Robin Chancer

Ohio, USA

Robin is a clinical social worker in Akron, Ohio, and works through a legal-aid society, helping refugees and unaccompanied minors secure asylum in the United States. 

She was born in Los Alamitos, California and attended Pamona College in Claremont, originally intending to be an English teacher. But she was assigned an internship with a high school teacher and discovered that what she loved most “was building relationships.”

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She later graduated with a master in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I felt like counseling and building relationships and getting involved in social justice was more my thing than teaching.” 

Her first post-graduate job was working at a community health center in North Carolina as a social worker for pregnant women—primarily immigrants from Latin America. 

“That’s where,” she says, “my passion really took off. Working in rural North Carolina was formative, seeing how isolated the locals were from immigrants. Seeing the injustice, seeing that immigrants weren’t treated as humans either by institutions or people. It broke my heart.” 

That led to a job in Guatemala, coordinating a health eduction program for men, then on to Montgomery County, Maryland where she served as a mental health therapist with Latin Americans who'd recently immigrated to the United States. Robin has also worked in outpatient therapy, using Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for treating a range of mental-health struggles.

She’s an excellent essayist, publishing mainly at medium.com. Some of her recent work includes essays on sexual consent, the lives of immigrants (and how we might contribute to their having better lives), some excellent advice for activists on “How to Stay Sane if Trump is Driving you Insane” and other stories that manage to be both philosophical and emotive and straight to the point at the same time. 

As a member of Frontline, Robin promotes social-work-and-mental-health services for activists. She has a deep commitment to social justice for people and communities that are often disempowered and at risk of harm. Her writing is a powerful challenge to patriarchy, racism, sexism, and misperceptions about immigrants and people of color.

She says, “In my work, I want to help people feel they’re an important part of our community. It strikes me how quickly people improve when someone reaches out, respects them. That’s where I get my sense of spirituality in the world, from doing this work.” 


 Phillip Degol, nurse and member of Frontline Wellness United, Nairobi, Kenya. Feb. 10, 2018 photo by Frontline volunteer Emma Hall.

Phillip Degol, nurse and member of Frontline Wellness United, Nairobi, Kenya. Feb. 10, 2018 photo by Frontline volunteer Emma Hall.

Phillip Degol

Nairobi, Kenya

Phillip, a nurse in Kenyan's most populous city, is Frontline’s first international member. He became interested in social justice as a consequence of being orphaned at age 5, and growing up in impoverished conditions in Nairobi.

“I have seen and I do have first-hand in struggles of daily life,” he says, “from land grabbing, violence, protest and all manner of inhumane treatment towards citizens.” 

“This was one of my motivation to pursue health related course so as I could be part of solution and care giver to urban poor, who have different health related issues starting from assault, mental issues, drug addict and general counseling in relation to my people in slum and non violent resistant /protesters.” 

Phillip previously volunteered with Helping Hands, a U.S. nonprofit that works with orphans and vulnerable children in HIV-and-Aids-affected areas. For Frontline, Phillip will provide medical support to demonstrators in Kenya who are protesting government corruption, unfair employment practices, fraudulent elections, extra-judicial killings and other social-justice concerns. 

Phillip says that he received help from humanitarian groups as an orphan, first living in rural Kenya, and then moving to urban Nairobi. Working with Frontline, he believes, “is a way to give back to my community.”  

 


 Emma Hall, photojournalist. Photo by Joel Preston Smith, September 2016.

Emma Hall, photojournalist. Photo by Joel Preston Smith, September 2016.

Emma Hall

Washington State, USA

 Kenyan opposition president Raila Odinga (arm raised) at his inauguration ceremony Jan. 30, 2018. Photo by Emma Hall. 

Kenyan opposition president Raila Odinga (arm raised) at his inauguration ceremony Jan. 30, 2018. Photo by Emma Hall. 

Those of us who met Emma, a photojournalist, while she documented life in the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camps in 2016 were first impressed by her jumping in the Cannonball River—not knowing how to swim—to save the life of a Native American child.

And then we got interested in her work. As we write (Feb. 10, 2018) she's in Kenya, working on a documentary project about the abuses social-justice activists endure in that nation. Mainly focused on activists in Nairobi, she's conducting interviews, shooting stills and video of activists who've suffered immensely at the hands of police and government officials for their opposition to inhumane treatment. 

This is Emma's first trip to a primarily non-Western culture (she previously worked in the United Kingdom, Norway, Iceland and Spain), and it's been something of a culture shock. Her second day in-country she took the stage with opposition president Raila Odinga, standing five feet from the man as he inaugurated himself as 'the people's president' Jan. 30 in Nairobi. 

Emma's work has appeared in the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), National Geographic Traveler, CNN and others. To hear about that experience in her own words, visit her blog. And to see examples of her work, you might want to follow her on Instagram at #efrancisadventure. 

Her work is also here, in a 1.45 minute video overview on YouTube. 

Brandy Kmetz

Washington State, USA

Brandy is an art therapist and a licensed mental health counselor. She writes, "I come from a very creative family. My aunt, a fine arts and mural painter was my first art teacher at the age of 7.  I learn traditional oil painting techniques and assisted her in painting murals."

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Brandy graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle, earned her Bachelors in psychology at the University of Washington after studying art and architecture abroad in Greece and Rome. She received her Masters in Expressive Therapy with a specialization in Art Therapy from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2013.

"I’ve completed internships at Catholic Charities located in South Boston and BU Neurology where I researched and wrote my thesis on the benefits of creative activities in managing symptoms of traumatic brain injury. I have worked with children in many different areas of recreational and developmental therapy as well as with elderly populations struggling with dementia, Parkinson's and other neurological ailments. I approach the topic of creativity from a biological and neurological perspective to improve wellness and celebrate authentic expression."

For activists who are curious about art therapy as a means of self-care, processing trauma, or enhancing self expression (among many other things art therapy can help us accomplish), Brandy offers the following overview.

What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve an individual’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. The creative process allows for the individual to express himself artistically to explore issues, as well as develop and manage behaviors and feelings. It is the creative process wherein lies the transformation of perspective and development of skills. Traditional art materials and processes are used in combination with established psychotherapeutic theories and techniques. The art therapist possesses an understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process as well as the affective properties of the different art materials. Art Therapy techniques can easily be adapted to support the needs of individual diagnosis, ability, and concerns.

Educational requirements for Art Therapists includes 60 credits of classes in theories of art therapy, counseling and psychotherapy; ethics and standards of practice; assessment and evaluation; individual, group and family art therapy techniques; human and creative development; multicultural issues, research methods and a 1000 hour internship experiences followed by another 1000 hours of supervised post graduate work in clinical, community and/or other settings.


Diani Barreto

Berlin, Germany

Diani is a Cuban-American painter, media artist, translator, information activist and independent researcher on whistleblowers and hacktivism. She is a researcher on whistleblowing at ExposeFacts: "Launched by the Institute for Public Accuracy in June 2014, ExposeFacts.org represents a new approach for encouraging whistleblowers to disclose information that citizens need to make truly informed decisions in a democracy."

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ExposeFacts is, we might say, a protective collective, combining the work of such notable activists and leaders as Barbara Ehrenreich, William Binney, John Hanrahan, Sam Husseini, Sonali Kolhatkar, Norman Solomon, Pratap Chatterjee, Daniel Ellsberg, Arun Gupta, Thomas Drake and others.

Diani also works as a researcher for the Courage Foundation, and is a journalist, publishing/broadcasting in DIE ZEIT, and ARD Panorama (radio). She was the associate producer of the documentary Free Speech Fear Free with Jude Law, Julian Assange, Sarah Harrison, Niamh Barreto, John Kiriakou ... and more.

She says it was volunteering as a campaigner/spokesperson for whistleblower Chelsea Manning in Berlin that led her to begin researching former U.S. president Barack Obama’s "war on whistleblowers." 

Diani notes, "I invited Mr. Binney [National Security Agency whistleblower] to Berlin. We met again at the Oxford debates and Sam Adams awards for Chelsea. I began to dig deeper. Eventually my hobby took up most my time." 

As a consequence of that work, Diani served as a liaison between whistleblowers that gave testimony to the German Bundestag's inquiry on mass surveillance, including: Tom Drake, Jesselyn Radack, Bill Binney and Brandon Bryant. 

A few other notable accomplishments for Diani: she organized the Courage Foundation launch in Berlin, has organized panels and political events with Reporters Without Borders (on Press Freedom and the importance of implementing  whistleblower protections), organized the Stand Up For Truth conference for the Courage Foundation and ExposeFacts in Berlin in 2015 with Daniel Ellsberg, Thomas Drake, Jesselyn Radack, Coleen Rowley, Norman Solomon and German parliamentarians on an inquiry into the practices of the U.S. National Security Agency.

Diani's work with Frontline emphasizes wellness services for whistleblowers and hacktivists, as well as networking within that community to ensure that people with immense courage get the care they need and deserve. 

You can follow her on Twitter @deCespedes , and follow ExposeFacts @xposefacts