who live in San Diego County.

Since 1997, SURVIVORS has helped survivors to recover from their traumas through a holistic program including mental health, psychiatry, social services, and medical case management.

SURVIVORS empowers torture survivors to reclaim the strength and vitality that were stolen from them by brutal dictators and governments. The specialized care SURVIVORS provides these vulnerable individuals helps them to become self-sufficient and healthy members of their families and of our community.

Partner Organizations

We’re proud to be an accredited member of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, based in Copenhagen, Denmark. We’re also proud to be members of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs and the California Consortium of Torture Treatment Centers.

Meet Our Board of Directors

Dr. Jean Greaves is TalentSmart’s CEO, author, executive sessions speaker, assessment expert, and C-suite executive coach. She advises leaders on emotional intelligence as an integral component of leadership development and talent management in organizations across industries, government, education, and nonprofit institutions.

Dr. Greaves is the award-winning co-author of the #1 best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book, translated into 25 languages and available across 150 countries. An expert in topics ranging from emotional intelligence, to leadership development, talent acquisition, parenting, and executive coaching, Dr. Greaves’ has been cited in major media, including Newsweek, Harvard Business Review, USA Today, Reader’s Digest, Elle, Success Magazine, and Women’s World. Dr. Greaves lectures graduate-level seminars in adult development and strategic staffing before launching TalentSmart and supervised doctoral research studies including a recent study on emotional intelligence and personality as relative predictors of burnout. Her survey and assessment development expertise remains grounded in a philosophy of simple, applied approaches to measurement. Dr. Greaves earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and a B.A. in psychology from Stanford University.

Mr. Josephson has 34 years of experience in structural engineering. He is the Principal Structural Engineer for Josephson-Werdowatz and Associates. He received is BSCE from San Diego State University. Mr. Josephson has served as Survivors of Torture, International’s Board of Directors since January 2016.
Loren Tarmo is a Certified Public Accountant with 20 years’ experience. He earned his B.A. is Social Sciences from University of California, Irvine and a Master’s in Accountancy from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Loren started his career in public accounting and is proud to have been able to steer his career into the health services arena.  He currently is Vice President of Finance for PatientSafe Solutions in San Diego, CA.  Loren resides in Carlsbad with his two teenage kids.  He began serving on the board of Survivor of Torture, International 2017.
Ms. Lopez is the Executive Director and founder of the Southern California Immigration Project which is dedicated to providing pro bono and low bono legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations and educating the public about Female Genital Mutilation, a global health issue which can have devastating physical, psychological and social consequences for women and girls. She was Pro Bono Director and Asylum Director of Casa Cornelia Law Center. She earned her B.A. degree from the University of Southern California and her J.D. from the Western School of Law. She was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1989. Ms. Lopez joined Survivors of Torture, International’s Board of Directors in January 2016.
Dee (Dianne Lee) Aker, PhD is a psychological anthropologist and conflict resolution professional with over 40 years of experience working in peacebuilding and conflict transformation in international settings. As part of the leadership of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) at the University of San Diego from its inception in 2000 through mid 2017, Aker created the Women PeaceMakers Program (WPM), which documents the stories of women who build peace in conflict or post conflict; the WorldLink Program, which connected high school youth from Mexico and the United States to global affairs for 20 years; and the 15-year Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative, which worked to support local Nepal people in ending conflict and building peace in post-civil-war challenges (2001-17).

Aker has extensive experience in international higher education — including senior administration, curriculum development and teaching — in Kenya, England and the U.S. In her work with world-renowned psychologist Carl Rogers she joined conflict transformation efforts in Europe and Central America. As a media and print journalist, Aker produced and hosted a television series (consisting of more than 230 programs over six years) interviewing women leaders and survivors of injustice from around the world, had a monthly column, on rights and gender concerns in the Women’s Times, and free-lanced for papers such as the Chicago Tribune.  Participation as press and NGO delegate to the Fourth World Conference on Women inspired Aker to promote ten major women’s conferences at the University of San Diego in conjunction with the WPM Program, including a Global Court of Accountability in 2005.

Aker was a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia in the Corps’ early years, which she credits as the impetus to be ever involved in efforts to secure human rights and justice and, especially, encourage and acknowledge the role women have in peacebuilding that is so often ignored or over-looked.  She has since worked across the globe to support the inclusion of the voices of women, youth and other marginalized communities, in discussions and decisions related to conflict resolution and sustainable peace — including designing and leading participatory trainings/workshops in communications, negotiations, skills-building and leadership. She believes strongly in participatory methodologies and a “whole community” approach to conflict transformation and strategic peacebuilding.

Aker’s more recent honors include the 2015 Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, from the San Diego Chapter of the United Nations Association, and 2014 induction into the San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame as a “Trailblazer.” She has received numerous recognitions from the University of San Diego for her service, including the 2015 International Impact Award for expanding global assess for students and a 2017 “Million Dollar Club” award for fundraising for the IPJ. In 2016 Aker was inducted into the United States International University-Africa’s Hall of History for service on the faculty and Vice-Chancellor between 1979 and 1984. She was the first Phillip Brooks House Fellow at Harvard University in 2007 where she was invited to “share (her) distinguished public service career” with students and the university’s Center for Public Interest. Most recently in 2017, Aker received the second Women of the Peace Corps Legacy Award for her 50-year post-volunteer work with women and youth globally.

Paula Herring has over 16 years of professional experience in the field of adult education. She is a Faculty Chair and Professor at DeVry University, where she leads faculty, teaches international business, marketing, management and leadership on the graduate and undergraduate level. She has led four study abroad trips for DeVry and Keller students to Europe and advises students in the National Society for Leadership and Success. She has been adjunct faculty for many local universities and in addition to serving on Survivors of Torture board, serves on the board of TKF (Tariq Khamisa Foundation) in San Diego, a non-profit providing education for non-violence and reconciliation to sixth graders in the San Diego County. She sits on San Diego’s  Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and is a member of the Academic of International Business and the African Studies Association.

 

Her doctorate research covered qualitative studies of business women of Kigali, Rwanda, and how they are changing the economic climate in Sub-Sahara Africa. She earned her Doctorate in Education from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, a Master in Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Public Communications.  She has spoken at global conferences regarding her research and has 15 years of international business experience.

Michael J. McKay, S.T.D., presently serves full-time as a lecturer at Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego. He formerly served for 14½ years as Director of the Department of Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, Diocese of San Diego. Michael McKay has a doctorate in Theology from the Catholic University of America and has lived, studied and traveled abroad giving him a strong multicultural perspective. He has served professionally managing and directing refugee services and acting as the associate project director for the Wilson/Fish Comprehensive Resettlement Collaborative, a multi-agency refugee resettlement program in the County of San Diego. He was particularly involved with building a multi-dimensional and multicultural program environment. Mr. McKay joined Survivors of Torture, International’s Board of Directors in January 2016.
Mr. Reeder is the Senior Licensing Manager of Audio Technologies at Technicolor S.A.  He previously worked as the Regional Manager/Partnership in Sales for Delta Airlines. Mr. Reeder is fluent in six languages including Russian, Japanese and Spanish. He received his BA in International Business Administration from the University of the Pacific. Mr. Reeder joined Survivors of Torture, International’s Board of Directors in January 2016.

Our Board Emeritus Society

  • Jeanette Barrack, RPT
  • Cheri Attix, Esq
  • Rev. George Falk
  • Mel Kieschnick, PhD
  • Elizabeth Michel, MD
  • Rev. Bill Radatz
  • Darryl Solberg, Esq.

Meet Our Staff Members

From Mahvash: “I joined SURVIVORS to provide care to newcomers who have limited access to services.  Being raised in Iran and experiencing the challenges of adapting to western culture first-hand, I relate to our clients who come from different parts of the world, especially from Middle Eastern countries. I am moved by the great resilience I have seen from clients who have gone through severe trauma yet continue to show motivation towards achieving their goals and creating a new, safe home for themselves and their families, despite limited resources.”

Dr. Mahvash Alami joined Survivors of Torture, International in May 2011 to oversee the holistic, strength-based, recovery-oriented service program. She leads all ongoing development, expansion, and enhancement of client service programs and provides agency leadership with other members of SURVIVORS’ management team. She received her Ph.D. in psychology from Alliant International University and obtained her license as a psychologist in July 2004. She completed her domestic violence certificate in 2004 and has been providing treatment to survivors of torture for the past 20 years. She has experience working in crisis environments, in-patient psychiatric hospitals, and outpatient programs. She also has over 8 years experience overseas working as academic staff at a medical school teaching psychology to medical students and nursing students.  In addition, she obtained her certification in Psycho-Social Rehabilitation (PSR) in 2002 and holds a certificate in LGBTQ and geriatric mental health.  She has completed TF-CB (Trauma focus cognitive behavioral therapy) training, a conjoint child and parent psychotherapy approach for children and adolescents who are experiencing significant emotional and behavioral difficulties related to traumatic life events.  She has private practice experience working with survivors of torture. She is bilingual and speaks Farsi (Persian). She has been a member of the San Diego Psychological Association.

From Kathi: “After considerable reflection, I approached George Falk and Bill Radatz about the idea of starting Survivors of Torture, International (SURVIVORS). I knew that such an organization was needed in San Diego, in part, because no other agency was intentionally serving torture survivors even though San Diego is home to the busiest border crossing in the world and has a large number of immigrants. Others had tried to start a similar organization but had been unsuccessful. Fortunately, many believed in the SURVIVORS dream, mentored and partnered with us. I began as SURVIVORS’ first board chair and after three years became the first executive director. Every day, I am reminded that it is not only an honor to work with dedicated professionals in this field but also rewarding how much of a difference we are making in the lives of our clients and in our greater community.”

In 1997, Kathi co-founded Survivors of Torture, International. She holds an M.A. in Counseling from San Jose State University and a B.A. in International Relations from the University of the Pacific. Her previous employment includes: Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice, Evaluator at Grossmont Hospital, Adjunct Faculty Member at the College of Idaho’s Graduate Program, Director of Elks Hospital’s Occupational and Rehabilitation Department and Refugee Resettlement Case Worker for the International Rescue Committee. Kathi is the elected North American representative and Executive Committee member of the Denmark-based International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims; co-founder and Executive Committee member of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs and immediate past chair of the San Diego Refugee Forum. As a volunteer, she currently serves on the advisory boards of University of the Pacific’s School of International Studies and San Diego State University’s School of Social Work. Previously, she served on the board of directors for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service as well as Amnesty International USA.

Alicia DeLeon-Torres has 21 years of public service specializing in youth and family services including 14 years as the Youth and Elder Adult Services Division Manager for the Union of Pan Asian Communities, where she developed the first culturally specific youth suicide prevention curriculum in the state of California. She is also a certified national trainer in gang prevention and intervention, and substance abuse prevention. As a grants manager, Ms. DeLeon-Torres has raised over $10 million for various programs focused on culturally competent and accessible services. Ms. DeLeon-Torres has served on many boards and committees including the City of San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention (current), San Diego Police Department’s Chief’s Asian Pacific Islander Advisory Board, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Art Committee, and the California State Attorney General’s Civil Rights Commission on Hate Crimes. She also served on the Substance Abuse Mental Health Administrations ad hoc committee for Racial and Ethnic Knowledge Exchange and Dissemination Project; this became the basis for the current guidelines for measuring cultural competency. She is a recipient of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism California Endowment National Fellow for Public Health Journalism, California Wellness Foundation Violence Prevention Initiative Fellowship and the Woman of the Year Award from (then) California State Assemblywomen Susan Davis 76th District for her work with youth and families. Ms. DeLeon Torres studied Sociology and English at San Diego State University.

From Rachel: “Every day I feel a deep gratitude and privilege because I get to serve the most phenomenally resilient people I’ve ever known. Being a force of healing and empowerment for survivors of torture is the quintessence of Frederick Buechner’s definition of vocation: ‘Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.’”

Rachel Mahoney has served as SURVIVORS’ Clinical Case Manager since May 2017. She first connected with SURVIVORS in 2015 as a Clinical Intern, and again in 2016 as a Mental Health Contractor for the Refugee School Impact Grant (RSIG) program. Before her current role with SURVIVORS, Rachel provided behavior therapy for children with developmental delays, completed a clinical counseling internship with Jewish Family Service of San Diego, and worked in various positions in the global public health field. Rachel received her Master of Social Work from San Diego State University in 2017, where she focused on refugee/newcomer mental health, trauma treatment, immigration policy, gender equity, and human rights promotion. She earned her BA in Anthropology and Middle Eastern and North African studies from UCLA, and has been fortunate to study, travel, and live all over the world. She is a member of the International Federation of Social Workers, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Social Workers, the United Nations Association of San Diego, and the San Diego Rapid Response Network – a community based 24-hour hotline of individuals and organizations that provide support and relief for families affected by immigration raids and detentions.

Tara’s biography is coming soon!
From Katrina: “After attending a Journey to Healing Tour at SURVIVORS I was floored by my lack of knowledge on the international crisis and trauma facing torture survivors. I strongly believe all people deserve to occupy a safe, supportive and welcoming world. SURVIVORS is a place where I can help create that world. It is a privilege to help survivors of torture and to create a platform where they can share their stories with our community in an effort to build awareness and facilitate healing.”

Katrina has served as SURVIVORS Community Relations Manager since July 2018. She first connected with SURVIVORS in July 2017 when she served as a Graduate Fellow for the Board of Directors. She received her Master’s in Social Work at San Diego State University specializing in Administration and Community Development. Prior to joining the SURVIVORS team Katrina has worked in public mental health, policy development, curriculum design, sexual assault advocacy, nonprofit communications and management in both Northern and Southern California.  Katrina earned a BA in Psychology and a BA in Women’s & Gender Studies at Sonoma State University where she also spent a year studying and living abroad in Florence, Italy.  Her diverse educational and professional experience has continued to increase her passion and devotion to human services.

From Jessica: “I had the benefit of serving as a social work intern with SURVIVORS in 2013-2014, and the organization’s mission, vision, scope of services, and impact in the community stayed with me long after graduation. I’ve worked in community mental health in various capacities, and feel honored to get to walk alongside others in times of adversity in their lives. This resounds particularly strongly at SURVIVORS, where individuals, groups, and families entrust us with some of their most harrowing and adverse experiences, and we get to play a role in the healing and rebuilding that follows. I feel honored that I get to work with SURVIVORS to continue the mission and vision of helping torture survivors and their families heal and feel welcomed and supported in our community.”

Jessica first joined SURVIVORS as a Masters in Social Work intern in the fall of 2013. The experience of working with torture survivors and being part of the community of healing at SURVIVORS was incredibly impactful and stayed with Jessica upon completion of her MSW program. Jessica has worked as a Clinical Social Worker in the public mental health field in various capacities, including working with at-risk youth and families, developing health and wellness programming for individuals in South Bay with severe mental health concerns, and providing case management services to San Diegans experiencing housing instability. Jessica has a Bachelor’s degree from University of San Francisco in International Studies and Latin American Studies, with an emphasis on Peace and Conflict Studies, and a Masters in Social Work from San Diego State University, with an emphasis on public mental health, administration and policy, and community development. She is a registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, and is currently working toward her LCSW. A strong supporter of the mission and vision of SURVIVORS, Jessica is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with community members to coordinate and facilitate healing, wellness, and success for torture survivors in San Diego.

Valerie’s bio is coming soon!
From Brittney: “Despite my background in refugee resettlement and insurance for low-income San Diegans, I was still surprised to see the vast healthcare disparities for San Diego refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers. There are so many additional barriers to health care including language, transportation, cultural concepts of health and wellness, and income limitations. I’m so excited to join the Survivors family and look forward to continuing to assist clients in removing barriers to care and improving health outcomes.”

Brittney Willis joined Survivors of Torture, International as Medical Case Manager in August 2017. Brittney received her BA in International Security and Conflict Resolution from San Diego State University where she also completed two study abroad opportunities in Costa Rica. She continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Human Services with a specialization in Not-for-Profit Management from University of the Rockies. Brittney has most recently worked as a refugee resettlement case manager with a local resettlement agency and as a medical case manager with a managed healthcare plan.

Meet Our Interns

From Katherina: “For me, SURVIVORS represents a safe place. I chose to intern here for the sense of community and welcoming environment for all people.”

Katherina started volunteering as the Community Relations Intern with SURVIVORS in November 2017. Katherina’s interest in human rights and immigration derive from her experience volunteering at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center in Rome. She witnessed how the Italian government and other countries struggled to handle the reality of the humanitarian refugee crisis which had hit her home country of Italy very hard. This realization pushed her to pursue immigration and human rights as a field of study. She received her BA in International Affairs at John Cabot University in Rome. Katherina is now a candidate for a Master’s of Arts in Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego. She hopes to create a more welcoming, inclusive, and peaceful environment for refugees and asylum seekers.

Survivors of Torture, International is an Equal Opportunity Employer

 SURVIVORS  prohibits discrimination against employees, applicants for employment, individuals providing services in the workplace pursuant to a contract, unpaid interns or volunteers based on any legally-recognized basis, including, but not limited to, their actual or perceived race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status (including registered domestic partnership status), sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, lactation and related medical conditions), gender (including gender identity and expression), age (40 or over), sexual orientation, Civil Air Patrol status, military and veteran status, immigration status or any other consideration protected by federal, state or local law.