Sister Somalia Volunteer Team

Ann Shannon
Ann Shannon – Mentor, Sister Somalia Volunteer Team
Ann Shannon is Sister Somalia Co-Founder Lisa Shannon’s mother. Since 2005, Ann has been Lisa’s primary partner and support at every stage of Lisa’s initiatives on behalf of imperiled women around the world. As a “military brat”, the oldest girl of eight children, Ann lived in England and went to English schools from ages 8-11. Living abroad at that tender age made a lasting, formative impression on Ann, instilling her heightened awareness and overwhelming sense of loyalty and responsibility to our shared, larger human family. Watching a film on Mother Teresa in her early 30s left her an implacable drive to alleviate the deepest human suffering when and wherever possible. Ann has a B.A. in English literature. She is a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother who considers all the world’s children her own. She is a writer, editor, meditator, nature lover and student of mystic traditions who has been heavily influenced by Eastern thought. She advises and supports the US volunteer team in all phases of its work from her home in Portland, Oregon.

Richa Sehgal
Richa Sehgal – Project Coordinator
Richa is from India, New Delhi, now living in Portland, Oregon. She was born in Kashmir, India and spent her first 16 years in Burnpur, West Bengal, with her parents and an older sister. She got married and came to the US in 1998.  She has a Bachelors degree in Economics and Masters degree in Computer Science. Richa Sehgal is a software engineer at Intel, married with 2 boys who are 8 and 5 years old. Richa loves to read , run and sing . She is very passionate about  helping and empowering women. In 2004 Richa’s college friend from India was murdered by her in-laws and husband for not meeting increased dowry demands. The death of her friend and meeting Lisa Shannon at a book event for A Thousand Sisters in 2010 motivated and inspired Richa.  She began fundraising and educating for Run For Congo Women in 2010 and sponsoring women and children from Congo. Later she started sponsoring women of the Sister Somalia organization. Richa thanks everyone who has inspired her along the way and supported her efforts in making Sister Somalia a very respectable organization to volunteer for.

Elisabeth Lund Oppelt
Elisabeth Lund Oppelt – Donor Response Team Lead
Elisabeth was born in Palo Alto, California and grew up with her parents, two sisters and a dog in Provo Utah. She has a degree in theater arts education and history from Brigham Young University, and hopes to do graduate work in applied theater and teach at the secondary and collegiate level. Her hobbies include directing and stage-management with local theater companies, reading fantasy novels and gender theory and cooking and watching movies with her husband. She found out about Sister Somalia through a post on a feminist blog she used to frequent. After reading the post she sobbed for an hour at the cruelty and injustice being perpetrated and started a monthly donation. A few months later, she saw a post on Facebook that Sister Somalia was looking for volunteers and felt the need to do something more. She emailed in her resume. She is thankful for the opportunity she was handed . She is very proud to see the invaluable support this organization has got.

Alia Mana
Alia Mana – Data Reporting Lead
Alia lives in Germany and was born and raised in Berlin, Germany by a German mother and Somali father from Mogadishu. She studied North American Studies, Political Science and Sociology at the Freie Universitaet Berlin. Later, she spent one year (1999-2000) at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, USA, where she indulged in some of her topics of interest, mainly “Race and Gender”, “Mass Media and Popular Culture” as well as “Politics of Race and Class”. It was during that year that she also wrote her first paper on FGM in Somalia and began to be more interested in her father’s home country.
After obtaining her Master’s degree in 2004, Alia decided to focused on one of her other fields of interest, that being music and youth culture(s) and so she started working at MTV Networks Germany. In 2008, she started her own business as a PR Consultant working with clients on the record labels, cultural institutions, the Goethe Institute. Recently, she added fundraising (focusing on national and EU fundings) to her profile, with a focus on youth and education.Her growing interest in Somalia and the peoples’ fate led her to Sister Somalia in 2013. After having watched an inspiring talk by Ilwad Elman at an TEDx Mogadishu event, she contacted Ilwad and offered to volunteer for Sister Somalia.

Dena Weigel Bell
Dena Weigel Bell – Blogger-in-Chief
Dena Weigel Bell, grew up in a small town in northwestern Kansas called WaKeeney. Early on examples of activism were provided to her through her parents, who participated in various regional causes, and a grandmother who served on various committees in support of the elderly. A love of travel was born when, after receiving her Bachelors of Fine Arts, Dena spent two semesters abroad studying the cultures and history of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Dena still loves to travel with her husband and daughter and has expanded her love of exploring other cultures through cooking and travel writing. As a freelance writer, she explores the complexities of life through her fiction and non-fiction work and posting on her own blogs.After hearing the stories of the women and girls of Sister Somalia and the restorative and healing work performed at the Elman Center, Dena was motivated to act. In the direst situations, their stories of courage and fortitude, in the face of constant danger, inspire her writing and fills her heart with sorrow for their pain and overwhelming joy for their success. Her work with Sister Somalia never fails to open her eyes to the great strength and determination that can never be extinguished in the human spirit and has underscored the importance of compassion in the world. As Stateside Blogger-in-Chief, Dena strives to emotionally connect people around the world with survivors of gender based violence by telling their stories and those of Sister Somalia.

Katie Atlakson
Katie Atlakson – Campus Outreach Lead
Katie lives in Boise, Idaho where she was born and raised in a family of six. She has a special interest in music and enjoys hiking with her dog in the foothills above the city. She spent a year studying at Adelphi University in New York, and enjoys travelling in the US and around the world.She recently earned her B.S. in Criminal Justice at Boise State University and has a special interest in helping people in disadvantaged countries and neighborhoods. She helped lead an after school program for boys in poor neighborhoods of Long Island, and recently returned from teaching English at the Boeung Kak Lake Women’s Community Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. After reading Lisa Shannon’s book, A Thousand Sisters, she was moved to volunteer her efforts to Sister Somalia. As Leader of Campus Outreach she reached out to established student organizations at Boise State University to involve them in a letter writing party and a Run for Sister Somalia, while helping coordinate similar efforts on various campuses around the country.

Jennifer Barron
Jennifer Barron – Campus Outreach Team
Jennifer Barron was born in Anaheim, California and raised with her Dutch Indonesian family in southern California. Her family immigrated from Indonesia to Holland to Hawaii and then settled in California . She was raised by her mother and stepfather along with her two siblings. As a child, she enjoyed surfing and spending time with her family. She was running the most successful one-woman babysitting business in her neighborhood by the age of ten! To this day she is still known as the baby whisperer. She is currently finishing up with her Bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College in New York.. She is a jewelry designer that uses the combination of sterling silver and ornate stones to create funky jewelry pieces. She has experienced sexual abuse as being a woman and she continues to face harassment for being gay. She feels even living in the US, a country that emphasizes freedom, women still lack equality. She has a drive in her to fight for human rights and has stood up to help victims of sexual crime from Somalia.

Michael Bishop
Michael T. Bishop – Website Manager
Michael Bishop, lives in Boise, Idaho. He became involved with A Thousand Sisters and Sister Somalia in 2011 as the manager of the organizations websites. From an early age Michael has been a vocal advocate for all those silenced and is dedicated to helping them regain their voices so that they can be heard once again. Michael is the owner of Act Up Media which is a web design and development firm devoted to working with non-profits from around the world.