VISTA Staff Team

Hamida Dakane
Community Resilience Building Program Organizer
Lutheran Social Services (Fargo, ND)

Hamida joined the program in 2017 as a Community Resilience Building Program Organizer. She immigrated from a small village in Kenya to Minnesota via the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program in 2011 to pursue a better life. Hamida’s perseverance and ambition lead her to North Dakota State University where she majored in Emergency Management and International studies. Motivated by the lack of community diversity and previous volunteer work, Hamida and friends challenged the norm and formed Afro American Development Association, a nonprofit based on the spirit of charity and development, in Fargo/Moorhead to complement their midwestern experience. This group focuses on responding to human suffering among marginalized and New American communities in the states of Minnesota and North Dakota by helping alleviated poverty through new skills that foster job opportunities, reduce dependency on government benefits, and contribute to regional economic growth and development. Also, Hamida previously served with AmeriCorps in a direct capacity as a Promise Fellow in Moorhead, MN. There she focused on developing and organizing projects that engage youth in civic engagement, supporting teachers and parents to develop local dropout prevention strategies, and other programmatic functions to help the youth participants. 
Hamida’s brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to our members where she will be working on various outreach projects to enhance the New American community experience by building community resilience. Her main focuses are on improving food and financial security and providing emergency preparation assistance for vulnerable communities. 

Mia Dillard

Mia Dillard
Community Resilience Program Leader
Lutheran Services in America (Washington, DC)

Mia joined Lutheran Services in America in March 2017 as the Community Resilience Program Leader. Mia is a current VISTA member and serves as the leader of the Community Resilience Building Cohort. She is focused on ensuring a shared vision of success for the national VISTA program and working closely with seven member organizations hosting VISTA members to help develop their work. Mia previously served as a VISTA member with the City of Minot and comes with extensive knowledge of community resilience building programs.

Mia is a graduate of The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Mia was born in Bowie, Maryland and moved to Hoover, Alabama after her formative years. While studying for her BS in Business Administration she served as Secretary of Management Society, Historian and Educational Enrichment Chair of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Student Leader at Birmingham Business Project, and was an active member of various other organizations.

Johnathan Endelman
Community Resilience Building Program Organizer
Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (Washington, DC)

Jonathan joined in September 2017 as a Community Resilience Building Program Organizer. He is a current VISTA member serving in Washington D.C. for Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area. He partners with landlords, volunteers, and community groups to build capacity for refugee housing. Jonathan previously served as an intern with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, Connecticut where he worked in employment services to help clients find jobs.

Jonathan holds a PhD, MPhil, and MA from Yale University in Sociology as well as a BA from Emory University in Middle Eastern Studies with a minor in Arabic. Jonathan has one published academic article and another in press. He participated in numerous international education programs such as Critical Language Scholarship for Turkish and Arabic, the Center for Arabic Study Abroad, and the Fox Fellowship where he was affiliated with Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey. During this time he conducted research at the Ottoman archives that he used to write his dissertation. He speaks Arabic and Turkish. Jonathan looks forward to engaging with community members to help refugees succeed in American society.

Victoria Lee
VISTA Community Resilience-Building Program Organizer
Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota Camp Noah (St. Paul, MN)

Victoria joined Lutheran Services in America in August 2017 as a VISTA Community Resilience-Building Program Organizer. Victoria is currently a VISTA member for the Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota Camp Noah. She is focused on improving and implementing a pilot workshop that adds a parent portion to the curriculum that helps support and further develop the resilience skills that camp is teaching. Victoria is also assisting in modifying and creating new camp curriculums and volunteer recruitment. 

Victoria is a graduate of The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Victoria was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. While studying for her BS in Sociology and a minor in Public Health, she served as a co-coordinator for her local YMCA’s youth empowerment program that hosted workshops for low income high school student.

Markia Montgomery
VISTA Community Resilience-Building Program Organizer
Lutheran Services Carolinas (Columbia, SC)

Markia joined in August 2017 where she works under Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC). She currently serves as an AmeriCorps Vista in Columbia, SC working with LSC community resilience. Her focus is conducting outreach and organizing meetings to each client population (resettled refugees, foster families, and adults with developmental disabilities) and local community leaders active in disaster recovery to engage in process. Markia also assist the organization in the development of a volunteer base and developing a training program for the volunteers. 

Markia graduated from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC with a BS in Political Science and minor in Women’s Studies. During her undergraduate career she joined Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, INC. where she served as President and Step Master. She created a mentor program for at-risk youth, ages 14-18. She also joined the Army National Guard while in college where she took time off to complete her training. Markia maintained active in the Rock Hill community as well as joining an array of other organizations at Winthrop.

Elizabeth Ryder
Community Resilience-Building Program Organizer
Upbring (Austin, TX)

Elizabeth Ryder joined Lutheran Services in America as an Americorps VISTA volunteer in August 2017. She is currently serving as a Program Resilience-Building Program Organizer for Upbring Disaster Relief.  She is focusing on developing a program that will build resilience in the community by “training the trainers,” to prepare families in Southwest Louisiana for what will occur before, during, and after a disaster.

She is currently a Senior at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette and is working towards completing her BS in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy. She also has an interest in journalism and has served as the Treasurer of the Society of Professional Journalists at her university and was a Staff Writer for the school newspaper, “The Vermillion.” She was born in Lafayette, Louisiana and looks forward to working within the culture-rich community she calls home.

Chelsea Iron Thunder
Community Resilience-Building Program Organizer
Lutheran Social Services - South Dakota (Lower Brule, SD)

Chelsea joined in September 2016 as a Community Resilience Program Organizer. She is a native of Lower Brule, South Dakota and an active student at Lower Brule Community College. In addition to her involvement with Lower Brule Community College, Chelsea has helped organize the Lower Brule Diabetes Program.
Chelsea is working with Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota and other local partners to help strengthen resiliency in Crow Creek and Lower Brule reservation communities. She is serving a second term for the program to continue to build on her first year successes. Her major focus is expanding and strengthening partnerships and networks to increase local capacity and equip the communities to prepare for disasters and facilitate disaster risk mitigation.