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An innovative and creative helping professional, Sara has worked with diverse populations ranging from at-risk youth in Los Angeles to local communities in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to refugees in Ethiopia. Sara believes that through integrating the complex and messy realities of our lives and ourselves, we can heal, thrive, achieve, and find a sense of belonging.
Early on, Sara developed her communication skills while receiving her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. After a short stint in the entertainment industry, Sara found that she was called to contribute in a different way. Sara returned to New York City to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work at Columbia University.
As a graduate student, Sara began a program at a community center in HIV-ravaged, politically marginalized Western Kenya that provided cameras to at-risk youth, giving them the opportunity to share about their perspectives and experiences. Their work was then exhibited in Kenya, New York, and Los Angeles. The success of the program prompted Sara to found the non-profit organization Voices for Umoja (umoja means unity in Swahili). Voices for Umoja is built on the belief that communication leads to change. Partnering with local people, Voices for Umoja had the advantage of learning of the needs of the community from the community members. For six years, Voices for Umoja ran multiple programs out of the community center in Kenya, which included internship programs, an internet cafe, international media exchanges, ongoing trainings, and income-generating activities for women and youth. Voices for Umoja has since partnered with a local organization in Moba, DRC, a remote area severely impacted by the ongoing war and unrest, where it currently runs community education programs in the forms of radio broadcasts, workshops, and street theater; provides literacy, language, and computer classes; spearheads coordination and collaboration of nongovernmental organizations in the region; and houses a library for community members.
Sara discovered early in her career that she had a high tolerance for listening to difficult stories and sitting with people in their pain and discomfort. She invited the challenges of figuring out how to provide high-level services under difficult conditions with limited resources. She used these attributes to do transformational work with juvenile sex offenders, survivors of torture and war, children victims of crime, and the acutely mentally ill in the United States. She ran psychosocial programs in remote areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that had been devastated by the war. She worked with the Ethiopian government and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to launch and run psychosocial programs in the refugee camps of northern Ethiopia and sat on the UNHCR’s Unaccompanied and Separated Children Task Force for Northern Ethiopia. Sara has provided training to nongovernmental organizations, government officials, community and religious leaders, community members, and United Nations staff.
With a desire to further contribute to the mental health field, Sara moved into the academic world as a Clinical Supervisor at Addis Ababa University’s Clinical Psychology program and as an Adjunct Lecturer and Advisor at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. WIth a desire to contribute to organizations’ abilities to provide healthy working environments for their staff and superior services to their clients, Sara became a Partner and Senior Consultant at True Solutions Consulting Group.
Always interested in new ways to use technology to move her work forward, Sara has moved into the online realm as a Talkspace therapist and with her own online endeavor ExquisiteMess.com.