OUR TEAM BIOS
After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Iowa, Alex Abbeduto set out to make a difference in her community. After volunteering as an ESL tutor and interning with a local women’s political organization, Alex realized she could begin her peacebuilding journey at home with Hands of Peace as Office Administrator. Alex is excited to learn about nonprofit operations in her position and discover where her true skills and passions lie. In her free time Alex practices her foreign language skills and keeps track of current events in order to lay the foundation for a diplomatic career.
A peacebuilder and leader, Hamze Awawde is committed to inspiring and empowering youth to create change. Before joining Hands of Peace as Palestinian Regional Manager, Hamze recruited young participants for skill-building and conflict resolution programs with YaLa Young Leaders, where he developed the YaLa Online Academy, YaLa Press, and YaLa Social Media channels. Most recently, Hamze organized and recruited 130 young activists from the Middle East and Africa for a 6-week online leadership course and coordinated an online Facebook for Journalists program with the International Center of Journalists. Hamze earned an MA in Global Community Development from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Business Administration and Economics from Birzeit University in Ramallah.
As Founder of Hands of Peace, Gretchen has served many roles over the life of the organization, focusing on leadership, strategic planning, and fundraising as the organization has grown. Gretchen currently serves on the Board of Directors, where she invites supporters to discover how they can find meaningful ways to support the mission and the always-growing financial needs of the organization. Gretchen holds a BA in Mathematics and Economics from Hamilton College and an MBA from the University of Chicago. From 1985 to 1997, Gretchen worked for First Chicago Capital Markets, as an economist, securities trader and fixed income expert; she left as a Managing Director.
Rana Haddad is the Palestinian Citizens of Israel Regional Manager for Hands of Peace. She began her career with Hands of Peace as a participant in 2003 and an XL in 2004. She then came back as a chaperone in 2008, and was promoted to Regional Manager in 2009. She has received her BA in Pharmacy from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and currently works as a pharmacist at Meuhedet, which is the third largest health care provider in Israel. She balances her job as a pharmacist with her work for Hands of Peace and continues to help develop young leaders dedicated to peace in the Middle East.
Husam Jubran brings his extensive peace and conflict resolution experience to Hands of Peace as Director of Facilitation. Engaged in community organizing and activism from a young age, he earned a Fulbright to attain a masters degree in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University and now educates others in conflict management, crisis management, and nonviolence. As a tour guide, Husam works for Mejdi Tours which offers dual narrative tours of Israel/Palestine. Husam also works as a political and interfaith tour guide to the Holy Land. Husam also served as a representative of Palestine and Jordan in Synergos’ social entrepreneurship programs from 2007 to 2017.
As Director of Development, Diana Kutlow is responsible for strategic planning and development of fundraising initiatives for Hands of Peace. Diana has a BA in history from Barnard College at Columbia University, a Master’s in Peace and Justice from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at University of San Diego (USD), and a certificate in Non-Profit Management from USD. Diana joined Hands of Peace after a long tenure at the Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice, where she managed the Distinguished Lecture Series, and served as Director of Development and Alumni Relations for the Kroc School. In previous positions at the New York Post, CBS Sports and ABC Sports, she covered national and international sports events, including several Olympic Games.
Deborah brings her award-winning media, public relations and branding savvy to Hands of Peace as Marketing and Communications Specialist. Deborah has recently partnered with many high-profile clients for event planning, messaging and brand development including the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Her creative leadership helped to propel NBC 7 San Diego, an NBC-owned television station, to long-term ratings success. Deborah has been rewarded with multiple regional Emmys, a national Emmy and four San Diego Press Club awards for journalistic excellence. She is also the proud recipient of the YWCA “Women and Industry” TWIN Award and she was recently inducted into the National Television Academy’s Silver Circle, a prestigious honor roll of professionals who have made significant contributions to television.
Most recently a diplomat with the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, Scott brings extensive peacebuilding skills and a keen understanding of the region to Hands of Peace as Executive Director. From 2009-2019, Scott led people-to-people work with the U.S. Foreign Service. An advocate for strong relations and continued engagement with youth, even through periods of disruptive political change, he managed foreign assistance grants, directed initiatives on Palestinian/Israeli cooperation, and formed public-private partnerships on research and economic development. One of those initiatives was the Hands of Peace/EcoPeace Middle East Project in 2018. Beyond his experience in the Middle East, Scott has worked in Washington D.C., Warsaw and Asmara. Scott lives with his wife Brooke and their seven children in Spokane, Washington.
Alicen comes to Hands of Peace with over a decade of experience in interfaith organizing, youth empowerment training, and academic research in conflict transformation. Alicen, with a Master of Divinity from Yale University and a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from Smith College, has lived and studied for many years in Israel and Palestine, having received several grants to study Hebrew, Arabic, and International Relations in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Bethlehem. For Alicen, the privilege of living within both Israeli and Palestinian communities and meeting youth dedicated to justice and equality motivates her passion for fostering positive peace.
As Site Director, Alicen is responsible for youth programming, including all aspects of the Summer Program, leading outreach and engagement with alumni in the United States, and coordinating alumni programming with Hands of Peace Regional Managers in the region.
Ayala Shalev brings a unique combination of skills, commitment and vision to Hands of Peace as Jewish Israeli Regional Manager. Fluent in English and Hebrew, Ayala is passionate about peace and justice in the region. Ayala has managed the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony and worked with The Parents Circle – Families Forum, co-leading its Young Ambassadors for Peace Program. She also created a volunteer program that presents creative workshops for young cancer patients at Shiba Hospital in Tel Aviv. Throughout her peacebuilding career, Ayala has created both uninational and binational dialogue programs – designed for participants to see “the other.” Ayala graduated Magna Cum Laude from Tel Aviv University with a BA and an MA in Democratic Education.
Raising Youth Voices Program Coordinator, Dania Zanaid, is a fourth year International Studies-Political Science student at UC San Diego with a passion for global affairs. She has interned on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC for a Representative on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and spent time abroad in Europe studying Mediterranean politics and migrant issues. She is also always eager to make an impact locally such as when she interned with the International Rescue Committee, a non-profit refugee resettlement organization where she helped conduct English coaching and job training for adults and youth. Dania is very excited to continue the important work of bringing diverse voices together to create a space where everyone can be heard.
ALEJANDRO MARQUEZ JR.
M&E and Mentoring Program Intern
A Hands of Peace 2021 summer intern, Alejandro Marquez Jr. is a passionate youth advocate and a graduate student at the University of San Diego pursuing a Master’s degree in Peace and Justice. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Justice Studies with a minor in Human Rights from San Jose State University, and recently earned a certificate in Restorative Justice and Facilitation Leadership. Alejandro decided to intern for Hands of Peace, because he is passionate in supporting youth along their journey of becoming change makers and becoming their authentic selves. His interests include program monitoring and evaluation, and creating/developing mentoring programs. He is excited at the opportunity of learning new skills and applying the skills he currently possess at Hands of Peace.
Program Monitoring and Evaluation Intern
A Hands of Peace 2021 summer intern, Melanie is an international educator, returned Peace Corps volunteer, and graduate student at the Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in Holocaust studies from The College of New Jersey and a TEFL Certificate from the Center for Applied Linguistics. In 2012 Melanie spent six months studying at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, Israel, which changed her life and inspired her to move more reflectively and compassionately through our world. Melanie previously served with the Peace Corps as an English education volunteer in Madagascar and has worked as a teacher and facilitator in Thailand, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. Melanie believes wholeheartedly in the power of youth to affect positive change