Our Board,
Advisors, and
Executive Team


Our Co-Founder and Executive Director



Raiza Kolia


Raiza Kolia

Raiza Kolia

Dr. Raiza Kolia is a senior-level healthcare industry leader with 25+ years of experience as a hospital administrator/executive and healthcare consultant focused on health systems operations efficiency and strategy, including access, quality of care, value-based care, and performance improvement.  She serves as an international Mental Health Consultant, advising on mental health programs.

She is a trained and licensed Social Worker and therapist, in the USA and South Africa, experienced in working with disenfranchised individuals, families and communities. She has done community organizing and development, program development and management, as well as therapeutic individual and group counseling in South Africa, the US, Lebanon, Kurdistan, and Jordan.

In addition, Raiza is an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University, Graduate School of Social Services, New York, NY. She teaches Master-level classes in Crisis Intervention and Trauma Treatment, Domestic Violence and Empowerment, Coping with Death and Dying, and Human Rights, Advocacy and Policy Practice.

Most recently, she served as the Director of a Mental Health Psycho-social Support (MHPSS) program in Lebanon for a large US-based non-profit organization, and she also served as their regional Mental Health Consultant. In her role, she has designed, advised, and assessed MHPSS programs in Jordan, Turkey, and Kurdistan. She has also consulted to the Government of New Zealand after the massacre in Christ Church. She provided expertise and training to first responders and community leaders in New Zealand on the psycho-social consequences for a community after mass violence.

Raiza was born in South Africa where she completed her studies through her Master’s degree and then went to the US to complete her Ph.D. and MBA. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Social Work and International Development Policy. Her MBA from the Katz Business School at the University of Pittsburgh is in Finance and Organizational Development. She also holds a Certification in Change Management from Georgetown University in Washington DC.

During her time in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, Raiza has built a network of international and local experts willing to collaborate with her efforts. She has earned the trust and respect of the local camp leaders and Syrian refugees for her tireless efforts to bring much-needed services to them.

Our Board of Directors



Ernst Mucke, Co-Founder & President


Ernst Mucke

Ernst Mucke

Ernst Mucke is the co-founder and the visionary leader of Reaching Across Borders.  He is also the Chairman of the Board. Our team looks to him for inspiration and comfort.

Professionally he is a computer scientist and biometrics expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. He has held executive-level positions in publicly traded technology companies and startups.  He is a scientist, engineer, and our “numbers guy”.  Over the years, Ernst has managed multi-million-dollar technology R&D contracts and large-scale biometrics deployments with diverse teams world-wide, including in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.

Since 2015, he is a VP for Technology for Vkansee, Inc, a startup in mobile biometrics with offices in New York and Beijing. Ernst has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

He has served on non-profit condo boards in the roles of Chairman, Treasurer, and Secretary, managing all legal, operational, and financial health of the associations, ensuring due diligence to the benefit of the members of the respective communities.

At Reaching Across Boarders, he is our true north, Board Chairman, technology and financial advisor.



Mary Speyer, Treasurer


Mary Speyer

Mary Speyer has been involved in political and non-profit fundraising for more than thirty years and has worked on various campaigns, operated her own business and participated in grassroots lobbying efforts. Mary has experience in fundraising, project development, event planning, and marketing. Her most recent activities include serving as Board Chair for City Kids Wilderness Project and extensive travel to Tanzania, where she and her daughter co-founded a non-profit organization to build schools, promote early childhood educational programs and support infrastructure projects in rural villages throughout Arusha, Tanzania.

She has also been involved in major fundraising endeavors for The Sidwell Friends School. She currently serves on the boards of various organizations based in Washington, D.C. and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She oversees the philanthropic activities of the Alexander C. and Tillie S. Speyer Foundation based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is an avid hiker, marathoner, and outdoor enthusiast. Mary resides in Washington, D.C. and Jackson Hole, Wyoming with her husband, Jim Speyer. They have three adult children and three grandchildren. 



Maile Ramzi, Vice President

BA in Political Science, Middle East studies



Maile Ramzi has been involved in international business for over 30 years. She has a degree in Political Science with a concentration in Middle East studies from the University of Maryland. She attended the American University in Cairo (AUC) where she studied Arabic language. She also studied French at L’Université de Paris/Sorbonne. She has spent much of her adult life living and working in the Middle East and Africa (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and sub-Saharan Africa). She worked for Marriott International for 10 years as a Project Manager in the HR Information Systems Division. She was the Washington DC Representative for HSBC Equator Bank, a trade and investment bank with 10 offices in sub-Saharan Africa, based in Washington, DC for 12 years.  She managed the bank’s relationship with multinational institutions (World Bank/IMF/IFC), US Government agencies, Capitol Hill, and several nonprofits working in Africa. She has participated in several trade missions, traveling to more than 20 countries in Africa and hosted many African government officials and delegations in the US. Through her association with HSBC, she was a founding member of The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote education, understanding and trade and investment links between Africa and the US.

Maile has a working knowledge of French and Arabic.  Currently, she is active in real estate and manages a real estate portfolio with her husband, Hisham, a native of Cairo, Egypt, from her home in suburban Virginia.  She is a working mom, raising twin daughters in high school and is active in her community volunteering with SHARE and other local nonprofits.  She is also involved with The Collateral Repair Project (CRP), a nonprofit organization based in Amman, Jordon, working to provide health and social services to Syrian and other refugees living in Jordan, displaced by war and conflict.



Janet Maurer, Secretary



Jan Maurer brings a variety of professional experience having worked in both line and staff positions from sales to sales training, leading and managing teams to training and coaching executives in leadership and management skills. Her passion is working with individuals and teams to discover their potential and make the behavioral shifts to achieve their desired performance goals.

She has worked with professional services firms, insurance firms, healthcare, oil and gas industry, aerospace companies, water and wastewater entities, and not for profit organizations. Jan provides executive and team coaching, training and development services, meeting facilitation and planning along with organizational consulting.

Her career includes leading the organizational development initiatives at a regional based Caterpillar distributor/dealership; directing the North America training function at USFilter/Viola Environment, a publicly held multi-national company.  In her role at Viola, she conducted training and development programs internationally and worked extensively with teams in different operating divisions to improve their processes and effectiveness. While at the University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business Executive Education, she collaborated with companies to determine their needs and create specific training curricula. She began her business career in marketing and sales for Westinghouse Electric.

Jan obtained her Master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University and is certified in programs from the Center for Creative Leadership, Development Dimensions International, Wilson Learning, and is a Caterpillar Six Sigma Green Belt. She acquired her coaching certification from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and is a visiting faculty member in their coaching program and workshops. Jan is an International Coach Federation Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and a Board-Certified Coach (BCC). 



Minna Jarvenpaa

MA in International Relations

Minna Jarvenpaa

Minna Jarvenpaa


Minna Jarvenpaa is the founder of Tools for Inner Peace, a charity dedicated to empowering refugees and conflict survivors to manage their own health and wellbeing with tools from yoga. She devotes most of her time in recent years to serving refugee communities in Lebanon.

 Over her previous career in peacebuilding Minna worked in a range of conflict and post-conflict settings, including Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. She has held senior roles in United Nations peacekeeping missions and served as senior advisor to Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari.  Minna holds a Masters degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a B.A. from Harvard University. She has also completed three years of training at the Bihar School of Yoga in India.



Suleiman Shihadeh



Dr. Shihadeh is a board-certified Ophthalmic Surgeon. He was born in a suburb of Damascus in Syria. He completed his Medical Doctor training at Damascus University, Faculty of Medicine, and then specialized in Ophthalmology and Eye Surgery.

In Syria, for 11 years, Dr. Shihadeh ran his own private eye clinic and performed eye surgeries at various hospitals in Damascus. During that time, he was also a faculty member at The Medical Technical Institute at Damascus University. He has been influential in the medical education of doctors in both Syria and Lebanon. To make medical knowledge more accessible to his colleagues, he has translated several medical reference books and bulletins from English to Arabic.

Dr. Shihadeh left Syria is 2015 for Lebanon, where he practiced at clinics and hospitals that were specifically established for Syrian refugees. During his 5 year stay in Lebanon, he has provided medical and eye surgical services across Lebanon, to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees as well as Lebanese, recognized by his colleagues and patients for his outstanding skills in diagnostics, treatment and eye surgery.

In addition to his medical training, Dr. Shihadeh has also studied Islamic Sciences at Al-Azhar University in Damascus, which was a branch of the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. Currently, he lives in Istanbul, Turkey.



Enó Isong

MA in Communications

Eno Isong


Enó Isong is an international development communications strategist, with a focus on human development policy development; program management and design; and using effective communications and advocacy strategies to raise awareness and strengthen public health systems and infrastructures. She has over 20 years experience providing programmatic and operational management for international development projects in the areas of global health, education, conflict resolution, and women & girls, targeting key messages of change to policymakers, key stakeholders and under-served communities.

As a consultant through the years, Enó has used her professional expertise – sometimes pro bono – to help build the advocacy and communications capacity of individuals and organizations to better articulate and implement their goals and objectives. She has consulted with large multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the UN, as well as national governments, academic institutions, the private sector, and, most importantly, community-based civil society organizations.

Currently, Enó works with the World Bank, in Washington DC, in Strategic Communications.

Enó was previously an Associate Director for International Communications at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), where her responsibilities included designing online and offline communications and advocacy plans, strategies, and campaigns for passage and implementation of comprehensive tobacco control policies. She also managed global corporate campaigns exposing the tobacco companies’ exploitation of farmers, as well as their reprehensible marketing tactics towards young children.

Enó has also served as Associate Director at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, where she managed the day-to-day projects and partnerships of the Foundation’s Africa program, including sustained multi-media behavior and policy change campaigns using advocacy interventions, as well as community and national level outreach across multiple offline and online communications vehicles, to encourage social change, leadership development, and youth empowerment.

Enó believes her professional and personal commitment to sustainable and healthy families and communities has been greatly influenced by her personal experiences as a little girl traveling with her mother and siblings to serve women, children and families in underserved and rural communities in Nigeria. Her focus, therefore, has always been driven to create new and innovative ways to reach, inform, captivate and mobilize targeted audiences to elevate and act on development priorities.

Enó holds an Advanced Postgraduate Certificate in Core Public Health Concepts from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; a Masters of Arts in Communications from Howard University, Washington DC; and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Literary Studies from the University of Calabar, Nigeria.



Evelyn Murphy


Evelyn Murphy


Evelyn Murphy is a public health lawyer currently working in global health at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Her focus for the past 10 years has been on public health policies in developing countries. Her previous experience includes two decades working in the USA on health and social services programs for the aging, persons with disabilities, and mental health needs. 

Evelyn is a US citizen. She was born in Ghana, and she currently lives and works in Geneva, Switzerland.  Evelyn obtained a Juris Doctorate (JD) from the McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis in 1992, and a Masters of Planning (MPL), with a focus on health planning from the Indiana School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 1999. 



Solfrid Raknes


Sofrid Raknes

Sofrid Raknes


Solfrid Raknes is a Norwegian Clinical Psychologist, Researcher, and program developer.  She is the innovator of The Helping Hands program, which is a prize-winning psychosocial program based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The program is widely used in school health services, schools, and kindergartens in Norway; it has been translated into 8 languages and is digitalized and culturally adapted to Arabic-speaking children.

Solfrid is an experienced cognitive therapist and supervisor. Since 2010 she has lectured extensively in all parts of the health- and school-system in Norway. Over the years, she has conducted over 300 workshops for clinical psychologists, General Medical Practitioners, psychiatric nurses, and teachers.

Solfrid received her Ph.D. from in Clinical psychology from the University of Bergen, Norway. Her research focused on cognitive interventions targeted anxious adolescents.

Currently, Solfrid is based in Beirut, where she is a project leader for implementing and evaluating Helping Hands programs in Lebanon and Norway. She is involved in a wide specter of humanitarian projects focused on reducing poverty and improving mental health.


Our Advisory Board

A team of non-voting Advisors is supporting the Board and Executive Director in their mission by providing us with their guidance and professional expertise as needed



Aneta Hayes


Aneta Hayes

Aneta is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of critical studies of internationalization, global education developments and education in the context of protracted crisis. She has written extensively about these topics in leading peer-reviewed journals and media articles. Her publications have made an impact within the academic community, with her work being cited in key journals (such as Comparative Education), and described as “compelling, interesting and timely” (Critical Studies in Education) and offering “a strong and constructive analysis that constitutes a genuine contribution to the sociology of education” (Journal of Studies in International Education).

Her research extends into the world of practice through her collaboration with internationally based NGOs and local partners in the UK. She has also been involved in a research study with Syrian refugee children attending informal schools in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. This work will further inform the implementation of evidence-based practice programs with refugees.

Aneta is a Senior Lecturer in Education at Keele University, UK. She has also worked in higher education in Bahrain. She holds a PhD in Education from Exeter University, UK, a MA in English Philology, a BA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and a PGCE, PGCert in Professional Studies in Education.



Emilie Derbas

MA in International Affairs

Emilie Derbas

Emile Derbas has extensive experience working with vulnerable individuals and communities in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia to sustainably enhance local resilience and empowerment as a Grants, Programming and Finance Specialist. She has an MA in International Affairs: Sustainable Development from George Washington University and a BA in International Affairs: Africana Studies from James Madison University. She lives in Virginia with her Syrian/American husband.



Huseiyin Cakal


Huseiyin Cakal


Huseiyin Cakal is a Lecturer in Psychology at Keele University in the UK. He has a particular passion for policy-oriented research about extremely disadvantaged communities in the least accessed regions, such as, South East Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Within the broad area of intergroup relations, Huseyin’s work has covered the dynamics of collective action and prejudice reduction strategies, effects of social identity and intergroup contact on health, and intergroup emotions among advantaged and disadvantaged groups. He has conducted research on these topics with Indigenous peoples in South America, Christian Minorities in Iraq, Muslims and Hindus in Kashmir, and among Bosnian Muslims. Huseyin is currently also involved in a multi-country study of refugee integration and wellbeing among younger refugees with exposure to violence.

 Huseyin has a BA and MA Ed. in English Language Teaching from Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey. An MSc. in Sociology from the University of Manchester and DPhil (PH.D.) in Social Psychology from the University of Oxford.



Nesrin Mawas

BA in Translation and Interpretation

Nesrin Mawas has been an active community-based activist working with fragile societies in Syria, Turkey and Lebanon. She served as a program facilitator in Syria in 2012 with Médecines Sans Frontières (MSF) concentrating on internally displaced communities implementing educational and empowerment programs.

In 2014, Nesrin moved to Turkey, where she worked as an Arabic and Turkish teacher for Syrian refugee children and she studied Chemistry. In 2016, she moved to Lebanon and started her bachelor’s degree in Translation. Because of her outstanding academic achievements, she won a scholarship to continue her studies for free. Furthermore, she was selected twice to represent Syrian students in Lebanon at two international platforms: World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE 2017) Doha, Qatar and Spark Rebuilding Future (IGNITE 2018) Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Her skills as an Interpreter has enabled Nesrin to work with varies NGOs in Lebanon, such as Krater Produkties, Deutsche Welle, Union of Relief and Development Association (URDA), Multi Aids Programs (MAPs) and The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).

Nesrin is a freelance translator fluent in Arabic, English and Turkish. She earned a BA with Distinction in Translation and Interpretation. Her language skills enabled her to be the bridge between her community and host communities. Recently Nesrin moved to Germany, where she lives with her family and is continuing her career as a Translator.



Uzma Naeem


Uzma Naeem

Dr. Uzma Naeem is a board-certified Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist. She is a highly compassionate physician with superior diagnostic skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and relationship building abilities. She is trained in evidence-based mental health care with emphasis on multiple modalities psycho-therapeutic techniques and biological aspects of psychiatry.  Dr. Naeem is highly experienced in providing telepsychiatry consultation, conducting psychiatric evaluations, medication management for adults and children using tele-video conferencing.

Dr. Naeem is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Medicine, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and she is the Medical Director at Cooperative Counseling Services for Children and Families in New Jersey. 

Her clinical practice focuses on diagnostic evaluation and treatment of neurobehavioral and developmental disorders in children and adolescent; outpatient psychiatric diagnostic evaluations and medication management for children and adolescents; consultation and liaison to schools in the community; consultation to physicians, mental health professionals, School and Community  Agencies. 

Previously, she was a Staff Psychiatrist for an involuntary out- patient commitment program.

Dr. Naeem is a diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc. She is a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties, American Psychiatric Association and American Academy of Child & Adult Adolescent Psychiatry. She completed her residency at North Shore University Hospital for child and adult psychiatry and she completed her fellowship at Dartmouth and North Shore University Hospital for Child and Adult psychiatry.



Weam Ghabash

BA in Public Health and BA in English Literature

Weam Ghabash

Weam Ghabash is a Syrian woman. She is a dedicated Women Human Rights Defender (WHRD). She was a refugee in Lebanon but has moved to the Netherlands in 2019. She works with well-known feminist NGOs in the Middle East as a program developer, implementation specialist, and grant writer. Over the last five years, all her work is focused on the empowerment of Syrian women refugees and internally displaced women within Syria. Weam is a board member of Syrian Women League, the oldest feminist NGO in Syria, and co-founder for the International Feminist Collective (IFC) that includes WHRDs from all around the MENA region and South East Asia.  She holds two Bachelor’s degrees from Damascus University, one in Public Health and the second in English Literature.

Weam is passionate and committed to working with and for women and girls’ empowerment to enhance their role in public life.


Reaching Across Borders - Empowering Communities

Humanitarian services for vulnerable communities, by community members.


Reaching Across Borders is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit humanitarian services organization.

USA Tax ID / EIN:  85-2397845.

All donations are tax-deductible in the USA to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations.

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