About Us

The Fishermen is a non-denominational, non-political, and non-profit international aid and relief organization based in Raleigh, North Carolina. We exist to educate and provide health care to orphaned children around the world. We place emphasis upon caring for orphaned children with special needs.

We were created in 2005, received our tax-exempt status in 2007, and were granted special consultative status by the United Nations in 2012.

Our staff is all volunteers - none of us draw a salary. We are structured to maximize our resources by utilizing donor services offered by various NGOs and government agencies. By doing so, we can operate with very little funding but still have a significant impact.

Additionally, our organizational structure is used as a model to encourage others to get involved in making the world a better place. We emphasize that you do not need a lot of money or an office in order to run a charity.

Our Goals

Meet the Staff of The Fishermen

Alex Gowen

Alex Gowen is the Founder and President of The Fishermen and is responsible for the overall operation of the organization. Alex's credentials include an EMS certification with the state of North Carolina and specialized courses on chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) casualty management with the Department of Energy and the United States Army. He is the author of the Surviving Terrorism counter-terrorism handbook series for first responders and is the former director of the Anti-Slavery Task Force (ASTAF), a non-profit organization that investigated cases of modern slavery. Professional memberships include ASIS and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). For 20 years Alex has undertaken actions to supply medical and other humanitarian aid to the people of various nations.

Ekaterina Mitchenko

Ekaterina Mitchenko is our vice president and co-director. She joins us from Lysychansk, Ukraine, and is a vital link to our US/UA operations. Her linguistic, photographic, and coordinating skills are a major benefit to our global endeavors. She is registered with both the North Carolina Secretary of State and the United Nations as the official VP of The Fishermen.



Sarah Gowen

Sarah Blocher is the Co-Founder of The Fishermen. Though she is no longer an active member, she will forever be remembered and honored as the chief architect of this life-saving endeavor. Her hard work led to the saving of thousands of lives - an achievement of a lifetime. Thank you, Sarah! We will always keep you in our hearts!



Joanna LiVecchi

Joanna LiVecchi is one of our newest members and is responsible for directing our Dental Hygiene program. Joanna is a graduate of the dental hygiene curriculum at Niagara College and holds an active professional membership with the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association. She is also certified in both basic first aid and CPR. Of considerable note is Joanna's current research into providing methods of dental care to orphanages in areas lacking clean water. Her determination to deliver dental hygiene skills and material to the orphaned children of the world shows a degree of dedication worthy of the highest praise.

Natalie Reeves

Natalie Reeves is our Promotional Events Coordinator and is responsible for assisting in the creation and planning of promotional events for The Fishermen. She will be graduating from Campbell University with a degree in IT Management and Security. Natalie is both a successful model and actress and is a very skilled and highly motivated member of our staff.



Randy Bridges

Randy Bridges is our Warehouse Manager and is responsible for maintaining our inventory as well as coordinating the pickup and delivery of donated medical material for The Fishermen. Randy is a graduate of Brevard College and holds a degree in Psychology. Being a retired social worker specializing in children, Randy provides us with incredibly valuable insight to the needs of those with whom we work.



Shawn Colwell

Shawn Colwell is responsible for directing our Nursing program. Shawn is a highly skilled and experienced registered nurse and is a member of the medical staff of the New Hanover Health Network. He is a nationally-recognized Certified Nurse of the Operating Room by AORN and also holds a BCLS and ACLS by the American Heart Association. Shawn's medical abilities and knowledge provides The Fishermen with incredibly valuable capabilities in the field both abroad and at home.


Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson is our Occupational Therapist and is a graduate of the University of Texas' School of Allied Health Sciences. Richard brings to The Fishermen over 20 years of experience in improving children's cognitive, physical, and motor skills while enhancing their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. Being one of our biggest supporters and a great motivational resource, Richard is undoubtedly a key member of our volunteer staff.


Claire Wilson

Claire Wilson is an events volunteer and is a primary participant in various Fishermen fundraising and community activities. Claire is a freshman at Eleanor Roosevelt HS in the Science and Technology Program. She enjoys playing the cello and the guitar and she is a member of the College Park Youth Orchestra. She hopes to become more involved with The Fishermen by raising awareness of their mission and by participating in fund raising efforts. She is attracted by the idea of helping children who don't have family support and are limited in their ability to help themselves. She hopes to be able to correspond with or meet some of these children someday.


Farhana Yasmin

Farhana Yasmin is our General Operations assistant. She provides us with operational support and examines new areas into which we may deliver aid. Farhana brings to The Fishermen an impressive array of psychological experience as well as a working knowledge of Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, and some Pushto, which greatly increases our organization's capabilities in central Asia.


Natalie Tita

Natalie Tita is a student from Clayton High School who assists with fundraising. She is interested in foreign aid and enjoys helping raise money for good causes. Born to immigrant parents, Natalie has grown up in very culturally diverse communities, and has acquired the tendency to appreciate the beauty and strength of other cultures. She will graduate from Clayton High School in the spring and will attend NC State University in the fall with a major in biology. Natalie plans to pursue a career in medicine.


Ravi Mehta

Ravi Mehta, our Director of Refugee Affairs, is our point person for all issues regarding refugees and IDPs. He is responsible for coordinating with agencies such as the UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM, JRS, etc, conducting research, and directing aid activities. Mr. Mehta bears a MHS from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.



Karen Lumbu

Karen Lumbu, our Strategic Humanitarian Aid/ Relief Specialist, is responsible for coordinating aid activity/shipments and addressing infectious disease issues. Hailing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Karen uses her intimate knowledge of the region to ensure proper delivery and use of our medical supplies. Ms. Lumbu bears an MS in Population Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.



Abby Kalainikas

Abby Kalainikas, who directs our SMTP program, is a junior attending Wake Early College of Heath and Sciences. She is volunteering her time with The Fishermen in order to help achieve her gold award for the Girl Scouts of America. Abby is excited to be a part of our mission as she loves helping people - assisting those in need brings her true happiness. Ms. Kalainikas's exposure to various cultures and her enthusiasm for meeting and interacting with people is a great asset to our work.


Janine Bryant

Janine Bryant is a first-third grade teacher at Countryside Montessori School in Charlotte, NC with 20 years experience working with children. She is honored to be part of the Fisherman team as a volunteer and consultant.



Pengh Mabiki

Pengh Mabiki of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has joined The Fishermen to assist us with our mission in Africa. Mr. Mabiki has extensive experience working with NGOs engaged in various charitable endeavors including HIV/AIDS prevention, assisting the impoverished, and protecting the people of the Bandundu state of the DRC, as well as serving as a board member of the Social Justice Committee of Saint Raphael Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus. Thank you, Mabiki, and welcome aboard!


Colette Cashwell

Colette, who will be directing the Fishermen Forum program, holds a bachelor of fine arts from Rochester Institute of Technology and a master of science in teaching also from RIT. She, and her husband Henry, are small business owners in Elizabethtown, NC. Their local retail business encompasses several e-commerce websites which ship worldwide. After raising and sending 4 kids out into the world, Colette wanted to combine her computer savvy with her mothering skills and help children that have not had the advantages that so many of us have had here in the US.


Meghan Bridges Chewning

Meghan has worked as a Child Protective Services Social Worker in North Carolina for over three years. She graduated from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication and a Master's of Social Work. Meghan has served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the mountains of Jamaica and has worked with at-risk high school students in rural North Carolina. Meghan is currently pursuing her license in Clinical Social Work.


Erika Choiniere

Erika is Certified Nursing Assistant and licensed phlebotomist currently living in Greensboro, NC. Erika's primary function with the Fishermen is to provide basic medical care to children on domestic and overseas missions. Secondary activities include assisting with fundraisers, health care fairs, and other critical events. Erika has been an important part of our operation and her participation is deeply appreciated.


Kayleigh Richardson

Kayleigh is a staff photographer and will be assisting us with filming Fishermen events and activities as well as providing support in other vital program areas. Ms. Richardson is deeply passionate about caring for children and will be instrumental in our ongoing effort to make the world a better place.


Ava Cartner

Ava Cartner is our new research and mission volunteer. She was born and raised in North Carolina. She graduated with honors from East Bladen High School and currently attends the University of New Orleans. She enjoys traveling, and photography. Finding a way to help the less fortunate has been a goal of hers for many years, and now that she has joined The Fishermen she will be able to improve the lives of children around the world.

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