Global Office Team

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Melanie Rutten-Sülz

Secretary General

Melanie is the Secretary General of Youth For Understanding’s Global Office and responsible for leadership, strategy, and implementation. Her responsibilities include building and managing the Global Office, planning and delivering the current transformation process and Global Strategy together with the member organizations of our global network.  and working closely with members and stakeholders to support our global operations. Originally from Germany, she is mostly based in Brussels, but travels the world to link up with the global YFU community.
Melanie is a mission-driven and results-oriented transformational thinker and leader, and a passionate global citizen. She has a strong background in multi-stakeholder convening, organizational development and sustainable agriculture and supply chains (in coffee). Melanie has a Master in Latin American Studies, Economics and Political Sciences from the University of Cologne, Germany, and the Federal University of Ceará, Brazil. She has lived and worked in Brazil, Guatemala, Peru and the Netherlands, and is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
I love to inspire others – especially young people – from all around the world to take a truly global perspective, enhance their identity and find a place and role to contribute to making our world a better place!
Prior to joining YFU, she has worked for 15 years in International Cooperation and Development, where she a.o. successfully lead the development of the Common Code for the Coffee Community as well as the 4C Association and its successor, the Global Coffee Platform. She has served on the Board of Directors of the ISEAL Alliance, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors of Bonsucro, the Global Platform for Sustainable Sugarcane.

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Kea Hoppe

Director EEE-YFU

Kea is the Director of EEE-YFU, the umbrella organization of Youth For Understanding in Europe, located in Brussels, Belgium. In her current role, she is responsible for positioning YFU as an expert in intercultural education, creating partnerships and advancing the organization strategically. Kea holds a master's degree in Psychology from the University of Göttingen, Germany, the country she is originally from. She has been involved with YFU as a staff member since 2006, first working for YFU Germany in different management positions before moving to the European level of YFU in January 2017. Having been a YFU exchange student herself, she loves working with passionate colleagues from around the globe for a cause she truly believes in.  

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Livia Honorato

Global Program Coordinator

Livia is the Global Program Coordinator at the Global Office. In this role she supports member organizations with programs related tasks/questions, such as health insurance, system support, new programs’ development and mediation between partners. She was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she is currently based.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a Marketing Specialist certificate from UCLA, California. Her father was a YFU exchange student, what motivated her to become one herself, in Germany. Since 2005, she has been a volunteer, host-family, intern for YFU Estonia and Outbound Coordinator for YFU Brazil. To be part of a big and noble cause is what keeps her motivated to work with YFU. 

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Bent Richter, Director Global IT

Bent Richter

Director Global IT

Bent leads the Global IT department in order to build strong IT backbone operations for YFU member organizations worldwide. He started out as a YFU exchange student and has been involved with YFU ever since - as volunteer, host parent as well as co-founder and long time Director of YFU in Austria. Bent holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration.

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Airika Torn

IT Systems and Product Manager

Airika works at the Global Office as an IT Systems and Product Manager. She carries out her daily duties in Estonia, where she has lived all her life. With YFU she has been involved since 2013 when she first opened her home to an exchange student from Germany. To date, Airika has been a host mom four times, her own child has been involved in an exchange year and she has worked in YFU Estonia as Volunteer Coordinator for more than three years. With her educational and experiential background, she is an economist who likes to solve real-life puzzles in organizations. 

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Panagiotis Chatzimichail

Advocacy & Projects Coordinator

Panagiotis (Pete) is the Advocacy and Project Coordinator of EEE-YFU. Based on the work and positions of YFU and member organizations, his role is to follow up, disseminate and provide inputs on policy related issues in European and Global level.

Pete holds a master's degree in Political Science (European Dimension). Besides his expertise on the topics of policy, institutions, youth and education, he also focuses on GDPR, organization and membership development and networking. Personally and/or professionally, Pete has been in the field of Civil Society Organizations for more than 10 years. Some organizations he has been actively involved with are ESN, YEU, AEGEE, LLLP and YFJ.

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Andreea Madar

Projects Coordinator

Andreea comes from Romania and is currently studying and working in Brussels. She was an exchange student with YFU in Germany in 2011/2012. She speaks 5 languages and has many hobbies: skiing, graphic design, cross fit training to name the most important.
She holds a Bachelor diploma in European Studies and International Relations from the Babes-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca and is currently finishing her Masters in Political Strategy and Communication at the University of Kent. During her studies in Brussels, she has been working with EEE-YFU supporting Educational Activities, and has also been involved in Advocacy and developing promotional materials.

She has been volunteering in many youth organisations for the last 6 years, gaining experience in project management, volunteer management and fundraising.

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Joanne Halbardier

Operations Manager

Joanne is the Operations Manager of Youth For Understanding’s (YFU) Global Office. She was born in New York, and raised and educated in Washington, DC, USA. Currently based in Washington, DC, she supports and coordinates YFU international governance functions, including International Board activities, the International Contingency and Development Fund and its grantee and trustee activities, international General Assembly functions, Member Organization processes and communications and Global Office operations. Joanne has worked for YFU in a variety of capacities, including all aspects of program delivery in the United States. Previous to YFU, Joanne worked in the area of university programs- recruitment, promotion and administration. She volunteers her time to causes important to her – Alzheimer’s prevention, social justice and voting rights.
Joanne is a global citizen who believes wholeheartedly in the mission of YFU and how it’s now more necessary than ever. She took part in a cultural exchange to the United Kingdom shortly after graduating from university. But it’s the people of YFU who keep her interest -she particularly loves working with a diversity of cultures and their different professional approaches. “There are not enough fingers on my hands to count the lifelong friends I’ve made because of and through YFU!”

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Marzena Gawenda

Training Director

Marzena is the Training Director in EEE-YFU where she designs and implements training courses and capacity-building projects for YFU volunteers and staff. Her responsibilities include obtaining funds and grant-writing for educational projects as well as managing the European Trainer Network. Originally from Poland, she has lived, worked and studied in Italy and Spain and is currently based in Belgium. Marzena is not only a trainer, coach and facilitator, but also an art therapist, deeply interested in body-mind-soul connection. She has extensive volunteer experience in NGOs, including AEGEE, SIETAR, First Light India, and Toastmasters.
Working with YFU makes it possible for her to be the witness of countless a-ha moments and transformations during training courses, international friendships being forged and exceptional ideas turning into sustainable projects.
Marzena holds an MA in Ethnolinguistics and a post-master specialisation in Art Therapy, Forum Theatre and Vedic Art. She has over 15 years of practice in the Training Field and her work experience ranges from designing educational projects for NGOs to organising strategic retreats and teambuilding activities for businesses, to running transformative personal retreats for individuals.