Healing Children of Conflict is a volunteer-based, grassroots organization. We’re committed to building a welcoming and cooperative community of everyday people from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

Karen Henry – Honorary Emeritus of Healing Children of Conflict

Karen Henry

Karen Henry was one of the founding members of Healing Children of Conflict and was instrumental in bringing our first child to Grand Rapids for medical treatment in 2011. Karen was a longtime activist and educator on the Middle East, receiving a degree in Middle East studies, working as a reporter in Palestine, and doing human rights work for the Middle East while living in Chicago and Grand Rapids. Karen was a founding member of the Middle East Education Project, a sought out speaker on US policy in the Middle East and Representation of Arabs in the US Media. Karen spoke at anti-war rallies, conferences, on news programs and wrote extensively on the Middle East. In addition to her work on the Middle East, Karen was a tireless advocate for gender and racial equity, serving on numerous committees and co-founding the Women’s Action Network (WAN). Karen was also involved in getting the first domestic crisis shelter opened in Grand Rapids and even played a role in helping start Public Access TV. Karen had an infectious personality and always made people feel welcomed, even when she was asking hard questions. However, nothing could get Karen more excited than meeting and spending time with dogs. Every dog in the world seems to know that Karen was looking out for them and her passion for fighting animal cruelty was phenomenal.


IMG_5296David Alvarez

Originally from Gibraltar, David Alvarez studied in London, England and in Austin, Texas before joining the faculty at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Allendale, Michigan, where he teaches contemporary international literature for the English Department and the Middle East Studies Program. One of the literary topics that Professor Alvarez regularly teaches is the comparative representation of childhood in Palestinian and South African literature. He serves as HCC’s GVSU representative and in that capacity he has hosted talks by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish and by the Reverend Naem Ateek, as well as several film screenings. Professor Alvarez has been a member of HCC since 2011.

Bert de Vries @ Umm el-Jimal JordanSally and Bert de Vries

Sally and Bert de Vries have been living and working in Jordan frequently over the past 45 years, visit Palestine and Syria often. With Amman as their second home, their direct experience with the the succession of war-damaged peoples flooding into Jordan made them peace activists, helping people in the Middle East recover from the ravages of wars and teaching the people of West Michigan how peace with justice can be achieved. They see the work of HCC as bringing both of these streams together with great effect and demonstrating how wars so casually begun have caused so much irreparable damage and suffering.

Sally w Hamzeh and Imadcropped  P1070204Bert de Vries has been teaching History and Archaeology at Calvin College for a long time. He’s been doing archaeological fieldwork in Jordan and Palestine since the late sixties and is currently engaged in site preservation and presentation at Umm el-Jimal in northern Jordan (www.ummeljimal.org). Sally de Vries has been a participating partner in this work and in the process became an expert on the costumes and customs of Syria, Jordan and Palestine.  Sally is also a concert bass violinist.


Doug and Sandy Howard

Doug Howard likes strong coffee, inexpensive red wine, and the Detroit Tigers. He is a musician with eclectic tastes. A history professor at Calvin College, his current project is writing a history of the Ottoman Empire. He got involved in Healing Children of Conflict out of a deep sense of frustration over the unaccounted human costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sandy Howard is passionate about children, reading and cooking.  She defers the making of coffee to Doug. Sandy works as a reading specialist at Stepping Stones Montessori School in Grand Rapids.  With their four (now adult) children, Sandy and Doug have been able to live abroad frequently  and these experiences have shaped who they all have become.  Becoming involved with Healing Children of Conflict seems a natural fit to their family’s life experiences.

Nidal Kanaan

Nidal grew up in Kalamazoo, MI and went to Portage Northern High School. He studied Mathematics and Marketing at Hillsdale College where he played varsity soccer.  After graduating in 2002 he moved to Grand Rapids, MI to take a job with John Hancock Financial Network as a financial planner. He also played two seasons for the Grand Rapids Alliance Football Club. Nidal moonlights as a musician in West Michigan (www.nidalmusic.com) and has been a member of Healing Children of Conflict since its inception in 2008.

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith has been involved in human rights work and anti-war organizing for 30 years. Jeff has done independent media work and produced several documentaries on human rights issues. He is the director of the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy, where he does independent news, teaches popular education classes and uses media as

an organizing tool.

my web photo IMG_1349Christine A. Yared

Christine is an attorney specializing in employment law, civil rights, family law and criminal law.  She has taught constitutional law and sexual orientation law courses at Grand Valley State University, and advocates for related issues in her writing, public speaking and community service. She is currently a member of the Lawyers Committee for the Western Michigan chapter of ACLU Michigan and Michigan HIV Policy Advocates.

Her passion for the work of HCC is based on her belief that our nation’s foreign policy must be based on an understanding of history, a multifaceted gathering of facts and framed to further the International Declaration of Human Rights, an approach she asserts will best serve our desire for national security, respect for life and freedom.


527630_10150973988984739_1590400409_nSarah Klassen

Sarah Klassen is a graduate of Grand Valley State University where she majored in International Relations and minored in Arabic and African Studies. She studied abroad in Jordan during the summer of 2012. During her time abroad she was able to see the effects of U.S. intervention in the refugees that have flocked to Jordan. Sarah joined HCC in hopes of utilizing her education to help children in need and educate those in Grand Rapids about the effects of U.S. intervention. Sarah’s dream is to work with refugees in the Middle East and help them psychologically with the trauma they have gone through.