Board Members

KOSD Board

Andrew Rae, Board Chair

Andrew Rae was elected as Board Chair to KOSD in 2011 for a three year term. He lived and worked in Mae La Oon, a Karen refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border from 2008 to 2009. While in the camp, Andrew taught as an English Language Instructor for The Northern Karen Junior College (NKJC) and also served as a Program Manager and Instructor for the participatory photography-based Record of Truth program (ROT). He has been a very active KOSD Board Chair since 2011.


Sawsein Kyoekooh, Board Vice Chair

Sawsein co-founded KOSD and has served as the organization’s Board Member since August of 2009. He grew up as a refugee in Thailand, where he felt little hope as he faced a difficult life with few opportunities. In 2003, he finished his academic work at Eden Valley High School and taught in Thailand for three years. He came to San Diego in June, 2007 and started working with the International Rescue Committee as a Case Worker Assistant, later becoming a Case Manager. He has been a very active KOSD Board Member since 2009.


Grace Michel, Board Secretary

Grace Michel has been a volunteer with the Karen Organization of San Diego since 2013 and joined the KOSD Board in February 2014. She is second-generation Karen American, and her mother was born in Rangoon, Burma. Grace helped create and launch HOMESPUN, the intergenerational weaving program at KOSD, and she was a winner of the 2014 Social Innovation Challenge at University of San Diego for this project. Grace has worked with the community of refugees from Burma in Seattle as well as nationally through the Karen American Communities Foundation. She has spent time on the Burma-Thailand border as an educator for refugees and worked for the US Campaign for Burma. She works at the Center for Peace and Commerce at the University of San Diego, where she recently completed her M.A. in Peace and Justice Studies. Grace has worked at human rights organizations in the US, Peru, Thailand and Switzerland, where she focused on gender-based violence and mentoring youth as change-agents. Grace is trained in dialogue facilitation, conflict resolution, mediation, human rights advocacy, and trauma healing.


Sierra Visher, Board Treasurer

Sierra Visher is newly involved with the Karen community. For the past several years she has lived in Nairobi, Kenya helping to start, scale and then manage a national public health program with Innovations for Poverty Action. The program successfully dewormed 5.9 million children in the first year of operations, and continues to be on track to eliminating intestinal worms as a public health problem in Kenya. She is excited to use her skills in program and operational development at KOSD and support the refugee community to thrive. She is currently the Director of Programs and Operations at San Diego Social Venture Partners, an organization that empowers engaged philanthropists and local mission driven organizations to make a positive change in San Diego.


Ralph Achenbach, Board Member

Ralph Achenbach, KOSD’s Board Secretary since 2011, has been working with refugee populations in San Diego for nearly a decade. In his current capacity at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in San Diego, he provides programming and services in agricultural entrepreneurship reaching resettled refugees from around the world, including individuals and families from Burma. Ralph chaired the San Diego Refugee Forum, the multi-agency collaborative, from 2010 through 2011. Ralph holds a Bachelors of Science in Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Masters in Modern Chinese Studies (Economy and Management) from the University of Cambridge (both in the UK). He has been a very active KOSD Board Secretary since 2011.


Brent Freeman, Board Member

Brent started to work with refugees in the Great Lakes region of Africa for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while researching his MA thesis for a degree in Conflict Transformation from the School for International Training in Vermont. He later returned to UNHCR, managing a 17,000 person refugee settlement in eastern Uganda.In 2008, he made the transition back to the United States, applying his experience coordinating support for refugees in East Africa as Resettlement Program Manager for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in San Diego. He has been a very active KOSD Board Member since 2013.


Carolyn Smyth, Board Member

No bio yet.


Ku Ku, Board Member

Ku Ku has been involved with the Karen community in San Diego since 2010 when he was resettled in San Diego. He has been a strong leader in the community since then. He has been a Chair of the Community Leaders Committee (board sub-committee) since 2013, and has played an important role at the Karen New Year Celebration events since 2012. He lived in Mae La Oon Karen refugee camp where he worked at a health clinic as a supervisor before moving to the U.S.


Ta Aye Wha, Board Member

Ta Aye Wha has been one of the strongest female leaders from Burma in San Diego. She lived in Mae La Karen refugee camp for more than 15 years before moving to the U.S. For cultural events for public education, Ta Aye Wha has been teaching Karen ethnic dances to younger generations since she moved to the U.S. in 2007. She serves the Community Leader Committee as Vice Chair.


Jason Ro, Board Member

Jason Ro has been involved with the Karen community in San Diego since 2007 when he was resettled in San Diego. He has been a leader in the largest Karen church in San Diego. He lived in Mar La Refugee Camp before he moved to the U.S


Yaw Lay Htoo, Board Member

Yaw Lay Htoo has been involved with the Karen community in San Diego since 2011. He has been recognized as a great leader in the community since then. His deep insight and wisdom have helped KOSD improve its programs. He lived in Mar Ra Oon Karen refugee camp until 2011 where he served the community as a section leader.


Maung Tin Win, Board Member

Maung Tin Win has been involved with the Karen community in San Diego since 2007. His family was one of a few Karen families resettled in San Diego for the first time. He lived in Mae La Karen refugee camp before moving to the U.S. where he was active working with community


Pleh Paw, Board Member

Pleh Paw is another strong female Karen leader in San Diego. Since she was resettled in San Diego in 2010, she has been actively involved in the Karen community as an ethnic dance instructor. As a mother of three boys, she also has been helping local elementary school to assist community members from Burma as a volunteer interpreter. She lived in Mae Ra Oon Karen refugee camp for more than 10 years where she was a school teacher.


Ta Lue, Board Member

After living in Umpiem Karen refugee camp for more than 15 years, Ta Lue has been involved in the community of refugees from Burma since 2010. He is one of the younger community leaders in San Diego.