Be a GEM

Women and girls worldwide need opportunities to speak out and make their voices heard. Connecther provides a powerful platform to make that happen. Help us continue to invest in & uplift the voices of women and girls globally.

Connecther Gems are a group of women and men committed to supporting our growth by giving monthly and/or multi-year contributions. We are pleased to feature these amazing women and men on our website and could not do this important work to advance women and girls globally without their support!

We're looking for 100 women and men to join our group of Connecther Gems. To become a member, give a recurring monthly donation of at least $100 to our general fund.

Change starts here. Change starts with you. One girl at a time.


Connecther Diamonds Give at $50K or greater

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  • Eloise DeJoria
    Texas native ELOISE DEJORIA made her film debut in Songwriter, starring Willie Nelson. Other feature credits include Weekend at Bernie's, Grand Champion, Don't Mess with the Zohan, Wall Street (Money Never Sleeps), and Wild Hearts. Her latest picture, When Angels Sing, based on Turk Pipkin's classic Christmas story, stars Texas greats Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Marcia Ball, Kris Kristofferson, and Harry Connick, Jr. (from next-door Louisiana). The movie was directed by Tim McCanlies, and was produced by Austinites Elizabeth Avelan, Shannon Macintosh and Fred Miller. WEBSITE LINK
    Eloise DeJoria

    "My love for film is growing with Connecther. It's so important for women to make the decision to love themselves, and it's great that they're making a statement through film. I am honored to be a part of these talented artists' lives and films that help women all over the world. I love to help build the self esteem of young women in any way I can."




Connecther Emeralds Give at $25K to $49,999

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Connecther Rubies give at $10K to $24,999

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  • Sharon Kathryn D'Agostino
    Sharon is an advocate for the health and empowerment of girls, women and children, while also celebrating her roles as a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, companion, colleague and business executive. She travels extensively and is grateful to learn from the shared and individual challenges that girls and women face in every community she has the opportunity to visit. Sharon's personal passion is to help ensure that the voices of girls, women and children everywhere are heard and their stories are told. As a global health advocate, she is a prolific blogger about issues that impact the survival, health and empowerment of girls and women. Sharon notes, "All women inspire me as I navigate the steps (and missteps) of my own life's path, and I am certain that our shared experiences make us stronger." She can be found on Twitter at @SharonDAgostino. Additional information is available at www.linkedin.com/in/SharonKathrynDAgostino WEBSITE LINK
    Sharon D'Agostino
    "My first contact with ConnectHer was through Twitter, and then an invitation to attend the second annual "Girls Impact the World Film Festival" in New York City in September, 2014. I was totally captivated, inspired, and literally awestruck. As an advocate for the health, safety, education and empowerment of girls, women and children, I LOVE that ConnectHer encourages girls to find their voice and to use it. Girls everywhere need our encouragement, our support, our advocacy, our protection and our love. ConnectHer and its founder understand this and are making an important difference in girls' lives."




Connecther Sapphires give at $5K to $9,999

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Connecther Amethysts give at $2500 to $4,999

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  • MUNA ABUSULAYMAN
    Due to a diverse cross-sectors work experience over the past 16 years, AbuSulaymanis selected as one of the Most Influential and Powerful Arab women in various lists from 2009-2012. AbuSulayman has successfully launched, managed, and scaled multiple businesses and foundations throughout her career and is continuously placed in lists naming her one of the most influential Arabs in the world. She is internationally recognized as an expert in the fields of Management, Education, Sustainable Development, Communications, Middle East, and Female Empowerment. She is ranked as the Most Influential Arab in the World in Social Media by Klout and Top 100 Arabs. WEBSITE LINK
    MUNA ABUSULAYMAN
    "Women need to step up in helping other women, that is why I joined Connecther's global campaign - Girls Impact the World, which is committed to advancing women and girls globally."

    1. Muna Abusulayman had the honor of being the 1st Saudi UNDP Good Will Ambassador.
    2. She loves reading and sharing information.
    3. She thinks the most important skill for our kids to add to their curriculm is information managment.


  • Tarik Aossey, Sr. Project Manager, Visa
    Tarik has 20 years of experience in a wide range of business and technology roles, including with double and triple bottom line companies. He is currently an IT Director at Dell, Inc running strategic global programs for Dell's manufacturing and product fulfillment division. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa's business program, having also taken graduate courses there. Tarik is passionate about social and environmental improvement. Lila Igram, Founder, Connecther Lila put together a bootstrapping, volunteer team that together donated over $50K of in-kind services to launch Connecther.org, a global communication and crowdfunding platform focused on advancing women and girls globally. WEBSITE LINK
    Lila Igram & Tarik Aossey




  • Shadia Igram & Omar Akhtar
    Educating and empowering women and girls is the core to solving so many of the world's dire issues. Working with Connecther gives us the opportunity to unite with organizations and amazing people who are on the ground making huge and immediate impacts to better the lives of millions. Growing up and living in various places around the world, we now call Austin home with our two young children keep us happy and humble. WEBSITE LINK
    Shadia Igram & Omar Akhtar

    "Educating and empowering women and girls is the core to solving so many of the world's dire issues. Working with Connecther gives us the opportunity to unite with organizations and amazing people who are on the ground making huge and immediate impacts to better the lives of millions."

  • Catherine Martin
    Founder and President, Betron Productions Catherine is a producer, actor, writer and native Texan. She graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. After starring in several Off-Broadway plays and independent films she added producing to her resume and founded Betron Productions. She got the idea for the name of her production company while at NYU. She read an article on the Weinstein brothers who named their company Miramax after their parents, Miriam and Max. She was so moved by their story that she vowed one day to do the same thing. Twenty years later she did. Betron Productions, named for parents Betsey and Ronnie, was created to tell character driven stories focusing on the complexities and frailties that make up the human condition. "Cake: A Wedding Story" won several film festivals including AFI, Worldfest Houston and Deep Ellum. "Amarelinha" had equal success at Chicago, Tribeca and Cannes. Her first two screenplays are in development in LA with three more projects behind. WEBSITE LINK
    Catherine Martin

    "Working with Connecther gives me a unique opportunity to help women and girls in various projects all over the world. Girls Impact the World Film Festival combines two things I am very passionate about, film and supporting women. I believe art is a universal language, a great unifier. No matter in which form; music, painting, film, or literature, art speaks to the source of our creation, our humanity.

    1. Started going to UT football games while in the womb, still a rabid fan.
    2. Even if I weren't a filmmaker I would still love going to the movies. Sitting in a room full of strangers, knowing that when the lights start to dim, we will all share an experience where literally anything is possible.
    3. My favorite childhood quote that still inspires me- "We are the music-makers and we are the dreamers of dreams. We are the movers and shakers, of the world forever, it seems"-Arthur O'Shaughnessy


  • Zarmeena Vendal, M.D.
    Dr. Vendal grew up in Plano, Texas with her father, an executive at an engineering firm, her mother, a retired professor of sociology, and her sister, Sarah. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and received her B.A. in biology in 1996. At UT, she was consistently on the Deans List & Honor Roll and served in the premedical honor society, Alpha Epsilon Delta. Dr. Vendal then attended medical school at UT Health Science Center - San Antonio and received Lions Research scholarships to perform vision research in the areas of glaucoma and macular degeneration. As a resident in ophthalmology at Penn State University, she also received a travel grant from National Eye Institute to present her ongoing research. At Penn State, Dr. Vendal met and married Dr. Mustasim Rumi, a board certified spine surgeon. They currently have three children In 2004, Dr. Vendal was accepted to Harvard Medical School's prestigious Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary for subspecialty training in glaucoma treatment and won accolades for her research in low-tension glaucoma at the New England Ophthalmological Society. Throughout her entire professional career, her priority has been her patients, and she leads the way in using the most up to date techniques in medical and surgical care. She has performed countless cataract procedures here in Austin using state of the art micro-incision surgery with the ReSTOR, Tecnis multifocal lens, Crystalens and the Acrysof Toric lens. She offers surgical correction of astigmatism with astigmatic keratotomy. At Westlake Eye Specialists, Dr. Vendal and her staff will strive to make their patients their #1 priority. We look forward to serving you and your family! WEBSITE LINK
    Dr. Zarmeena Vendal

    "Empower women, and you empower the World. In truth, women are capable of creating so much positive change in our communities if we feel like we have the power to do it. I think the most effective way to empower women today is through the gift of education. Through Connecther, I hope to bring this gift to young girls everywhere so that they can have the same opportunities as I have been fortunate to have."


Connecther Pearls give at $1K - $2,499

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  • Diana Abdi, Principal at Austin Peace Academy
    Diana Abdi serves as the Principal of the first Islamic school in Austin at Austin Peace Academy from 2009 until present. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with minor in Business Administration from Richmond University in England. Later, Ms Abdi pursued and completed a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Grand Canyon University plus Director certification for Pre-school. She has over 20 years of Administrative and sales experience. Her community work includes the establishment of the first Islamic school in Austin and starting the High School program at APA. She continues with her education and specialization in the field of education through attending workshops and conferences across the nation, aiming to implement the best system for her students and staff. She is a member of National Association of Secondary School Principals, a member of Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and on the Board of Directors of the Texas Private Schools Association. Ms Abdi aims to encourage other strong female leaders and promoting the Islamic school when invited for speaking engagements across the nation. WEBSITE LINK
    Diana Abdi

    "The goal and vision of Connecther are matters very dear to the heart and work of Diana. As an entrepreneur and mother for over two decades, and an educator for the good half of another, she understands the importance of the empowerment and advancement of women. The work of Connecther needs to be supported to allow for the voice of women to be heard directly and not through secondary sources. As a woman who actively advocates for the support of her own community school, she understands the value of support of each person and so continues to do so for noble causes for the betterment of the world."

  • Elizabeth Avellan
    Co-Owner and Vice President
    Elizabeth Avellan (Producer) is the Co-Owner and Vice President of Troublemaker Studios and President of EYA Productions. In addition to producing family and genre films that have collectively grossed over a billion dollars, she has played a primary role in developing Austin, Texas as a thriving film community. Avellán began her producing career when she co-founded Los Hooligans Productions in 1991 with Robert Rodriguez as the two began their feature film project, "El Mariachi". Her next project was co-producing the film's 1995 sequel "esperado". She followed up with co-producing "From Dusk Till Dawn" as well as its successful home entertainment sequels. She also produced "The Faculty". In 2000, Avellan and Rodriguez founded Troublemaker Studios, their Austin, Texas based production company. Troublemaker includes a world-renowned visual effects studio as well as music and publishing arms. Troublemaker's first feature was the 2001 hit "Spy Kids". During the past decade, Avellán has produced a dozen films including "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," "Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams," "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over," "Sin City," "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D," "Grindhouse," "Shorts," "Predators," and "Machete." Avellán has also executive produced several projects. Most recently she served as EP on "blacktino," a film directed by her son, Aaron Burns, that world premiered at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival, and "Secuestro Express," a topical Venezuelan narrative about the dangerous trend of "express" kidnappings in her home country. She also served as EP on the documentaries "The Truth in Terms of Beauty" and "In and Out of Focus." Avellán released Troublemaker's fourth installment of the Spy Kids series, "Spy Kids 4: All The Time in The World," and under her EYA Productions banner she produced "When Angels Sing," which world premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival. Avellán was born in Caracas, Venezuela, where her grandfather, Gonzalo Veloz, was the pioneer of commercial television. She is on the board of several organizations, including the University of Texas College of Communication Advisory Board, Capital Area Statues, which commissions unique statues for the capital city; the Texas Book Festival and the Austin Film Society. The mother of six children, Avellán resides in Austin, Texas. WEBSITE LINK
    Elizabeth Avellan
    "I love to support girls and women in their vision and dreams because we are uniquely talented at guiding and fostering each one of our wonderful talents to reach our highest potential in our own way! New technology and social media are about communication! Women and girls are great instinctual inquisitive communicators! We WANT TO KNOW!"

    1. I am the mother of 5 boys and 1 girl. My 7 yr old girl is the most curious, insightful and out-of-the-box child. She wants to know about everything.
    2. I have been a voracious reader all through my life. I have instilled this love of reading to my 6 children because I have NEVER felt lonely nor bored! GREAT BOOKS are GREAT COMPANY that take you into worlds that you can imagine in your mind's eye!
    3. I LOVE WATCHING GREAT MOVIES on a Tuesday at 2 pm in a darkened theatre. I still do this often... Lunch and a movie -- Alamo Drafthouse and Violet Crown being my 2 faves in Austin


  • Lubna Ashraf, Pediatrician
    Lubna Ashraf is the Vice President of Advanced Consulting Engineers for the past 20 years. She strongly believes in empowering women globally. She is delighted to join connectHer it gives her the plat form to help women and meet super hero women from around the world. She is happily settled in Austin, Texas, married to Ashraf Ahsanullah and have two beautiful daughters. WEBSITE LINK
    Lubna Ashraf

    "We are living through a time when society is changing rapidly and where women in particular are standing up and speaking out about our experiences and passions and the transformations we want to see in the world. I believe that women lead change and I support ConnectHer in their endeavors to empower women. My purpose is to support women and girls to make their highest contribution to society by building confidence in their talents and skills and clarifying their goals and ambitions"

  • FAYRUZ BENYOUSEF
    Fayruz is a seasoned professional who has successfully helped numerous organizations and their leadership achieve success. She is a philanthropy advisor and expert working with nonprofit executives for over 20 years. Fayruz has an extensive background, serving as the CEO of an international NGO, Psychology Beyond Borders, a Partner with Dini Partners, a national consulting firm, where she was the youngest in the firm to make Partner, Development Director with Ballet Austin, and the Associate Director of Annual Giving at her alma mater, Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Now she has her own consulting practice, working with a variety of organizations at the local, national and international levels. She served two terms as Board President for AFP - Austin where she helped to shape and implement the organization's strategic goals, leveraging the fundraising profession and ethical philanthropic practice in the Austin community. WEBSITE LINK
    FAYRUZ BENYOUSEF

    "Fayruz is an incredible person - kind, generous, brilliant, savvy, and professional. She contributed so much of her self to our projects, and I believe that was one of the keys to our success. Her value as a consultant goes so far beyond the work products she creates (which are outstanding) and into that ineffable range of having a partner that truly understands your work, and can make magic happen to help you actualize your mission. I highly recommend Fayruz - she is someone I always want on my team!"



  • Zahra Durrani
    Zahra grew up in Austin, Texas when her father, took early honorable retirement from the Pakistan Navy to migrate to the U.S. Spending early childhood living abroad in the middle-east and traveling with her parents and siblings, she developed a unique perspective of the colorful and diverse world around her. This early exposure taught her to embrace the differences in people, cultures and religions and truly appreciate all that makes us unique and connected. Her mother, a talented and loving stay at home mom taught her to be kind, compassionate and empathize with people. With those values, she has always been passionate about helping others and has been involved with volunteer, charity and social work since childhood. After graduating toward the top of her high school class, she went on to study Psychology and Women's Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. She found that her talents to be people centered and went into Human Resource Management. She is happily settled in Lakeway, Texas with her husband Kamran and their beautiful girls, Zoey and Anya. WEBSITE LINK
    Zahra Durrani

    "I truly believe in Connecther's mission. It is a wonderful platform for empowering girls and women from all walks of life. I believe in raising strong, compassionate, confident girls though education and real world experiences to become future leaders and role models in our society. Knowledge is power and it is more important than ever to give the gift of education to young girls all over the world. Hillary Clinton said it best in her 2016 concession speech and I echo this to my young daughters at home . . . "To all the little girls who are watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."

  • Jihan Elayan
    As a Muslim woman and mother of four girls, I feel it is my obligation to help support and empower women and girls around the globe so that they can have better opportunities and succeed. Through the help of Connecther I can do just that. WEBSITE LINK
    Jihan Elayan


  • Tanya and Faizal Jogee
    Tanya and Faizal Jogee happily escaped the harsh winters and never-ending commutes of Chicago when they moved to the weird and wonderful city of Austin in August 2015. Tanya works as a marketing communications consultant and freelance writer, and Faizal is an IT systems director. They enjoy discovering new places, meeting new people, keeping healthy and fit, and going on outdoor adventures with their two children, ages 10 and 3. WEBSITE LINK
    Tanya and Faizal Jogee

    Women's rights are human rights! It is disheartening that this is still our battle-cry, decades after our mothers and grandmothers fought so hard for equality for women in all aspects of life. Connecther gives women and girls - especially those living in impoverished conditions - a voice; an opportunity to rise out of unfortunate, gender-based circumstances; and most importantly, a chance to simply have the same human rights afforded to males.

  • Salma Igram
    WEBSITE LINK
    Salma Igram


  • Afshan Khan and Zulfiqar Salam
    WEBSITE LINK
    Afshan Khan and Zulfiqar Salam




  • Lynn Meredith
    For more than fifteen years Lynn's involvement and influence in the community has been wide and far-reaching as she has served on the boards and chaired capital committees of-Austin Children's Museum; Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Blanton Museum of Art's (UT); KUT Public Radio; and St. Stephen's Episcopal School. Lynn is proud of being a co-founder of the first Austin chapter of National Charity League, a mother-daughter philanthropic organization. Along with her husband Tom, Lynn has been honored by the ADL with the Torch of Liberty Award, was named Austin's Philanthropist of the Year, and most recently given the Austinite of the Year award by the Austin Chamber. As a way to increase their philanthropic impact, Lynn and Tom Meredith established and endowed the MFI Foundation in 1998. As President of their family-run Foundation, Lynn's focus has been to invest in organizations who will change lives and meet the critical needs of the community. Lynn has been married to Tom for over 40 years. The proud mother of four children; she now stays busy keeping up with her grandson. Her professional career includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in education, eight years of classroom experience and a decade long commitment to the Association of Junior Leagues as a strategic community service provider. WEBSITE LINK
    Lynn Meredith




  • Barbara Miller
    Barbara Miller has served over 70 US law firms as a training, coaching and speaking consultant in communication improvement. She has worked with 50 of the AMLaw 200 firms in the US and their non-US based offices and continues to be brought back year after year. Her course topics include High Impact Presentations and the Communication Skills Workshop emphasizing communications as a strategic tool for career and client development. She has served as the communication consultant to the NITA program at the SMU Law School and has taught a persuasion skills course for the National Practice Institute. With Martin Camp, she has co-authored The Law Firm Associate’s Guide to Connecting with Colleagues, currently available from the Law Practice Management Section of the ABA. WEBSITE LINK
    Barbara Miller


  • Deborah Morin
    An experienced yogic practitioner, Deborah Morin instructs others in yoga and is currently working to found a yoga retreat near the head of the Ganges River in India. In addition to teaching yoga, Deborah Morin has worked to promote a diverse range of environmental causes and endeavors related to sustainable living. Among other organizations, she devoted a surplus of time, energy, and resources to the Austin-based Save Our Springs Alliance. Deborah Morin and her husband, co-founder of Whole Foods John Mackey, maintain roughly one thousand acres of land in Blanco County, Texas. The ranch has long been held up as a prime example of sustainable living in the area, having undergone significant biodynamic processes meant to revitalize the soil and allow for sustained growth and renewal. Previously, Deborah Morin worked as a professional analyst and software programmer for a number of established firms. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. WEBSITE LINK
    Deborah Morin

    1. A practitioner of yoga, Deborah Morin developed a close relationship with Swami Sundaranand, known as the "clicking sawmi," on a spiritual pilgrimage to India in 2003. People throughout India revere the yogi, mountaineer and photographer for his high level of spiritual and environmental awareness and for his efforts to spread that awareness to others. After Deborah Morin met Swami Sundaranand, he became her guru, and she studied, meditated, and traveled with him. She participated in a project to fund the construction of an archive to store and display her guru's photography collection.
    2. Complementing her personal commitment to healthy practices like yoga, Deborah Morin favors ecologically friendly causes in Texas and Colorado. She supported the Save Our Spring Alliance in Austin, Texas, and that same state's Wildlife Exemption Policy. As co-founder, she helped establish Austin Business Leaders for the Environment. Her other charitable commitments involve the Hope Project, Cyberways and Waterways, the Land Trust Alliance, and others. Furthermore, she sits on the Advisory Board for the Nutritional Research Foundation, a group that carries out clinical research on diet and its disease-fighting properties of food.
    3. In her private life, Deborah Morin lives with her husband, John Mackey, (co-chief executive officer and co-founder of Whole Foods Market) in Boulder, CO. They also maintain a ranch in the Texas Hill Country that models sustainable living through permaculture and biodynamic agriculture.

  • Hayat Shaban
    Meet Hayat Shaban, wife, mother of two boys, and a licensed realtor. Her inviting smile and positive attitude are instantly likeable and contagious. She is especially passionate about helping people, and channels that through her profession and community work. Recognizing that the youth are our future, Hayat involved herself in her children's elementary school as chairperson for the reading body, and led a local youth group as president, introducing children to community work and encouraging them to participate in beneficial activities. She is actively involved in various Charity projects. If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, Hayat is the one to trust. She is equipped with a pleasant, lighthearted attitude as well as the technical know-how, and will help you list your home and /or find your next one. WEBSITE LINK
    Hayat Shaban


  • Sarosh Saleemi
    Dr. Saleemi completed her Anesthesia Residency at Beth Israel Medical Center and NYU, New York. She has done her Cardiac Anesthesia Fellowship from New York University (NYU) Medical Center, New York. She has completed board certifications in both anesthesiology and pain management from American Board of Anesthesia. Dr. Saleemi is an experienced, New York City and LSU trained, board-certified Pain specialist. After completing her Pain management fellowship from Louisiana State University (LSU), Dr. Saleemi accepted a position as an associate professor in Pain management at the same university. During her pain fellowship, she co-authored studies on low back pain and Botulinum toxin-A injections, and predicting nerve root pathology on neural scan. As an associate professor she authored studies on fibromyalgia and on treatment of Piriformis syndrome with Botulinum toxin A. She presented posters on fibromyalgia and on Piriformis Botox at American Society of Anesthesiology, American society of Pain management and International Association of study of Pain. In 2009, Dr.Saleemi decided to make Austin her permanent home and established Interventional Pain Associates where she specializes in different types of pain procedures and management of pain medicines. When she is not working, Dr. Saleemi enjoys socializing, reading, traveling and spending time with her friends. WEBSITE LINK
    Sarosh Saleemi


  • Diane Umstead
    Diane was born in Tripoli, Libya, the daughter of a three-star general in the US Air Force, and lived with her parents and four sisters on military bases around the world. She is a graduate of the University of Texas, Austin, and American University Washington College of Law, DC. She has practiced law with two of the largest law firms in Texas and worked with Texas Governor Ann Richards as the first woman appointed to the Texas Water Development Board. In 2013, Diane published her first book, The Wisdom Tree: A Mother’s Journey into Israel and Palestine, a memoir about her travels with her son Mark in southern Israel and the Palestinian West Bank. She and her husband have two sons and live in Austin, Texas, where she is working on her next book, The Sunday Ghibli. WEBSITE LINK
    Diane Umstead


  • Hana Zibdeh-Lough, Pediatrician
    Hana grew up in the rural coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia. Her father, a Palestinian refugee, was an OBGYN physician who dedicated his entire career to improving women's health care in that region. Her mother completed both her graduate and undergraduate education while raising her children. Her parent's commitment to education and healthcare inspired her to become a pediatrician and serve her community. She strongly believes that creating good role models, improving access to healthcare, and providing equal education opportunities can create a more successful future. Hana resides in Austin with her husband, Dr. Erik Lough, and their three children. WEBSITE LINK
    Hana Zibdeh-Lough


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