our team


Based in Austin, TX

As Co-Founder and Executive Director, Zoë leads The Strongheart Group in their strategic use of storytelling aligned with advocacy to drive widespread change on complex social issues. After spending years working in resource poor communities, she chose to focus her energy on amplifying the voices of individuals who have lived through these issues and could have the power to impact systems level change. Prior to founding Strongheart, Zoë was a senior executive in the media, technology, public policy and economic development sectors with Fox Family Worldwide, Fox Kids Europe and TechAmerica. Her work in both the corporate and non-profit sectors has given her a unique perspective on creating impact. Zoë is skilled at building partnerships, recognition, and momentum to create visibility, advance public policy, and transform global issues.
Zoë’s passion for unlocking human potential began when she was a teenager. At 18, she founded her first non-profit organization to inspire agency in youth and support youth-led environmental activism. Years later, she co-founded Strongheart’s former Fellows Program, an innovative educational program to help adolescents from war-torn backgrounds build resilience, excel in their endeavors and achieve their dreams. Four years ago, after seeing the difference that an individual’s voice can make when heard by the right audiences of policymakers, high-level influencers, media and changemakers, Zoë pivoted Strongheart into the work it is doing today.

Aimee Oberndorfer Le, DEPUTY DIRECTOR
Based in Washington, DC

Aimee is a social impact strategist and human rights advocate. She co-founded the Strongheart Amplify program. Her power and expertise lie in her natural ability to connect deeply with individual people and resonate with the heart of their story. As Deputy Director of The Strongheart Group, Aimee bridges her global vision with locally-driven solutions to advance impact initiatives. Aimee was previously the Director of Programs for Man Up, an international campaign to engage youth to stop violence against women and mentor the next generation of global leaders. She has conducted program assessments and cultivated and propelled locally-designed social change programs in eastern Africa, South America and in consultation with UNICEF in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Aimee has developed curricula for grassroots education efforts, university-level academic programs, and innovative global outreach initiatives on subjects spanning from healthcare to human rights, with specific focus on the power of the arts and story. Over the course of her career, Aimee has also worked with refugee communities in the US and abroad and has helped inform critical policy making decisions. She has implemented mental health and social service programs in collaboration with multidisciplinary treatment teams to assist clients with multifaceted issues, including trauma, children in out-of-home placement and at-risk families/youth. She has also brought culturally relevant community resources together in support of refugee families.
Aimee earned her M.A. in International Training and Education at American University with a specialization in Education in Emergencies and holds a certificate from the International Trauma Studies Program at Columbia University on the Practical Implementation of Family and Community Directed Psychosocial and Mental Health Initiatives in Countries Affected by War, Violence and Disaster.


Based in Frankfurt, Germany

Ashley leads projects at Strongheart as a public health specialist, passionate advocate for human rights, creative thinker, and world explorer-turned-expat. Over the past decade, Ashley has lived and worked in South America, Europe and Asia. Her unique perspective and varied, on-the-ground field experience drive her current work to help impact change so that every person in every part of the world has the care and support they need to live a healthy life.
Based in Germany, Ashley formerly worked at the forefront of the humanitarian crisis in Europe, welcoming and directly caring for hundreds of refugees. At an emergency shelter, she coordinated and managed all medical needs and personally supported those experiencing trauma from torture and violent conflict, those with mental health issues, as well as those affected by tuberculosis and other illnesses. During her post-grad studies, Ashley worked on the Thai-Myanmar (Burma) border where she provided management and technical support to a community-based mental health assistance program that trains community members to become peer-counselors for refugees, former political prisoners, and survivors of trauma. She also traveled with a mobile medical team to reach isolated refugee communities on the border and helped develop strategies for integrating existing health and protection efforts to strengthen an anti-trafficking program. In Argentina, Ashley worked with a government social worker at a primary health care center to reach at-risk youth and implement community-based health interventions.
Ashley graduated magna cum laude from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a degree in International Affairs specializing in Latin America and the Caribbean. She earned her Masters in Public Health from the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain where she conducted epidemiological research on child health with the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL-ISGlobal) and has published on the topic of prenatal mercury exposure and birth outcomes. Ashley is fluent in Spanish and German.


Based in Washington, DC

As Strongheart’s Youth Advocacy Coordinator, Benafsha Tasmim specializes in youth engagement, conflict/post-conflict peacebuilding education, and advocacy. Born in Afghanistan, Benafsha’s family lived in Pakistan as refugees for eight years during the Taliban regime. After returning back to Afghanistan, despite adverse circumstances, she persevered to complete her education. At Kabul University, she studied Psychology and Educational Sciences in order to understand more about how war impacts the way people think and behave and how to break cycles of violence. She then joined American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) as a Psychosocial Trainer where she taught teachers how to help students cope with the daily stress and trauma caused by insecurity and violence.
In an effort to further address the complex needs of youth during conflict, including the need for psychosocial support, Benafsha began working as the Education Coordinator for Skateistan, a program that uses skateboarding as a tool to bring Afghan youth from different socioeconomic backgrounds together and provide them with an education while building friendship and trust. At Skateistan, Benafsha wrote the curriculum, conducted workshops, and oversaw a creative virtual exchange program between children from Afghanistan and around the world, all focused on improving the mental health and well-being of youth in Afghanistan. She has also worked for RTI International in Washington, DC, where she launched a digital platform which puts young people at the center of the conversation about the youth livelihood crisis to share with one another and inform policy and programs. Mental health and child marriage have been consistent threads in her work with youth, and Benafsha brings a nuanced and personal understanding of these issues to her work with Strongheart. Benafsha holds a master’s degree in International Development from SIT Graduate Institute and serves as an advisory board member of Skateistan.


Based in Greensboro, North Carolina

A natural connector, Annelise believes in the power of possibility. Throughout her 15 year career in communications, marketing and fundraising, Annelise connects investors and causes to accomplish ambitious goals.
As the Director of Partnerships, Annelise works with the Executive Director to ensure the continued expansion of Strongheart’s impact through alliances and collaborations. She applies each of her previous experiences and talents of connection, innovation and agility to her work at Strongheart. As PwC’s Pacific Northwest Marketing Leader, Annelise identified opportunities for authentic and real connections to position partners and directors on non-profit boards. At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, she was integral to launching the Innovators Network, a philanthropic networking group that increased young major donors, increased seed funding and expanded the footprint of the organization. As the Campaign Director for the Portland Museum of Art’s Winslow Homer Studio Campaign, she built relationships with the board and influencers, created alliances with other institutions to expand the donor pool, and built critical links between the project and the mission of the Museum to bolster support. She moved the campaign from a financial and internal crisis to an ultimate success, exceeding funding goals by 20%. She has facilitated major organizational changes including Woodward School for Girls rebranding, PwC’s US internal restructure and Global’s G Suite rollout.
Annelise earned her MBA and Masters in Accounting from Northeastern University and graduated cum laude from Clemson University with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Biology. Previously serving on the HIV Vaccine Trial Network (HVTN) Community Advisory Board and King County Dependency CASA Board of Directors, Annelise currently serves on the Board of the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC Greensboro and the National Conference for Community and Justice of the Triad.


Based in San Francisco, CA

Erica Fink is a systems thinker who uses her strategy and design skills to make a positive impact in the world. Over the past 5 years, Erica has explored how to best integrate environmental and social impact work into a variety of organizations, from startups and small business to non-profits and global networks. Before joining Strongheart, she completed the Social Impact Royster Lawton Fellowship at COMMON, an accelerator for social entrepreneurs that involves strategy, product development, creative, and branding services. Erica is motivated by the challenge of closing the gap between the knowledge of global issues and the presiding attitudes and behaviors toward them. She believes that empathetic experiences are at the core of creating meaningful change. At Strongheart, she is responsible for supporting the team in articulating the stories and efforts that will help foster this very change.
As an Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia, Erica earned her B.A. in Global Studies with a concentration in Environments and Sustainability and a minor in Social Entrepreneurship. She completed her senior research project on “Greening the Reel: Film Production, Content, & Behavioral Change”. With a particular interest in behavioral change, she produced a series of commercial concepts for the local community that incorporated best practices for effective climate change communication, meeting the film industry’s greenest production standards.


Based in Los Angeles, CA

Kathleen designs and executes social impact campaigns fighting for human rights and social justice. She is a big-picture strategic thinker with a knack for turning complex problems into crisp language and effective campaigns. As a campaign strategist and designer, she runs social media, executes digital graphic design for social media and websites, manages partnership coalitions, develops education materials, and designs activation points for public engagement around social issues.
Kathleen has worked in the non-profit and for-profit sectors, as well as for leading design and social impact agencies Phenomenon and Swell Creative Group. Kathleen has a Master’s Degree in Communication Management from the University of Southern California and Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and World Politics from Vanderbilt University.

Based in Austin, TX

Paula Hawn has worked in finance and operations for over 20 years and with the Strongheart Group for six years. Before entering the nonprofit sector, she worked in technology but spent the majority of her career in the medical field. Paula believes in the power of individuals to rise up beyond their challenging, and often tragic, circumstances and positively change not only their lives but the lives of others.
She dedicates her time and energy to supporting these remarkable individuals, the Strongheart team, and their partners in transforming the world through story-driven social change campaigns.


Cori Shepherd Stern is an Oscar nominated producer, as well as a social change strategist. Her films include the documentaries OPEN HEART and BENDING THE ARC (the story of Partners In Health and Dr. Paul Farmer), as well as WARM BODIES, a major feature film released by Summit Entertainment. She has worked as a Social Change & Media Advisor for The Skoll Foundation & Sundance Institute’s “Stories of Change” Partnership. Her work in social change has been covered by NPR, BBC, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and National Geographic. O Magazine dubbed her “Good Guy of the Month” and ABC World News named her “Person of the Week.”