Board of Directors

Sahra Abdi, Executive Director

Sahra Abdi, a Somali refugee woman, who has consistently demonstrated unwavering dedication to addressing the physical, economic, mental, and social well-being of East African women and their families for over 18 years. Her commitment shines through her multifaceted work in health education, advocacy, and social services. As a co-founder of the United Women of East Africa Support Team (UWEAST), a nonprofit organization, she has remained resolute in her mission to enhance the overall health and well-being of San Diego’s East African women and families. Sahra also played a significant role in creating the San Diego Refugee Community Coalition. This coalition has brought together 13 ethnic-based organizations into a cohesive model that has made explicit contributions to diverse refugee populations within the Afghan, East African, Haitian, Karen/Burmese, Middle Eastern, Russian, and Ukrainian communities. Sahra’s remarkable efforts have garnered well-deserved recognition. In 2006, she was honored with the California Peace Prize from the California Wellness Foundation, acknowledging her outstanding contributions.

Anna Slaby, Director

As Vice President of Housing and Real Estate Development, Anna Slaby supervises the team of project managers in design, entitlement, finance, closing and construction. She reports to the Chief Executive Officer of Community HousingWorks (CHW). Anna  brings nearly three decades of experience in single and multi-family real estate development. Prior to joining CHW in August 2022, Anna worked for nonprofit and for-profit affordable housing developers, as well as market rate developers throughout California. Responsible for all aspects of the development life cycle, Anna has managed affordable housing developments from conception through construction, lease-up and occupancy. Having developed a number of Southern California’s most innovative affordable and supportive housing developments, Anna’s expertise includes: Type I construction, historic rehabilitation/preservation, mixed use as well as moderate to high density residential construction. These developments provided experience in community engagement, underwriting, design, contract management, construction oversight and budget management. Anna earned a B.S. in Finance with an emphasis in real estate from San Diego State University.

Alex Metz, Director

Alex is an accomplished fundraising and community relations professional with a background in development, membership, and community engagement across a range of organizations, from prominent national groups to grassroots startups. As the Chair of the United Women of East African Support Team (UWEAST) Finance Committee, she works with fellow board members and organization leaders to help guide UWEAST’s financial strategies and ensure long-term sustainability. Currently serving as the Senior Gifts Officer with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Foundation, Alex spearheads institutional fundraising efforts and manages a portfolio of individual major donors, driving support for ULI’s global initiatives in areas of affordable housing, climate resilience, and decarbonization. Her interest in civic engagement led her to earn a Master’s in Public Administration from San Diego State University in 2017, where she concentrated on public and social welfare policy. Alex lives in La Mesa with her partner and their three cats. She enjoys traveling with friends, cooking (and eating) vegan food, and spending time in the water.

Michael McKay, Director

Michael is a Continuing Lecturer at Rady School of Management. He teaches MGT 18 Managing Diverse Teams and MGT 16 Personal Ethics at Work. This Summer he will team-teach a Global Seminar in Dublin/London with his wife Mary McKay. Michael also enjoys volunteering on two nonprofit boards that serve refugee and asylee communities in San Diego: United Women of East Africa Support Team (UWEAST) and Survivors of Torture, International (SURVIVORS).

Sarah Tuakli Cooper, Chairperson

Sarah Tuakli Cooper trained in composition with computers and spent 20 years teaching music composition and production in her home-town of London, before moving to San Diego in 2008. Since moving to the US, Sarah has established a wide network of friends and colleagues in a number of nonprofits including: The League of Amazing Programmers where she is currently the Executive Director, Voices for Children with whom she volunteers as a CASA as well as teaching Relationship Building to incoming volunteers and serving on the Marketing Steering Committee, and United Women of East Africa Support Team (UWEAST), where she is Chair of the Board of Directors. She has also been Co-Chair for the Jobs and Education Working Group for the San Diego Promise Zone. Sarah’s global perspective, extensive background in tech education, and commitment to serving diverse San Diego communities inform a leadership approach that is taking the League of Amazing Programmers to new and exciting heights, exploring ways to genuinely create diversity, equity, and inclusion in a field that is traditionally exclusive. Last year she was recognized as a Woman of Influence in Technology in the San Diego Business Journal and is increasingly sought after as a thought leader on issues of diversity in tech.

Anna Shayo, Secretary

Anna Shayo is an experienced professional with a strong background in operations and a passion for promoting equity and social change through her work. As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Fruitcraft Distillery and Event Venue (Fruitcraft), she holds a crucial position in the company, where she is responsible for developing policies, ensuring compliance, overseeing projects and budgets, and working towards achieving the business objectives of the company by promoting efficiency and profitability. Anna’s academic background includes a B.A. in International Development and Social Change from Clark University in Worcester, MA. Her interest in the role of food in shaping culture and its impact on indigenous and migrant communities in the U.S. has been a driving force in her career. Before her current role at FruitCraft, she actively participated in food justice movements, working with indigenous and refugee communities in southern California. Anna’s commitment to community organizing and equity extends beyond the nonprofit sector. She brings her grassroots organizing framework and dedication to creating a more equitable workplace to the for-profit food & beverage and events industry.

Abraham Tessema, Treasurer

Abraham Tessema is a community-oriented Chief Executive Officer leading Safari Business Group LLC with a focus on organizational excellence and community needs. As Treasurer on the United Women of East Africa Support Team (UWEAST) board, he ensures financial stability while making a positive impact on the community served.

Mahedere Berhanu, Board Member

Mahedere Berhanu is a highly accomplished professional with a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. As Senior Quality Control Specialist at GenMark Diagnostics, and a member of the United Woman of East Africa Support Team (UWEAST) board, she ensures the organization’s excellence by implementing effective quality control measures. With a passion for utilizing her counseling skills, Mahedere fosters a supportive work environment where employees can thrive, driving UWEAST towards continued success.