Originally from the land now knowns as Guatemala, Lilian Alvarez has lived experience being a newly arrived immigrant and understands the complexity of learning to navigate systems and cultural nuances. With over a decade of experience working in the non-profit sector, Lilian has dedicated her career connecting and empowering others, challenging equity practices, providing a space for understanding and solidarity – all while safely and intentionally increasing visibility of seemingly invisible communities. Lilian managed traditional refugee resettlement programming for seven years. Prior to that, she was the Director of a small Kinship Care program and worked with at-risk youth in a counseling and group empowerment setting as well as through a national mentoring program. While not a morning person, if breakfast, brunch or vacation travel is involved, Lilian is the first one out the door.
Insis Bernardez is a Garifuna woman who was born and raised in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She emigrated to the United States in 2015 escaping the violence in the country and the political situation with few resources. How she would define herself is as a survivor of domestic violence. When she entered the US, she was imprisoned for 14 months by immigration enforcement where she found herself desperate and suffering from racism and discrimination inside the detention center. She had health problems and was not getting access to resources or care. Seeing the conditions in which she and her companions were facing, she decided to start organizing with several other women and started a hunger strike. Because of her organizing, she was punished by being placed in an isolated cell. Insis was then transferred to another detection center in Laredo Texas where after three months, she was released. Upon obtaining her release she was transferred to a shelter for migrants. There, Insis began her -organizational work with different organizations – attending conferences, actions and volunteering. Insis is committed to ensuring that she collaborates and organizes in different ways to work with people who, like her, suffered while in detention processes inside immigration detention centers.
Arely Westley is originally from San Pedro Sula Honduras and is the youth organizer for BreakOUT! Since 2016 Dedicated to the Vice to ICE campaign and growing the organization’s Latinx LGBTQ youth base. She graduated from the Building Our Power Institute at BreakOUT! as a member before joining staff in 2016. Arely graduated from the Strive NOLA job training program in 2016, was accepted into the Rise Up Youth Champions Initiative and the Packard Foundation in 2017, and honored as a Community Leader by the Miss Primavera Latinx pageant in 2016. An active member of the Congress of Day Laborers, she is also a member of the board of directors for the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network, as well as a community advisory board for the Tulane Total Health Clinic/clinic fertel, is also being part of the peer2peer exchange group in 2018 and connected with many national groups as IMMIGRANTS AND LGBTQ+ rights activist arely currently part of the staff of Breakout! And recently joining the HOME IS HERE team as Project Resource Coordinator, Arely is dedicated to the liberation movement in all aspects of her life.
Having friends and community members impacted by immigration policies and detention, Sarah Jones comes to this work as a proud advocate and organizer in immigration rights and justice. While attendiing Tulane University, she studied labor, gender, and migration in the context of post-apartheid South Africa. This work deeply informed her involvement with Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention, where she assisted with post-release support and capacity-building around detention visitation. Prior to coming to Home is Here NOLA, she worked in nonprofit executive search, an opportunity that exposed her to creating integral and equitable organizational structures and practices.
Julie Yael Ward is the daughter and granddaughter of Eastern European refugee survivors and has a deep belief in the power and practice of collective liberation. Julie Yael has worked as a refugee/movement lawyer and organizer for migrant justice and protection, and has dedicated over 20 years of her career to ongoing learning about creating spaces of safety and belonging. Julie Yael is the founding Co-Director of Home is Here NOLA and former Louisiana State Refugee Coordinator. She has worked with many nonprofits in the U.S. as well as with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Neginah Khalili is a professor at a local university and a prominent lawyer from Afghanistan who has been using her voice to fight for justice since the young age of 8.
“I was the first female prosecutor and attorney general in Ghor Province where I grew up, specializing in human rights defense and gender-based violence against women and girls. Forced to flee my homeland in 2021, I spent seven months as a refugee in Albania before arriving most recently to the U.S. this year to teach at Loyola University. Even with the resources I have, the pain of leaving loved ones and familiar things feels raw and it is not easy to navigate new systems. I wish to continue the fight for justice, women, and youth. ”
Lurbin is an Afro-Latine mother of three from Honduras who currently works in housekeeping and enjoys spending holidays with the family she has in the US.
“I arrived in the U.S. in 2021 to reunite with my mother who I had been separated from for 15 years, and I understand firsthand how complicated it is to make a new home here.
Life is not easy being a single mother, but in this country I have many more opportunities for my son to study and I can make progress towards a better future for my family. I am inspired by my children and motivated by a love of family.”
Bereket is a commercial driver who was previously a physics teacher in his home country. He is a formerly detained refugee from Eritrea.
“I arrived in the U.S. three years ago and am still processing my paperwork. Helping others has always been my passion, and as a refugee myself, supporting others like me is a blessing.
People value my personality and my unique point of view.
My purpose is to nurture love in the human soul – I believe love conquers all. “
Rocío is a trusted community organizer and Latine leader in New Orleans. She is a mother of three who also loves to bake and cook.
“I emigrated from Honduras about a decade ago in search of new opportunities for my family and I. Being from the working class, I experienced labor rights issues. As a community organizer I have learned a lot about community and the importance of speaking out and making ourselves heard. I believe in the power that each person can exercise to create important changes, as each person is a leader from the position and role they perform. I believe in people’s ability to offer love, grow trust, and build community. ”