Story & Mission



September 11, 2001 was the major catalyst in GPBF Founder, Tom Etzel’s, commitment to peacebuilding. Tom experienced a calling to channel his grieving energies in a positive way during the aftermath of the tragedy he and his family experienced. His 25-year-old niece, Katie McCloskey was on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower. Tom’s high school friend, Ken Waldie, was aboard that jetliner. 

Upon completing his Master of Arts degree in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, in July of 2010, Tom successfully established GPBF.  Bearing special significance, the effective date of incorporation for GPBF was September 11, 2010.

GPBF operates under the premise that changing attitudes, perceptions and relationships are essential to peacebuilding, and doing this at the grassroots level will contribute to sustainable peace.  

GPBF’s mission is to contribute to the building of global peace by supporting organizations and projects that restore, rebuild, and transform relationships that have been broken due to prejudices, stereotyping, hatreds, and fears that may have accumulated over generations.

We hope you join us. 


GPBF is supported by an exceptional governing board, comprised of members dedicated to grassroots peacebuilding around the globe.



Shannon Brudder

Shannon is the Director of Business and Proposal Development at the Institute of International Education (IIE) - an NGO dedicated to advancing international education and access to education worldwide. She has more than a decade of experience designing and implementing programs that promote tolerance and mutual understanding in conflict-affected environments around the world - including the Balkans, North Caucasus, Yemen, Rwanda, and South Sudan. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she focused on conflict management and mitigation, and is a passionate believer in the transformational power of grassroots peacebuilding. She and her husband live in Alexandria, VA.

Amaka Azikiwe

Amaka currently serves as a Political Affairs Officer in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. Since joining the UN in 2001, Ms. Azikiwe has served as Associate Human Rights Officer and Gender Focal Point in the UN Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic. A native of Nigeria and born in Morocco, she holds a MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University and a BA from Hunter College. 



Michael Kunz

Michael is the Senior Director of Programs for Counterpart International, a non-governmental organization committed to equipping individuals, organizations and communities to become solution creators in their own families, communities, and countries. Michael has successfully led projects promoting good governance, food security, environmental preservation, education, and healthcare within Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia. Kunz currently resides in the Washington, DC area with this wife and two children. Michael holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Washington and a M.A. in International Relations from Tufts University Fletcher School.


Ruth Lande

Ruth has an extensive background in mission-driven organizations. Her career started in Vermont as part of the founding of an eco-friendly products catalog, and for the last 20+ years in healthcare administration. Ruth currently serves as the Senior Vice-President of Patient Revenues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center. Ruth holds a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College, and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. She currently resides in New York City.



Bujar Hoxha

Bujar has dedicated his life to serving those in need. More specifically, Bujar has over 16 years of experience designing and managing multifaceted socio-economic development programs in the Middle East and the Balkans. Bujar currently serves as the Director of Programme Operations for Save the Children International in Iraq and holds an MA in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.



Ed Cipriano

A graduate from Muskingum University with a teaching certificate and Bachelor’s in History, Ed joined the Peace Corps where he taught for over two years in Bogata, Colombia. Ed currently serves on the advisory and the visitor boards of the University Center for International Studies (UCIS) at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to his professional life, Ed has volunteered as a coach for the Mt. Lebanon, PA girls 5th-8th grade recreation basketball program for the past 20 years. Ed and his wife Kitty currently reside in Pittsburgh and have two children, Melinda and Candice and a son in law, Bill.



Beatriz vergara

Beatriz comes from an extensive background in economic and business development, international trade and entrepreneurship. During her time at the Economic Development Agency of Tenerife, Spain, Beatriz led projects involving agro-business, urbanization, renewable energy, tourism, and cultural, leisure and health. Prior to devoting her career to economic development, Beatriz ran the Tenerife World Trade Center (TWTC), where she developed and implemented strategic plans, which would lead to a strong network of member companies for TWTC. Beatriz currently holds the position of Creative Director and Managing Director of her own jewelry company, Hissia.


steve lord

As managing principal in consulting practice Strategist Group LLC, Steven Lord currently assists clients with rapid strategic assessment and evaluation of global opportunities, product development, and operational efficiency. Steven Lord has founded and led several companies in the financial information technology, investment research and asset management sectors in both the United States and Europe. Prior to founding Strategist Group, he served as Chief Executive Officer of Knobias, Inc., a publicly traded pioneer of highly specialized financial software platforms favored by institutional equity trading desks around the world. Steven Lord earned a Masters degree in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a Bachelor's degree in Business from the University of Vermont. 




Our advisors come from various industries. Their skills and expertise create value for the GPFB team as we tackle the challenges that come with identifying and supporting grassroots peacebuilding organizations around the world. 

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Scott Tully

Scott has spent significant time in the private sector at Bank of Boston, AEW Capital Management and as a co-founder of Taurus Capital Markets in the commercial real estate arena. Most recently Scott founded Novaya Real Estate Ventures, an entrepreneurial real estate platform headquartered in Boston.

Scott has been active in community service over the years through a Board seat at the Boys and Girls Club of Woburn, as a youth coach in Reading Youth Baseball, Reading Babe Ruth baseball and in Reading and AAU travel basketball.  Most recently he was quad-founder of Team IMPACT: a not-for-profit committed to providing team support and structure to children with life-threatening illnesses (

Scott is a graduate of Yale University (BA) with a dual major in Economics and Political Science. He is also a graduate of Boston University School of Management (MBA with a concentration in Real Estate and Finance) and most recently undertook a Masters in International Affairs at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University alongside Tom Etzel, founder of the Global Peace Building Foundation. 


Jessica Berns

Jessica Berns is the Founder and Principal of Jessica Berns Consulting. She creates strategies, designs programs, develops partnerships, and operates at the intersection of content and communications. She is motivated by a vision of a safer, more just, and more equal world.

The majority of Jessica’s work has taken place within the NGO sector, and her areas of expertise include strategic planning, program design and implementation, and communications. She has a special interest in civil society network and partnership development, which she first developed as a Program Officer working with the Latin American chapters of Transparency International, the anti-corruption NGO in Berlin, Germany. More recently, as Program Director of Coexistence International at Brandeis University, an initiative focused on strengthening the coexistence field, Jessica facilitated the creation of a network of coexistence practitioners in West Africa.

With an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in Spanish, and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, Jessica has spent much of her professional life working and living abroad, in Latin America, Europe, and West Africa.


May Salameh

May was the Executive Director of INJAZ Yemen until April of 2011. Originally from Jordan, May began operations in Yemen in December 2009 following three years in Bogota, Colombia as Junior Achievement's Operations Manager in Latin America. Prior to her work in Latin America, she was a fundraising and marketing consultant in INJAZ Al-Arab's regional office in Amman, and a monitoring and evaluation specialist with INJAZ Jordan.

May has also worked with UNHCR on Iraqi refugee issues. May is fluent in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish and holds a Master's degree in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. May is currently an independent consultant helping companies identify new business opportunities by tracking USG funding and procurement cycles. 


GPBF is supported by a small team comprising of Tom Etzel, founder of GPBF and Sarah Abboud, Social Media Coordinator.


tom Etzel

Tom is the Founder and Executive Director of the Global Peace Building Foundation (GPBF), a non-profit corporation investing in peacebuilding programs around the globe that help youth and children from conflict-affected environments build lasting peace by fostering relationships to overcome prejudice, stereotyping, hatred and fear.

September 11, 2001 was the major catalyst in Tom’s commitment to peacebuilding. His 25 year-old niece, Katie McCloskey was on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower. Tom’s high school friend, Ken Waldie, was aboard that jetliner. In the days following the tragedy, when many Americans were thinking of war and retribution, Etzel's thoughts were traveling on a different path. He began to wonder if there was someway peace could be achieved by improving relationships among people of different viewpoints.

Enrolling in the mid-career Masters Degree program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tom’s goals were to gain an in-depth global perspective and find a clearer vision of world affairs and efforts toward globally building peace.  Through this intense and rigorous program, Tom formed close bonds and connections with classmates from all over the world, allowing him to see ordinary situations and issues from different cultural perspectives. He remains close with his fellow graduates.

Upon completing his studies at the Fletcher School in July of 2010, Tom successfully established GPBF.  Bearing special significance, the effective date of incorporation for GPBF was September 11, 2010.

Tom holds the Master of Arts degree in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, cum laude, from Duquesne University.

Tom is a Certified Public Accountant and Investment Advisor. He has been the Principal of his own tax and investment advisory practice for the past 24 years. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wife, Phyllis Etzel. Tom and Phyllis have three children, Kristen, Katie and Mark; a son-in-law, Aaron; a daughter-in-law, Nikki; and grandsons, Elliott and Sullivan. 


sarah abboud

Sarah Abboud is GPBF's Social Media Coordinator and is passionate about the issues that affect our world today. During her undergraduate career she spent time in India where she worked with a non-profit organization teaching young children life skills through sport and creative arts. During her time in India, she learned the importance of investing in children and the wildly positive effects it can have. In addition to Sarah's non-profit work, she serves as Uber's Advanced Technologies Center's Internal Communication Specialist. Sarah holds her Masters in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business and bachelor's degree from the College of Wooster. She is the oldest of four children and a proud aunt to her niece, Arielle. 


GPBF is a member of the Peace and Security Funders Group (PSFG) and the Alliance for Peacebuilding(AFP); and registered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  These organizations provide collaboration, education and networking opportunities for GPBF.

about psfg

The Peace and Security Funders Group is a network of public, private and family foundations, and individual philanthropists who make grants or expenditures that contribute to peace and global security. PSFG maintains an informed, engaged and collegial community of funders, whose numbers and investments in the field are steadily increasing. 


About AFP

The Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) is the institutional home for the peacebuilding community—a network of over 100 organizations working to resolve conflict and create sustainable peace in 153 countries. 



One of the many things USAID does is to help societies prevent and recover from conflicts.