The Strongheart Group is a non-profit advocacy and public relations organization that specializes in implementing innovative story-to-impact strategies to affect large scale social change at global and national levels. We build purpose-driven campaigns around individuals and their personal stories in order to create solidarity and drive impact. We work quietly behind-the-scenes to elevate people and issues. We collaborate with the top international and local organizations working directly on causes, and focus our energies on targeting audiences of key influencers and decision makers who have the power to create real and lasting transformation.

our team

strongheart team


Based in Austin, TX

As Co-Founder and Executive Director, Zoë leads The Strongheart Group in their strategic use of storytelling 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 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 recognition and momentum to transform critical issues, advance public policy and drive both societal and business benefit.
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 for their futures. Four years ago, after seeing the difference that an individual’s voice can make when heard by the right audience, Zoë decided to pivot 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. Based in Germany, Ashley formerly worked at the forefront of the humanitarian crisis in Europe, welcoming and directly caring for hundreds of refugee families. At a German Red Cross emergency shelter, she coordinated and managed all medical needs on-site, and provided direct support for refugees with mental health problems, survivors of trauma and torture, tuberculosis patients, and unaccompanied minors. During her post-grad studies, Ashley worked on the Thai-Myanmar (Burma) border where she provided management and technical support for a community-based mental health assistance program that trained community health workers to become peer-counselors for Burmese refugees, former political prisoners, and survivors of trauma. She also traveled with a mobile medical team to reach isolated communities on the border and worked with program directors integrating existing health and protection efforts to strengthen an anti-trafficking program.
Over the past decade, Ashley has lived and worked in South America, Europe and Asia. In Argentina, Ashley worked with a government social worker and community health worker at a primary health care center and in the community with at-risk youth. Ashley’s unique perspective and varied, on-the-ground field experience drives her current work to help create a world where everyone has equal access to health care and the support they need.
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 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 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.”