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.
Ahmad Ibrahimi, through his experience as an interpreter for the U.S Embassy in Afghanistan, and his passion for refugee advocacy, found a home in RRRS as a case manager after being introduced to Mike Coniff in 2021. Since then, as a Case Manager at RRRS, Ahmad has been helping refugees through any obstacle that may come their way, whether that is language barriers, access to transportation, job navigation, home maintenance , etc.
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.
Merrill DiPonzio got the opportunity to work as Financial Analyst and Office Manager after interning for RRRS. She has traveled and met people of different backgrounds and political circumstances, and feels eager to contribute and provide her knowledge in efforts to help those in need. She was fortunately introduced to RRRS through the United Nations Association of Rochester. Merrill holds a degree in International Relations and French.
Tara Kiernan is a vital part of our organization, through her passion for different cultures and her immense devotion for helping marginalized groups excel throughout their journeys. As an Asylum Manager, Tara feels strongly about exposing our families to opportunities, as well as lending them a hand in leading a healthy and happy life. She wants to educate people on the strength, kindness and hard work that our clients and their families reflect everyday.
Natalia Argitis felt a need to get involved, after being introduced to RRRS through a volunteer opportunity and to reach our community by caring for our families’ homes. She now serves as Volunteer and Project Coordinator. Natalia feels strongly about leading our young volunteers, and helping them understand of the sacrifices our community has made to come to this country. Ever since migrating to New York, Natalia feels as though it is a personal duty for her to honor our refugee families and their strength. She holds a degree in sociology from Queens College.
Phillipa Stuart Phillipa feels that it is her life’s purpose to give back to those that paved the way for us. With a rich background in social work, as well as having first hand knowledge of one’s journey when coming to the United States, Phillipa is our Behavioral Consultant. When she is not educating others on trauma responses, or is not too busy being a program director working with youth, Phillipa is right here at our office helping families obtain the resources they need to feel their best throughout their transitional journeys.
Phil Matt has served as Webmaster for the RRRS since 2014. A “recovered photojournalist,” Phil donates his web and print 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.