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Immigrant and International Advisory Council

The Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council was established to advise the Director and Executive Staff of the Department of Human Services regarding the human service needs of immigrant and international county residents. Representing diverse groups in Allegheny County, the Advisory Council identifies issues of concern, important changes in needs of immigrant and international communities, and general ideas for improving the Department’s mission to be culturally competent and inclusive.

Read about the work of the Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council.
pdf.gif Your Culture is Valued Here: Lessons from the DHS Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council
Bruce Barron, January 2013. 

Membership Requirements

The Advisory Council is comprised of members of immigrant and international communities in Allegheny County, consumers of DHS services, and representatives of service provider agencies that work with immigrants and internationals.

Membership Terms

Advisory Council members, recommended by members of immigrant and international communities and appointed by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, commit to serving on the Advisory Council without compensation for a term of two years. After this two-year term, membership may be renewed. Any member who misses two or more quarterly meetings in one year without just cause may be removed from the Advisory Council.

Members will collectively identify issues and make recommendations to the Department of Human Services for improving outreach and human service delivery to immigrants and internationals. They agree to serve as a channel for two-way communications between DHS and immigrant and international communities. They will:

  • Obtain input from and identify human service issues of immigrant and international consumers
  • Bring human service needs of the immigrant and international community to the Advisory Council
  • Work to develop recommendations for DHS to address issues of concern
  • Share Department of Human Services information with the community

pdf.gif January 2014
pdf.gif January 2013 | April 2013 | July 2013 | October 2013 
pdf.gif January 2012 | April 2012 | July 2012 | October 2012
pdf.gif January 2011 | April 2011 | July 2011 | October 2011
pdf.gif January 2010 | April 2010 |July 2010 | October 2010
pdf.gif January 2009 | April 2009 | July 2009 | October 2009
pdf.gif October 2008 


The officers of the Advisory Council are two Co-Chairs, one of whom must be an immigrant or international. Working with DHS staff, they preside at meetings and provide direction. They assist DHS staff in planning agendas for the quarterly meetings by collecting and conveying agenda items proposed by the Advisory Council.


The Allegheny County Department of Human Services calls quarterly meetings of the Advisory Council (January, April, July, and October). In the interim, the Advisory Council may hold committee meetings to gather information about various human service issues and concerns, work with DHS and other community members to address them, and develop recommendations. To gain greater insight into the issues facing immigrant and international communities and develop recommendations, Advisory Council members may invite and encourage other community members to participate in these committee meetings.

Administrative Oversight

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services is responsible for the overall notification and distribution of minutes for the Advisory Council meetings. All meeting minutes and formal documents will be kept on file at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.


The Advisory Council has developed committees to address several human service needs:

The Language Access Committee works to improve DHS capacity to serve individuals with Limited English Proficiency and has focused on developing a community language bank to serve the broader community, including providers and consumers of human services, healthcare, education, and legal services.

The Cultural Competency Committee has developed and provides immigrant-led cultural competency training for DHS staff and contracted human service providers.

The Career Development Committee focuses on improving workforce opportunities for immigrants and refugees. Projects have included the Refugee Career Mentoring Program, a partnership with PA CareerLink, and resource development in the areas of job counseling, skills training, and career pathways.

The COMPASS AmeriCorps Program, in conjunction with the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, began in September 2010 and currently deploys 20 to 25 AmeriCorps Members to work with immigrant-serving agencies, providing support for the ongoing social service needs of immigrants and refugees.

The Children and Youth Committee works to expand existing youth support and career development programs to serve the specific needs of immigrant and refugee youth.

The Immigrant Behavioral Health Resource Network strives to better understand and serve the behavioral health needs of immigrants and refugees through information exchange, resource development, and capacity-building.

The Immigrant Family Childcare Project was created to develop business opportunities for immigrant and refugee women and increase the quality of childcare through a home-based childcare provider training program.

Members (January 2014)
  • Jackie Abel-Stavropoulos, Goodwill Southwestern Pennsylvania
  • Yinka Aganga-Williams, Acculturation for Justice, Access, and Peace Outreach (AJAPO)
  • Leslie Aizenman, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Refugee Services
  • Mary Carrasco, Mercy Hospital, International and Community Health
  • Riffat Chughtai, Pittsburgh Muslim Family Support Services
  • Adriana Dobrzycka, Vibrant Pittsburgh
  • Patricia Documet, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health
  • Katie Fitzsimmons, Squirrel Hill Health Center
  • Clara Folino, Allegheny Intermediate Unite, Adult ESL Services
  • Marco Gemignani, Duquesne University, Servicios de Salud Mental para Hispano Hablantes
  • Veronica Gonzalez, Catholic Charities, Refugee Services
  • Rufus Idris, Christian Evangelistic Economic Development (CEED)
  • Bijou Lendo, Congolese Union of Pittsburgh
  • Courtney Macurak, Prospect Park Family Center
  • Doug Masiroff, Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council
  • Kheir Mugwaneza, Northern Area Companies, Community Assistance and Refugee Resettlement, Co-Chair
  • Aweys Mwaliya, Somali Bantu Community Association of Pittsburgh
  • Natasha Novikova, Russian Community
  • Charles Odah, DHS, Office of Data Analysis, Research, and Evaluation
  • Tamare Piersaint, Carlow University, L'Union Fait La Force, Haitian Community
  • Rosamaria Ponciano, Latino Family Center, Co-Chair
  • Khlood Salman, Duquesne University, School of Nursing
  • MiRan Surh, Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh
  • Khara Timsina, Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh
  • Sister Janice Vanderneck, Casa San Jose, Sisters of St. Joseph 

Barbara Murock, DHS Project Manager

Andy Smith, DHS Program Specialist 

Related Information 

pdf.gif DHS: Making an Impact - Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council 
Published February 2013.

As the Allegheny County population continues to grow and change, DHS strives to ensure that our services and supports are accessible and culturally appropriate for everyone. The Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council is a vehicle to educate the immigrant community on existing services and broaden access to, and cultural competency of, the human services at DHS and other community organizations. 

pdf.gif Your Culture is Valued Here: Lessons from the DHS Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council
Bruce Barron
January 2013.

In 2007, in recognition of the need to ensure that its services are accessible and culturally competent to residents from other countries, DHS established an Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council, composed of immigrants/internationals from a wide range of countries and representatives of immigrant-serving initiatives throughout Allegheny County. Since that time, the Council has grown in representation and in scope, and has been responsible for a number of innovative efforts designed to give voice to recipient communities, build collaborations with existing community resources and support the creation of services to address unmet needs. The Council has been credited by key players in the local international community with making the region more immigrant-friendly on several fronts.

This report provides an historical perspective on the Council and a description of its accomplishments, featuring the stories of a number of Council members.

Resources for Immigrants and Internationals