UNA-Westchester Board of Directors, 2019-2021
President: J. Yuhanna Edwards has served on the Board of UNA-Westchester for several years, most recently as Advocacy Chair. He has served as a member of the Mount Vernon City Council and has held other city government posts, including Commissioner of Parks and Recreation and director of Civil Defense and Emergency Services. He is also a New York State licensed insurance consultant. He has served on the board for two years in the capacity of advocacy committee cochair. As a combat paramedic in the Vietnam War, Mr. Edwards received a gunshot wound and was honorably discharged in 1968. In addition to the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Distinguished Service Military Awards, Mr. Edwards has received numerous awards for his dedication to youth and senior citizens and outstanding community service. He holds several leadership positions, board appointments, and organization memberships, including Omega Psi Phi’s Omicron Iota Chapter. Mr. Edwards is a graduate of Mercy College. He has been married for 43 years and has three children and five grandchildren.
Vice President and Program Chair: Marcia M. Brewster served as president of UNA-Westchester for seven years from 2011-2018 and was elected to the UNA-USA National Council in 2018. She worked for the UN for over 30 years, both in New York and at the regional UN office for Asia and the Pacific, based in Bangkok, Thailand. She devoted most of her career to United Nations programs related to water, sustainable development and gender. Until 2006 she was Senior Officer for water resources in the Sustainable Development Division at United Nations headquarters in New York. She served as Manager of the UN’s Interagency Task Force on Gender and Water and is deeply concerned about gender equality and women’s empowerment. She is currently a senior consultant with Nautilus International Development Consulting in New York, and has recently undertaken assignments with the Village of Haverstraw, the United Nations Development Program, the Nature Conservancy, the World Water Council and the Global Environment Facility. She has an MSc from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and spent 13 years living and working in Asia. She lives in Hastings on Hudson and has twin sons.
Second Vice President: Lilli Schindler has worked for the United Nations in the Department of Public Information (now the Department for Global Communications, DGC) for the past 27 years. She is currently Chief of Group Programmes and Public Inquiries, Visitors Services Section, Outreach Division, DGC. Previously, she worked in the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Section of DPI. She began her career in the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General. Having grown up in Westchester, she comes from a UN family, as her father, a Brazilian national, and her mother, a Dutch national, both worked for the organization from its inception. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University and an M.A. from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).
Treasurer: Jan Fischer was a staff member of the United Nations Department for Public Information for over 25 years; he worked for the Secretariat, General Assembly and the Security Council. He served in the UN Information Centre for Australia and the Pacific (Sydney) and in the Centre for Western Europe (Brussels). Mr. Fischer traveled widely with the UN, especially in North Africa, the Middle and Near East, including four visits to Iraq. He was the liaison person for interagency cooperation for 20 years. As DPI liaison, Mr. Fischer worked closely with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, many Special Representatives of the S-G, Special Rapporteurs and Under-Secretaries-General. He elaborated a $75 million bi-annual budget covering 63 locations and about 300 staff world-wide. He has worked closely with UNAs in the USA, Australia, Belgium and Scotland. He also hosted the annual meeting of European members of the World Federation of UNAs (WFUNA) in Brussels for 3 years. After his retirement in 2016, he has done speaking engagements in Wisconsin, the Canadian Rockies, Manhattan, Long Island, and for the Great Decisions sessions. He hails from Denmark and lives in Mamaroneck with his Australian wife; they have two sons.
Secretary: Karen Rockwell El-Badry was a staff member of the UN Secretariat in New York for 35 years, serving as Recruitment and Administrative Officer for the program of technical cooperation. Her activities past and present have focused on world peace, cooperation and understanding. She lived in Egypt and takes an active interest in issues relating to the Middle East. She has participated for more than 10 years in the Dialogue Project (New York) that engages diverse people in transformative dialogue related to the Middle East. She is also a Board member of the Center for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Understanding, an organization that promotes conversations among members of the Abrahamic faiths through outreach and educational events. Karen has been a member of the UNA-USA Westchester Board for over ten years and has served for the same period of time on the Education Committee. She coordinates a program for UNA-USA in the Yonkers public schools that introduces students to the UN and the concept of peace-making. She lives in Dobbs Ferry with her daughter.
Nominations Chair: Joan Alice Maliha Katen has served on the board of UNA-Westchester for many years, including most recently as Advocacy Co-chair. Until recently, she was an Adjunct Professor at Pace University, Pleasantville, NY. She has designed courses in Middle East Politics and is co-founder of the Peace, Justice and Sustainability Program. She was previously an instructor at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in Boston. She is Advocacy Co-chair of the UNA-USA Westchester chapter. Ms. Katen has received a number of prestigious awards, including: the National Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Service; a Congressional Proclamation honoring her for her distinguished career as an author and Middle Eastern expert; and from the American Muslim Women’s Association for “Building Bridges between Communities”. She received a Master’s Degree from Columbia University’s Department of Public Law and Government. She is the author of “Love at the Edge”, a novel concerning the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. She has held a number of positions in the government of Mamaroneck and was President of the Mamaroneck League of Women Voters.
Tricia Baldes is a middle level educator with two decades of experience working in public schools in New York. Her commitment to social action and peace education was nurtured while working in Somers Central School District, where a human rights education initiative was being pioneered. With colleagues, Tricia developed a comprehensive social action classroom curriculum for their 8th graders which served as the inspiration and the basis for Rock Your World. She continues to serve as Rock Your World’s chief program advisor. Tricia’s work with Rock Your World has grown over the years, allowing her to collaborate with various organizations and people such as Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Rebelhouse Films, and Speranza Foundation. Tricia earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Purchase College and a master’s degree in English from Lehman College. She has led multiple professional development courses and has presented at national conferences. She continues to teach eighth grade English in Somers, NY—each year inspiring a new group of students to become global citizens.
Dan Bena is an award-winning executive who served as PepsiCo’s Corporate Water Steward and led the Sustainable Development agenda for PepsiCo Global Operations. Among others, he serves/has served on the Public Health Committee of the Safe Water Network; the Leadership Group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD); Steering Board of IFC’s 2030 Water Resources Group and Steering Committee of the United Nations CEO Water Mandate. Bena currently serves on the Board of the Creative Visions Foundation, a non-profit using media and the arts to develop agents of positive social change. He has spoken at over 100 venues which span the business, government, academic, and non-profit worlds. He keynoted the UN Youth Assembly to youth delegates from over 100 countries. UNA-Westchester recognized him as a “Global Goals, Local Leader” in 2017 for his role in water partnerships which provide safe water to over 22 million people. Dan was invited by the President of the UN General Assembly to participate in a high-level panel on partnerships to advance the post-2015 Development agenda, and was named an Honorary Professor by Glasgow Caledonian University.
Oneida Cabaleiro has been working as a member of the UNA-Westchester program committee for the last three years; she has volunteered for many of UNA’s program events and participated at the national meeting in Washington D.C. in 2016. She currently works as accounting manager of the non-profit Legal Service of the Hudson Valley in White Plains. She earlier worked as a senior accountant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a senior auditor assistant at Deloitte & Touche, LLP and an operations assistant at Lehman College, among other positions. Before she came to the U.S., she was an administrative assistant at the Ministry of Energy and Mines in Lima, Peru. She currently serves on the board of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA), New York, NY. She received her BSc in Accounting and MSc in Finance from CUNY Lehman College. She also attended Westchester Community College and the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega University in Peru. Originally from Peru, she lives in White Plains with one son.
Mary Seward Downes is member of the Membership and Education committees and is working to extend our Model UN Mini-Simulation program. She is an active member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and has served as committee chair for the Scholarship Fundraising Committee and the Global Impact Program. Ms. Downes is a learning specialist for the Bedford Central School District, where she has chaired several school committees and projects. She is currently implementing the Olweus Anti-Bullying Program and served as Committee Chair. She developed the school’s “UPSTANDER” program, which included “The Bow Tie Cause” to empower youth to take a stand. She is a Marathoner and holds a certificate in coaching endurance athletes for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Ms. Downes has a BA from the University of Delaware and a Masters in Education from Mercy College. She is the mother of two teenage sons and is writing a memoir of her experiences overcoming adversity as a divorcee.
Ambassador Bob F. Jalang’o, Chair of the Adopt-A-Future committee, is a public speaker and activist who promotes Africa through workshops and seminars. He was recently an Adjunct Professor on African Studies at New York University. Mr. Jalang’o began his diplomatic career as Ambassador of Kenya to Zambia, Malawi and Botswana, and then served as Ambassador to Italy, Greece, Poland and the United Nations Agencies in Rome. In 2000 he was posted to the United Nations in New York as Permanent Representative of Kenya and served in that position until 2004. Mr. Jalang’o was initially trained in Information Technology and worked in the private sector in East Africa for 14 years as IT Manager for a U.S.-based petroleum company that provided marketing services to six Eastern and Central African countries. This was the beginning of his travels within Africa and internationally. Prior to his diplomatic service, he also served as an elected member of Kenya’s Legislature. He is a member of UNA-USA and a Peace Ambassador at the Global Prosperity and Peace Initiative. Ambassador Jalang’o has been actively involved in volunteer work including supporting an Orphanage in Kenya for children from HIV/AIDS families. His wife, Prof. Jeannette Monaco Jalango, is a Clinical Assistant Professor at NYU School of Professional Studies.
Demetrios J. Mihailidis (or Mr. M, as he is known), is an educator who spent much of his career in the Mount Vernon School District. He feels his major accomplishments as an educator, were: 1) Establishing the United Nations Club 30 years ago, that has inspired and sparked the interest of many students in global affairs and enabled them to become future ambassadors in this global society; and 2) being recognized by various organizations for his efforts in the area of Human Rights and Teaching. He serves on the Executive PTA Committee at UN International School. Mr. M has received the Spirit of Achievement and the Lifetime Service Awards from Junior Achievement and the Champion of Human Rights Award from the Westchester County Human Rights Commission. He was recognized as High School Teacher of the Year from Mount Vernon. His parents were Greek immigrants from Asia Minor. He graduated from New York University with a B.A. and M.A. in History. His career in education started in 1988 at District 7 in the South Bronx, and in 1998 he accepted a position at A.B. Davis Middle School in Mount Vernon. In 2006 he transferred to the Mount Vernon High School. He supports much of the work of UNA-Westchester with his UN Club, and we are happy to have him as a new member of the board. His future endeavors are to continue his work in the field of human rights, travel, learn and most importantly spend time with his family.
Paul Anthony Presendieu is an accomplished young professional in Westchester County, New York. He is committed to uplifting individuals of all socioeconomic backgrounds as the son of Colombian and Haitian immigrants. He currently supports the Federated Conservationists of Westchester County as their Student Network Coordinator, and Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project as a Chapter Chair and a member of the National Youth Working Group. Paul has received numerous accolades throughout his tenure of volunteerism. In 2015 he was named a recipient of the Westchester County Government’s Earth Day Award for reestablishing an observance of Earth Day at SUNY Westchester Community College. In 2018 he was named a Top 22 under 30 young professional Wunderkind by Westchester Magazine, a recipient of the Westchester County Board of Health’s J.R. Tesone Youth Public Health Service Award and was named a New York State top 40 under 40 Latino Rising Star by the Hispanic Coalition of New York Inc. Paul currently attends SUNY Westchester Community College where he is taking classes under the environmental science curriculum as a Student Alumnus to transfer to SUNY Purchase to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. Paul’s long-term goal is to pursue becoming an Environmental Attorney at PACE University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law in White Plains, New York.
Patrick Sciarratta, Chair of the Communications Committee, is President of the Vinculum Foundation, where he helps support NGO programming related to UN goals. At the United Nations, Mr. Sciarratta acts as Program Director for the World Development Foundation and works closely with the UN Department of Global Communications on public programming events. Recently, Patrick was selected by UNDGC to Co-Chair the upcoming 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference, in Salt lake City, Utah in late August 2019. Patrick was selected as Special Advisor to the Permanent Missions of Suriname and, previously, Sao Tome and Principe, between 2014-17. He was executive director of Friendship Ambassadors Foundation in Greenwich, CT, from 1993-2015. Patrick has addressed global conferences and universities on topics related to cultural exchange, peace building, and youth leadership training. From 2003-2015, he co-created and directed the Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations. In 2012, Patrick co-sponsored the first-ever TEDx conference at the U.N.: TEDxUNPLAZA. He was Director for Performing Arts at Hunter College of the City University of New York. Mr. Sciarratta has received many awards, including the MacArthur Award presented to the Palenville Interarts Colony under his direction (1980-1992; among the first MacArthur “Genius” Awards ever presented to an organization), the Governor’s Citation for Excellence from Governor Rockefeller, and is listed in four Who’s Who internationally for contributions to culture and community. Patrick served on the UNA-Westchester Board for several years until 2009 and is happy to return to service for UNA W once again.
Brenda L. Galloway Smith, Chair of the Partnerships Committee, has served on the UNA-Westchester Board for eight years, as Vice President, Partnerships Chair and Program Chair. She served from 2002 to June 2007 as Superintendent of the Mount Vernon Public Schools, following 39 years in the education system. As superintendent, she oversaw a $180 million budget and supervised a staff of 1400, with a student body of more than 10,000. Dr. Smith represents the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women to the UN, which enables her to work with other NGOs at the UN. She is the recipient of more than 100 awards for service to youth and the community from clubs, churches, fraternities and foundations. She was named New York State Teacher of the Year, among other awards. Mrs. Smith received a B.S. Degree from Livingstone College in North Carolina, and Masters from Hunter College and Columbia University. She received a Doctorate in Organization and Leadership in Educational Administration from Columbia University and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Livingstone College. Mrs. Smith is actively involved in the Mount Hope A.M.E. Zion Church, where her husband, Dr. Gregory Robeson Smith, Sr., is senior Pastor. They have three children and four grandchildren.
Christopher Swain has assisted UNA-Westchester to raise funds for its Adopt-A-Future campaign which supports the Gambela Primary School at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. He has been doing distance swimming and advocating for clean waterways and the work of the United Nations since 1996. He swam to commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20, 2017and International Day of Peace on September 21 to support our adopted school. Swain documents his swims in photographs, journals and videos. He worked closely with the United Nations during its International Year of Freshwater 2003 and the “Water for Life” Decade, 2005-15. His efforts are in support of SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation. Swain is the first person in history to swim the entire lengths of the Columbia, Hudson, Mohawk, Charles, and Mystic Rivers, as well as many other water bodies. The purpose of Christopher's swims is to put threatened waterways squarely in the public eye, and to support protection, restoration, and education efforts. He lives in Mamaroneck.