Kurt G. Shaw, SAL's Executive Director, graduated summa cum laude from Williams College and spent almost two years working with grassroots groups in El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. A former Fulbright Fellowship recipient, Kurt has studied extensively the relationship between contemporary French philosophy and Liberation Theology. He has worked as a Visiting Scholar at the Departamento Ecuménico de Investigaciones, Latin America's premier institute for Liberation Theology, and as a Research Associate at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, where he worked on US-Cuba relations and governance issues in Chile. After earning a Master's Degree in Religion from Harvard University, Kurt counseled street kids in New York and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has won the Harvard First Decade Award, the Freedom to Create Youth Award (as advisor) and the Irgard Coninx Human Rights Award. In addition to his books and essays on this site, he has published a novel set among street youth in New York and is finishing a collaborative novel written with ex-child soldiers in Colombia.
Rita de Cácia Oenning da Silva was born in Braço do Norte, Santa Catarina, Brazil. She studied chemistry as an undergraduate, but moved on to anthropology in her post-graduate studies. She worked as a professional actress for many years, while also giving art workshops to children from the favelas of Florianópolis. In 1990, together with friends, she founded CECCA, the Center for Culture and Civic Studies, which became a central space for the encounter between center and periphery in the state of Santa Catarina, discussing social justice, civic participation, and environmentalism. She concluded her MA in anthropology in 1998 with the thesis "The Half-Open Door", examining the relationships that homeless and working children maintained with their families and their communities, then went on to teach at various universities, including the UDESC and the Unisul. In 2008, she completed her doctorate in anthropology, studying child artists on the streets of Recife, Brazil, Overcoming Movement. She has been a visiting researcher at the University of New Mexico (2005) and won a prestigious Wenner-Gren doctoral research grant in 2006. Her current passion is teaching cinematography to children from the margins of society.