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.
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
Jean Greaves, Ph.D., is CEO and co-founder of TalentSmart, Inc. and co-author of several books and assessments on emotional intelligence. Previously, she was the Director of Workforce Planning for Sharp HealthCare and Consultant with Workforce Development Solutions. She joined the board in 2017 and currently serves as board chairperson.
H.H. the Dalai Lama
Survivors of Torture, International has at its core the goal and ideal to relieve human suffering. Their reason for being is to help their clients to overcome the physical and mental pain that has been inflicted on them, to help them heal, grow, and thrive. There can never be a reason or excuse for humans to subject their fellow beings to the abuse of torture. It is our privilege as caring individuals to help to relieve that anguish. I am proud to offer my time and talents to an organization that has the cessation of suffering as its core value.
Carl H. Josephson, S.E. is a Principal Structural Engineer and the Managing Partner of the firm of Josephson-Werdowatz & Associates, Inc., Consulting Structural Engineers. Mr. Josephson is a licensed engineer in 20 states and consults throughout the country. He has served on a number of non-profit boards and is pleased to be able to offer his unique perspective to SURVIVORS.
In 2017, I was elated to hear that the SURVIVORS’ Finance Committee needed an additional member. Philanthropic work and community involvement have always been highly prioritized by my family, whose extended members include World War II victims. It was this connection that drew me to this organization and its honorable efforts assisting those who escaped torture in their homeland.
SURVIVORS’ participants and I are connected by our pasts, yet we work together with a focus on the future. I consider myself truly blessed to work with such an incredible organization and team, and I am thankful to use my experience in finance and accounting to help those in need.
Mr. Tarmo is a Certified Public Accountant with 20 years of experience. He earned his B.A. in Social Sciences from the University of California, Irvine and a Master’s in Accountancy from the 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 serves as CFO for PatientSafe Solutions in San Diego, CA. Loren began serving Survivors of Torture, International in early 2017 as a member of the finance committee and joined the board in 2018. He continues to serve as Chair of the Finance Committee and CFO of the organization.
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. The organization also educates the public about Female Genital Mutilation, a global health issue that can have devastating physical, psychological and social consequences for women and girls. In the past, she has acted as the Pro Bono Director and Asylum Director of Casa Cornelia Law Center. She earned her B.A. from the University of Southern California, her J.D. from the Western School of Law, and was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1989. Elizabeth received the KPBS Community Hero Award in 2017 and the Peacemaker Award from the National Conflict Resolution Center in 2018.
Working with an orphanage in post-genocide Rwanda allowed for continued glimpses into the lives of those in need of community, seeking survival and safety. Field research allowed for me to interview business women in Rwanda, where I listened to stories about the spirit of motivation and how pain brings reconciliation and the power to forgive.
Studying poverty and hunger in Nicaragua led me to the meeting of co-traveler Bill Radatz, who shared the mission of SURVIVORS with me in 2001. I served on the board from 2001-2003 and returned in 2017. Being a part of the SURVIVORS team allows for me to continue to learn and hear stories from those who persevere beyond unimaginable circumstances to join and lead in this San Diego community, a community of which I am proud to be a part.
Paula Herring, EdD is Faculty Chair and Professor at DeVry University, where she has taught and led faculty and students for 18 years. Her professional background is in education and international business and she also serves on the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF) board. She earned her doctorate from Fielding Graduate University in Leadership and Social Justice and was awarded a dissertation research grant from the Women’s Network of Gender Empowerment (WNGE). The Institute for Social Innovation Scholarship awarded her a Dissertation Topic and Research Award for her research about Rwandan women. Additional research, publications, and speaking engagements include the topics of inclusivity, entrepreneurship, human rights, and emerging economies.
For 15 years through June of 2015, it was my privilege to serve as the Director of Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, Diocese of San Diego. During this time, I interacted regularly with the staff of Survivors of Torture, International, co-founded and led by Kathi Anderson. Survivors of Torture, International was our preferred provider of mental health services for our resettlement clients – refugees, asylees and victims of trafficking, who exhibited symptoms of being torture survivors. Kathi and her staff could not have been more professional or effective with our clients and case managers. We regularly turned to SURVIVORS for training and counsel on how to perform appropriate trauma-informed services.
Michael McKay is currently a lecturer at the Rady School of Management, UCSD, and teaches classes on personal ethics at work and managing diverse teams. He obtained a Doctorate of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) from The Catholic University of America and is committed professionally to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. He joined SURVIVORS’ board in 2016 and serves as the Governance Committee chair.
Having worked as a pro bono immigration attorney representing survivors of torture, I understand the invaluable nature of the services that Survivors of Torture, International provides to survivors of torture in our community. It offers forensic medical and psychological evaluations that noncitizens can use as evidence in their immigration cases to secure lawful status in the United States. However, lawful status is just the beginning in a long journey of healing. Where I practiced outside of San Diego, I saw a gap in services—noncitizens received litigation support but not long-term counseling to help them rebuild their lives after torture. Survivors of Torture, International fills this gap in San Diego by providing much-needed longer-term therapy to help noncitizens and their families continue their journeys of healing. Such therapy can be the key to ensuring that survivors of torture and their families thrive after gaining immigration status. I feel honored to be a part of Survivors of Torture, International and the community of healing it has been forging in San Diego.
Pooja Dadhania is an Assistant Professor of Law at California Western School of Law where she teaches courses in asylum and refugee law and civil procedure. Prior to this position, she was a supervising attorney and teaching fellow at Georgetown University Law Center where she supervised students representing survivors of persecution and torture in immigration court. She previously was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles where she represented survivors of gender-based violence in immigration and family law matters. She has also served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. Pooja received her J.D. from Columbia Law School, LL.M. with distinction from Georgetown University Law Center, and B.A. with high distinction from the University of Virginia. She is admitted to practice law in the state of California.
Ms. de la Garza is an Education Specialist with San Diego Unified School District and adjunct faculty with National University. She began her career teaching adolescents in a psychiatric hospital in New York. After moving to San Diego, Bridget held various teaching positions including coaching beginning teachers and supporting educational programs for foster, homeless, and refugee students. She earned her B.S. from Syracuse University and M.A. from San Diego State University. Bridget is a former officer of the San Diego Refugee Forum.
Our Board Emeritus Society
Meet Our Staff Members
Kathi 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 included 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 the Vice Chair of the State Advisory Council to the Refugee Programs Bureau. As a volunteer, she currently serves on the advisory boards of University of the Pacific’s School of International Studies, San Diego State University’s School of Social Work, Lutheran Office of Public Policy, and the Barbara Chester Award Committee of the Hopi Foundation. Previously, she served on the national board of directors for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service as well as Amnesty International USA.
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.
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.
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.
Nivedita joined the SURVIVORS team in December 2018 and has been a part of the communications field for over ten years. She was a journalist with the Press Trust of India before she received a graduate fellowship to join the doctoral program of the Pennsylvania State University. While in graduate school, Nivedita explored the topic of media platforms and minority communities. She also worked as a graduate teaching assistant and enjoyed working with undergraduate students. Since earning her doctoral degree, Nivedita has worked in both non-profit as well as the public service sectors. She previously served SURVIVORS as a Board of Directors’ Fund Development Committee Member and is excited to be a part of the SURVIVORS’ team again.
Rachel Mahoney feels privileged to serve as SURVIVORS’ Senior Mental Health Clinician. Before her current role, Rachel served as SURVIVORS’ Clinical Case Manager starting in 2017, and as Mental Health Contractor with the Refugee School Impact Grant (RSIG) program in 2016. Rachel first connected with SURVIVORS in 2015 as a Clinical Intern during her graduate studies. Before coming to SURVIVORS, Rachel provided family support and behavior therapy for children with developmental delays, completed a clinical counseling internship with Jewish Family Service of San Diego, and served in various roles in the global public health field in San Diego and Los Angeles. Rachel received her Master of Social Work from San Diego State University in 2017, where she tailored her degree to focus 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 live, study, and travel all over the world. She is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Federation of Social Workers, 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 that supports families affected by immigration raids and detentions.
Heather has served as SURVIVORS Finance Manager since November 2019. She received her Master’s in Nonprofit Management through Regis University in Denver and a certificate in Governmental and Nonprofit Accounting. Prior to joining SURVIVORS, she worked in Corporate finance and as the Deputy Director for a nonprofit working with military veterans. She currently serves on the board for a nonprofit in San Diego encouraging the use of fitness in individuals working through a wide spectrum of challenges and trauma. After almost two years in the corporate world, she missed feeling like she was making a difference and started looking for a nonprofit who aligned with her personal values.
Christine Kimmel joined Survivors of Torture, International as Children and Family Therapist in April 2019. She received her Ph.D. in psychology from Alliant International University where she tailored her degree to focus on the impact of trauma on the developing brain and trauma-informed treatment, and she obtained her license as a psychologist in February 2019. Before coming to SURVIVORS, Christine provided therapy, crisis intervention, and psychological assessment services to a multiple populations affected by trauma including incarcerated adults, children and families in low-income communities, and individuals hospitalized for grave disability or danger to self or others. Christine is excited to use her knowledge and skills as a licensed psychologist to further the mission of SURVIVORS.
Margaret has served as SURVIVORS’ Office Manager since July 2019. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from the San Diego State University with an emphasis in Family and a minor in Chinese. Prior to joining the SURVIVORS team, Margaret has worked in the areas of administrative mental health and early childhood education. She has completed multiple internships serving children and families with a history of trauma.
Winona Garcia is honored to serve individuals and families of SURVIVORS since June 2019. Though her parents were born and raised in the U.S., Winona grew up in the Philippines after her family moved there in 1997. This move sparked her interest in the lives of immigrants. This interest has always guided her path. In 2015, she earned her bachelor’s degree in international studies from Pepperdine University. Before joining SURVIVORS, Winona graduated from San Diego State University in May 2019 with a Master’s degree in Social Work. While in graduate school, she developed her knowledge of case management and social services at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, where she worked with patients from diverse language and ethnic backgrounds. Winona has also provided therapy to adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses at a short-term residential treatment center.
Elena joined Survivors as its Data and Evaluation Associate in August 2019. In May of that year she completed a PhD in Leadership Studies with a specialization in Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego. She is a Certified Nonprofit Professional with over 20 years of experience in nonprofit work, and expertise in database management; social science research methods; policy analysis; grant-writing; and grant making; and is a member of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) and the International Studies Association (ISA). Elena previously worked for a series of international development nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), advocating for more just and sustainable development policies. This career took her to countries across Latin America and Southern Africa. She holds an M.A. in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a B.A. in Development Studies from UC Berkeley. She has taught in study abroad programs in Mexico, and in Central America in the aftermath of the wars of the 1980s. Through those experiences she gained a first-hand appreciation for the valor and dignity with which people make their way through almost insurmountable circumstances, and is deeply moved to find that again at SURVIVORS.
Meet Our Interns
“As a secondary survivor of torture and a former refugee from Iraq, I am a true believer in human resiliency and our capacity to thrive when given a safe environment, support system, and access to adequate resources. It is a great honor to be part of SURVIVORS as an intern this academic year, and I look forward to working with resilient individuals as they undertake their personal journeys toward healing and thriving in their new home.”
Rand is a first-generation college graduate from San Diego State University. She obtained her Bachelor’s in Social Work in 2018 and currently is in her second year of my 3-year MSW program at San Diego State University. During her high school years (when she resettled in the U.S. in 2009) and up to now, she was able to work with newcomers from various cultural backgrounds and ages through volunteering as an ESL Teacher Assistant in her high school, volunteering with the International Rescue Committee as an Employment Assistant, interning with San Ysidro Health/ CMSS Division (Chaldean and Middle-Eastern Social Services), and working as a Social Worker at an Adult Day Health Care Center in El Cajon.
“I come from a large family with roots in Mexico and Lebanon and a multifaceted history that has shaped who I am today. Much of my family has faced seclusion and discrimination having emigrated from Mexico to the US. The work SURVIVORS does speaks to me on a personal level because of this history and I feel passionate in supporting their mission of building a safe and welcoming community to help survivors of torture heal through human connection.”
Lauren Azar is completing her Master of Social Work (MSW) at the San Diego State University School of Social Work with a concentration in Administration. Since starting her BS in Human Biology at UC Santa Cruz and volunteering there for a nonprofit organization called Rising International, her interest in research regarding sexual exploitation has significantly grown. She has participated in an array of anti-trafficking efforts including meetings for Human Trafficking Research and Data Advisory Roundtable (HT-RADAR) and San Diego Human Trafficking/CSEC Advisory Council. She has assisted extensively on researching interventions for women with HIV and has conducted literature reviews studying the crossover between this population and intimate partner violence, substance use, trafficking, and medication adherence. She aided in preparing a grant focused on effectiveness of comprehensive, long-term housing models for survivors of sex trafficking. She is keenly aware of the need for further research in sexual exploitation and is currently conducting a research study exploring the nature of sexual exploitation at SDSU and links to food insecurity, housing instability and stigma. She is eager to use her research experience on various social issues and developing skills gained from her MSW to help SURVIVORS accomplish their goals.
Hilary is completing her Master of Social Work (MSW) at the San Diego State University School of Social Work with a concentration in Administration. She is also a licensed attorney in the state of Virginia and has five years of experience practicing law. Her work in prosecution and as criminal defense attorney inspired her to return to school to earn her masters in social work. She hopes to use both degrees to work in human rights and environmental justice. Hilary is also the social events coordinator for the Graduate School of Social Work Association. She is excited to intern with SURVIVORS and hopes to learn as much as she can about international social work and human rights while here.
I began my social career working with refugees and asylum seekers on the southern border. Our resources were limited and there was a general lack of support from both the government and the population. As an intern at Survivors, I have seen another side to helping asylum seekers and refugees, the staff and the community are so supportive of those that have arrived in our country and are trying to build new lives. I am honored to be part of such a humble, and extraordinary team, and I am thrilled to be helping all those that walk through our doors.
Eric Estrada joined Survivors in August 2019 as an intern from the Master of Social Work program at San Diego State University. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from San Diego State University. He has previously worked with immigrants and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico, where he provided case management, and humanitarian asylum workshops to newcomers.
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.