Meet Our Staff & Indigenous Partners
Chief Executive Officer
Read Audrey's bio
Audrey has dedicated her life to shedding light on human trafficking and the injustices taking place in our world. While living in Europe and working with international students and refugees, she learned of the horrors of human trafficking firsthand when a children’s home she had been volunteering at was exposed as a front for prostitution. At the time she was a charter board member for the organization, Make Way Partners, which helped to close down the home. In an effort to rescue vulnerable children before experiencing the trauma of trafficking, Audrey moved to Alabama in 2005 to work extensively in support of the foundation and expansion of the indigenously directed anti-trafficking network that today spans Sudan and South Sudan. In 2018, Audrey became CEO of Lift Up the Vulnerable and leads the mission of preventing trafficking and empowering changemakers in war-torn communities. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Program Officer
Read Eugenio's bio
Eugenio has a business degree focusing on clearing, forwarding, warehousing, distribution, and shipping management. He worked for 17 years at Firestone Tire Company, gaining experience working and traveling in East and Central Africa. Since 2009, he has been serving the anti-trafficking network spanning Sudan and South Sudan and played a pivotal role early on in massive infrastructure development. Through his experience in the corporate world he negotiated for better terms of payment with suppliers and better tax relief methods on supplies and construction materials. He also devised a more efficient, secure, and reliable transport system which enabled the ministry to move materials across borders. In 2019, he became LUV’s Chief Program Officer and oversees operations, programs, and leadership development in Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya. His entire family opens their hearts and home to care for those who require emergency medical care and rehabilitation at the Kenya Safe House. Contact: email@example.com
Chief Operations Officer
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Robert developed a passion for countering injustices around the world over 20 years ago while living in the Middle East. It was through deep engagement with refugee communities that he saw firsthand both the dangers and hardships that they faced, the resilience of the human spirit, and how effective development strategies can lead to hope and flourishing. Since that time, Robert has dedicated his life to education and empowerment initiatives in a variety of nonprofit sectors with the belief that holistic empowerment models prevent human trafficking and other abuses, allowing humans to thrive as change agents in their own lives and communities. In 2020, he became LUV’s Chief Operations Officer and is responsible for day-to-day operations overseeing strategic planning, budgeting, fundraising, marketing, and charged with growing and investing in a team of committed, thriving leaders. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Lual Atak
Director of New Life Ministry
Read James' bio
James is the founder and executive director of New Life Ministry (NLM) located along the border of Darfur. During the Sudanese Civil War, James’ village was attacked and he began a three-month trek by foot to Ethiopia with other Lost Boys. Violence in Ethiopia caused them to flee again toward Kenya. It was during this period that he was conscripted as a child soldier, carrying an AK-47 and leading other armed children. When he was eventually released, James lived in the refugee camps in Kenya where he attended school, and eventually earned the opportunity for a visa to the USA. Just as he was about to travel, he had an epiphany, and decided to return home to protect and support other survivors of the warfare in his country. In 2005, NLM became the founding member of the anti-trafficking network that today spans Sudan and South Sudan. In 2018, James was awarded the Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action award for his years of dedication to transforming lives in warzones. Read more about NLM: Where We Work
Director of Hope For South Sudan
Read Peter's bio
Peter serves as the Executive Director of Hope For South Sudan (HFSS) located near the South Sudan and Ugandan border in Eastern Equitoria. Growing up in a warzone, Peter became interested early on in pursuing something greater than himself. Because educational infrastructure in his region had collapsed, when Peter was about nine years old, he left his village and walked alone for days and without food to the refugee camps in Uganda in pursuit of educational opportunities. Living as a refugee, Peter was focused on completing elementary and high school so he could be a part of growing a solution back at home. Later, he received a scholarship for a teacher training course with Emmanuel Christian College in South Sudan which led to a missionary training opportunity in Zambia. In 2013, he joined HFSS as a teacher, then deputy director, and, in 2017, Peter was promoted to serve as the executive director. Read more about HFSS: Where We Work
Director of Our Father’s Cleft
Read Ezekiel's bio
Ezekiel is the Executive Director of Our Father’s Cleft (OFC) located in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Ezekiel was born in the Upper Nile state of South Sudan when his father was a student at Gideon Theological College. After completing his studies his father became a local church pastor and moved the family back to the Nuba Mountains until 1989 when war re-erupted and forced the family to move to Port Sudan. It was in Port Sudan that Ezekiel completed his primary and secondary education. Later, he received a scholarship for a teacher training course with Emmanuel Christian College in South Sudan which led to a missionary training opportunity in Zambia. In 2013, Ezekiel joined the staff as a teacher at Hope for South Sudan (HFSS) and served until 2015 when he became the indigenous director at OFC. Read more about OFC: Where We Work
NLM Deputy Director
Read Martin's bio
Martin is the deputy director of New Life Ministry (NLM) located along the border of Darfur. Martin grew up near to NLM and in 2004 he had the opportunity to attend a teacher and bible training institute in the region. He began working at NLM in 2006 as a teacher and in 2011 was promoted to compound manager to handle all logistics. During that time, he finished his diploma in secondary education. Martin is a dedicated and compassionate team member in LUV’s anti-trafficking network and since 2018 plays a vital role as deputy director at NLM. Read more about NLM: Where We Work
HFSS Deputy Director
Read Anthony's bio
Anthony is the deputy director of Hope For South Sudan (HFSS) located along the border of Uganda. He is originally from the region of HFSS where his father was a primary teacher in a village school. During his secondary education, war re-erupted and he left Sudan for Uganda searching for education. He returned to South Sudan in 2003 to begin his long teaching career. In 2007, he went with Peter Lomago and Ezekiel Ayub to Zambia for further training through Emanuel Christian College on primary school teaching where he acquired a diploma. In 2010, he joined HFSS’s teaching staff, rose through the ranks to serve as Head Teacher and in 2019 he was promoted to Deputy Director. Read more about HFSS: Where We Work
OFC Deputy Director
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David is the deputy director of Our Father’s Cleft (OFC) located in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. He is originally from the Nuba Mountains and grew up working with his father, a subsistence farmer, and helping to rear animals. He finished his primary and secondary education in the Nuba Mountains and went to pursue further education in South Sudan in 2008. He received a Diploma in Education at Mount Meru University under Emanuel Christian College. After graduation, he worked at Hope For South Sudan, and then in 2016 he moved back to Sudan to work at Our Father’s Cleft as a teacher. In 2018, he was promoted to child welfare coordinator and in 2020 he became the Deputy Director. Read more about OFC: Where We Work
Finance & Administrative Officer
Read Tara's bio
Tara Herget received her BS in Psychology, Graduate Certificate in College Teaching and Leadership, and MA in Applied Learning and Instruction from the University of Central Florida. She began her career working in the private sector, assisting people with bankruptcies, family law, and criminal law but felt a desire to increase her impact in the lives of others. As a result, Tara worked at a public university to assist students in pursuing their education goals. Through this meaningful career experience, Tara obtained knowledge in various facets of nonprofit work. Additionally, She gained proficiency working on the Finance, Human Resource, Operations, and the Business Incubator Program teams. This impactful experience intensified Tara’s calling to empower and enrich the lives of others. In 2021, she became LUV’s Finance and Administrative Officer and works on all financial and administrative functions at LUV. Contact: tara@
Communications & Development
Read Cassidy's bio
Cassidy Winters is passionate about using communications to amplify the voices of people who are vulnerable. She believes that sharing stories and experiences is a crucial step to pushing back on injustice. Cassidy has worked in the advocacy and communications space worldwide, with an emphasis on partnering with anti-human trafficking organizations. She received a Global Masters of International Relations from Webster University in 2019 to further understand complex human trafficking issues. Cassidy strives to continually learn more about how to best empower those around her and enjoys putting those skills to use while volunteering at a local women’s shelter. In 2021, she became the Communications and Development Officer at LUV. Contact: cassidy@liftupthevulnerable.
Read Francis' bio
After finishing his high school education, Francis began at the Kabete Technical Training Institute where he started a Diploma in Business Administration. Before completing his degree, he returned to his home village in order to teach for several years at the primary school he grew up in. Since 2011, he has been serving the anti-trafficking network spanning Sudan and South Sudan. Today, he leads as LUV’s Kenyan Logistician and Child Sponsorship Coordinator. He is responsible for personally overseeing acquisition and delivery of life-saving supplies from food to medicine to building supplies. Francis also facilitates the child sponsorship program and delivers letters, documents children in our network, and trains and collaborates with the indigenous sponsorship team members.
NLM Welfare Coordinator
Read Isaac's bio
Isaac is the child welfare coordinator at New Life Ministry (NLM) located along the border of Darfur. Isaac grew up near to NLM and finished his primary school in the area. After completing high school in Juba, Isaac attended medical school but his education was disrupted due to the political instability causing the school to close. After, he worked for several NGO’s and government agencies in the region before joining the NLM team in 2016. Prior too, he also served as a volunteer translator for several international medical mission teams that visited the anti-trafficking network. He holds a degree in IT and International Relations Management. Read more about NLM: Where We Work
HFSS Welfare Coordinator
Read Stella's bio
Stella is the child welfare coordinator at Hope For South Sudan (HFSS) located along the border of Uganda. She is originally from the region of HFSS and growing up in a village school she received a scholarship to complete her secondary education at St. Bakita Secondary School in Kapoeta. After graduation, she continued on with a scholarship to university where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree in Kenya. In 2018, she joined the staff at Hope For South Sudan and today collects data, writes stories, and is a key leader implementing our economic-empowerment partnership with Rise Against Hunger. Read more about Stella here. Read more about HFSS: Where We Work
OFC Welfare Coordinator
Read Mark's bio
Mark is the child welfare coordinator at Our Father’s Cleft (OFC) located in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. He is originally from the Nuba Mountains but in the 5th grade fled the fighting to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya where he finished his education. In 2013, he became a primary school teacher in Kakuma Refugee Camp while he continued his studies in theology, computer, secretarial studies and basic counseling skills. He later received a diploma in social work and community development at Mount Kenya University and a Bachelor degree in development studies at Africa International University. In 2018, he returned to Sudan to teach and he joined OFC in 2021 as a Child Welfare Coordinator and a secondary school teacher. Read more about OFC: Where We Work
Read Jane's bio
Jane oversees and coordinates the care for and empowerment of women and children in LUV’s Kenya Safe House and throughout the anti-trafficking network. Prior to her journey in service of the most vulnerable, Jane worked as a receptionist for 7 years with Hyundai Motors Company and then started her own shop in Nairobi until 2009. Her heart was moved for the needs of the orphans early on and she served as an active volunteer at a children’s home in Nairobi. Jane, Eugenio and their daughters regularly open their hearts and home to love and care for the women and children that are medevaced to Kenya for emergency care. When these patients are strong enough to be released from the hospital, but not strong enough to endure the tough conditions of Sudan or South Sudan, Jane oversees their rehabilitation. Read more about the Kenya Safe House: Where We Work
HFSS Farm Manager
Read Alex's bio
Alex is the farm manager at Hope For South Sudan (HFSS) located along the border of Uganda. He is originally from the region of HFSS and holds a diploma in agriculture, completed from Bustima University. He joined HFSS in 2021 and oversees all aspects of the thriving farm initiative and the HFSS farmer field school that provides technical training on nutrition-smart agriculture to local women in the community. Alex is a key leader implementing our economic-empowerment partnership with Rise Against Hunger. Read more about HFSS: Where We Work
Board of Directors
Read Louise's bio
Louise, LCSW, is a University of NC alumna, earning both her BA in Psychology and Masters in Social Work. She is a psychotherapist in private practice in Wilmington and a Board Certified Diplomat in Clinical Social Work. She has practiced psychotherapy since 1974, seeing individuals, couples, families and groups. She has been active on issues related to the status of women, domestic violence and child abuse. She was honored with the YMCA Academy of Women Human Services Award in 1999, the School of Social Work Outstanding Alumna of the Year 2006, and in 2019 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the YWCA. Louise joined the board of Make Way Partners in 2004 and in 2018 continued her service as chair for Lift Up the Vulnerable.
She shares, “As (my husband and I) learned more about the massive problem of human trafficking worldwide, we both knew we had found the cause of our lifetime—fighting the greatest evil of the 21st century through helping the ‘least of these’ in the most forsaken countries. I have served on many nonprofit boards, and Lift Up the Vulnerable is the most compelling and rewarding work I have ever had the privilege of doing. We have seen God use this ministry to bless helpless victims who had no hope before LUV became their advocate and protector. I urge everyone who is interested to come partner with this dedicated group of life-saving volunteers, indigenous leaders, and staff.”
John Van Rens
Vice Chair & Spiritual Director
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John is an artist originally from Ontario that lives and works in New York. His paintings over the past three decades explore many genres, from figuration to abstraction, small scale portraits and seascapes to very large-scale cityscapes painted on the streets of New York City. He has been committed to ending human trafficking and has been involved in the mentoring and spiritual development of youth as well as the housing of the homeless through his church communities. John joined board of directors in 2018.
He writes, “Having grown up in Canada as a child of uneducated immigrants from the Netherlands I suffered, for various reasons, some of the isolation that even a Western European immigrant can face when entering a somewhat closed rural environment. I calculate that this, along with my understanding that Jesus of Nazareth calls us to identify with the poor and in some way be the poor, formed me in such a way as to have empathy for those who suffer both individually and corporately. To provide for the orphans of South Sudan was an easy move for me. Violence and corruption are not always easily corrected but to provide for the innocents left in the wake of calculated horror is easily identifiable as a good. How often does the scripture make reference to the widow and the orphan?”
Read Joann's bio
Joann is the founder and CEO of Joann She & Co, a successful fashion jewelry design and import company established in 1987. Joann is also actively engaged in the Chinese Business Association in NY. Joann has played an integral part in serving vulnerable populations in NYC through the nonprofit Garden of Hope and through the ministries of LUV. She joined the board of Make Way Partners in 2017 and in 2018 continued her service as board treasurer for Lift Up the Vulnerable. She supports the mission of LUV because, “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it’s destination full of hope.”
Read Gustavo's bio
Gustavo is currently an Executive Director at JPMorgan Chase, leading strategy for Corporate Impact Marketing. Throughout his career, Gustavo has led strategy development and implementation across a wide variety of clients and practices, including Dell, the US Navy, and IBM. He holds a BS in Communications and Advertising from the University of Tennessee and speaks fluent Spanish. Gustavo began working with LUV in 2018, offering strategic guidance and feedback across a variety of efforts, and joined the board of directors in 2019.
Gustavo shares, “I believe we are all here to help one another, and that being able to do so is a privilege. Working with LUV provides an opportunity to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world – and more importantly, empower them to be able to help themselves and others around them. It’s a blessing to be able to contribute.”
Rev. Lauran Bethell
Read Lauran's bio
Lauran has been working for more than three decades on behalf of and caring for women and children who have been exploited and abused. She currently serves as a Consultant with grassroots organizations, encouraging the development of projects and networks which are dealing with the issues of prostitution, trafficking in persons and other forms of abuse and exploitation. She travels extensively throughout the world, teaching, training and consulting. Lauran was honored in 2005 with the Human Rights Award of the Baptist World Alliance, which was presented to her by President Jimmy Carter. In 2009, she was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from Palmer Seminary for her “longstanding and focused ministry of justice and compassion”. She joined the board of Make Way Partners in 2006 and in 2018 continued her service as board spiritual director for Lift Up the Vulnerable.
Lauran shares, “Abused, exploited and otherwise vulnerable women and children, living in one of the most volatile places on earth have the opportunity for protection, healing and thriving through LUV. I’m passionate about serving them in any way I can!”
Dr. Linnea Smith
Read Linnea's bio
Linnea Smith, MD, graduated from UNC School of Medicine and received her training in psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill and has maintained a longstanding concern about the relationship of health as well as mental health to trauma and violence. The focus of her work has been in the fields of child maltreatment and sexual exploitation and she has organized national conferences on sex trafficking in 2006 and 2008. Throughout her career, she has looked at sociocultural factors that may contribute to these serious problems. She remains an advocate and an activist against the dehumanization and violence against women in sexually explicit media, which she views as a public health and human rights issue. She and her late husband, Coach Dean Smith, then retired UNC basketball coach, received the Champions Award in 2006 for their advocacy for social justice programs including anti-human trafficking work. She joined the board of Make Way Partners in 2005 and in 2018 continued her service as a directors of Lift Up the Vulnerable.
Mary Boney Clark
Read Mary's bio
Mary is a graduate of Duke University and the University of NC School of Law from which she received the “Distinguished Alumni Award” in 2016. She practiced law for 38 years with her last legal job being her five-year term as the U.S. Commissioner for Trademarks. As Commissioner, she served as the highest-ranking U.S. Government official devoted solely to brand protection, led a 950-employee team with a $360 million budget and testified before Congress twice. Mary has received many awards throughout her career, is a lifelong Episcopalian, and actively serves with a number of non-profit groups. In 2021, she launched an interior design business: Boney Decor Solutions, LLC. Mary joined the board in 2021 to further her support for trafficked persons and her interest in telling the story of trafficked people.
“Human trafficking continues to be a global problem and is particularly widespread in the lawless cultures of Sudan and South Sudan. By using indigenous leaders, LUV has found a way to effectuate change. We have to continue to help these shockingly abused women and children to help them have a life and to give them hope of a brighter future. LUV is the answer.”
Read Elika's bio
Elika, MA, JD, EdD, and MSW, works as the Executive Director for VISIONS, is an adjunct instructor at NYU SPS Center for Global Affairs, and is a long-standing member of Mediators Beyond Borders International. Her professional experience includes criminal law, working with nonprofits and higher education, teaching as a professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, and a decade of work in development and humanitarian contexts in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia with various UN agencies and INGOs. Elika is Persian-American, was accidentally locked out of Iran because of the revolution, and immigrated with her family to the USA. Most of her work abroad included access to education and child protection, as well as juvenile justice, restorative practices, and psychosocial programming all over the world. She joined LUV’s board of directors in 2021.
Elika is dedicated to supporting LUV’s mission and the work to address the various barriers that impact an individual experiencing trafficking and oppression, so they can live into their strengths and know their power.
Read Marilyn's bio
Marilyn began her journey in supporting the charge against human trafficking in 2004 when she came alongside Make Way Partners with a heart for rescuing children from the bondages of oppression. She has since developed an interest in and passion for aiding survivors of stateside human trafficking, most recently being named to the board of The WellHouse, the largest single-site residential service provider for women rescued from trafficking in the United States.
Marilyn shares: “I am so enthused by the model of Lift Up the Vulnerable, our focus not only on the children needing shelter, food and education but also on the health of the broader community. One can imagine real change on a macro level in the decades to come thanks to the work LUV is doing in Sudan and South Sudan. I am excited to be a part of this change!”
Host a Guest Speaker
We seek to educate and mobilize the greater community with practical tools to prevent the trafficking and oppression of vulnerable children and women in warzones.