John Bortner, Board Member

John is a high tech professional with marketing and alliance experience at Sun Microsystems and Oracle. He is currently a senior program manager at Oracle. John has a Bachelor of Arts in art history and an MBA in marketing. He has worked at the San Jose Museum of Art, the Crocker Art Museum, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He has a strong interest in education and cultural issues in Afghanistan.



Andy Cao, Board Member

Andy was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently works as an investor in growing technology companies at Trident Capital in Palo Alto, CA. His interest in helping under-privileged youth grew from his summer trips to rural China as a child. His focus on Afghanistan started, coincidentally, through his love for Afghan cuisine and the story of U.S. Marine Marcus Luttrell, author of “Lone Survivor”. Andy advocates for gender equality and education, and brings energy, enthusiasm, and excitement to the AFN board.


Rachel Hassas, Treasurer & Board Member

Rachel was drawn to the mission of AFN due to her love for the people of Afghanistan. Her husband is a first-generation Afghan-American, and she has seen first hand the struggles that her mother-in-law has had to endure due to her lack of basic education. She hopes that through her commitment to AFN, she will be able to honor the beautiful culture that she is so blessed to now be a part of. Rachel works in the Investment Management division of Goldman Sachs in San Francisco, CA. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, she worked at 3M, in various marketing and finance roles. She has a B.S. from Minnesota State University and a MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. 

Sam Smith-Eppsteiner, Secretary & Board Member

Sam is thrilled to join the AFN board. She first got to know the organization and its passionate leaders by consulting for AFN on strategic planning in fall of 2012. Sam is eager to help develop AFN’s metrics tracking and evaluation to demonstrate and improve outcomes. She is a Senior Associate Consultant at Bain & Company, where she has worked with clients in the retail and consumer products space, as well as in private equity. Sam is also Office Head of Inspire, Inc., a non-profit consulting firm, at Bain’s San Francisco office. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University.


Humaira Ghilzai, Co-Founder & Board Member

Humaira Ghilzai is a Social Entrepreneur and advocate for the Afghan people and Afghanistan. Born and raised in Kabul, in a diplomatic family, Humaira and her family fled Afghanistan after the Russian invasion in 1979.

Humaira is the co-founder of Afghan Friends Network (AFN) and the Hayward-Ghazni Sister City relationship, where she has spearheaded critical programs to improve education for women, girls and boys, particularly in the province of Ghazni, Afghanistan. It’s these stories and experiences that have inspired her first novel PARALLEL LIVES, which is currently in editing phase.

Humaira was the cultural consultant for four stage productions of the Kite Runner, BLOOD AND GIFTS and Love in Afghanistan, along with a Hollywood movie. Humaira blogs about Afghan culture and cuisine on her widely popular site - Afghan Culture Unveiled.

Previously, Humaira was director of international marketing at Sun Microsystems and Oracle Corporation. Humaira has a bachelors’ degree in International Marketing and has travelled to 6 continents and 37 countries around world.


Eva Vander Giessen, Chair & Board Member

Eva currently serves as the Creative Director at MEET, bringing together promising young Israelis and Palestinians through the common language of technology and entrepreneurship. Originally trained as a therapist, her commitment to improving the lives of Afghans grew out of a cross-cultural dialogue project with Middle Eastern women. Recognizing the women’s desire to have a voice in resolving their challenges, Eva became passionate about providing such a platform. She brings her development experience and a steadfast belief in the power of education to her work with AFN.


Sarah Swanbeck, President & Board Member

Sarah is a public policy analyst with experience in California state and local budget issues. She currently works in Legislative Affairs for California Common Cause, a nonprofit that advocates for more transparent, accountable government. She previously was an analyst for the City of San Francisco where she worked with a range of City departments to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their services. Sarah also has an interest in women’s leadership and recently completed the Emerge America program, which trains women to run for political office. She holds an MPP from the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and a BA in Economics from Wellesley College.