Our Teams

MFR is composed entirely of volunteers from different nationalities and backgrounds.

Meet the executive committee members:

President

Christina Samson

A California girl at heart, Christina has been an adopted madrileña since 2010. She works as a Communications Specialist at the United Nations SDG Action Campaign. She started MFR in 2015 after meeting refugees in Madrid and hearing about their powerful experiences firsthand.

Vice-President

Ivan

Born in Spain to American parents, Ivan is an English teacher and a Psychology student. As the child of migrants, he has long been interested in issues related to immigrants and refugees and has been involved in MFR from day one. He is the association’s key liaison with the Centros de Acogida a Refugiados (C.A.R.) in Madrid.

Treasurer

Secretary and Volunteer Manager

Talia Gerstle

Originally from Michigan, Talia has resided in Madrid since 2015. A recent graduate in international studies, she is passionate about helping immigrants and has enjoyed seeing MFR grow over the past year and a half, while meeting many inspiring members of the Madrid community interested in helping out. While not attending meetings or in the classroom, she loves escaping to the mountains near Madrid, listening to live music, and trying new food.

Donations Manager    

Kaelyn Cincotta

A native New Yorker, Kaelyn moved to Spain several years ago and has since been living all over the country. Now in Madrid, she works with MFR to help carry out donation drives, coordinate specific requests with donor offers, and facilitate volunteer efforts; all with the aim of aiding families as they transition into their new homes. When she’s not working as an English teacher or with MFR, she likes to travel, go to museums and attend local cultural events around the city.

Sarah Tomkins

Sarah is a native of Chicago, but now lives and works in Madrid. She has been active for a year and a half helping with donations in Madrid for Refugees and now she co-manages with Kaelyn the donations team. While not assisting with MFR, Sarah likes to go running, read about new scientific discoveries and travel around Europe.

Special Events Manager

Juanfran Velasco

Juanfran Velasco nació en Córdoba, pero tras estudiar Periodismo y Comunicación Audiovisual en la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid y especializarse en Comunicación Empresarial en Sevilla decidió establecerse en la capital de España. También ha vivido en dos ciudades holandesas, Nijmegen y Maastricht, donde colaboró en proyectos sobre “food waste” con el Parlamento Europeo. En la actualidad, trabaja en una agencia de comunicación gestionando estrategias de comunicación para empresas y organizaciones turísticas. Unos de sus propósitos con MFR es poder devolver a la sociedad la cálida recepción que ha recibido allá donde ha vivido.

Leah Nomkin

Nacido en Arizona, Leah estudió Literatura Comparada entre española e inglesa en Los Angeles, California. Se mudó a Madrid en 2016 y desde entonces, trabaja como profesora de inglés en un instituto. Tras su tiempo en California, ha trabajado mucho con inmigrantes dentro de varios colegios públicos, enseñándoles inglés y artes escénicas. A llegar a Madrid, se encontró con MFR para seguir apoyando a la gente que necesita ayuda para integrase en su nuevo comunidad.

Paola Ponce

Born and raised in Peru, Paola has lived permanently in Madrid since 2016. She graduated from the University of South Florida with majors in International Relations and Sociology. With MRF, Paola is the current organizer of the weekly Arabic and Spanish Intercambios, an MFR initiative designed to promote social integration, cultural awareness, and language learning. Paola is passionate about social issues related to human rights and has been studying the Arabic language for quite sometime now. In her spare time, she likes to do yoga, attend cultural events, travel, and read.

Project Head and Co-Manager Chefugee

Natalia Diaz

Natalia is a Filipina journalist who moved to Madrid in 2008. She has worked as a teacher, a communications manager, and a speechwriter for a UN Specialized Agency. She first conceptualized Chefugee while helping refugees look for employment as the former head of the MFR Jobs Team. She currently co-manages Project Chefugee with Felicia Beltran and Eyad Dado.

NGO & Civil Society Manager

Cayte Cozad

Cayte moved to Madrid from Indiana in 2013 to study Bilingual Education. She has been teaching high school science here for the last three years. With over 10 years of experience in NGOs, she is manages collaboration with local and international organizations in order to compile available resources for the refugee community and facilitate partnerships for fundraising and community awareness projects. In her free time, she likes hiking, theatre, and exploring Spain.