Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Maps & Directions

Faculty & Staff

Sonja Darai, MA

  • Director, Office of Somerville Commissions for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts
  • Telephone: 617.981.0361

Degrees

MA, Intercultural Management and Sustainable Development, School for International Training
BA, International Relations/Soviet Studies, University of Minnesota

Additional Information

Sonja Darai, a center affiliate, holds an MA in Intercultural Management and Sustainable Development from the School for International Training and a BA degree in International Relations/Soviet Studies from the University of Minnesota. Her work in the US Peace Corps/Nepal as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Nepali Department of Water/Sanitation was a core practicum for her master’s degree which included Nepali language in-depth interviews with women across the country on sanitation and community development. She wrote two publications while in Nepal:  a detailed training manual for sustainable community development with women and a technical graphic manual for low-literacy village women.  In the US, Darai has experience at the national, state, and municipal-level offices of elected officials and government with a particular focus on policy development and advocacy.  She has worked for 15 years on policy initiatives at municipal, state, and federal levels.

Darai’s research with the center focuses her interest of emergency preparedness and post-disaster rebuilding with issues pertaining to vulnerable or marginalized populations. She has a particular interest in people with disabilities and "non-dominant" immigrant groups in  a community. Her career has focused on community engagement, multicultural communications, and sustainable development specific to marginalized or vulnerable communities.

Darai is the director of the Office of Somerville Commissions for the City of Somerville (MA). As director, she is the community ombudsman specific to human rights, immigrants, women, and the LGBT community. She conducts human rights complaint interviews, refers to appropriate agencies, conducts investigations as needed, and assists the Human Rights Commission with case management and trainings for "know your rights" topics. She works on sexual and domestic violence programming, policy development/advocacy, and community prevention.  Sonja also supports commissioners’ duties and responsibilities in several commissions.  To raise awareness and educate the community, she develops and works with commissions to create workshops and programs, produces and hosts “Voices of Somerville” (a government cable television program), and facilitates dialogues and taskforces.