Ambassador Susan G. Esserman founded and leads the SAFE Center. In addition to leading the Center, she is a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, a Washington, D.C.- based international law firm, where she heads the firm’s international trade policy practice and has been active in firm management. She leads the firm’s pro bono program on behalf of survivors of human trafficking and has represented numerous human trafficking survivors. She has received numerous awards and recognition, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Justice for Girls Empowerment Award and the National Journal’s Outstanding Women’s Lawyers List, recognizing the 75 most outstanding women lawyers in the nation. Ambassador Esserman held four senior positions in the Clinton administration: She was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and Assistant Secretary of Commerce. She also served in the role of General Counsel at two agencies – the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce. She has served on a number of nonprofit boards with a women’s rights and international focus. Ambassador Esserman is a graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Michigan Law School.
Laura Ardito has worked on human trafficking issues for over a decade from a direct services, programmatic, and policy perspective. As a senior associate at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, she built her pro bono practice around legal immigration service provision to survivors of human trafficking and other human rights violations. Prior to her work at Steptoe, Ms. Ardito managed the first Anti-Trafficking program, which she also helped initiate, at Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international nonprofit organization focused on women’s leadership. She served as a Legal Fellow at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, focusing on human trafficking laws and policies, and also as an attorney at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Ardito began her career as an AmeriCorps volunteer coordinating social and legal services for immigrant and refugee families at a Washington D.C.-based transitional housing program. She has recently been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, where she taught a class on Women’s International Human Rights. Ms. Ardito is a graduate of Cornell University and American University Washington College of Law.
Heidi Alvarez, M.A., is the Director of Special Projects at the SAFE Center. She believes in having a trauma-informed and holistic service-oriented approach when advocating for and empowering survivors of human trafficking. Prior to joining the SAFE Center, Ms. Alvarez provided social services advocacy for victims of human trafficking, victims of torture, and asylum seekers at Polaris and at the University of Denver. Most recently, she oversaw a staff of social services coordinators at affordable housing properties in Washington, DC where she provided management and programmatic leadership to expand programs and services to residents. Ms. Alvarez has earned a Master’s degree in International Development from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Connecticut College.
Rosa “Delmy” Alvayero, MSW-LCSW-C joined the SAFE Center as the Director of Clinical Services in July, 2019. Delmy is a social worker, immigrant, and community activist with over a decade of experience working in the nonprofit sector and social and behavioral health systems. Prior to joining the SAFE Center, Ms. Alvayero served for ten years at the Maryland Division of the Latin American Youth Center where she developed, implemented, and evaluated programs using a positive youth development approach. She also served as a clinician at Mary’s Center, a multi-site, integrative, healthcare clinic, where she worked one-on-one with a range of clients as they navigated their medical and social-emotional needs. Ms. Alvayero’s professional approach emphasizes the importance of connecting somatic practices with experiences of trauma, especially in cases of children, youth, and families who have been impacted by migration, displacement, and other forms of oppression. She specializes in challenges related to depression, anxiety, and trauma, including PTSD, attachment, anger in children, and family reunification. Ms. Alvayero completed a Master’s degree in Clinical Social at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, with a dual track in Program Management and Clinical Work and a sub-specialization and Certificate in Maternal and Child Health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Certificate in Women Studies, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Amelia Rubenstein, MSW, LCSW-C is the Director of Research and Programs at the SAFE Center where she oversees direct services, program evaluation, research, and policy initiatives. Ms. Rubenstein has advocated for trafficking survivors for over 8 years in both clinical and macro capacities. Ms. Rubenstein is dedicated to assisting youth-serving agencies and organizations to address the issue of human trafficking, particularly among system-involved youth. As an experienced forensic social worker, Ms. Rubenstein has been qualified as an expert witness and provides testimony on sexual violence, trauma, and victimization. Ms. Rubenstein previously oversaw the Anti-Trafficking Program at TurnAround, Inc., a victim services non-profit in Baltimore where managed a program providing clinical services to survivors of human trafficking. Ms. Rubenstein received her Bachelors of Social Work from Skidmore College and a Masters of Social Work from Columbia University with a concentration in public policy and reproductive rights, and is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Ms. Rubenstein received the Outstanding Contribution to the Fight against Human Trafficking award from the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2015 as well as formal citations from Governor Hogan, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and Baltimore Mayor Pugh for her efforts to fight trafficking.
Mari Snyder joins the SAFE Center as Director of Economic Empowerment. In this role, she is leading and developing the Center’s portfolio of economic empowerment-related initiatives and partnerships, which are critically important in helping trafficking survivors achieve financial independence. Ms. Snyder most recently served as Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for ten years of her seventeen-year-career with Marriott International. While at Marriott, she gained global corporate experience in human rights and trafficking as well as workforce development programs that focused on both vulnerable young adult populations and the employers who saw their untapped potential. Ms. Snyder sees her mission as being a connector, as she experienced in her role as corporate liaison between Marriott and the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities, a 501©3, and its signature Bridges from School to Work program in nine U.S. cities. Internationally, Ms. Snyder and her team worked with a number of partners – nonprofits, industry associations, and government – on career readiness programs that provided education, real-world skills, practical experience, and mentoring for young adults from Brazil to Rwanda, from Jordan to Haiti. Ms. Snyder’s mission as Director of Economic Empowerment at the Center is to be a path maker for the women and men who turn to the SAFE Center to find an empowering job – and the better life, health, and well-being that come with it.
Sophie Aron joined the SAFE Center staff in June, 2019 as a Research and Program Coordinator. In this role she will help develop and support the SAFE Center’s state and local task force work, public health research and program implementation, and survivor leadership programming. She also works to support the Center’s crisis intervention team. Before joining the SAFE Center in her current role, Ms. Aron interned for a year at the Center in a similar capacity while pursuing her Masters in Social Work. She has also completed an internship with social workers at a D.C. charter school and served a year of AmeriCorps conducting conflict mediation in Montgomery County middle and high schools. Ms. Aron has spent a year in India, Vietnam, South Africa, and Argentina studying healthcare systems and how trauma affects access to public healthcare systems. Ms. Aron earned her Masters in Social Work from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and her BA in Anthropology from Hamilton College.
Danielle M. Barnard is a nationally certified victim advocate, CA, serving as a Case Manager at the SAFE Center. In addition to her experience in victim advocacy, Danielle has background in social justice, community development, international development, and diversity and inclusion. Before coming to the SAFE Center, Ms. Barnard worked as a legal advocate for survivors of sexual assault in Southwest Michigan for the Cora Lamping Center in Benton Harbor, MI. In this position, in addition to providing trauma-informed direct services and crisis response for survivors across the county, she also developed relationships with the county prosecutor’s office, law enforcement, and cross-cutting local groups such as the SW Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force and the Interfaith Action Collaborative. Internationally, Ms. Barnard worked on a team of development and social work graduate students in Madagascar working local governments and organizations to support various high-needs populations such as youth in detention, rural farmers, and isolated medical facilities. In addition, while in Madagascar, she and her cohort did policy advocacy on behalf of regions being exploited by transnational corporations and presented proposals to the president’s Chief of Staff. Ms. Barnard has a Masters in Community & International Development and a Bachelors in Theology. In the future, she aspires to complete her Masters in Social Work so that she can provide more clinical support to high-needs communities nationally and internationally.
Jacqueline Bradley-Chacon, Esq. is an experienced public interest immigrant and refugee rights’ advocate. As the SAFE Center’s immigration attorney, Ms. Bradley-Chacon provides bilingual legal representation for the foreign national human trafficking survivors at the SAFE Center. Before joining the SAFE Center’s team, Ms. Bradley-Chacon served as a staff attorney for Kids in Need of Defense, was instrumental in the launch of the United Methodist Justice for Our Neighbors’ immigration legal service program, and worked in private immigration law practice and as an asylum officer. Ms. Bradley-Chacon has also served as a city council member for her community in University Park, Maryland. Born in El Salvador and raised in the U.S., Ms. Bradley-Chacon is fluent in Spanish and English. She received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar.
Rebeca García Gil is an Equal Justice Works Crime Victims Justice Corps Fellow at the SAFE Center. During her two-year fellowship, she will represent survivors of sex and labor trafficking in all immigration matters and in crime victims’ rights advocacy and enforcement, as well as connect survivors with pro bono organizations and low bono attorneys for other legal matters arising from victimization. Ms. García Gil is bilingual and strives to give clients a culturally competent legal representation. She obtained her law degree in 2018 from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, where she was editor-in-chief of the Maryland Journal of International Law and a student attorney at the Immigration Clinic.
Jatnna Gomez serves the SAFE Center team as an Equity and Community Engagement Advisor – providing a level of expertise, guidance, and consultation in the areas of community relationships, partnerships, and the Center’s equity efforts. Before transitioning to this role, Ms. Gomez provided case management and crisis intervention services at the Center. Ms. Gomez has previously worked as a hospital discharge planner conducting psychosocial intakes, case management, and discharge support for high-risk patients in a local hospital. Prior to this, Ms. Gomez worked as a program coordinator for various local nonprofits where she provided case management and crisis intervention services, and supervised and facilitated psycho-educational programs for at risk youth. Ms. Gomez has also worked as a public benefits navigator in a local health center. In this role, she was responsible for connecting patients to resources, supporting the clients in securing health benefits and working with insurance companies to support client’s needs. Ms. Gomez is a licensed social worker who obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work with a minor in Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Amal Hammad is the Business Manager at the University of Maryland SAFE Center. Prior to joining the SAFE Center team, she spent nearly a decade working within the University of Maryland financial systems performing a variety of grant management functions, including processing and monitoring awards and overseeing cash management accounting activities. Ms. Hammad has a thorough knowledge of the research-related rules and regulations established by both the Federal Government and the State of Maryland. In addition to her previous position within the University, Ms. Hammad is a licensed Acupuncturist. She founded her own private practice of acupuncture to serve the Washington metropolitan area. Ms. Hammad graduated from Maryland University of Integrative Health in 2013, earning a Master’s degree in Chinese Medicine.
Tanejah Jones, MSW-LMSW joined the SAFE Center as a Prevention Social Worker in September, 2020. Tanejah’s primary role is to help develop, implement and manage the Prevention Project that will be presented in high schools within Prince George’s County. In addition to the prevention project, she is also providing clinical, crisis intervention, and individual and group therapy services at the Center. Ms. Jones completed a Master’s degree Clinical Social Work from Simmons University in Boston, MA. During her time at Simmons she interned with Dove, Inc., a community domestic violence organization as an outreach and education specialist. Her role was to go into the community, local middle schools and high schools to present about domestic violence and the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Additionally, she interned at the Centers for Violence Prevention and Recovery (CVPR) at Beth Israel Medical Center working with survivors of domestic violence, community violence, sexual assaults, and human trafficking. At CVPR she also worked one-on-one and facilitated groups with survivors of violence using trauma-informed care. Tanejah has a passion for prevention work and enjoys working within the community.
Ellie Lewis Park coordinates all communications and outreach projects and services at the SAFE Center. Her role at the Center includes managing the SAFE Center’s online platforms, organizational reports, outreach efforts, and development of training presentations. Prior to this position, Ms. Park completed one year as a Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic AmeriCorps VISTA member developing the SAFE Center’s economic empowerment and volunteer programs. She also worked as a Teaching Assistant for the University of Maryland’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice course on human trafficking and served with an international anti-trafficking organization in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to equip trafficking survivors and vulnerable populations with the resources necessary to revitalize their local community. Ms. Park received her Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2017, where she graduated with honors and earned the Sandy Mack Honors Award for her senior honors thesis.
Neil Mallon, LCSW-C is a clinical social worker with The Institute for Innovation & Implementation at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work and a clinical field instructor and advisor to the University of Maryland SAFE Center. Mr. Mallon has over ten years of clinical and macro social work practice experience within a variety of service settings, including child welfare, mental health, immigration, staff training/development, research and evaluation. In his current role at The Institute, Mr. Mallon works extensively with Maryland’s public and private child welfare providers to support the implementation and integration of a functional assessment tool to support decision making, quality improvement initiatives, and outcomes monitoring for youth and families served by the state’s child welfare systems. He is also the clinical field instructor for social work student interns at the SAFE Center and advisor for case management related policies and practice protocols. Mr. Mallon has assisted in the development of the Center’s trauma-informed and survivor-centered approach to practice and serves as a liaison to the State’s public and private child serving systems to support cross system collaboration in service delivery for domestic minor victims of trafficking. Mr. Mallon earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Towson University and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Vasu Moodley currently serves as the Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic AmeriCorps VISTA member within the SAFE Center’s economic empowerment and volunteer program. Vasu has over 16 years’ non-profit experience in South Africa, India, and the United States with special focus on community development and adult basic education for social change. As the Business Manager of CV Projects SA, Vasu led the establishment of the Ikusasa Development Trust, a nonprofit organization that spearheaded the S3Village Integrated Development Project. Vasu was the former Acting Director of Operation Upgrade of South Africa, a literacy nonprofit that was awarded the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Confucius Prize for Literacy in 2008. Vasu is a Trustee of the James Nxumalo Education Trust, and an advisory board member of the Family Literacy Project. He has also served as a Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Umhlanga since 2012. Vasu holds a Bachelor of Social Science in Politics and History from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (previously University of Natal).
Jannina Santana is the Paralegal for the Legal Services Team at the UMD SAFE Center. She has over 7 years of experience as a Paralegal in various firm settings. During her five years at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP, she assisted in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) pro-bono cases. She is fluent in both Spanish and English. She is currently attending Prince George’s Community College to earn her Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies.
Karina Velasco is a bilingual licensed bachelor level social worker. Karina has extensive outreach, recruitment, and advocacy experience working with Latino youth and families. Karina has worked with the immigrant community in different capacities over the past decade, beginning with her work as a youth leader with CASA de Maryland helping bring change and educational opportunities for undocumented students through the passage of the Maryland Dream Act. She also served as the Outreach Specialist and later Case Manager for the Adelante youth program at the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers (MMYC) in Langley Park, MD. Karina has most recently worked with unaccompanied minors and victims of human trafficking, providing home assessments and case management services through Bethany Christian Services. Additionally, Karina worked with CASA de Maryland as a Community Youth Organizer where she led and encouraged young adults to take part of community change and support initiatives in immigration, health, and education. Ms. Velasco received dual-associate degrees in General Studies and Mental Health from Montgomery College in 2013 and later earned Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2017.