Our Team

Our Nonprofit Board of Directors and Officers are some of the most impressive members of the community; doctors, engineers, mothers, and humanitarians who are glad to help women taking refuge in the United States. They are strong feminists fighting for their sisters, ensuring all women are given a voice.

Women of the World did not start because it was trying to fill a funding niche or because it had a donor list signed-up to support its operations, Women of the World started from a passion for service to the female refugee community.  This passion continues to drive everything that Women of the World does.

That is why we call ourselves WOW.

We want to impress people with the amazing talents and beautiful humanity of the women refugees that are working hard — against impossible odds — to make Utah into their homes and a springboard for their family’s lives.

Our mission started as supporting refugee women from all nations to achieve their dreams.  We did not say this hyperbolically but instead believe in both the value of the dreams of immigrants and our ability to put those dreams within the grasp of our new neighbors.  Our capability in the “dream achievement” business has been well-documented and is mostly thanks to caring professionals giving ample time to nurture and coach, to see plans through even the darkest of days.

It means not taking no for an answer.

Our staff preparing the 2016 Annual Celebration of Refugee Success.

Photograph by Justin Harnish

As you take this step to fund, volunteer, or otherwise support Women of the World, ask yourself:

What does it mean to be mission-driven?

Are you prepared to put personal concerns behind the needs of our clients?

Are you interested in an action-packed, values-based, boots-on-the-ground organization that will stretch your comfort-level & ask you to understand the mission by sitting across from refugee women?

“That is what Women of the World does.

It’s hearts and minds we aim to change, hugs and smiles that we count.

We get there by climbing stairs in apartment complexes on Highland Drive, along 3300 South, and on Redwood Road.

And slowly, surely, the power of one becomes ten, and then 100. Women refugees go from asking questions to having the answers, from mothering their children to nurturing the community.

Human rights is our greatest promise to one another. It cannot be stopped.

So rise, amplify the voices of those who have been silenced, befriend those that have been harmed, and advocate for rights that cannot ever be taken!”

— Samira Harnish

Board of Directors

Samira Harnish

samira supports refugee womenSamira Harnish is passionate about ensuring refugee women are self-reliant! With Women of the World (WoW), Samira has been able to increase her impact, serving hundreds of refugee women fleeing violence in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, Somalia, and Burma to name a few. The women that WoW serves have gotten advanced educations, continued to be promoted within their companies, formed their own small businesses, and even returned back to their home countries to teach some of the lessons that Women of the World had taught them. Samira’s life-saving efforts truly have a global reach.

Samira has led Women of the World to be recognized and funded as the preeminent women’s refugee service organization in Utah. She has raised tens of thousands of dollars in funds, spoken at venues like the Utah Hunger Banquet, the Bennion Center, and was awarded the Enlightened 50 award by the Utah Community Foundation. Women of the World was awarded the 2014 Salt Lake City Human Rights Award for its efforts in customized refugee service and advocacy.

Samira has always served her community.  She has been responsible for educating young women in the sciences as a member of Women in Engineering, assisting the elderly in Meals on Wheels, and interpreting in Arabic in the courts and healthcare sectors.  In Utah, she served as an officer in the Iraqi Community of Utah and as a case worker in the Utah Health and Human Rights Department.  In 2010, Samira founded Women of the World to fulfill a lifelong dream of assisting women refugees who had suffered mental and physical trauma in war and camps achieve self-sufficiency in her adopted country of America.  Women of the World is Samira’s heart on her sleeve, a 24/7 small business with the mission of supporting women of all nations achieve their dreams.  Samira has received numerous awards for her service work including the 2016 Ruby Award from the Soroptomists of Utah.

She is the proud mother of five, nana for her two beautiful granddaughters, and the wife of advisory board member Justin Harnish.


Laura Milliken Gray


Laura Milliken Gray received her Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor Degrees from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. She also holds a LL.M (Masters) in International Law from King’s College, London, England, and a Certificate in International Human Rights Law and Practice from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

From 1996-2008, she owned and operated her own law firm, Laura Milliken Gray, P.C., where she specialized in estate planning, business and elder law and protecting the rights of Utah’s LGBT community.

From 2008-2010, Laura took a hiatus from her law practice and moved to London, England. There, she studied international law and accepted a position as a consultant with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland. Laura helped UNHCR develop and implement new global policy protecting refugees fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Laura moved back to Utah in 2010 and happily re-established her law practice, again focusing on estate planning and related areas.

Utah Business Magazine has repeatedly named Laura as a “Legal Elite” in the area of Estates and Trusts. She has been recognized by her peers with the highest “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell International Legal Directory. In 2001, she received the Utah State Bar’s Dorathy Merrill Brothers Award for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession, and she has been honored several times for her work with Utah’s LGBT community. She has written, taught and presented on many aspects of estate planning and other legal areas. Laura previously served on the Board of Directors of Equality Utah.


Beverley Cooper


Beverley Cooper has over 35 years’ experience in strategic planning, marketing, advocacy, consensus building, fundraising, public policy, and community relations. She is a trained mediator and facilitator with demonstrated competence in working with small business, non-profits, elected officials, and diverse community alliances. She has background in public policy, politics and advocacy. Now retired, Bev spends her time using her skills to support elected officials, candidates, non-profits and individuals in our community.

Bev’s passion for fairness has led her to stand up for Women’s Rights, LGBQT rights, Human Rights, Civil Rights and Anti-Poverty campaigns. She believes in the political process as well as in our form of government causing her to be instrumental in three statewide initiative campaigns.

Her recent work experience includes 13 years as the Political Director, Vice President of Public Policy, and Lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Utah where she mentored and supported many political candidates and fought numerous regressive bills at the Utah Legislature.

After Congresswoman Karen Shepherd’s successful 1992 campaign, Bev worked in her office as a Community Liaison.

Bev also spent 10 years as a commodities broker, aiding clients from ranchers to investors in successfully investing in highly volatile commodities markets.

Her varied career also includes:

  • Campaign and elected official staff.
  • Fundraiser.
  • Green house work including pollinating and tissue culture to develop a specific plant.
  • Golf course maintenance on the grounds crew of a Colorado course.
  • Caterer of desserts.
  • Restaurant manager.
  • Assistant to Corporate Vice Presidents and other administrative and secretarial jobs.

Hobbies include travel, camping, hiking, reading and lunch with friends. Bev has one grown son and two dogs, Tashi and Gabe.


Kimberli Haywood


KimKimberli Haywood is passionate about social inequities and strives to impact long-term change in underrepresented communities.  As a freelance journalist working in the banking industry, she fell in love with community development – a space where corporate philanthropy intersected with government and the non-profit sector to address social issues.  Kimberli has served her communities in many different capacities and takes great pride in her public service.


M’Lisa Patterson

M’Lisa Patterson received her Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a Paralegal Certificate from Westminster College, also in Salt Lake City.

Her working experience includes 15 years as a litigation and family law paralegal at a prestigious law firm in Salt Lake City.  For the past six years she has owned and operated Chart Bookkeeping LLC, specializing in full service accounting for small businesses in the Salt Lake Valley.

M’Lisa is dedicated to giving back to her community.  She has been involved with a number of organizations including Prevent Child Abuse, the Salt Lake Family Law Clinic, and ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists).  She is presently the Treasurer of WOW’s board of directors, lending her substantial accounting skills to the organization.  M’Lisa is excited to be a part of WOW’s amazing board and to work with the exceptional staff and volunteers there.

Hobbies include traveling, reading, and hiking the foothills with her canine pal, Holly.

Mary Dickson

Mary Dickson is the Director of Creative Services at KUED Channel 7 and host of “Contact,” which airs weeknights at 9:55 p.m. on KUED. She is an award-winning writer, journalist, activist, and playwright who has won numerous professional awards including a Rocky Mountain Regional Emmy, as well as honors from the New York Film Festival, PBS, the Society of Professional Journalists, and others. Her first full-length play, “Exposed,” played to sold-out houses and critical acclaim during its 2007 world premiere at Plan B Theatre in Salt Lake City.  It was nominated by the American Theatre Critics Association as the best new play produced outside New York.  The Deseret Morning News named it the Number One Drama of 2007.

She has worked on issues of peace and social justice for more than 30 years. She was named Wasatch Woman of the Year in Community in 2008 and received a 2014 Utah Women’s Leadership Award from Sundance. She was recognized by the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility in Washington, D.C. For her lifetime work on behalf of downwinders from atomic testing.  Since 2009 she has been a host mom to students from the Middle East who come to the United States to learn English and pursue university degrees.



Abby Bossart

Abby Bossart graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Literature from Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Raised by parents who greatly emphasized the value of travel and exposure to different cultures, Abby was fortunate enough to be able to visit many different countries as she was growing up with her family.

Her dedication to giving back to the community fueled her interest in volunteering with Utah Health and Human Rights’ Women’s Group in Salt Lake City. At Occidental College she volunteered with Great Strides, an organization dedicated to empowering girls through sports by promoting healthy eating and lifestyle habits. During her junior year at Occidental College, Abby spent a semester studying in Granada, Spain. After her semester ended, she spent the summer in Ghana with a physician assistant student group from the University of Utah where she learned firsthand about certain pressing global health issues.

Abby is interested in pursing a career in the healthcare field hoping to combine a Masters in Public Health with a medical degree. She thoroughly enjoys volunteering as a medical interpreter at Maliheh Free Clinic and is very pleased to be able to work with Women of the World as a Case Manager. She enjoys being able to advocate for refugee women, give them a strong voice, and see them grow into independent and powerful women. Abby plans to apply to medical school next year and hopefully use her clinical skills and past experiences to better the healthcare system for all.

Courtney Bullard

courtney supports refugee women

Courtney Bullard spent five years living in the Middle East with her family, where she developed a love for the culture and an interest in Middle Eastern affairs and women’s issues. While studying political science at the University of Utah, she returned to the area to work as an intern with the Ministry of Social Development in Amman, Jordan. She completed her undergraduate degree in 2015 and then moved to London to pursue a master’s degree in social policy at London Metropolitan University.

Courtney is very committed to helping refugee women and focused all her master’s research on the refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq. While conducting research, Courtney worked for Yazda and The Afghanistan and Central Asian Association, two NGOs that serve refugees in the London area. Between working in Jordan and studying in London, Courtney was fortunate enough to visit many countries and witness firsthand the issues she was studying. She is thrilled to be working for Women of the World and is continuing to study Arabic to better serve the Arab women in Salt Lake City.

In her free time she loves playing the violin, spending time with her family, and reading novels.

Breana Reichert

Breana Reichert has spent much of her time in non-profit, women-centered settings. While pursuing her Bachelor’s in Public Health and Business Management at Utah Valley University, Breana completed an internship working directly with the CEO of Girl Child Network Worldwide, an organization based in Zimbabwe with the mission of empowering young girls.
After graduating, Breana spent three years with Planned Parenthood Association of Utah in volunteer, clinical and managerial settings. She now volunteers with the University of Utah Hospital as a doula, assisting laboring women with mobilization and comfort measures. She plans to one day further her hands-on work with women by becoming a Nurse Midwife and Women’s Health Practioner.
Women of the World’s mission fits directly with Breana’s long-time passion of bettering the lives of women. She is elated to join Samira’s team of passionate staff and volunteers.

Justin supports refugee womenJustin Harnish is the Development Director for the Women of the World.  He is in charge of the development of both the internet and intranet site for Women of the World.  Justin is a semiconductor engineer by day but enjoys his service work with Women of the World since it allows him to spend time with the love of his life, Founder and Executive Director Samira Harnish.