Women of the World provides hope, support, supplies, education, and positivity to hundreds of women refugees and their families. We are proud of our team and their tireless efforts to continue to empower the forcibly displaced women of Utah:
Founder & Executive Director
Samira Harnish is the Founder and Executive Director of Women of the World. Women of the World is a women refugee, asylum seeker, and immigrant service and capacity building nonprofit that has been in operation in Salt Lake City since 2010.
After getting her degree in Civil Engineering, she worked for 17 years as an R&D engineer at the largest domestic manufacturer of semiconductor memory.
Samira founded Women of the World to fulfill a lifelong dream of helping women achieve self-sufficiency and her leadership has enabled WoW to become the preeminent women’s refugee service organization in Utah.
Samira has received local, national, and international recognition for her service leadership including: The Enlightened 50 Award from the Utah Community Foundation, the 2014 Salt Lake City Human Rights Award, the 2016 Ruby Award from the Soroptomists of Utah, and the 2017 Emerald Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement. In 2018, she was awarded the America’s Region Nansen Award from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland, she was chosen from over 450 international nominees. In April 2019 she was awarded the 2019 American Red Cross Hero for her extraordinary Heroic act of Global Citizenship.
Operations Manager-- Administrative
Candice brings a variety of experience to her position as Case Manager at WOW. Educated in history, humanities, literature, and education, she has been an office administrator, secondary teacher, and adjunct professor during her life as an "eternal student." She’s always been interested in women’s issues, highlighted by her thesis research on women writers in Uganda and her Arabic language study. She loves to travel and has lived abroad in Europe and the Middle East for years at a time. She’s excited to bring all her interests and experience to bear on behalf of the remarkable international women in Salt Lake City.
Outside of work, Candice has five smart, crazy kids and has been married to a remarkable man for 21 years--the love of her life and the reason she stays sane. She loves to be in the mountains, read, cook, sew, and travel.
Melanie Vlam- Findeis
Melanie is a native Utahn and learned from a young age how enriching diversity can be. She comes from a big family that includes siblings from Guatemala and India. Melanie has worked in a variety of fields and first became involved with the nonprofit sector when traveling to Peru a few times on humanitarian aid expeditions. She saw first-hand what teaching and providing the correct tools could do to strengthen individuals and families. Melanie developed a further sense of doing good in the world while working for an international nonprofit that uses microfinance and education to help end generational poverty.
When Melanie first learned of and then researched Women of the World, she knew it was where she wanted to be. She loves the mission and vision of WoW and the focus on improving the lives of women who are forcibly displaced and live locally. Melanie firmly believes that when a woman is empowered to be her best self, the ripple effect has no end.
Melanie is happily married and together they have 10 children and 17 grandchildren. They enjoy traveling, family, good food, and good fun.
Intensive English Teacher
Dan's interest in refugee services began in 2016 when he worked full-time with newly arrived refugees in San Diego, California. Throughout college, he served as a Program Director for a non-profit organization specializing in business education and community development projects in rural Tanzania. As part of his academic research, he conducted in-depth interviews with survivors of a 2004 massacre. This experience led him to produce his capstone research project on memorialization and its effects on reconciliation. Recently, he returned from Washington DC, where he conducted research on current China-Africa relations. He aspires to make this the focus of his professional career.
Dan is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University, where he majored in political science and minored in international development. His passion for teaching started in China, where he taught English for five months. He is from Spanish Fork, Utah, and is one of six children.
Emily grew up in Ohio but spent much of her adult life in Boston, MA before settling in Utah with her family. She graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in Social Work and has experience in a variety of non-profit settings between small social service organizations and a large university. She has worked as a case manager, as a photographer, and worked in fundraising and communications in public health. She feels at home in the nonprofit world and sees such value and potential in supporting local communities.
In her downtime, Emily is often trying to grow something new in her vegetable garden and is working on successfully growing vegetables in all four seasons. She loves a good library book, camping anywhere you can see the stars, and exploring the mountains with her family.
Operations Manager -- Programs
Ryan is originally from San Diego California and got her bachelor's degree at Brigham Young University and her Masters at the London School of Economics studying Anthropology and Development. She found anthropology combined her passions for history, languages, and the arts into one subject that focused on human complexities. In her experience, she has learned that sustainable change best comes from learning about the beautiful cultural differences that exist around the world. She has worked and done research with Amazonian Indigenous groups in Ecuador and with various NGOs throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and Uganda. The majority of Ryan's past experiences revolved around empowering women in their surroundings and she is excited to bring what she has learned to the growth and support of Women of the World.
She believes every encounter with someone new is an opportunity to learn and when not working is outside far more than inside.
Education and Outreach Specialist
Ever since she was a child, Ghinwa felt an urge to extend help to anyone in need. After graduating with a degree in English Literature from University of Damascus, she turned that urge into a career when she joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in her home country of Syria. In that capacity, Ghinwa helped refugees leave their shattered lives behind and head towards a brighter future in the United States through resettlement.
When the Syrian Civil War began, Ghinwa moved to the United States where she obtained a Master's degree in Coexistence and Conflict Resolution at one of the top ten social policy and management schools in the country, Brandeis University. Now, as part of WoW team, Ghinwa is doing what she has always been passionate about, helping others!
Economic Empowerment Program Manager
Roxie is originally from Indianapolis, IN but has lived across the country and the world. In addition to English, she speaks German, French and is working on learning Spanish! Roxie received a Bachelor's Degree in International Studies with a concentration in Human Rights and International Law from Indiana University and is passionate about empowering forcibly displaced women! Her experience includes interning at La Revue Diplomatique magazine in Dakar and the ACLU of Utah, and she has worked in homeless services and at the Utah Refugee Services Office.
When she is not at work, she loves to be outside in the mountains or the desert, volunteering in the community, traveling, or spending time with friends. She is looking forward to meeting you!
Ruby graduated from Utah State University with her Bachelor’s in Global Communication, minoring in French. She grew up in Spanish Fork, UT in a big, loud, loving family and loves to spend time with them as often as possible.
Growing up in a multi-cultural family herself, Hawaiian and American, she has always been drawn to learning about other cultures and peoples. She has visited and lived in several places including, Alaska, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Benin. She found her passion in working with vulnerable populations and expanding her outlook on the world.
She is excited to meet and work with the amazing and gifted people associated with Women of the World.
Case Manager, Employment Specialist
Yaël mostly grew up in Paris, France, and was raised in a multicultural French and Afro-Caribbean family. She is a self-taught English speaker, knows Spanish, and loves sustainable fashion, gastronomy and sightseeing. With a degree in Computer Science and Online Communications and another in Journalism, she worked as a writer in the Tech and Travel industries before moving to the US in 2019, where she started building experience in the Customer Experience field. Throughout her polyvalent career, Yaël developed a passion for working closely with people from all backgrounds and incidentally started volunteering as a mentor with Women of the World.
Having navigated the US immigration and employment systems herself, she is excited to put her personal experiences, professional skills and network at the service of WoW’s gifted clients!
Setayesh is originally from Afghanistan and moved to Salt Lake City last year from California. She has experience working as Case Manager, security officer, and also in the service industry. She is currently working on her GED for US diploma equivalency and speaks over 5 languages. Setayesh is also talented in crocheting, teaching English, sewing, and cooking. She has a passion for supporting women from her own country and from around the world!.
Laura is a passionate advocate for women's empowerment. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor's degree in Middle East Studies and Arabic. She loves to travel internationally and at university, she took the opportunity to study abroad three times, including two language-intensive programs in Morocco and Turkey. Besides traveling, she loves reading, gardening, hiking, and writing. While interning at the International Rescue Committee, Laura discovered her passion for refugee social work. She believes economic and cultural integration is best achieved through community support and mentorship.
She is so excited to use those tools to help displaced women accomplish their goals at Women of the World!
Case Manager, Employer Specialist
Coming from a Syrian family, Alan was born and grew up in Venezuela understanding what it means to be an immigrant. Before coming to the US, he got a bachelor's in communication and social development, and a master's in communications and human development, developing a passion for diversity, inclusion, and equality.
He's been an independent journalist for a decade and recently became an independent researcher with a focus on literature, paying special attention in both fields to mental health and identity. When he couldn't stay in Venezuela anymore for safety reasons, he moved to the US and helped his family do the same, giving him personal experiences as an immigrant. When not working, Alan likes to spend his time around books, his family, and his dog, watch a good movie, and study Arabic.