Board of Directors
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Trisha and her family have lived in Germany for over 18 years. She has been volunteering in refugee camps around the Frankfurt, Germany area since the Fall of 2015. She works closely with organizations and with displaced individuals to assist them in the asylum process and integration into their new home.
Twila has a broadcast news and public affairs background. After she discovered a passion for family history research, she now writes books about ancestors in the near and far past. In 2016, through the influence of her daughter, TSOS president Trisha Leimer, Twila grew to understand the desperate circumstances of Europe's refugees. Now she is committed to telling their stories, which she hopes will touch hearts and encourage others to welcome them to new, safe communities throughout the world.
Matthew Longhurst is a recovering attorney with a passion for non-profit work. After practicing law and public accounting for more than six years, he has been employed full-time as a non-profit executive since 2013. Matthew's interest in assisting refugee populations was born on a visit to the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, Israel where he interacted with children bearing the scars of war for the first time. His work for TSOS is motivated by his strong belief in protecting and supporting the vulnerable populations of the world.
Liz is a commission portrait artist, illustrator and teacher of art who has lived in Asia, Europe and now resides at the feet of the mountains in the Utah Valley. Liz felt a connection as she read and watched news stories about the millions of people flooding into Europe – a land so strange to them. She traveled to Europe for TSOS, looked these individuals in the eye and is capturing the emotions she saw in there in her beautiful sketches, drawings and portraits.
When the city of Frankfurt, Germany, opened a refugee camp opposite her home in December 2015, Nicole recognized it as an opportunity to directly help people in need. Nicole, a mother of two young children and former international event manager for big enterprises in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany, took over the management of the neighbourhood volunteer group. Through her work in the camp she met people with heartbreaking stories from varying backgrounds. She was able to coordinate the many resources of her friends and neighbors to support the needs of these people seeking refuge in a completely unfamiliar country and culture. Her work even won local recognition and the camp received awards for their exemplary integration programs.
After several months she realized this was what she wanted to do full time. Nicole decided to quit her lucrative job and accept a job as assistant director of the camp. One of Nicole’s main motivations for making this transition has been the affect she has seen her work have on her children. They often accompany her to the camp and have become friends with many of the residents. She saw their ability to love and their desire to share without prejudice expand, even at very young ages, and become a natural part of who they are.
Now that the camp has closed and the residents have been placed in the community, Nicole is applying her skills and experience to giving her newfound friends a voice through TSOS.
An avid reader, podcast listener, and compulsive writer, Dalene feels deeply it is our stories that connect us. Stories of refugees and immigrants have propelled her to focus volunteer efforts toward raising awareness and rallying support for both. Dalene spent her childhood in the Pacific Northwest, has lived in Belgium and France, and currently resides in Utah, where she works as an instructional designer, primarily building training for firefighters. While in her heart she wants to learn, do, and be all the things, her favorite roles are wife, mom, grandma, sister, and friend.
Story Collection Team
Noah is a humble yet extremely capable developer and designer, blogger and lecturer. From his home in Texas he has quietly but beautifully designed the face of the TSOS website and been key in helping the TSOS team coordinate and communicate from their homes across the globe.
I have a little idea of what it is like to leave one's country in search of a better life in a foreign country. I was barely 3 years old in 1980 when my father fled from Haiti's Duvalier regime and emigrated to the United States: he didn't speak a word of English but was rescued in American waters by US Coast Guards who, instead of returning him to Haiti, took him to his final destination in Florida. I reunited - and in fact got acquainted - with him 36 years later, just before his death. My mother emigrated to French Guyana, via Suriname, when I was about 10. For several years, she lived in hiding and in constant fear of deportation. I followed the same path when I was about 15, traveling under a false identity through Curaçao, Suriname, and crossing the Maroni River on one of those unregistered canoes that connect the two countries. I recovered my real identity, studied in French Guyana, in mainland France and in the United States. I have a PhD in American Studies and specialize in sociology and history of religions. I am paying back whatever France has invested in the illegal immigrant that I was, teaching hundreds of students English as a second language, business English, translation and American Studies. I am happy to contribute the little that I can in giving a voice to these refugees: their stories are in many was my story.
My appreciation for diverse cultures and beliefs came as I had the opportunity to live in the Philippines for 18 months. I experienced firsthand the goodness of people everywhere. I am passionate about helping people who live specifically in crisis. This concentrated interest in working with refugee populations developed last year when I traveled to Greece and worked for 3 months with a maternal health organization providing care to Syrian refugees. I came home and got more involved with local refugees in my community. They speak to my heart and I love their resilience, faith and commitment to life. I believe that we all have so much to learn from them.
As a photographer, Christophe collaborates with TSOS on documentary projects. Based in France, he travels in Europe and the Middle East as a keen observer of society. Working on various project, his work has been published broadly. He is the recipient of the distinction of Portraitist of France.
Kristi Burton is a lifestyle and documentary photographer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the proud mother of two beautiful adopted children. With a background in Sociology and having lived in three different countries in Europe, Kristi is passionate about people and places. She feels great compassion towards the refugee crisis and volunteers with TSOS to help share refugee stories with the world through powerful imagery. Kristi's work has been featured in a variety of online and print publications.
Phoebe is a journalist who has spent much of her career living abroad. Now based in Paris, she has enjoyed stints far away from her native London, in Central Africa, Russia and Germany. Much of her reporting work has been centred around Europe’s migrant crisis. Phoebe wanted to dig deeper into the stories of the refugees reaching Europe, which led her to TSOS!
Amy is a wife, mother, and writer. She has earned a degree in Human Development and feels a strong pull to help people in difficult situations. Amy works in the public schools, and especially enjoys her time in the children's library. She also volunteers to raise money for rescuing victims of human trafficking. After living in four counties in southern Calilfornia, she and her family have settled in Ventura County.
Megan lives in a quaint valley in Northern California with her husband and three children, where they run their Web Design & Consulting business. Before that, she lived in Italy and studied Philosophy, which provided experiences that have contributed to her desires to learn about the world and find answers to improving the quality of life, particularly for those who find themselves on the margins. Upon first hearing the stories of refugees fleeing for safety, Megan felt a powerful draw to know, to understand, and to spread compassion for refugees and their stories.
Amella Pena is a Utah native. Before finding TSOS, she was searching for a way to help out in her community. She didn't even consider getting involved around the world. Amella is grateful to be apart of TSOS that includes people from all around. Her hobbies are storytelling-based; acting, singing, and film. She is delighted to join the storytelling at TSOS. She is a believer that stories change hearts.
External Relations Team
Sarah lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has worked in the field of international mental health. She has a strong interest in supporting grassroots organizations that help refugees improve access to their most basic human rights. While raising her three young children, Sarah hopes to create a more empathetic world through helping TSOS share these stories.
Melissa is an author, poet, essayist, blogger, and public speaker who has lived in Paris, Vienna, Hong Kong, New York City, Munich, Singapore, Geneva and Frankfurt. For years her work has explored the role of community in the face of major personal loss and “globility“ which has connected her in very real ways to the people she met as a volunteer in the camps of Frankfurt. She now uses her talents to tell their stories.
I have been working as an Interior Designer for over 20 years and I love the creative and diverse spectrum of style. I have four grown children that give me joy beyond words. I live in beautiful Draper Utah on the mountain. I have been blessed to have a refugee son from Nigeria, living in Italy. I love gathering people here in Utah as they see the vision of TSOS and want to share the message of refugees.
Lisa Piantanida is an accomplished public relations professional, communications strategist, facilitator, and executive coach. She’s married to the best husband in the world and mother of three hilarious kids.