About > Our People
Since 2012 RRRS has been serving New Americans. This terminology includes refugees, immigrants, “no one left behind” (natives who have served our military in their home country) and now asylum seekers.
These folks come from a variety of countries and cultures which are very different from each other and from our culture. They range from skilled professionals to illiterate farmers. This requires understanding of each culture and its relationship with American cultural values.
To help bridge this understanding gap we have as staff New Americans themselves who have become familiar with our culture and values and are familiar with the cultural differences.
Because we house most of those whom we serve, we get to know the entire family and the needs and challenges that each member of the family faces, giving us a unique perspective on how to help them become self-sufficient.
Djifa Kothor is our Executive Director. He has been with RRRS since 2014 and manages day to day operations and especially the housing. His family came originally from Togo and have been here for 20 years. Djifa is a graduate of Holy Rosary School, Bishop Kearny High School and St. Lawrence University.
Kathy LaBue is our board chair. Kathy is the co-founder of Mary’s Place Refugee Outreach, which was the organization that got this whole thing rolling. She has more than a dozen years of experience dealing with refugees from three continents and is one of the more knowledgeable people in our area on understanding refugees and their needs and concerns.
Mike Coniff is the founder of RRRS and CEO. Starting from a desktop computer at home, Mike has helped RRRS grow to what it is today. Mike would be first to admit that it has been God’s hand and the talent and dedication of staff and volunteers who have brought RRRS to what it is today.
Robert Tawney is our bookkeeper and financial analyst. Rob has been associated with RRRS for more than 4 years, first as a volunteer teaching sign language to a deaf refugee and now as staff. Rob is deaf and is co-founder of Deaf Refugee Advocacy, and a past president of the Rochester Deaf Rotary Club (the only deaf Rotary Club in the US). He also works as a job navigator for deaf candidates in the Health Professions Opportunity Grant. (HPOG)
Day Thoo is one of our Burmese maintenance and repair workers. He has been in the US for about 10 years. He is the mainstay of our home repair and maintenance efforts, helping us keep 60+ housing units safe and comfortable for our people.
Aung Ngae Aung Ngae is a hard worker from Myanmar who does all kinds of maintenance tasks for RRRS. He came to Rochester via Thailand with his family in 2009.
England Abdi came to Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services in June 2021. She is a Healthy Home Coordinator and a Case Manager, and has a passion for providing services to refugee families. She came to the United States at eleven years old, and grew up in Chicago. She is working with multiple refugee families to improve living in healthier and safer environments. She wants to become a Social Worker,a she enjoys working with diverse refugees to connect them with resources that they need. In addition, she believes that it is essential to have a deep understanding of cultural differences to provide quality care while at the same time being culturally sensitive.
Gabe Jackel-Dewhurst is a recent graduate of RIT who interned at RRRS during Summer 2021, and is now back full time through AmeriCorps. He runs RRRS’ social media and PR, and is involved with the organization’s mental health initiative for our clients.
Aris Gonzalez is studying at SUNY at Brockport as a Public Health Education major with a double minor in Biology and Psychology. She is currently working with England, the Healthy Home Coordinator, to identify the factors that could be affecting these families. She is working on analyzing the mental and social aspects of a healthy home and finding strategies to improve our clients’ well-being in the United States.
Mary Claire joined the RRRS staff after being a volunteer for 2 years. She works as the Asylum Case Manager. Born and raised in Rochester NY, Mary has been passionate about human rights and helping others in need. She has a degree in Emergency Management from Niagara Country Community College. Mary looks forward to having a long career with RRRS working with the clients and staff.
Phil Matt has served as Webmaster for the RRRS since 2014. A “recovered photojournalist,” Phil donates his web design services (Nimble Eye Design) to the RRRS because he believes that refugees have always played such a central role in the vibrancy, growth and progress of American society. He is honored to be able to contribute to the RRRS in their ongoing efforts to help refugees in their new American lives.