Ellen Smith serves as the Executive Director for Keeping Our Promise, Inc. She works on educating audiences about the SIV program, grant writing, housing, fund-raising, and in-kind donation management. She has assisted over 850 SIV refugees and their families since 2014, and her passion for helping these families started with assisting one Army captain in Syracuse, NY gather donations for his interpreters. The National Council of Jewish Women – Greater Rochester Section selected Ellen as the winner of the 2019 Hannah G. Solomon Humanitarian Award. and she was awarded the “Spirit of America” award by the Reserve Officers Assn. for starting this model program, and creating a welcoming community for those who served our country. Ellen was previously a credentialed journalist for 29 years, with 37 top journalism awards including awards from the National Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, the Investigative Reporters & Editors Inc., and the Edward R. Murrow Award.
Abdul Rahim was born in Balkh, Afghanistan. He graduated from Magtymguly Turkmen State University, Turkmenistan - Ashgabat in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philology/Teaching. Rahim’s work experience is extensive, including 18 years as a Diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan.
Rahim speaks seven languages: Dari (Persian), Turkish, Turkmen, Uzbek, Urdu, Russian, and English.
With the assistance of KOP, Rahim, his wife, and three children were resettled to Rochester in April 2022.
In his free time, Rahim enjoys cooking, international and geopolitical news, traveling, playing snooker (pool), and especially loves being with his family.
Rahim assists with arrival preparations, provides critical translation support, and is an invaluable resource to both Afghans and staff in upholding a richly beautiful culture while acclimating to a new country.
KOP is honored to have Rahim by our side to continue this life-saving work.
Kristen was born and raised in the Greater Rochester area, but spent 20 years as an expatriate in Turkey. During her time overseas, she was involved in a mix of leadership, fundraising, donation collection and interpreting roles for various charitable and state organizations. She served as a board member of a sizable non-profit, and spearheaded committees for large-scale fundraisers.
Kristen is fluent in Turkish.
Kristen is a bibliophile who also enjoys the arts, the outdoors, upcycling/home design, crossword puzzles, and spending quality time with her husband and two daughters.
Kristen coordinates arrival preparations, provides support to Caring Circle volunteers, manages grant deliverables, maintains KOPs driving program, and more. We are thrilled to have her on our team!
Shaista Shaheed is originally from Nangarhar, Afghanistan. With the help of KOP, she moved to the United States in August 2021 during the U.S. withdrawal, and is now pursuing an Associate Degree in Business Administration.
Her background includes two years of valuable experience as a Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant with various organizations in Afghanistan. She has developed strong analytical and organizational skills.
Shaista is proficient in four languages: Dari, Pashto, English, and Urdu, which underscores her exceptional communication abilities and cultural versatility. This linguistic skill set enables her to effectively navigate and connect in diverse settings.
Shaista's case management work ensures that every family arriving under KOPs care receives consistent and ongoing support for the first year after arrival. She also provides translations support, both spoken and written.
In her free time, she enjoys volleyball, cooking, and spending time with her family.
Chandee Searcy began volunteering for Keeping Our Promise in 2019. She is KOP’s liaison with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has participated in many late night arrivals at the airport, been a part of a Caring Circle, and volunteers on the fundraising committee.
In 2021, Chandee transitioned to a part-time position with KOP focusing on community & volunteer engagement and administrative work. Chandee enjoys finding new places in nature to explore with her husband and four children, sneaking away to her basement to throw on her pottery wheel, and serves on the board of directors at Family Promise of Greater Rochester.
Sarah Willoughby is originally from St. Louis, Missouri but is now proud to call Rochester home. Sarah came to Rochester to complete her B.A in Linguistics and Brain & Cognitive Science, with a minor in American Sign Language, at the University of Rochester. Currently, she is pursuing a Masters of Social Work at the University at Buffalo. Sarah has worked at several Rochester non-profits in areas such as addictions counseling, as well as medical case management for individuals experiencing serious mental illness and older adults.
Sarah will be serving as the Master of Social Work intern for KOP. Sarah's internship will provide support for the SIV Program in areas of grant writing, operations, program development, and arrival preparations.
In her free time, Sarah enjoys reading, cooking, baking, yoga, traveling, and spending time with her partner and two cats. One of her favorite travel experiences has been studying abroad in Shanghai, China.
Shabana Amiri, her husband, and two beautiful daughters immigrated to the US in July of 2016 with the help of KOP. Not knowing English, it is her hope and tenacity that has enabled her to succeed.
In Afghanistan she completed college with a teaching degree.
Shabana is in her last semester at Monroe Community College as a human service worker!