International Advisory Council

Dr. Hawa Abdi 

Dr. Hawa Abdi is a Nobel Peace prize nominee, Somali human rights activist, doctor and founder of The Hawa Abdi Foundation. "Mama Hawa” opened one of the first NGOs in Somalia to provide health care, education and aid empowerment for the women of Somalia.  U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called Dr Abdi “a perfect example of the kind of woman who inspires me”. In 2010, Glamour magazine named Dr. Abdi and her two daughters "Women of the Year," dubbing them the "Saints of Somalia".

Eric Schwartz 

Eric Schwartz, dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, has a 25-year career in senior public service positions in government, at the United Nations and in the philanthropic and non-governmental communities. From 2009 through 2012, he was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, having been nominated by President Obama. Schwartz's other high-ranking positions include serving as the Department of State’s principal humanitarian official, managing State Department policy and programs for U.S. refugee admissions and U.S. international assistance worldwide.

US Executive Board of Directors

Ann Laatsch - Chairwoman 

Ann Laatsch is the Director of Legal Services at JusticePoint, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of evidence based criminal justice programs, practices and policies headquartered in Milwaukee, WI.  Ann was formerly the Managing Attorney for Disability Services at Community Advocates, Inc., where she practiced in the areas of Social Security Disability, public benefits, and health care. She was previously a Staff Attorney at Legal Action of Wisconsin, providing representation and advocacy to seniors on issues related to elder abuse, domestic violence, financial exploitation, and state and federal benefit programs. She is the founder of the Milwaukee chapter of Dining For Women, a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, the Association of Women Lawyers, and the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives. 


  Jill Rasmussen 

Jill Rasmussen is an independent consultant and philanthropist with ten years of marketing and communications experience in the healthcare and technology marketing fields.  Most recently, Jill served as the Principal for Promoting Public Causes, Inc. managing all Chicago operations. Jill built and maintained strong relationships across sectors, educating nonprofits in her areas of expertise, marketing and communications, and crafting philanthropic strategies for corporate clients.

Daphne Ortiz 

Daphne Ortiz is an independent publicist with more than twelve years experience in the entertainment industry. With offices in Chicago and Los Angeles, her experience includes pitching and creating media campaigns on  local, regional and national levels to promote her client’s projects which have included films, TV shows, writers, directors, producers, clothing collections, sports, healthcare issues, events and charities.  Daphne has served as a “Big” in Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Inland Empire of Los Angeles program in addition to being a board member for the Step Up Women’s Network in Chicago.

Scott Gordon

Scott Gordon is Chairman and CEO of Rosenthal Collins Group, a leading futures brokerage firm. His career in the futures industry spans more than 40 years over which he has been a floor trader, broker, exchange official and clearing firm executive. Mr. Gordon previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer of a wholly owned subsidiary of The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, and also as Chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In addition to Heshima Kenya, Scott's civic affiliations include current and recent positions on the Boards of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Econ Illinois and The Greater Chicago Food Depository. 

Shermin Kruse 

Shermin Kruse is a partner at the law firm of Barack Ferrazzano, the author of the critically acclaimed novel Butterfly Stitching, a contributor to the Huffington Post, and co-founder and director of the peace organization, Pasfarda Arts and Culture Organization. In addition, Shermin is involved in a number of other international foundations. From traveling to the Turkey-Syria border to interface with Syrian refugee children, to serving as a commentator on NPR’s Worldview on foreign policy issues, Shermin is globally dedicated to raising awareness.


Kenya Board of Directors:

Luz Adriana Leahy - Chairwoman

Alice Eshuchi - Secretary 

Payal Patel - Treasurer

Payal serves as an adviser at KMPG in Nairobi.  After completing her Masters in International Securities, Investment and Banking in England, she was employed at Deutsche Bank in Finance and then decided to return home to Kenya and use her skills and expertise within the local market.  Payal also served as a Quality and Assurance Manger at Sankara Hotel.  She tutors children in mathematics and English in Kibera slums under the Rock Foundation.

Carrie Ngongo

Carrie Ngongo has worked in ten countries across Africa and Asia to design and implement projects that improve maternal health and strengthen health systems. Carrie currently leads health financing at the Grameen Foundation, a global nonprofit organization that develops mobile-enabled products to give the world’s poor access to essential financial services.