Our Staff

As a multicultural organization, ECDC's staff reflect the diversity that is the hallmark of who we are, what we do, and the newcomers we serve. Between them, our staff members speak over 30 different languages.



Tsehaye Teferra


Dr. Teferra is founder and president of the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), Inc. which was established in 1983. His leadership and vision have shaped ECDC from a start-up agency with an initial budget of less than $100,000 to a major community-based organization with an annual budget of over several million. ECDC now offers a wide range of cultural, economic, educational, and social services at the local and national levels through its headquarters operations and through ECDC African Community Center (ACC) branch offices in Denver, Colorado, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Arlington, Virginia.

While meeting the many challenges of running a multifaceted organization, Dr. Teferra is also active in civic, professional, and local community affairs. He frequently lectures locally and nationally on African issues and cross-cultural studies and has testified before Congress. He has served as Chair of the Resettlement Committee of Refugee Council USA and as a member of its Finance Committee; and Vice Chair and Chairman of the Virginia State Refugee Advisory Council. He was appointed by the Arlington County Board to serve as a founding member of the Arlington County, Virginia, Multicultural Commission; as well as a member of the County’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Task Force for Arlington’s Future, and the Diversity Dialogue Task Force . Dr. Teferra currently serves as a member of the Board of InterAction; the Board of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization in Arlington, Virginia.

A native of Ethiopia, Dr. Tsehaye Teferra received his undergraduate degree from Haile Selassie I University in Addis Ababa. He then earned an M.S. in Applied Linguistics and a Ph.D. in Sociolinguistics from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he also served as a Research Associate in the School of Languages and Linguistics. Dr. Teferra was an instructor at The Catholic University of America and the Foreign Service Institute and was an Assistant Professor in the African Studies and Research Center at Howard University. He served as a cross-cultural instructor in the Peace Corps’ in-country training program and taught at several institutions of higher learning in Ethiopia before coming to the United States as a UNESCO Fellow in 1972.

Recognition and Awards

  • Selected as a White House Champion of Change in 2012.
  • Received the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago’s Pioneer Award for Leadership, Advocacy and Networking in October 2009.
  • Honored in May 2008 by the Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora (SEED) for his many years of public service to Ethiopian and Africans in Diaspora.
  • Honored by Bank of America in 2006 with a Local Hero Award of Excellence for contributions as president of ECDC and the Enterprise Development Group through support to low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs.
  • Honored by the City Council of the City of Los Angeles in 2005 with an Award of Appreciation for his contributions to improving the lives of refugee and immigrant newcomers to the United States.
  • Recognized in 1991by former President George H.W. Bush for outstanding record of community service.
  • Recognized in 1991 for outstanding contributions to the country by then Ambassador at Large and U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs Jewel Lafontant-Mankarious.

Allene Wright

Senior Vice President

Allene oversees ECDC's Ethnic and Preferred Communities (PC) Programs. She is also engaged in development activities, human resources, and works with ECDC's branch offices. Ms. Wright recieved a B.A. in German from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indianna, and did graduate work at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She has been with ECDC since 1986.

Azeb Tadesse

Director of Finance

Azeb provides management, control and administration of all fiscal operations of ECDC its and its branch offices. Ms. Tadesse has over 12 years of finance experience. She has an MBA from Strayer University in Arlington, Virginia.

Branch Office Directors

Redda G. Mehari

Managing Director, African Community Center (ACC), Las Vegas, Nevada

Currently, Redda overseas ECDCís African Community Center (ACC) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prior to this assignment, Redda helped to organize and open this same center for the first time in 2003. He served as the director until his departure in 2006. From 2010 through 2013, he was the Managing Director of the ACC whose service covers Northern Virginia, Southern Maryland, and the District of Columbia until his return to Las Vegas in April 2013.

Before ECDC, Redda worked for government, non-profit, and international organizations in various capacities. His experiences overseas include administering a refugee camp in the Sudan, and providing cultural orientation to U.S. -bound Ethiopian refugees. After coming to the United States, he was the director of a refugee resettlement program for Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. He also administered a state-wide Wilson/Fish program in Nevada.

Redda studied history at the Haile Selassie I University in Ethiopia and the District of Columbia Teacher's College in Washington, D.C.

Melissa Theesen

Director, ACC Denver

Melissa Theesenís experience with refugee resettlement and community organizations spans direct service to key leadership positions. Prior to her current role, she served as Executive Director of Children's Future International. She has worked in Guatemala, Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, India, Nepal, and Cambodia, and spent extensive time working in East Africa. Her professional experience includes grant writing, leading fundraising campaigns, refugee resettlement, acting as a liaison for governmental programming transitions, social business development, volunteer management program development, managing individuals from multiple cultures, managing multiple stakeholder groups, and consulting with the United Nations. She holds a Masterís degree in Nonprofit Management from Regis University and a bachelor's degree in International Studies, Peace and Justice and Religion from Hastings College.

Sarah Zullo

Managing Director, African Community Center (ACC), D.C. Metro

Sarah Zullo oversees social service support programs targeting African newcomer communities in the Washington, D.C., area. The programs address employment and job placement, cultural adjustment, domestic violence prevention, health education, housing, immigration, interpretation and translation, information and referral, refugee resettlement, and youth life skills. Prior to coming to Arlington, Ms. Zullo worked for the ECDC African Community Center in Denver for nearly four years, serving as Resettlement Manager for almost two years of that time. Since moving to Arlington in 2012, Ms. Zullo worked as ECDCís Special Programs Officer at the national level. She holds an M.A. in Public Administration from the University of Colorado. Her prior work experience includes working as a Volunteer Resources Manager and a TANF Project Job Developer. She also served as an intern in the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender. In addition to English, she speaks Amharic, French, and Spanish.

National Program Staff

Anam Gnaho

Associate Director, Community Integration Programs

Anam oversees ECDC’s self-sufficiency programs, including the Matching Grant, Preferred Communities, and Refugee AmeriCorps programs. She monitors and evaluates programs, provides technical assistance and training, and assists with proposal writing and research. Prior to ECDC, Anam worked in various capacities for governmental, non-profit and international organizations. Ms. Gnaho received a law degree from the University of Pune in India; a Master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University; and a Master’s degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University.

Benaiah Duku

Program Officer

Benaiah conducts ECDC’s refugee allocations process, including attending weekly allocations meetings, requesting assurances from site offices, reviewing and submitting reports, and following up on inquiries regarding the status of pending cases. In the past, Mr. Duku worked in various capacities for the government of Sudan, the Office of African Studies at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and the International Organization for Migrations (IOM). He has experience both in governmental and non-governmental organizations and has specialized in cultural orientation.  Mr. Duku received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Social Studies from the University of Khartoum, and holds a Master’s degree in Political Science, Development Option from the American University in Cairo.

Emily Nesheim Bullock

Associate Director, Refugee Resettlement Program

Emily is responsible for the day-to-day operations of ECDC’s refugee resettlement efforts. Before joining ECDC, she was the Immigration Services Coordinator in the Refugee Resettlement Department at the Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. Emily holds a Master’s degree in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Global Studies and Political Science from the University of Minnesota.

Jonathan McGonagle

R&P Program Specialist Ė Pre-Arrival

Jonathan serves as lead on the P-3 Family Reunification Program, Central American Minors Program, and Lautenberg Program. He manages assurances, inquiries, allocations, transfers, and associated case reports in ECDCís processing unit. He holds a B.A. in International Relations and Ethics & Public Policy with a minor in Arabic from University of Iowa. After graduating, Jonathan helped resettle refugees and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders in Maryland and Northern Virginia through ECDCís African Community Centers. Jonathan began as an intern with ACC-DC in Silver Spring, Maryland where he became a Reception & Placement Case Manager. Prior to his position with ECDC, Jonathan served as Lead Reception & Placement Case Manager for ACC-VA in Arlington, Virginia.

Carolyn Lamere

R&P Program Officer Ė Projects Lead

Carolyn serves as an R&P Program Officer, acting as lead staff on monitoring and monitoring and evaluation. After graduating from Rhodes College, Carolyn began an internship for the Environmental Change and Security Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, writing blog posts on topics ranging from disputes over the Nile River to population growth and sustainability. Subsequently, she worked as a program assistant and later a program associate for the International Programs department at the Population Reference Bureau, spending over two years working in the fields of population, reproductive health, and gender. Carolyn later completed a Masterís of Public Health program in the department of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kathryn Culhane

Program Officer

Kathryn is a Program Officer for the Preferred Communities program primarily focusing on Refugee AmeriCorps. Kathryn served two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA service member serving refugee and immigrant communities in Minneapolis, MN. Kathryn has a B.A. in Political Science and Global Studies from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

Linda Renland

Program Specialist

Linda serves as the R&P Program Specialist for Post-Arrival Processing. She has worked with refugees in Norway, Thailand, and now in the U.S. Linda holds a Masterís degree in Migration and Diaspora Studies from the School Of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and a Bachelorís degree in Southeast Asian Studies from Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand.

Luwam Alemayehu

Program Officer

Luwam is a Program Officer for the Preferred Communities program. Luwam has a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Washington, Seattle and work experience in research, curriculum development and mentoring.

Rebecca D. Hailemeskel

R&P Program Officer

Rebecca serves as an R&P Program Officer, providing guidance on Cultural Orientation and Gender. She has over ten years of experience in international and local NGOís as a gender advisor, program manager, project coordinator and a trainer. The thematic areas she was involved in includes issues of human trafficking, child protection, HIV/AIDS, gender mainstreaming, and womenís empowerment. Rebecca holds an MA in Gender Studies from Addis Ababa University and a BA in Organizational Management and Leadership from The International Leadership Institute in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ron Hedrick

Program Officer

Ron is a Program Officer for the Matching Grant Program. He has worked with a local refugee resettlement agency providing employment services, monitoring and evaluating program outcomes, maintaining case files, and supervising case workers, interns and volunteers. Ron holds a M.A. in Political Science, and a B.A. in Anthropology.

Sophie Albert

Program Officer

Sophie serves as a Program Officer for the Preferred Communities program. She started her work in refugee resettlement as an Intern of the Preferred Communities Program at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) and later on supported the R&P program of ECDCís African Community Center (ACC). Before moving to the US, Sophie worked for the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) at universities in Egypt and Pakistan, where she taught German language, linguistics and cultural studies and developed a curriculum for a Bachelorís program. Sophie holds a Masterís Degree in German as Foreign Language from University of Leipzig, Germany and Ain-Shams-University, Egypt and a Bachelorís Degree in Arabic studies from the University of Leipzig.

Yeshareg Haileyesus

Program Specialist

Yeshareg is Program Specialist for Processing in the Reception and Placement Program. Her prior positions include Engineering Assistant, Data Entry Supervisor at ABB, Inc. Yeshareg has a diploma in Hotel Management and a Librarianship Certificate from Mendoza Training College and Oxford College, respectively. She lived and worked in London before relocating to the U.S.

Wossenseged Hailu

IT Manager

Wossen is the IT Manager overseeing the information technology system for ECDC headquarters and branch offices. He manages database, messaging, network, security, server, VPN, and ECDC's website. Wossen has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.