About Us

War Kids Relief, a program of the nonprofit Children’s Culture Connection, is a nonpolitical peace-building organization that creates facilities, programs and expertise enabling children traumatically affected by war to realize new possibilities for their lives. As an integral part of this mission, War Kids Relief provides opportunities for young people to play a leadership role in the pursuit of peace.

War Kids Relief was founded in 2005 by a former artillery platoon leader in the Army’s 1st Armored Division, as a way to help Iraqi children deal with the adverse effects of the war. In 2008, the original War Kids Relief organization closed and was reorganized as an in-house program of Children’s Culture Connection. War Kids Relief now works to support all children traumatically affected by war.

The War Kids Relief team is passionate about addressing the needs of children traumatically affected by war, and our directors each bring a uniquely personal perspective and skill set to enhance the projects we develop.

Our Directors

Dina Fesler – Program Manager of War Kids Relief and Founder/Executive Director of Children’s Culture Connection
Dina has had more than 20 years experience working in small business development in the fashion industry, and ran her own business for 15 years. In 2005, she founded Children’s Culture Connection, War Kids Relief’s parent organization, and has run dozens of youth-centered cultural projects and exchanges in twelve countries.

Dina became passionate about helping children of the world learn from and relate to one another after adopting her daughters from China and India. As the founder of CCC, she believes that helping American children develop an interest in other cultures, as well as an appreciation for people’s differences, is a vital part of any long-term sustainable peace-building program.

Sarwa Darwish Murad – Program Development         Sarwa Darwish Murad was born in Baghdad, Iraq and is of Kurdish background. In the Netherlands, she completed medical school, received a master of science degree on the relationship between ethnicity and mental health amongst adolescent immigrants, and a PhD degree on vascular disorders of the liver. She is currently working as a physician in a large academic hospital in Minnesota.

Sarwa was very young when she and her family experienced the horrors of war. She realizes that she has been one of the few lucky people who managed to escape her fate. Through War Kids Relief, she hopes to help children realize their opportunities outside the misery of war, and infuse hope for a better tomorrow.

Kelly Kinnunen - Curriculum Development                Co-founder of the award-winning NEED magazine, Kelly uses his skills in branding, concept development, design and multimedia production to help develop video-based curriculum for War Kids Relief’s programs. Over the last 25 years he produced film, graphic and multimedia work for The European Union, World Olympic Committee, Target, 3M and many others. Kelly developed a new media production department at the University of Applied Sciences in Finland where projects under his leadership earned international media awards.

Kelly believes that storytelling has the power to change lives, inspire individuals and create awareness. As an educator, world traveler, volunteer and media professional, Kelly wants to offer students a glimpse into the powerful stories of hope that exist across the globe.  

Kathleen Braga - Program Coordinator                    Kathy has more than eight years experience coordinating child-centered cultural activities for schools and youth organizations in the state of Minnesota, and has served as a guardian ad litem for Ramsey County. She coordinates Children’s Culture Connection’s school-based programs and is working on the curriculum development team for War Kids Relief programs.

Kathy’s dedication to cross-cultural education was inspired by her two daughters, who were adopted from China. She believes that learning about world culture through forging relationships with international children will help her daughters embrace their roles as global citizens, and realize the profound impact they can have in creating peace in the world.

Missy Klapperich – Curriculum Development        Missy has a masters degree in education and has been teaching for 18 years in Minnesota public schools, including 14 years of teaching 6th grade social studies at Cannon Falls Schools.  Her love of anthropology and the study of cultures led her to work with Children’s Culture Connection through several classroom projects.  Missy has held such positions as District Staff Development Coordinator, TALL Trainer, Elementary Social Studies Department Head, and a 2007 candidate for Minnesota Teacher of the Year.  In addition, she is currently in her fourth year of the Blufflands and Prairies Teaching American History grant through the Southeast Service Cooperative. She is currently designing curriculum for, and implementing,  the US/Afghan Junior Investor Program pilot in her 6th grade social studies classes. 

Missy has a strong interest in helping young people expand their concept of cultural awareness and appreciate individual differences.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support this important peace-building mission.