Board of Directors

Sam Lasris, President

Originally from Jacksonville Florida, Sam recently retired from 39 years of dental practice in Danville Virginia where he is a past president of the local dental society. Sam has been a volunteer for International Affairs Council in early 2012 and for International Focus since January 2014. Sam has served on the Orange County Planning Board, was original chairman of the Orange County Unified Transportation Board, and is currently on the Orange County Board of Health. His interests include politics, human rights, urban/suburban growth and development,access to health care, theater, arts and culture, and travel.

Dikran Kabendjian, Vice President

Born to Armenian parents in Nazareth, Dikran had the unique experience of growing up among Palestinians within a Jewish state and attending a Catholic elementary school and a Southern Baptist middle school. While working in his father’s photography shop, he was exposed to pilgrims from the world over. Dikran came to Raleigh in 1976, and after a career in environmental health and safety and human resources, he is now a corporate real-estate operations manager. Dikran received a BS in business administration from North Carolina Wesleyan College. During his many years in Raleigh he remained engaged in the cultural, musical, and multi-cultural scene of this growing city. He is active in the local Armenian community and a member of the Lost Nomads, a middle-eastern and world music band. Dikran has participated in the International Festival of Raleigh since 1990. His passion for sustainibility led him to start the festival’s Green Program, requiring that all food waste and serving vessles be compostable, making the International Festiaval the most sustainable large event in Raleigh.

Brian Bunn, Treasurer

Brian is the CEO of Brian B. Bunn CPA, PLLC, a public accounting firm and registered investment adviser.  He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), has earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, and is an Investment Adviser Representative   His career spans a rich breadth of industries and functions, including leadership in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. His diverse experience makes him uniquely qualified to deliver integrated financial services. In addition to being a consummate number cruncher, he is a leader whose financial insight has made well-known organizations more efficient and profitable.  Brian earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami and an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.  He is a proud veteran of the U.S. Army.

Bernadette Pelissier, Secretary

Bernadette Pelissier was born in Dakar, Senegal of French parents and came to the US as an infant. She lived in Damascus, Syria during her early adolescence. She has in Ph.D. in Sociology from UNC Chapel Hill. Her career has focused on evaluating mental health programs first for a local mental health center and subsequently for 20 years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Recently she stepped down from serving two terms as a county commissioner. At present, she is farming with her children.

Elizabeth Bender

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Elizabeth’s career took her all over the world before she landed in the Triangle in 2015. As a career Foreign Service Officer with the State Department, she served in Azerbaijan, Indonesia and Italy, as well as two domestic assignments in Washington D.C. Elizabeth now works with international students at North Carolina State University. She holds a Master of Education degree from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Smith College. Elizabeth is a passionate believer in the value of person-to-person diplomacy. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and young son.  

Debbie Hamrick

Debbie Hamrick is a member of the Public Policy Team at North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest general non-profit agricultural organization. She works with wide ranging stakeholder groups to shape the state’s agricultural sector for the benefit farmers and rural communities. Prior to joining Farm Bureau, Debbie founded FloraCulture International magazine, a trade magazine in continuous publication since 1989. While there, she managed multi-cultural staff in six countries, coordinated editorial contributors in 18 countries and staff and magazine production in the Netherlands and United States.  She received her Bachelor of Science degree from North Carolina State University and currently resides in the Hayes Barton community of Raleigh with her husband Ed Gaines.

Sheri Golden Perry

Sheri, a native North Carolinian, has been an educator for over twenty years. Currently, she serves as the Senior Administrator of Global Programming in the Wake County Public School System. Sheri graduated from NC State University with a BA in English Education and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Likewise, she has a Master of School Administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her interests include social justice rights, travel and event planning. Currently, she resides in the Triangle area with her husband and twin sons.

Ana Gomez Rindahl

Ana earned her Bachelor of Laws at Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in Caracas, Venezuela, her Master of Laws (l.L.M.) at Hamline University School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and her Juris Doctor (j.D.) at William Mitchell College of Law, also in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Ana has experience working and volunteering with nonprofits, and diverse communities.  Ana brings the expertise needed to support the short-term and long-term goals of International Focus. She believes in the mission of the organization and has volunteered as a host parent since she moved to the Triangle.

John Twomey

John was born in New York, the crossroads of the world, and had lived in Ohio, Texas, the State of Washington and Boston before settling in the Triangle 35 years ago. He retired from a career in high tech sales, consulting and entrepreneurship and currently uses his professional skills to contribute to non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity and International Focus becoming more effective in implementing their mission. John and his wife Jean have hosted over 30 International Visitor Leadership Program dinners with participants from over 40 countries and 6 continents. John’s passions include mountain climbing, traveling across the US and globally, eating and cooking great food, making art out of metal and hanging with his grandchildren.