Board of Directors
Dr. Angela Oliver-Burgess, PhD
Founder and President
Dr. Oliver-Burgess is a senior humanitarian and development expert with more than 30 years of professional and international experience working in complex emergencies and post-conflict contexts, including regions of Middle East, Central Asia, West and East Africa, Eastern Europe and Central America. She has successfully managed and implemented large-scale humanitarian and development programs in the areas of community development, psycho-social rehabilitation, conflict mitigation, crisis response, post conflict recovery, sustainable development, and women’s leadership and development. She has served as an expert in the areas of gender, child protection, youth development, inter-religious collaboration, conflict transformation and peace building with high-level government officials and civil society actors globally. Dr. Oliver-Burgess remains a life long advocate for the rights of the child, human rights and social justice. She has a diverse range of professional experience working with international organizations, including United States Agency for International Development (USAID), International Organization of Migration (IOM), AECOM International Development, World Conference of Religions for Peace, CHF International (Global Communities), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Dr. Oliver-Burgess holds a PhD in International Psychology at the Chicago School for Professional Psychology, Chicago, Illinois. She has a Master’s Degree in International Management from the School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont and a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.
Angela had the greatest honor in being married to Paul. She is forever blessed to live in his presence. His love for humanity and passion for life provides her the strength to carry forward his legacy. Paul stood with courage- walking the talk always with a smile and living life to its fullest for the love of family and friends. He taught us how to be a kinder human being and to have faith in humanity. He inspired us to work together for a better life full of peace, hope and harmony.
Cheryl Edwards has 30 years of professional experience working with the Federal and Maryland State government. During her career she held various administrative, financial and management positions. In her last 10 years of employment, she worked as an Accountant and Financial Manager and has a vast level of experience in overseeing financial records and tracking of accounts. Ms. Edwards is a graduate of the University of Maryland, with a Certificate of Paralegal Studies. After retirement, she traveled extensively and lived in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. While living in Afghanistan, she founded and operated a successful logistics company, winning a major contract with the United States Armed Forces to supply office supplies and equipment. Now living in Florida, Cheryl enjoys volunteering in her community in service to
others at local food banks and soup kitchens. She serves as a member on the Board of Directors in her Homeowner's Association.
Cheryl met Paul "Budgie" Burgess in 2010 while working in Afghanistan. His spirit and commitment to improve the lives of the people and communities around him was inspirational.
He was proof that one person with a desire to help others can make a significant impact on
the world around him. He challenged his friends and colleagues to become involved in simple acts of kindness and made us realize that the power of one multiplied by many could be a
strong force for goodness and change. It is with his spirit in her heart, that Cheryl gratefully serves on the Board of SMILE for Budgie to honor and carry forward his legacy of giving.
Z. Melinda Witter
Z. Melinda Witter has over 30 years professional experience in international program management: proposal and program design, educational development, workshop facilitation
and training, stabilization programs focusing on community development, conflict mitigation,
civil society, and socio-psychological trauma. Her experience consists of assignments with U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. State Department, World Bank, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and ACDI VOCA. She is currently serving with Mercy Corps in Iraq as the Conflict Management Sector Manager. Her background includes an Executive Master’s in International Service focusing on Iraq studies and conflict mitigation.
Ms. Witter is a Certified Transpersonal Mentor, Creative Development, Meditation Teacher, Discovering Your Mission in Life (Life Coach), an Artist, Writer and Speaker. She is the Creator
of AshkiArt, which uses art for creative expression in trauma healing as well as Ashti Drums,
using music and drums for trauma healing and peace building, especially with youth and women.
She serves as a consultant in International Development, Program Management and Stabilization, Conflict Management and Peace Building, and is a Professional Instructional Design and Trainer.
Through Angela, Melinda met Paul at their home in Florida. Their bond grew upon seeing his drums in the alcove, which was followed by a lively conversation of using drums for both peacebuilding and trauma healing. His enthusiasm and concern for people, especially youth,
is the motivation for Smile for Budgie.
Director of Communications
Andrew Halassy has worked in humanitarian assistance as a Senior Program Manager for over 16 years, which has taken him to many countries, including the Former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Georgia Republic, Haiti, Ethiopia and Afghanistan. His experience as a Program Manager has taken him from peace building with youth groups in Kosovo to emergency assistance and relief work in Haiti to assistance for civilians affected by war in Afghanistan. Andrew began his career as a Peace Corp Volunteer in India and has never looked back.
Following a few years of English teaching in Japan in the early 90's, Andrew entered and completed his Masters Degree in International Intercultural Management in 1998. His focus
was in Sustainable Development at the School for International Training in Vermont, USA.
Andrew is a drummer and was in a band in Kabul, Afghanistan performing at NGOs and Embassies during his time living in the capital between 2011 and 2015. Andrew first met Paul in Kabul working for the same organization and began a friendship with drumming and Afghanistan as their common denominator. Their friendship endured through the years despite Paul moving to South Sudan by visits to each other’s homes in Florida and Canada. In memory of Paul, Andrew has joined the Board of Directors of Smile for Budgie as the Communications Director and continues to drum in his memory.
Director of Program Development
Ben has worked with children and young people since graduating from University. He started as a Youth and Project Worker, working with vulnerable young people in a range of settings: running surf lessons, music workshops, sports coaching and life-skills sessions. Ben became a primary school teacher 6 years ago. He teaches subjects across the curriculum but particularly enjoys the pastoral side of teaching. He is an advocate for children’s rights and the right for every child in
the world to receive inclusive comprehensive education.
Ben studied A levels in Sociology, Psychology and Politics at York Sixth Form College (UK).
He received a BA/Honors degree in Sociology at the University of Exeter (UK). He completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at the City of Birmingham University (UK).
Paul and Ben were childhood friends, companions and "brothers". They had the deepest connection from childhood. They played in numerous bands together, travelled on many adventures, surfed and experienced the world in unison at key times in their lives. "We may not be related by blood - but our bond is, and always will be, thicker than water. Brother forever."