About Our Executive Director


Claudia Kaercher
Founder & Executive Director

Claudia deLeon Guerrero Fajardo Kaercher is of Chamorro-Filipino descent from the Mariana Archipelago in Micronesia, a region in the Western Pacific.  Claudia and her family lived on several islands in the region of Micronesia and graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Tumon, Guam.

As an Arizona resident for over 40 years, Claudia has been an active and positive contributor to her Pacific Islander community. In 2012, Claudia founded Island Liaison (which became a nonprofit organization as of 2014) in Arizona which serves as a resource for providing awareness of available health and educational agencies, and other government services locally to Pacific Islanders.

Claudia is well recognized for her work in fostering better understanding of Pacific Islanders and have received several awards, including most recently from Triad West "2020 Positively Powerful Woman Award", Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce ”2020 Person of the Year”, ASU "2015 Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion" award, and Arizona Aloha Festival’s “2011 Kokua" award, naming a few.

Read more about Claudia's work here.

Island Liaison Board Members


JakinDee Perez Kosaka
Board Chair



2022 redhead headshot

Li'o Pele Lubanski
Board Secretary




Joni Pourchot
Board Treasurer


Miriam Aneo
Board Member







Merci J. Hernandez
Board Member

JakinDee Perez Kosaka is a Chamorrita, born on Guam and raised in the states and Germany, as the child of an Army veteran. She has lived with her family in Arizona since 2006 and currently serves as a Workforce Development Instructor for the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department, where she helps people improve their education, find employment, and prepare for advancement in their careers.

JakinDee spent over five years as an employment coach specializing in helping people with criminal backgrounds re-enter the workforce. She is a lifelong learner who enjoys sharing resources with others. When she isn’t working, she enjoys volunteering and mentoring women through SHE Leads! women’s leadership program and sharing scouting outdoor adventures with her family.

Li'o Pele Lubanski is of Sāmoan-Bohemian descent. Born in Long Beach, California, and raised in Mesa, Arizona, Li'o is a trans nonbinary individual, among many other intersections. Their mother is from the village Mālie in Upolu, one of the islands of the independent country of Sāmoa. They were one of the first to graduate from Arizona State University with a degree in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies with a focus on Samoan culture both traditional and modern. They have been involved with EPIC (Empowering the Pacific Islander Community) in California as a cohort member of the 6th cohort of PILOT (Pacific Islander Leaders of Tomorrow) then as a returning alumnus and Mana Mentor for the 10th cohort.

Their passion lies in keeping ancestral knowledge alive and how to innovate that knowledge and apply it to living in the 21st century. Using their lived experiences as a nonbinary trans, queer, neurodivergent person, Li'o is also a fervent advocate for mental health as well as awareness and acceptance of the 2SLGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent communities within indigenous spaces.

Joni Pourchot is the owner of Pourchot Accounting, LLC, which provides accounting services for non-profits and other small business in the greater Phoenix area and consults on non-profit governance. She has 20-plus years of non-profit accounting experience, including budgeting, audit preparation, business connections, and department supervision. Joni holds an MBA with accounting emphasis from the Keller School of Management of DeVry University and a bacherlor's degree in microbiology from Arizona State University. Joni also pursued a year of advanced study at Moody Bible Institute.


Miriam Aneo is from the Marshall Islands.  Her parents are the late Dr. Enta Peter (dentist) and Jeita Peter, RN, whose impact on the medical community was significant during and after World War II.

Miriam was inspired by her parents' field of work and decided to pursue a career that would help her community. In 1994, while working for Mercy Healthcare, Miriam was transferred to Honolulu, Hawai’i, where she was the Patient Referral Coordinator, assisting patients (under the Section 177 Health Care Program) from four of the atolls that were affected by radiation as a result of nuclear testing conducted by the U.S. Miriam went on to work at Queens Medical Center as a translator for Marshallese residents who lacked necessary proficiency in the English language.

Later, Miriam worked for more than three years for Swissport International Ltd. at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

In 2015, Miriam moved her family to Phoenix, Arizona, after her eldest daughter graduated from high school in Honolulu. Since then, Miriam has continued to work with the Marshallese community living in Arizona. In 2020, Miriam became a part of the Arizona-based nonprofit organization Island Liaison as a member of the Board of Directors, focusing on Community Outreach/Interpreter (Marshallese).

Born on Guam, Merci J. Hernandez has made Arizona her home for the past 20 years. An employee of the Judiciary, she serves as a Departmental Liaison with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and works closely with the Victim Advocacy Office.  As a former member of the Maricopa County Diversity Council, Merci’s role with Island Liaison unknowingly began almost 15 years ago after a colleague requested a presentation featuring Guam and Micronesia for the City of Phoenix Diversity Program.

Read more about Merci here.

KNakagawa photo2

Kathy Nakagawa, Ph.D
Board Member



Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D
Board Member


Dr. Kathy Nakagawa is an Associate Professor in Asian Pacific American Studies and Culture, Society & Education in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. She is a native Arizonan and received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Her research focuses on the social context of education and Asian Pacific American women's health & storytelling.





Originally from Dededo, Guam, Dr. Joanne L. Rondilla (she/her) is the proud daughter of Fernando and Sonia Rondilla, both of whom are immigrants from the Philippines. At the age of 13, Joanne moved with her family to Union City, California, where she finished high school. Currently, she is an assistant professor in Sociology and Interdisciplinary Studies and Asian American Studies at San José State University. In addition, she serves as a Program Specialist & Regional Steering Committee Facilitator for the ‘Ohana Center of Excellence (CoE). An award-winning educator, Joanne is a public scholar who served as a Public Voices fellow at The Op-Ed Project. Her writing and research focus on colorism, popular culture, and media representations. For more information, you can visit her website.