Anita’s Three Month Sabbatical Leave:
A Time for Rest, Reflection, & Rejuvenation
(be back on 6/27)

Hello Friends,

I hope you are doing well and staying healthy, strong, and safe! I am writing to inform you of my upcoming 3-month sabbatical from PAIR, from March 28 - June 27, 2022. At this moment, I don’t have definitive plans for my time away, but having reached my twentieth year at PAIR, I look forward to taking a pause and time to rest and reflect. 

In 2019, I was selected as a Barr Foundation Fellow, along with 11 other amazing civic leaders from Greater Boston. Being a Barr Fellow for the past 2 ½ years has been an honor and a transformative experience for me. I have been fortunate to have a cohort of thoughtful leaders to turn to for support, guidance, and camaraderie, especially as I navigated the unknowns of leading a legal services organization during a global pandemic. 

As many of you know, I was originally going to take my sabbatical in summer 2020 but have since postponed it several times due to the pandemic. The Barr Foundation supported me through each planning process and cancellation. They managed to keep all of us fellows engaged, connected, and excited about leadership, learning, and sabbatical planning. 

Before the pandemic, I saw PAIR through 4 years of a federal administration that spewed anti-immigrant rhetoric and specifically targeted asylum seekers, passed harsh laws to strip immigrants of their legal rights, and made the practice of immigration law a frenzied one. The damage of those years has proven hard to undo, even one year into a new administration; advocates and clients continue to struggle to navigate the complex immigration system. 

These past several years have made me realize how vital it is to keep PAIR strong – our program work, pro bono model, and organization as a whole. But there is no blueprint to lead, function, or navigate draconian and arbitrary law-making or a pandemic. I am lucky I did not have to do this alone. I am profoundly grateful to every volunteer, donor, and supporter who stepped up to protect immigrant rights. I thank our clients who continued to trust us, though we had to change our mode of operation. I am so fortunate to have an incredible staff and Board of Directors, who worked to expand our programs and to ensure PAIR’s Asylum and Detention programs remained open to asylum seekers in need. I am also thankful to the Barr Foundation and my fellow Barr leaders who shared their collective wisdom.

PAIR has experienced dynamic growth, tripling its staff and budget in the last 5 years, as we worked to ensure the legal rights of asylum seekers. But it has been an exhausting journey. With one month left, I am preparing to embark on my sabbatical, my time of rest, one that I hope is marked with learning, reflection, and rejuvenation. I look forward to having space to reflect and focus on my personal journey of human rights and immigrant rights work, balanced with my love of and dedication to literature, classical Indian dance, and teaching. I also look forward to the fresh ideas and exciting work that the interim leadership team will bring to PAIR. 

Though I will be away from PAIR for three months, the work will continue. I am grateful to have this opportunity of rest and reflection when I know too many leaders, especially leaders of color, don’t. PAIR’s interim leadership and I have planned and worked hard to ensure a smooth transition during my sabbatical. I am very excited for Elena Noureddine, who will step in as Interim Executive Director, and Yanzie Chow, who will step in as PAIR’s Operations Director. Both are talented and dedicated social justice warriors.

This sabbatical would not be possible without the commitment of the entire PAIR team, the Board of Directors, and your commitment and investment in PAIR and support of PAIR’s clients. The PAIR team will continue to do the hard work to ensure justice, hope, and safety to its clients. 

During my leave, starting on March 28, 2022, PAIR will be served by:

Elena Noureddine - Interim Executive Director. Elena has been at PAIR for 7 years, rising as a BU Law Fellow, Detention Attorney, and most recently PAIR’s first Legal Director. Elena is a well-recognized immigration practitioner and expert and will focus on overall staff management and program management, stewarding donors and strengthening PAIR’s pro bono partnerships and the community relationships.

Yanzie Chow - Interim Operations Director. Yanzie started as a Development Associate in 2019. She will focus on fiscal management, day-to-day operations, grants management, and PAIR’s fundraising. Yanzie works hard to make sure PAIR runs smoothly and is available and accessible to the immigrant community and our volunteers.

Nancy Rego Sevich - Executive Advisor. Nancy currently works at Hogan Associates and serves as a PAIR Board of Director. She has tremendous leadership skills as a former Managing Director of State Street Global Markets and, as a consultant at State Street, led PAIR’s strategic planning process in 2016. Nancy will serve as an executive advisor to Elena and Yanzie.

Seth Purcell - Interim Legal Director. Seth has been with PAIR since 2015 and is the lead asylum attorney, serving clients and mentoring hundreds of PAIR volunteer attorneys. He looks forward to leading PAIR’s legal programs, supporting our robust volunteer network, and assisting even more PAIR clients who turn to us for their legal needs.

Marianne Staniunas - Staff Attorney. Marianne has volunteered with PAIR since 2004, first as a pro bono attorney at one of Boston’s major law firms and then when she was an associate at the highly respected immigration firm Ross Silverman. Marianne, who is an asylum law expert, will manage all of my mentoring cases while I am away. If you are a PAIR pro bono whom I mentor, I will reach out to you soon with information on how to reach Marianne, who looks forward to working with you all to support PAIR clients.

Melanie Gleason - Pro Bono Involvement Coordinator. We are fortunate to have Melanie who recently joined PAIR to grow our pro bono programs and coordinate PAIR's case placement. Melanie has a rich history of supporting pro bono efforts on the southern border, where she managed a national pro bono program with Las Americas, in El Paso, Texas. I hope you are all able to connect with Melanie to learn about our many available pro bono projects.

For more information on the entire PAIR team and the PAIR Board of Directors, please visit our website.

The interim leadership team will continue to lead the organization, serve PAIR clients, advocate for immigrant rights, train and mentor our volunteers, and honor PAIR’s mission. I thank all of you for volunteering, supporting, sponsoring, partnering, and being there for PAIR!

If you wish to support PAIR during my sabbatical, please consider volunteering on a pro bono case, supporting the PAIR Gala, or making a donation. You can make a profound difference and support PAIR clients with your time, talent, or treasure.  

I look forward to connecting with you all in the summer. Thank you!

Anita P. Sharma
PAIR Staff
Sarah Allar, Asylum Attorney
Heather Perez Arroyo, Detention Attorney
Elizabeth Badger, Senior Staff Attorney
Juan Bedoya, Skadden Fellow
Angela Arzu Cadet, Programs Associate
Gabriella Chavez, Social Services Coordinator/Paralegal
Julia Ciachurski, Detention Attorney
Yanzie Chow, Interim Operations Director
Irene Freidel, Lead Detention Attorney
Melanie Gleason, Pro Bono Involvement Coordinator
Anghie Guevara Reyes, Intake Assistant
Violeta Haralampieva, Asylum/Detention Attorney
Daniela Hargus, Detention Paralegal
Luke Morrell, Administrative Associate
Amy Mercure, Bookkeeper
Felipe Sanchez Najera, Intake Assistant
Elena Noureddine, Interim Executive Director
Seth Purcell, Interim Legal Director
Marianne Staniunas, Asylum Attorney
Connor Finegan Vasu, Asylum Intake Coordinator

PAIR Board of Directors
Susan J. Cohen, President, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, & Popeo PC 
David K. McHaffey, Vice-President, McHaffey & Nice 
Steven D. Barrett, Treasurer, WilmerHale 
Vivie Hengst, Secretary
Michael P. Boudett, Foley Hoag LLP
Doris Cristobal, 32BJ SEIU
Daniel Esrick, Amazon 
Edith Fobid, Hospice Worker
Octavio Guerra, Business Owner
Richard M. Harper II, U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission
Kathy Henry, Eastern Bank
Jamal Hussein, Financial Services
Irene Nakku, Northeast Residential Services
Nancy Rego Sevich, Hogan Associates
Jennifer Rikoski, Ropes & Gray LLP
Alan Jay Rom, Rom Law PC
Wendy Zazik, Fidelity Investments