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Meet the Team

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Lisa Dietrich

CEO

Lisa Dietrich is the CEO of the peacebuilding charity, Community Relations in Schools (CRIS) that has been operating since 1984.  Lisa has worked at CRIS since 2002, after her studies at Ulster University, having achieved a Master’s degree in Communication, PR and Advertising.  
Awarded in 2022 with an OBE for her services to peace education and community reconciliation, Lisa is committed to efforts that counter the ‘separated’ nature of the education system in Northern Ireland and engender greater participation in peace building work at the grass roots level by utilising schools as focal points for transformation.  
Lisa believes it is essential to present narratives that counter polarisation and that share good news stories that inspire hope and celebrate diversity and our common humanity.  
Lisa is a mediator and has further studies in business management and intercultural facilitation in divided societies.  Her experience also includes developing the capacity of non-profit organisations and supporting their sustainability. 
Other loves include being a Mummy, taking walks in mountains with her dog Stella, and dreams of getting back into painting – all of which help create the necessary balance in life.

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Dr Emily Stanton

Director of Programmes

Emily joined CRIS as Programme Manager in October 2020 having worked within the peacebuilding field both in Northern and internationally for over twenty years. Emily was awarded a doctorate in International Conflict and Peacebuilding with INCORE from Ulster University in 2018.

Her professional practice includes research, teaching, and training in peace and conflict studies, education, mediation, trauma and resiliency, and community relations. She is also experienced in conducting community-based monitoring and evaluation on topics of peacebuilding and social cohesion. Emily has two children and lives in East Belfast with her husband and cat.

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Gerard Hughes

Senior Practitioner Growing GRACE

Gerard joined the CRIS team in December 2019, working across various project strands. More recently, his focus for work has been focussed largely on whole-school commuinity collaborative partnerships - working closely with both the MFT and NEST partnerships, through CRIS's Growing GRACE initiative.

Previous work includes experience of delivering youth work, community relations work, and collaborative partnership work. He has spent his career to date engaged in the education sector under various guises – from volunteering at local community sports and arts events, to organising large-scale creative industry events in partnership with young people and creative industry agencies. Through this experience, Gerard has developed a strong interest in and passion for peace education and community relations initiatives. 

Gerard has personal interests in travel, football & other sports, food, culture and books. He grew up in North Belfast and studied at undergraduate level at QUB, and at postgraduate level at UUJ.

Damon Henry 

Project Coordinator Buddy Up!

Damon is Project Coordinator for ‘Buddy Up!’ programme and will be working to deliver the project across the five Urban Village areas in Northern Ireland.  Damon hails 
from West Belfast and is passionate about improving aspirations and outcomes for young people in the city and the country as a whole. After beginning his journey working with young people as a volunteer football coach, he spent some time in England, where he found himself in a role as a detached youth worker for a small charity. This led to an opportunity to work at Southampton FC as a youth worker in their official charity, the Saints Foundation, before moving home to take up his current role at CRIS. He is a keen football fan and Gaelic footballer and, when not delivering in schools, can usually be found either playing with his dog or at Solitude watching Cliftonville FC. He has a masters degree in Maritime Archaeology from the University of Southampton and an undergraduate in History and Politics from Queens. 

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Elizabeth Castillo

Finance and Administration Manager

Elizabeth is an accountant from Colombia who has been living in Belfast since 2014. She first joined CRIS as a part-time Administrative Assistant in July 2015. Elizabeth has vast experience in working with different types of public corporations and private companies ranging from services trade, electricity, horizontal property managers, and health. This is her first time working within a charitable organisation.

We asked Elizabeth what she thought of her time at CRIS so far and here is what she had to say; “I love working for CRIS because I can share new ideas and have refreshed the administrative management and accounting systems. I love working for a charity that does work to support the breaking down of stereotypes and divisions”

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Susie Vint

Good Relations Practitioner Everyday Peacebuilding

Susie joined the CRIS team in February 2023.  Her role as the Good Relations Practitioner will be delivering the Buddy UP! programme to primary schools in North Belfast as well as engaging and working alongside parents in creating purposeful and fun projects across the Crumlin Road interface.

Susie’s background is working with children, parents and the community. She is passionate about working with the family as a whole and considers it as a privilege.  Her degree is in Early Childhood Studies and has enjoyed that this has given her a wide range of skills with various opportunities.

She is outgoing, chatty and loves to laugh.  She is excited that this role allows her to meet new people and learn about their backgrounds and interests. Susie grew up in North Belfast and has a real understanding and empathy for others. As a parent she knows the importance of creating an environment that is stimulating, safe, loving and fun for the next generation.

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Stefania Gualberti

Associate

Stefania has been an associate with CRIS since November 2019. She is a trainer, facilitator, and mediator. She has a degree and a Masters in Peace Studies (University of Pisa, Italy). She moved to Belfast in 2008 and has been involved in the peacebuilding and community relations sectors in different roles since then. She is passionate about nonviolence, conflict transformation, diversity and migration, and language.

Gordon McDade

Associate

Gordon has been an Associate with CRIS since 2021. He recognises the vital importance of creating creative contexts within the separated Northern Ireland education systems and empowering local school communities to engage in adventurous peacebuilding exploits. Gordon believes passionately that peacebuilding begins with personal encounter, relationships, seeing through the eyes of others and stepping positively into a new space for the co-creation of a better future. Building peace is doing small things in the everyday by everyone for the whole community.

Gordon works as an executive coach, mentor, mediator, trainer and facilitator with a wide variety of organisations and groups. He also works as a community chaplain in North and West Belfast and is chair of a thriving foodbank in the East of the city.

Gordon enjoys reading biographies, engaging in his own creative writing in prose and poetry and playing guitar.

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Ally Armstrong

Associate

Ally Armstrong (she/her) has been a Children's Associate with CRIS since Spring 2022. She is a facilitator and yoga teacher who is passionate about exploring the intersection of social change, trauma informed practice, and collective wellbeing. Ally studied Sociology and has over a decade's experience in community development and youth work. Originally from Texas, she now resides in Belfast and works in a variety of roles across the Good Relations, Community, and Wellbeing sectors. 

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Laura Doyle

Associate

Laura joined CRIS as an Associate member of the team from January 2022.  Laura is currently undertaking a PhD study at Queens University Belfast, exploring the relationship and impact on neighbourhood deprivation on safeguarding outcomes for adults in Northern Ireland.  Laura’s professional practice includes a wide range of leadership roles within the voluntary and statutory sector in Northern Ireland supporting children, young people, families and adults with a range of complex needs and supporting them within their communities.   Laura has a keen interest in research and teaching.  She is a holder of a Law Degree, Social Work and Master of Social Work and is a member of the Northern Ireland Social Care Council and British Association of Social work.  Laura has two children and lives with her husband in Co. Armagh.  Laura is passionate about travelling and loves new experiences.  She enjoys yoga, walks in nature, and has a keen interest in holistic and complementary therapies.

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Deborah Erwin

Associate

A professionally qualified youth work practitioner, Deborah (known to most as Debs) has over 20 years’ experience of full-time youth work and youth service management. She has led a number of initiatives bringing together young people from divided inner-city communities to explore solutions to the issues that divide them and has an ongoing interest in youth work in ‘contested spaces’. Working independently since 2015 she has built a successful consultancy portfolio including research, strategic development, evaluation, training, and facilitation. She authored a resource on ‘Young People & Extremism’ for the British Council/SALTO Cultural Diversity in 2017 and has presented on active citizenship and youth civic engagement in relation to this issue in a number of forums both locally and internationally. Debs gets a buzz from enabling individuals and organisations to view young people as experts of their own experiences and from supporting young people to be co-creators of social change.

Ann Burke

Associate

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