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Staff & Board Bios

Raksha Staff (2017)

Aparna Bhattacharyya, Executive Director:  Aparna graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Her experience and skills come from volunteering and working as a Victim Advocate for 5 years for the city of Atlanta’s Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP).  She also worked as a Project Coordinator/Employment Specialist for the Newcomers’ Network’s Refugee Family Violence Prevention Project (where she developed and implemented the License to Freedom Project). Prior to becoming an employee of Raksha Inc., she also volunteered and served as a steering committee member of Raksha Inc. since its inception in 1995. As a representative of Raksha, she has served as a Task Force member and the Board Secretary for International Women’s House and a founding member of Tapestri, the Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, challenging gender based oppression. Over the last 9 years, she has trained law enforcement, victim advocates, social workers, community members, refugee/immigrant women, and healthcare providers on the dynamics of family violence and the needs of refugee and immigrant families. She was awarded the Indian Professionals Network (IPN) award in 1997 and 1998 for her service to the community. She serves as a member of the Georgia Advisory Committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Board Vice President for Tapestri, Inc, an Advisory Board member for the National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women, and a board member for the DeKalb County Domestic Violence Task Force.  Aparna has been the Executive Director of Raksha since 1998.  Ms. Bhattacharyya was recently awarded the Director’s Eagle Award from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.  Ms. Bhattacharyya was recognized as A White House Champion of Change in 2013 and was named by Georgian Asian Times as a 2013 Top 20 Influential Asian Community Leader.

Manisha Lance, Advocate and Economic Empowerment Coordinator

Manisha graduated from the University of Denver with a Master of Arts in International Studies focusing on human rights and comparative politics. She has also received a Master of Arts in international Studies and Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Stella Maris College in Chennai, India. Manisha completed internships at the Center for Security Analysis in Chennai, India and at Amnesty International in Atlanta, Georgia.  Manisha’s experience in India includes tutoring children with special needs and working with women in rural areas on issues of HIV/AIDS awareness and women’s reproductive health.

Manisha has nearly 9 years of experience providing comprehensive case management and advocacy services for immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, human trafficking and other violent crime. Manisha began her journey at Raksha in 2008 when was hired as a part-time Economic Empowerment Advocate. She continued to work at Raksha as an Advocate until she became the Advocacy Services Coordinator in 2012.

Manisha provides support and advocacy to survivors in the areas of housing, education, civil, criminal and immigration legal issues, employment and finances. Manisha was part of a team that created a financial literacy curriculum for survivors and advocates. She supervises, trains and manages volunteers. She has spoken on college campuses, vigils, community meetings and radio shows on issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and other human rights concerns. Manisha co-facilities a support group for children who have experienced or witnessed violence using art, music and drama.

Manisha is passionate about various human rights and environmental issues and is involved with various activist and advocacy groups in Atlanta.

Rita Patel, LCSW, Youth Group Facilitator: Ms. Patel graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kennesaw State University majoring in Public and Social Services and completed her MSW in Family Centered Practice from the University of Georgia.  Ms. Patel has been associated with Raksha since 1996 in varied capacities starting as a volunteer and until recently as a Co-chair of the Peer Support Steering Committee.  Ms. Patel has worked with HIV/AIDS organizations over an eight-year period. Her experience includes providing individual and group counseling to persons infected with HIV especially those individuals recovering from substance abuse.  Ms. Patel has provided services to children with special needs and the elderly. Ms. Patel’s work experience at DeKalb DFCS includes determining eligibility for public assistance programs such as TANF, Food Stamps and Medicaid. Her work experience at Vista Care Hospice and Hospice Atlanta includes working with terminally ill children, adults, and their families.  Ms. Patel became a full-time case manager at Raksha in 2000, providing advocacy, referrals, counseling and support services to battered woman and their families.

Guneeta Singh, LCSW, SEP Therapeutic and Volunteer Services Coordinator: Guneeta is a Clinical Social Worker and has worked at Raksha as an employment advocate and case manager, in the past. She is now working as a therapist at Raksha. Guneeta completed her Masters in Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania. She has extensive experience working with the immigrant and refugee population through her work at HIAS and Council of Philadelphia, The Center for Torture and Trauma Survivors, Raksha, Inc., as well as the Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Pennsylvania. She has focused on trauma and trauma related issues for over 10 years starting with her experience at The Victim Witness Assistance program at the Fulton County District Attorney’s office. As a Clinical Social Worker, she believes in the strengths based perspective where she assists her clients in finding their own strengths when they are not able to see the strengths in themselves. She provides an eclectic approach to psychotherapy, utilizing various different psychotherapy techniques depending on the individual’s needs. Some of the approaches that she utilizes are Somatic Experiencing, Humanistic, Psychodynamic, Mindfulness, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approaches which can all be helpful in resolving issues the individual might be facing. Guneeta has completed her training as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and is assisting with trainings for the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute. Guneeta has experience working with clients suffering from Depression, Anxiety, Trauma and Relationship issues. Guneeta provides individual therapy to Adolescents and Adults, facilitates groups at Raksha, and recruits and manages volunteers and interns.

Dr. Hiral Patel, PsyD, Therapist and Community Education Supervisor: Dr. Patel’s work at Raksha, Inc. provides therapeutic services to South Asians and other immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes. Dr. Hiral Patel has completed her Master’s in Clinical Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University, Orange County, CA. Dr. Patel has 8 years of experience providing individual and group therapy to diverse populations working with a wide range of issues from severe mental illness to healthy communication. She has extensive experience in addressing mood disorders, psychotic disorders, trauma, anxiety, anger management, family conflicts, and substance abuse. Dr. Patel co-presents and trains various providers, including university professionals and social service providers, around cultural competency in working with immigrant community, especially South Asians. She provides educational workshops on the importance of addressing mental health concerns in the South Asian community, dynamics and impact of domestic violence and sexual assault on the South Asian population, and positive parenting. She is in the process of creating a group for survivors of sexual assault and an ongoing Positive Parenting workshop for South Asian parents to encourage violence prevention and education with their children. Dr. Patel has been on ZOOM Atlanta, a local South Asian radio show, to discuss and bring awareness regarding domestic violence, depression and suicide in South Asian community.

Swechhya Pant, Outreach and Youth Coordinator – Swechhya has an extensive experience in training, program management, fundraising, grant writing and preparation, advocacy, and curriculum building. Ms. Pant re-joined Raksha, Inc in May 2015 as an Outreach Coordinator. She oversees the Youth Group Program and manages the monthly Raksha Youth Group meetings. In her role as an Outreach Coordinator, she is also responsible for general outreach and recruitment. Swechhya began her career working in a Human Rights agency Adhikaar in 2007 where she founded Adhikaar Youth Group.  Swechhya coordinated and managed various programs for Adhikaar Youth Group and researched, identified, and hosted targeted individual outreach events and initiatives that increased Adhikaar Youth Group awareness and member enrollment. Swechhya initially served as a Legal Advocate at Raksha from 2009-2010 where she conducted new client intakes, advised clients on safety planning and available shelters, and acted as a liaison between clients and service providers.  After working at Raksha, she worked as a Family Intervention Specialist (FIS) as a Community Support Individual in 2011 where she was providing interpretations between clients and therapists, performing role plays to teach the clients to communicate with other agencies, monitoring and following up with the clients on a weekly basis, and engaging in community outreach to refugee settlement agencies on behalf of FIS. Swechhya has worked as a Social Adjustment Specialist for Catholic Charities and a Program Manager for Georgia Law Center for the Homeless. Swechhya has a Bachelor’s degree in Women and Gender Studies from City College of New York and is excited to provide services in her native language Nepali.  She is deeply and vocally passionate about women’s empowerment, and is honored and excited to be back at Raksha. In her free time, Swechhya likes to read about various forms of energy healing, travel, socialize with her peers, and learn new vegetarian meals.  Swechhya is also a certified Reiki Healer and hopes to make a positive difference in the world with her compassionate nature and her love for social change.

Jaushin Khaleque, Advocate:  Jaushin is an advocate for Raksha who is fluent in Bangla/Bengali and serves as a liaison between the Georgia legal system and South Asian victims of domestic violence and sexual assault as well as providing case management and support services. She graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University Georgia and received her Master’s in Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology from University of West Georgia. Jaushin has performed, presented and published research on various aspects of behavioral/neuro-science in regards to sleep and dreaming and its overall effects on human health. She has lead psychoeducational workshops on sleep and dreams as well as co-presented for positive parenting workshops and for faith based leaders on domestic violence. Jaushin was recently a guest speaker on discussing depression amongst both adults and youth within the South Asian community on Zoom Atlanta, a local South Asian radio show.Jaushin also has experience teaching basic components of rigorous footwork along with the basic foundations, rules, etiquette and history of the Indian classical dance, Kathak, to beginner level 1st year students as well as a 4-year degree in Kathak.

Mangala Kanayson, JD, Community Outreach Coordinator.  Mangala completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science and International Studies at California Lutheran University and earned her Juris Doctor from Emory University School of Law.   She interned with Raksha during law school, where she discovered her passion for immigrant DV survivor crisis management and case management.  Mangala gained experience in trauma-informed care, juvenile court litigation, landlord-tenant law, uncontested divorce, custody modification, domestication of foreign judgments, and child support modification at the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless and the Barton Juvenile Defender Clinic, and was trained in social justice and grassroots activism at Law Students for Reproductive Justice (now If/When/How), Planned Parenthood, and Wellstone Action. Before returning to Raksha, Mangala worked at the DeKalb Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, where she served as a legal assistant, conducting intakes, managing case files, and providing low-income residents of DeKalb County with volunteer attorneys.  Mangala moonlights as a professional musician and teaches piano through Firehouse Guitars, ImagineArts, and MangoPiano.

Email Staff at [email protected].

Raksha Board of Directors (2016)

Girija Sankar,  Interim President.  Girija Sankar is a global health and development professional with over ten years of experience in program design, proposal development, partnerships, donor relations and staff capacity development. She grew up in Chennai, India and earned a Master of Science degree in International Economics from the Madras School of Economics. She moved to Atlanta in 2003 to pursue further graduate studies in Sociology at Emory. One of the first jobs she held in the field of global health and development was conducting key informant interviews with commercial sex workers for a UNAIDS funded project in rural Tamil Nadu, India. This initial exposure to the world of NGOs, foreign aid and community development, coupled with her passion for social justice and women’s empowerment issues have led her to where she is today-working with a multicultural team spread across different countries to design and deliver quality community-health and development programs. Girija joined the Raksha board in July 2013.

Suvir Bhatia, Treasurer.  Suvir Bhatia is an Associate Partner at Deloitte Consulting, with seventeen years of industry and management consulting experience. He has worked on-the-ground across 20+ countries in Europe, Asia and US with Fortune 500 companies, defining corporate strategy and improving operating models. He has a Masters Degree from Carnegie Mellon, and an MBA from Indian Institute of Management. His non-profit experience includes advising leadership of Zoo Atlanta on strategic initiatives, evaluating United Way investments into Fulton County charitable organizations focused on early childhood development, and managing fund raising/allocation with Association for India’s Development Pittsburgh Chapter. He is passionate about the fight against domestic violence, and hopes to bring his strategy experience to streamline operations at Raksha. Suvir joined the Raksha board in 2015.

Mansi Anand.  Mansi is a talented graphic designer lead with 16 years  experience in print design. She is a highly motivated, creative and versatile individual, is especially skilled in creating and directing corporate and new business design. Since 2004, she is the owner and operator for Action Designs & Promotions. Mansi is accomplished at incorporating the desires of the client with a superior design and print solution. She graduated from with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in English Literature with certifications in film production, HTML, Advanced Quark Express, Adobe Photoshop, etc. Outside of her work as a graphic designer, she is also a dedicated mother with two children. Mansi joined the board in 2012.

Madhu Deshmukh. Madhu is an International Social Development professional with over 23 years of experience in over 40 countries across Africa, South and South East Asia. Madhu’s experience includes leadership, strategy and analysis, innovation, program management, and policy advocacy, with specific emphasis on gender & women’s empowerment, women’s health, HIV/AIDS, social justice & human rights. Madhu has served in leadership positions with several organizations including international NGOs, Government of India, UNDP, UNAIDS/WHO and DFID.  Most recently, she was the Director for mHealth, Gender and MNCH for a CARE-UN Foundation’s mHealth Alliance partnership initiative. In her previous capacities, Madhu has served at CARE as the global Director for HIV & AIDS, Chief of Party for a large maternal and child health project in Bihar, India, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Team Leader for policy analysis with CARE’s global Policy and Advocacy Unit.  Madhu was born and raised in Delhi, India and holds a Masters Degree (MA) in Social Sciences from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Madhu joined the Board in 2015.

 Ritu Patel.  Ritu is a realtor at Bershire Hathaway Home Services.  Ritu is very active in the community from being involved in her children’s school activities and BalaVihar.  She is active in a number of nonprofits and is passionate about addressing human trafficking. Ritu is a graduate of Georgia State University in Marketing.     Ritu was involved with the Ramp it Up for Raksha event prior to coming on the board in 2015.

Email the Board at [email protected].

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