Amanda studied Finance at the University of Nebraska and graduated from college at the age of 19. She later received her Masters in Business from Creighton University and spent 7 years working at Union Pacific Railroad before starting KOVUS, a technology consulting firm. Amanda served on the Board of Directors and became Executive Director in 2019.
Stacie HooverDirector of Operations
Through her work in local churches, corrections facilities, and non-profits Stacie has worked with a number of unique populations. She graduated in 2016 with a Master of Clinical Counseling and is passionate about helping those who are dealing with diverse issues. Stacie came to the REC with a desire to help organize programs and operations. Stacie has lived in the Omaha area her whole life and enjoys being a part of a community that welcomes diversity.
JMALELDINN ADAMESenior Manager of Programs
Jmal speaks three languages and was a high school math teacher – but his smile might be what he’s best known for. Originally from Darfur, Jmal was an employment caseworker at REC for 3 years before his current position as Manager of Programs. He really enjoys giving refugeeshope for their future as he helps them become productive members of their new community in Omaha.
Tarig MakiEmployment Caseworker
Tarig is a numbers guy. He holds a degree in economics and has vast experience as a financial manager, but most importantly, as a refugee himself, he knows first-hand how refugees contribute to our bustling American economy. So, Tarig understands the importance of working closely with newly-arrived refugees on their monthly budgets and potential job opportunities within their first 90 days.
Lee MarEmployment Caseworker
Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, remembers fondly how her family received support when they arrived in the U.S., and she is passionate about providing the same help to others. She brings almost 2 years of experience working in social services, and speaks four languages: English, Karenni, Burmese and little bit of Karen. In her role, Lee helps refugees find employment including applying for jobs, helping with interviews, and following up to make sure they have transportation. Lee’s work is very important in fulfiling our mission since finding employment is one of the most important factors in helping refugees become self-sufficient.
Mary HeiR&P Caseworker
With almost ten years of experience as a caseworker at REC, Mary Hei takes the lead as role model for our newest employees. In her daily case manger work, she really enjoys helping fellow refugees become self-sufficient. As a refugee herself, she knows how hard it is to adjust to a new culture and feels it’s important to help them get settled properly in Omaha. Bonus points: she also speaks three languages: Burmese, Karen and English.
Yogendra PantPC/Behavioral Health Coordinator
After 20 years of service to the poor and marginalized people of Nepal, Yogendra migrated to the United States. While here, he pursued his master degree in clinical counseling in order to serve the mental and behavioral health needs of refugees. His consistently positive attitude and hard work-ethic make him an incredible asset to the REC. Yogendra enjoys providing services to the refugee population to help them become self-sufficient.
Rhay WahPC Caseworker
After immigrating to the US, Rhay experienced the frustration that can occur when attempting to acclimate to a new country. This has driven her to provide a helping hand to refugees. She’s currently majoring in International Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and loves volunteering at Knyaw Baptist Church. Rhay is passionate about helping others see that refugees help their neighbors and promote diversity in their communities.
EH BluInterpreter & Driver
Eh wears many hats. There’s never a task he doesn’t complete with diligence and purpose – and all with a smile on his face! Eh enjoys supporting REC in multiple ways, including translating and driving clients to and from appointments as they acclimate to the Omaha community. Eh has used his experience as a refugee to lend a helping hand to others in the same situation and is a positive light for the REC staff and clients we serve.
Kathy LaughlinESL Teacher
Kathy is one of REC’s longest-standing and most loyal employees. She has been helping and encouraging refugees in our community to learn English for over 20 years. When she’s at the office, it’s not unusual to hear people exclaim “Teacher Kathy!” and run and give her a big hug. She is full of kindness and encouragement and is so welcoming to all students learning English. Most recently, she’s been helping our artisans in Project Refuge learn English while they work. This program is a dream come true for Kathy to see people learn English while also being paid a fair wage!
Mitch may be one of the most interesting people you’ve met recently. Originally from New York, he’s spent time volunteering at refugee camps and helping people all over the world. He has a passion to do as much good for as many people as he can. This shows in his tenacity in selling Refuge candles and his recruitment of volunteers to help at REC. There is no job too big or too small. Oh, and he’s learning Arabic too. Reach out to Mitch if you have ideas on how to sell more Project Refuge candles or if you’re interested in volunteering!
Erik’s first introduction to REC was as a First Friend, a program where refugees and Omaha residents are connected for social support/friendship. Now as board chair, Erik helps guide the board in fulfilling the mission of REC. Erik graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in psychology and communications and went on to earn his law degree from UNL. Erik served as in-house counsel for a local insurance company before spending time living abroad in China. He currently works for Union Pacific Railroad.
Kabir came to America in the early 1990’s as a refugee with $50 in his pocket. Within the first few weeks of his refugee life in Omaha, he started working two part-time jobs and began taking ESL classes at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He received his bachelor and master’s degree in accounting from UNO. Kabir has held several leadership positions with different organizations and currently serves as the CFO for WellCare of Nebraska. He has served on the board as treasurer since October 2017.
Heather McCainVice Chair
Heather brings 20+ years of advertising and marketing experience to REC. She graduated from Dana College with a B.F.A in Graphic Design, Fine Arts and Print Communications. Day-to-day she works as a Senior Art Director at Bozell, a 100-year-old Omaha advertising agency that specializes in working with companies who aspire to change the word. Heather brings those strategic thinking and branding skills to support social media and fundraising efforts at REC.
Mohamed Ali Jimale
After serving as a volunteer for many years, Mohamed joined the board member in 2019. He’s very knowledgable and connected to the Somali community, and more importantly, he cares a lot. These connections were important to make sure the community’s voice was heard as we were seeking the state’s consent for resettlement.
Mohamed and his family came as refugees from Somalia. During his time in a refugee camp, he worked as one of the camp leaders, helping keep the camp running smoothly. He brings this experience and leadership skills to the board in addition to his passion for volunteering.
Kareen’s experience in the non-profit arena makes her a MVP on the board. She studied Communications at Concordia University in Seward Nebraska and holds a Certificate in Fundraising Management from University of Nebraska-Omaha. She has more than twelve years of non-profit experience and is an active volunteer in community. Kareen currently works for Immanuel, a non-profit dedicated to serving to seniors.
Elhag came to the United States as a refugee from Southern Sudan. He has his civil engineering degree and worked in Libia as a civil engineer with companies all over the world. Unfortunately, he and his family were forced to flee from violence in South Sudan, but the Omaha community has benefited from his work ethic and strong convictions about the importance of community. He provides a great perspective on how we can work together to help refugees in our community thrive. One of his pieces of advice is to “think big, but start small.”
The dream of a young boy in India to become an engineer and scholar has led Dr. Deepak Khazanchi to UNO’s College of Information Science & Technology, where he serves as Associate Dean, Professor of Information Systems, and Community Engagement and Internationalization Officer. Deepak is a civil engineering graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur and worked as a structural engineer and project manager before coming to the United States to obtain his MBA. After that, he earned his Ph.D. from Texas Tech University. He is excited about helping REC achieve its full potential.
Abdi serves as a Somali Community Liason in Omaha Public Schools. The school systems are crucially important to refugee children’s success so having Abdi’s knowledge and experience is incredibly valuable. He was recommended to be on the board because he is “brilliant” and “helps so many people and knows so much about the refugee community.” During his time on the board Abdi has already assisted in important decisions surrounding program services and staff changes.
3610 Dodge Street, Suite 100 | Omaha NE 68131
Office Hours: Mon-Fri: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Refugee Empowerment Center (REC) is an affiliate of Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc. (ECDC). Reception and placement activities that the REC conducts are paid for, in part, through financial assistance provided by the Department of State through ECDC. REC received $60,000 through competitive funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and families, Grant #90RP0114-01. The Preferred Communities project will be financed 100% of Federal funds. The contents of this are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, Administration for Children and Families. Match Grant is a federally-funded program operated under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Refugee Resettlement. REC operates the Match Grant program through ECDC.