Staff Bios


Hoda Barakat is the Palestinian Regional Manager for Hands of Peace. She has been working with HOP since 2007 and has successfully recruited a wide range of diverse Palestinian teens from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Hoda is involved in co-planning and executing our Middle East Alumni Program and leadership program. She earned a degree in Civil Engineering but has found her passion working with people and focusing on youth development. Hoda believes that change comes from the people. She works with young adults to empower them as leaders of change in their own communities.


As our Jewish Israeli Regional Manager, together with Hoda and Rana, Amit is responsible for overseeing all of HOP’s work in the Middle East. Our work in the Region includes bi-national seminars, continued dialogues, tours and community service, as well as leadership programs and new initiatives that our alumni in the Middle East develop in the years after they’ve joined Hands of Peace. Amit worked in various facilitation roles throughout her career, including leading workshops for Arab and Jewish Israeli High Schools and divided communities in Israel. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Hebrew University.


As our Marketing and Communications Consultant, Mindi is responsible for all of our marketing strategies and communications, including production of marketing materials, implementation of marketing plans, and production of all external communications. and an MA in Literature and Writing from Cal State San Marcos, and has been working as a marketing strategist for over 25 years.


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.


San Diego Site Director, Sarah Heirendt, is responsible for overseeing the summer program and year-round projects that take place in the San Diego area. This includes community education and outreach, participant and volunteer recruitment, alumni engagement and event planning as well as coordination and execution of the many details that go into the summer program. Sarah served as our San Diego Assistant Program Director in 2016 as well as one of the leadership training facilitators. She received her BA from Vanguard University in Cultural Anthropology and her MS from George Mason University in Conflict Resolution.


Husam Jubran has a master’s degree from the Eastern Mennonite University in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding, and a diploma in tourism. In addition to serving as our Director of Facilitation, Husam also works as political and interfaith tour guide to the Holy Land. He works with Mejdi Tours providing tours to National Geographic Expeditions. In his free time he provides trainings in conflict management, crisis management, and nonviolence.


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.


As Executive Director, Rick helps develop and implement the strategic direction for Hands of Peace, as it strives for a just and positive peace for all Israelis and Palestinians. He manages the Hands of Peace staff in both the United States and Middle East in operations, programming, and fund development. Rick brings a wealth of experience in international travel, risk and crisis management, strategic planning and business/non-profit management.He has a keen interest in the Middle East. Rick holds a BS in Journalism (Medill School) and an MBA (Kellogg School of Management) both from Northwestern University.


As Administrative Coordinator, Ryan Harris will support our Executive Director, Director of Development and Marketing Consultant on a variety of tasks, including processing incoming donations, updating the website, grant research, daily office tasks and more. Ryan was a Hand in 2012 and an XL in 2013. He graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in Linguistics. His experiences with Hands of Peace led him to learn Hebrew and Arabic, minor in Politics and Middle East North Africa, and live and study in Beer Sheva during the 2016-2017 school year.


Chicago Site Director, Darling Kittoe, is responsible for overseeing the Summer Program and year-round projects that take place in the Chicago area. This includes community education and outreach, participant and volunteer recruitment, alumni engagement and event planning as well as coordination and execution of the many details that go into the Summer Program. Darling received her B.A. in International Relations from Lake Forest College. Darling is an accomplished leader with a passion for mobilizing young people to develop critical life and leadership skills through creative approaches.