Matt Karkut, Co-Executive Director
Matt holds a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) from Pomona College in California. He has previously worked in English-Spanish interpretation and translation in the U.S. and South America, English as a second language (ESL) instruction in Europe, outdoor guiding in Central America, and international money transfer technology. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, his experience growing up as a mixed-race Asian-American in the intermountain west informed his world views and motivations to advocate for positive social change and racial equity. Matt is also an avid polyglot, enjoys learning new recipes to cook, and loves spending time with family and friends.
Enrique Orozco, Co-Executive Director
Enrique grew up in a first generation immigrant family from Colombia and knows firsthand the challenges inherent to the lives of immigrants. World travel experience has further solidified his understanding of the global community and conviction that human rights are to be respected in all shapes and forms. His passion for immigrant issues is thus deeply rooted in his identity, and inspires him to be a staunch advocate for the immigrant community and fight for change. He holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Botany from the University of Delaware, and is also an impressive competitive cyclist.
Carolina Diaz Ovalle, Legal Assistance Coordinator
A political asylum seeker from Colombia, she has been involved in advocating for others ever since her father was kidnapped when she was only 15 years old which led her to fight to protect other Colombians affected by armed conflict. Eventually, she fled the violence in her country and in 2016 arrived in Durango, where she has lived ever since. Today, Carolina continues to be committed to helping others, whether raising her family or fighting for the rights of her community.
Benjamin Waddell, Accredited Representative, Director of Operations of Legal Assistance
Benjamin Waddell holds a PhD in Sociology and is a professor at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. He specializes in development, international migration, and crime, and is a contributing writer for publications such as The Huffington Post, The Conversation, High Country News, Rocky Mountain PBS, and The Week. As a Department of Justice Accredited Representative with Compañeros, he is a foundational and integral member of our groundbreaking Legal Assistance Program.
Board of Directors
Joel Berdie, Board Chair
Joel is a Colorado kid to the core with a passion to be with the people. After years of work as a case manager for Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and community work in Chile, Spain and Oaxaca, Mexico, Joel is a bilingual Licensed Social Worker offering crisis support, case management, and mental health counseling to unhoused individuals and Spanish speakers in Durango. Joel breathes a harm reduction and trauma informed approach into his work, and balances it out by playing in the mountains, desert and on the dance floor.
Sergio Perez, Member at large
Originally from Cusco, Perú, Sergio has a deep connection to all the aspects of being an immigrant living in the United States and a passion for helping those going through the immigration process. His firsthand experience immigrating from South America to the U.S. several decades ago informs his leadership as President of the Board of Directors. He works as the Manager of purchasing/fulfillment at Mexican Tile Designs, and in his free time enjoys hiking, socializing, and cooking the best pozole you've ever had.
Yani Rodriguez, Member at large
Yani is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, and a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) who moved to Durango, CO when she was seven years old. She has extensive experience in the banking industry from working as a teller to a Loan Assistant in Commercial Lending to her current position as Entrepreneur Success Coordinator at First Southwest Community Foundation where she manages the "Fortaleza Fund," a program to support immigrant entrepreneurs. Aside from working with and helping the Latino community, she loves to spend time with her dog and family.
Stella Zhu, Member at large
Stella was born in Shenzhen, China and immigrated to the United States when she was 6 years old. Since then, she has lived all over this country – Connecticut, Ohio, California, DC and is now excited to call Colorado home. She is the Basic Needs Coordinator at Fort Lewis College, cares deeply about food justice and building community power, and holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology and Molecular Biology from UC Berkeley.