Who We Are

NYAAF is currently an all volunteer organization. In addition to many amazing and dedicated volunteers, the Board of Directors works very hard to run the show. They are:

Lanai Daniels is a colanaiLanai Daniels is a community organizer, youth worker, an advocate for Black and Brown women, girls, queer women, and transwomen. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York City, she seeks to amplify the voices of marginalized women and girls in conversations about race, gender, sexuality, and class. Aside from her role as Board Member of New York Abortion Access Fund, Lanai is a co-chair of SexEd Advocacy Group of Planned Parenthood Activist Council.


Sheila Desai is a native New Yorker and a new NYAAF board member. She has sheila-dspent the last several years advocating for reproductive health and justice across the U.S. and parts of South Asia. She currently works with the Guttmacher Institute, where her work focuses on abortion access and adolescent sexual health. She is also a doctoral student at the CUNY School of Public Health, where her research focuses on advancing reproductive justice in Asian immigrant communities. When she isn’t working or studying, Sheila loves cuddling with her nieces and nephews, hiking in the mountains, and learning how to box.



Anisha Gandhi is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Sanishatudies at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She holds a BA in Integrative Biology and English and a MPH in Maternal and Child Health from UC Berkeley, and a PhD in Epidemiology from UNC Chapel Hill. Since college, she has been interested in promoting sexual and reproductive health through education, service, and activism, and protecting access to contraception and abortion worldwide. She has conducted sexual and reproductive health research focused on populations in resource-limited settings in Mesoamerica and Africa, as well as diverse populations in the United States. Currently, at the HIV Center, much of her work focuses on understanding how structural forces and social environments shape sexual behavior and HIV/STI vulnerability and the health and well-being of persons living with HIV/AIDS, especially among underserved (im)migrant populations from Latin America and the Caribbean. Anisha was born and raised in Indiana, but is thankful to have had the chance to live on both US coasts and (more briefly) in Europe and Central America. She is enjoying New York and is very excited to be serving on the NYAAF Board.

Sara Birnel Henderson, a Brooklyn native, is a researcher and educatconfrence2or who has worked in HIV and AIDS prevention with a focus on reducing disparities for over 10 years. Sara received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hunter College, where she began her career working on several social research projects on
women’s health. She is currently a research coordinator for Cornell University’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, working on projects centered on HIV/AIDS education, pregnancy prevention, parenting, and positive youth development. Sara is also a sex health educator for Love Heals’ Leadership Empowerment and Awareness Program (LEAP) for Girls, which educates and trains community educators and activists residing in NYC communities most impacted by HIV and AIDS.   In addition to her work as a researcher and educator, Sara is also a member of the Planned Parenthood NYC activist counsel where she serves as a clinic escort and health center escort co-chair, supporting patients at health centers throughout the five boroughs. Sara also volunteers with The Doula Project in New York City providing free emotional, physical, and informational support to people across the spectrum of pregnancy.


Elena Lavarreda is a new NYAAF board member and trained as an intake elenavolunteer in the Spring of 2014. Elena lives in Brooklyn and works as Policy Analyst with the Service Employees International Union 32BJ–a union that represents building service workers and fights for economic, social, and racial justice for all working people. Prior to working at SEIU 32BJ, Elena got her Master’s Degree in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she taught Women’s Health and Intro to LGBT Studies. While getting her Master’s, Elena was a political organizer for Voces de la Frontera, an Immigrant and Worker Rights Center based out of Milwaukee, WI. Elena was also a member of the Groundwork Collective, an anti-racist organization that works to move white people to engage in the struggle for racial justice, works in collaboration with organizations led by people of color, and works to deepen its own members education and leadership. Before her Midwest adventures, Elena lived in Northampton, MA and was a researcher with the Prison Policy Initiative examining the broad and detrimental effects that the broken criminal justice system has on our democracy. Elena loves every queer beach she has ever been to, gal-gabbing, and feels complicated about her need to keep up with the Kardashians.

Marissa is a new NYAAF board member. She was raised in Queens and currently lives in Brooklyn, but considers herself a global citizen having lived in many cities across the IMG_1408globe, including most recently Chile. Marissa received a BA from Connecticut College where she majored in Biology and minored in Gender and Women’s Studies and has an MPH in Maternal and Child Health and Global Health from Boston University. She has over seven years experience working in a wide range of public health and health care positions with a focus on women’s health. Marissa is most passionate about research, and has conducted research on sexual and reproductive health issues in Africa, Latin America, and marginalized communities in the US. She is fluent in Spanish and eager to increase NYAAF’s reach to Spanish speakers as well as other non-English speakers. She is also a yoga teacher, although not currently teaching, and avid runner. Marissa loves going to museums, eating her way through NYC, cuddling with her cat, and traveling whenever possible.

FB_IMG_1487970156727Caitlin Van Horn is an event producer and digital strategist based in Brooklyn. She has worked with brands such at TIME Magazine and Brooklyn Brewery on social media and digital marketing projects, and loves building engaged and energized communities around a common goal. As an active clinic escort, she’s excited to join the NYAAF board and continue using her skills for good.