I began working on community development as camp counselor and director at the YMCA in my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina where I learned the art of leadership and power of delegation.
By way of education and personal struggles as a teenager and college student at Meredith College, I discovered feminism and global injustice, and redirected my interest in that direction. I earned my Master of Arts in Arab Studies from Georgetown University, with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies and graduate certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. After spending a summer working in Jordan for the US government, I wanted a different Middle East experience and then spent six months volunteering for the Ibdaa Cultural Center, a grassroots community center in a refugee camp in Palestine, run by and for refugees.
I began working for a mainstream international development organization, ACDI/VOCA, which moved me to northern Iraq in 2008 to oversee the output of a monitoring and evaluation system (i.e., databases and reporting) for a large community development program. Back in Washington DC in 2009, I was finally able to focus on feminism and global gender equality as part of my career. I built up and then led the gender equity practice at ACDI/VOCA until 2015, and then continued to work for them as a consultant. During my tenure as Director of Gender Mainstreaming and Women’s Empowerment, I had mobilized a group of 30 gender "champions" and oversaw a team of three gender experts who conducted gender analysis research, strategic planning, and training around the world. I had launched GenderFirst, the organization’s approach to gender mainstreaming that included a library of resources for operationalizing gender equitable approaches.
Meanwhile, my personal experience as a new mom in a society and culture that continues to physically, mentally, and emotionally overburden women with care-taking work led me away from mainstream employment. My desire to bring a social justice mission back to a development industry that has been watered down by hierarchical donor demands led me to independent consulting and the launching of Cynara Development Services.
I am also community organizer and volunteer with the DC Language Immersion Project, which aims to expand bilingual education throughout DC public schools and public charter schools. I was part of the successful campaign for paid family leave in Washington DC. I am a monthly subscriber of Safety Pin Box, a radical way of educating white people about racism in the United States, and organized a Safety Pin Box Bootcamp for parents at local public schools.