Our Staff & Board

Our Staff & Board

Our Staff

Aissa Perez, Development Manager
Aissa comes from a family of immigrants and has always felt connected to work that values and lifts up immigrant communities. Since graduating from UC Davis with a degree in Sociology and English, she has worked in both programs and development for nonprofits focused on affordable healthcare and breast cancer research and services. She has called Seattle home for the last 3 years and is excited about working for an organization so centered on the community in the city she loves so much.
Fun fact: Aissa has a cat named Whopper with whom she is only mildly obsessed. 

Baeda Makka-Agonafer, Volunteer Coordinator 
Baeda is an alumnus of Eastern Mennonite University where he graduated with a BA in Psychology. Baeda has a long history of working with organizations that focus on youth development, and social justice. Baeda previously served as Kandelia’s Volunteer Coordinator, working to emphasize the importance of supporting our growing community.
Fun Fact: I consider myself an expert in corn chips.

Chandra Rapley, Community Resource Coordinator
Chandra is an empathetic educator who is passionate about empowering youth and families and building healthier, more connected communities. She has spent the past decade working and volunteering in the nonprofit and education fields, serving in a variety of roles from volunteer coordinator, homeless services specialist, bike and pedestrian safety educator, and ESL teacher.   She was born and raised on the central coast of California, graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. Since then, Chandra has lived and worked in many places, from Montana to Costa Rica, and has found volunteering is her favorite way to connect to her new home and serve the community. She is a newcomer to Seattle, and is looking forward to serving this community and exploring beautiful outdoor areas around the city.
Fun Fact: Chandra has a green belt in judo!

Cielo Martinez, Youth Program Coordinator
Born and raised in Guatemala, Cielo moved to Seattle at when she was 14 years old. She started high school at Seattle World School and graduated in 2018. She is currently a Senior at UW Bothell getting a BA on Society Ethics and Human Behavior and a Minor in Human Rights. Her passion is to help others in the community, especially other youth that are new to the country like her.
Fun fact: Cielo is a master makeup artist on the side and also does makeup for fashion shows and lots of photoshoots!

Kristie Wong, Youth Program Manager
I was born in Brooklyn, NY and grew up in Central New Jersey. My family is Chinese with roots in Guangdong, Sichuan and Taiwan. I am drawn to Kandelia because of the cultural diversity among the people I work with and the people we serve. I have a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and have professional experience in youth development, food access, nutrition and health.
Fun Fact: I played on a professional Womens Ultimate Frisbee team for one season.

Lorna Nguyen, Operations Manager
Lorna is a Seattle native who graduated from the University of Washington with dual arts degrees in Psychology and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, with a minor in Diversity. Growing up, she was always drawn towards anything that involved artistic self-expression, service to others, and education. This left her with no other choice than to work with the immigrant and refugee community in Seattle, individuals who are much like her parents, who came to Seattle in the early 90s.
Fun Fact: Give me a tune and I’ll whistle it.

Sieng Douangdala, Community Engagement Manager
Sieng is a creative connector, whose background informs her personal investment in servant leadership and fostering social change. Sieng’s lived experiences as a refugee from Laos helps her serve a variety of cultures. Her experiences includes: program management; wraparound services; and development and implementation of programs focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Sieng’s work is rooted and driven by inclusivity, humility, collaboration, and commitment to healing our communities.
Fun Fact: Sieng has two girls and a grandson and loves spending time outdoors.

Susanna Haley, Administrative Coordinator
Susanna Haley is an alumna of the University of Washington, where she graduated with a B.A. in European Studies in 2020. She has a background in administration and event management, as well as experience working for an immigration law firm where she was part of a team helping create equitable legal access for immigrants and their families. Susanna is also a professional violinist and violist, and loves to travel. She is from the greater Seattle area.
Fun fact: During a trip playing music in Europe, Susanna lived in a remote 13th-century Italian castle for a week!

Tamthy Le, Interim Executive Director
Tamthy Le is the youngest daughter of two Vietnamese refugees who love to rhumba. She was born and raised in South Seattle and later attended the University of Washington where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare with a Minor in Diversity. She began at Kandelia in 2014 as a Case Manager and currently serves as the Interim Executive Director. She holds over 10 years of experience in Youth Development and Programming is trained in Change Management, Leadership Development, and Intergroup Dialogues. She believes in putting people first and normalizing rest and healing. She is a big fan of the Mariners, fried chicken, and spending time with her cat Benedict and wife in their home in Renton.
Fun fact: At 5’ 3”, Tamthy is the tallest person in her family.

Thu Le, Family Engagement Manager
Thu Le came to the U.S. 25 years ago with her husband and daughter as refugees. Before that, she was an elementary teacher in Vietnam for 10 years. She began working with Kandelia in 2014 as the Cultural Navigator and is currently the Family Engagement Manager. She loves gardening, sewing, traveling, and watching the Big Bang Theory.
Fun fact: Thu is the oldest sister of her five siblings.



Kandelia Staff Flunk Day July 2021




Gaugdy Morales
Hi! I am Gaugdy Morales, I was born in El Salvador. I am the tutor of the Basic computer skills classes for relatives of the students of SWS. Some years ago my son studied in SWS, that was the time when I knew about Kandelia and everything they do to support our students. They helped and guided my son when he needed to, that’s how I realized the importance of Kandelia at school. I felt identified with Kandelia because I feel passionate about helping, organizing and guiding people who need it. I feel so proud about participating actively in these programs where we help immigrant families from SWS.
Fun fact: I have been an environmental promoter and educator.

Soy Gaugdy Morales, mi país de nacimiento es El Salvador, soy la facilitadora de las clases de Basic Computer Skill para familiares de los estudiantes de SWS. Hace unos años atrás mi hijo estudiaba en SWS y fue ahi donde conoci el trabajo que realiza Kandelia, ya que apoyaban, guiaban y orientaban a mi hijo y de esa manera conocí la importancia de Kandelia en la vida de nuestros estudiantes; me identifique mucho con su trabajo, ya que mi pasión siempre ha sido Organiza a ayudar y orientar a las personas que lo necesitan, por lo tanto me siento orgullosa de participar activamente en estos programas de ayuda a las familias inmigrantes de SWS y ser parte de Kandelia.
Dato curioso, he sido promotora y educadora de medio ambiente.

Gayne Sanchez, Family Engagement Coordinator
Gayne Sanchez was born in Mexico City. She migrated to the USA with her three children 22 years ago; her children attended Seattle World School (SWS) for 8 months. Because of her own experience as an immigrant single mother she had learned the importance of getting support and guidance to navigate the different systems. Today she collaborates with the Kandelia team at Seattle World School as a Family Engagement Coordinator providing classes and workshops that offer skills development for adult self-improvement and offer tools for navigating the many resources that Seattle has to offer.

Erika Morales
Hi! I’m Erika Morales and I’m from El Salvador, a small country in Central America. I have been an English teacher for 4 years, and I have worked with Kandelia the last 2 years. During the pandemic, Kandelia started the English classes online mode, and I had the opportunity to be in charge of the beginner’s level. Throughout this time, I have been able to help a lot of people coming from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela. Kandelia has shown me that it doesn’t matter where you come from because we are all worthy. I feel so proud to be part of this family because we have the opportunity to help many people.
Fun fact: I’m a radio presenter, too!

Our Board

 Juliet Le – Co-Chair
A daughter to immigrant and refugee parents, Juliet believes in decolonizing philanthropy, movement building, community organizing, and the arts. She believes in reimaging and building a fully inclusive society where all people are free to be whole, to thrive, and to live with dignity, regardless of income or race. Professionally, she is a Program Officer at the Satterberg Foundation. Prior to joining Satterberg, Juliet worked at Social Venture Partners, Medic One Foundation, and the Institute of Social and Medical Studies (ISMS). She also co-chairs the Seattle chapter’s Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) and Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) and organizes with the Asian Pacific Islanders Cultural Awareness Group (APICAG) at the Monroe Prison in Washington State.

Johnson Nguyen – Co-Chair
Johnson brings over eight years of experience organizing in communities of color to his role on the board. As a first-generation immigrant from Vietnam, Kandelia’s mission and vision deeply resonate with him. He benefitted first-hand from Kandelia’s services while studying at the University of Washington. Johnson currently works as a planner for King County and is the proud parent of two (mostly) adorable kitties.

Cori Simmons – Secretary


Maria Jimenez-Zepeda
Maria is the proud daughter of Mexican parents and has spent her life living and working with immigrant communities. Professionally, Maria brings her policy and project management experience to help create equitable conditions that allow individuals and families to thrive. In her personal time, Maria serves on the Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Commission and is a partner of the Education Collective Action Team at Social Venture Partners.

Diego Gonzalez-Medina
Diego is a Chicano & Puerto Rican analytics professional, with accomplishments in epidemiological research, health systems consulting, racial disparity assessment, and marketing analytics. He is excited to join Kandelia’s board where he can marry these skills with his experience as a community leader to the benefit of Seattle’s immigrant and refugee families.

Furhad Sultani

Are you passionate about removing barriers to immigrant and refugee success? Board members use their unique skills and life experiences to help guide our organization to make an impact. Contact us to learn more about opportunities to join our board.



Our Programs


From my personal experience, it was really hard to get my job. I had to practice a lot before coming in to my interview. One thing I liked the most about this program was that we basically did this mock interview, or practice interview. It was something that helped me get more confident. I would say that it helped me a lot with getting my first job.

Trung Nguyen

Your support can make all the difference