Board of Directors
Ghassan Salameh, Chair
Karen AbuZayd, former UNRWA Commissioner-General
Ambassador (ret.) Maura Connelly
Ambassador (ret.) Ryan Crocker
Ambassador (ret.) Richard W. Murphy
Imad I. Qasim
Maggie Mitchell Salem
Ambassador (ret.) Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., Chair Emeritus
UNRWA USA Staff
Raised right outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, Abby’s a midwesterner with her heart in social justice and human rights for all. Since the end of 2010, Abby Smardon has served as UNRWA USA’s Executive Director, where she oversees projects to raise critical funds and awareness in the United States for UNRWA's work. She travels extensively throughout the region to facilitate and evaluate humanitarian projects to benefit refugees.
Prior to UNRWA USA, Abby worked with refugees and marginalized populations in France. She received her MA in Conflict Resolution in the Arab World at George Washington University and Sciences Po in Paris. Abby is an avid traveler having visited 34 countries, but she’s always looking for ways to visit more!
Ask Abby about: all things UNRWA, Palestine refugees, and pop culture!
A fourth generation Arab American of Lebanese and Palestinian descent, Laila was born and raised in Northern Virginia. She currently serves as UNRWA USA's Director of Communications. Prior to joining the dream team, Laila worked at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). Both positions illustrate Laila’s passions: humanitarian concern for the people of Palestine and the fight for social justice.
Laila loves connecting people, ideas, things, to one another for a worthy cause! She holds a BA in Global Affairs (concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa) and a minor in Music (piano) from George Mason University.
Ask Laila about: connecting, communications, social media, apps, technology, music/piano, my love for all things Spanish, or the law of attraction!
As a teenager, Lori left home in southern New Jersey to attend an international scout camp in England. That experience sparked her interest in global citizenship, social justice, and peacebuilding. This passion led her to pursue an MS in International Education (with a focus in Peace Education) from Drexel University and a BA in International Studies (with a focus in International Development) from American University.
Lori spent almost ten years working for humanitarian and development organizations before joining UNRWA USA as our Program Manager. She enjoys recruiting and connecting volunteers, advocates, and donors to UNRWA’s crucial work in support of Palestine refugees.
Ask Lori about: volunteer opportunities, joining the UNRWA alumni network, her love for the Chesapeake Bay, her mischievous bunny rabbit, scouting, sailing, and exploring National Parks.
Not unfamiliar with the 'where are you really from?' question, Medhini considers herself a citizen of the world with Coloradan and Indian roots. Passionate about social justice, refugee rights, and dignity for all people, Medhini aims to contribute to a more just world through her work with UNRWA USA.
Prior to this role, Medhini worked in various humanitarian capacities with international NGOs in Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq. Stateside, she has worked within the human rights/anti-terrorism practice group at Motley Rice LLC. She holds an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University and a BA in Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies from Emory University, degrees that would most likely cause Edward Said to turn in his grave.
Ask Medhini about: international humanitarian/human rights law, Palestine refugees, the merits and flaws of various map projections, Lord of the Rings, and all things ice cream.
Born in England and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Harley moved to the East Coast to attend college. After spending a semester in Hungary working for a refugee integration NGO, she realized her passion for working with and for refugees. This took her to Jordan, where she focused on understanding the complexities of conflict and migration while volunteering with a grassroots organization focused on empowering and teaching refugee children.
Prior to this role, Harley worked with asylum seekers in France and interned at Amnesty International, focusing on grassroots and national advocacy strategies as they relate to refugees and asylum seekers in the US. She received her MA in International Relations from Queen Mary University of London and a BA in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University.
Ask Harley about: opportunities for grassroots engagement and events, EU asylum law, yoga, the best places to eat in DC, and her identical twin sister.