Who We Are
Believers of Change
Believe New York is a new 501c3 non-for-profit organization in New York City. We founded in the fall of 2018 by the collaboration of community activist Nicole K. Bulanchuk and artist Tyler S. Parrish. Believe New York restarted its services in the Summer of 2020 in the aftermath of COVID-19, with a new mission, new leadership and a new outreach model.
Believe New York's mission is to improve the lives of all New Yorkers and beyond, and ensure all people regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, gender, and/or race can find and have access to the resources they need to survive and thrive.
We aim to help all individuals and families who need us, specifically individuals experiencing poverty, homelessness, mental illness, domestic violence, discrimination, unemployment, disability, loss, trauma, and/or any form of hardship that impacts their well being.
With help from the Believers, passionate and hard working volunteers, and generous contributors, we are able to service and connect individuals and families to life-saving resources in all five boroughs of NYC. We aspire to stretch our outreach and services to beyond our incredible city, but first, there is much more work to be done in our home.
Progress starts with you and continues with all of us. Please join our movement to make our city the best it's ever been.
If you believe anything, Believe New York.
Nicole Bulanchuk (she/her): Co-Founder
Nicole is a native New Yorker, a full-time community activist, a clinical psychology graduate student at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, and a Research Assistant in the Resilience Center for Veterans and Families.
Nicole started Believe New York after seeing first had the struggle and hardship most New Yorkers experience. She has a vision to mend New York and improve the lives of all New Yorkers, especially underserved populations such as women, minorities, working families, immigrants, people of color, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, and people who live with mental illness.
Nicole has worked for several NGO’s including; National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-NYS) as their WalksManager, and with Up-Fundraising as their Program Manager for primarily Save the Children Federation and Care International, but occasionally for The Nature Conservancy and ASPCA.
Nicole worked as the Legislative Aide for Assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal during the 2018 Legislative Session. Nicole is committed to helping and improving NYC and this is seen through the many volunteer experiences at shelters and food pantries throughout her career. Currently she volunteers at The Food Pantry at Columbia University and she is a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Member.
She aspires to become a Public Servant and Clinical Psychologist, with a specialization in trauma, resilience, PTSD, and suicide in order to not only research and treat the individuals and families whom have undergone the most devastating losses, but also to make the biggest impact she can in areas of social justice. Overall she is devoted to helping all people, throughout NYC and around the world, achieve happiness and security, and reach their full potential in life.
Sonny Curtin (they/them): Co-Founder
Director of Development
Sonny Curtin has lived in several impoverished areas of the country. They have seen lower income areas of metropolitan cities such as D.C., Salt Lake City, and NYC, predominately black neighborhoods outside of New Orleans, rural communities in Oklahoma with majority Native American populations, and the total indifference to homelessness in Austin. They have lived first hand how poorly people in poverty, with a mental illness, or with non-heteronormative sexual orientations or gender-identities are treated across the country.
They attended the Art Institute of Houston: Austin Campus in 2009 for a Bachelor's in Arts with a major in Digital Film and Video Production. After college, Sonny began working entry level jobs at major tech companies. They also worked as a stand up comedian, and toured the country from Spring 2015 to Summer 2016. During that time Sonny organized fundraising events and showcases for the Freedom43 non-profit organization that houses LGTBQ teens forced to leave their homes. They also organized events for the National Suicide Hotline by Heartline, Political Campaigns, and for victims of natural disasters in Oklahoma.
Sonny began working for a start up in 2017, where they learned digital design and how to build a corporate structure. After some time Sonny transitioned to Non-profit work doing Marketing for the international non-profit The American Botanical Council.
Having lived in Texas for far too long, Sonny moved to New York City July of 2019, where their first job was canvassing for ASPCA. Sonny met Nicole and Zach while canvassing, and was quickly promoted to a management position as well. They approached Nicole about Believe New York in May of 2020, and with the help of everyone at the organization, it has become what it is today.
Currently Sonny lives with their partner and their small dog. They write freelance articles about humor, reviews, social justice, and politics for various publications.
Zachary Koshgarian (he/him): Co-Founder
Director of Environmental Impact Projects
Secretary and Treasurer
Zachary Koshgarian is from Kansas and grew up with a passion for the environment and community care. He is a former Campaign Manager for The Nature Conservancy on behalf of Up Fundraising.
He graduated from The University of Kansas with a degree in political science and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management with a minor in Design and Urban Justice.
Prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Zachary found ways to organize for political campaigns, the US Census Bureau, Believe New York’s voter registration and outreach in New York City, and Armenian humanitarian relief during the war with Azerbaijan.
Zachary’s professional goal is to provide communities with clean air and water while preventing corporations from polluting our air and waterways.
Sanjana Manjunath (she/her):
Director of Research and Marketing
Sanjana was born in a South Indian village called Tumkur, but over the course of her life has lived in places like Frankfurt, London, Norwich, Texas, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Bangalore and more.
She is currently a clinical psychology graduate student at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, where she is focusing on research methods and study design. Sanjana has worked as a research assistant in clinical settings that studied human behavior such as the pediatrics department at NYU Langone and the Carrasco Lab at NYU.
Her current research focuses on the effects of menstrual stigma and hygiene management on a child’s psychopathology. Sanjana also ventured into the film industry in college and began producing short films and music videos that focused on promoting healthy messages about body image and mental health.
She believes that research and early education are necessary components of a healthy and progressive society. Sanjana aspires to be a child psychiatrist who conducts research on child and adolescent mental health in order to inform policy changes and develop media content for children that targets mechanisms that can improve their mental health.
Jessica Sweeney (she/her):
Director of Clinical Services
Jess is a native New Yorker and currently studying clinical psychology at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. She is passionate about serving her
community and working to enhance the mental health of fellow New Yorkers. She strives to destigmatize mental illness and advocate for anyone suffering from a mental health disorder.
In her undergraduate studies at Binghamton University, she worked as a research assistant in the Lab of Consciousness, Cognition, and Psychopathology, where she developed a deeper understanding of mechanisms of the human mind.
She currently works as a research assistant in the Lab of Loss,Trauma, and Emotion at Columbia University, where she is involved in multiple projects studying trauma and emotional expression. Jess’s long term career goal is to conduct research aimed at creating effective psychotherapeutic interventions for individuals suffering from mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression. When working with clients, not only does she want to help alleviate symptomatology, but also assist them in developing and enhancing personal strengths and competencies.
Jess believes that every individual is worthy and capable of living a happy and meaningful life, and will devote her life to making that possible for those whom she works with.
Chiara Lier (she/her):
Assistant Executive Director
Chiara was raised in France and is currently doing her master's in clinical psychology and a Sexuality, Women and Gender certificate at Teacher’s College, Columbia University.
In her undergraduate studies at Concordia University, Montreal, she worked as a research assistant in the center for research in human development, Mumby laboratory, center for studies in behavioral neurobiology, and relationship across development laboratories. She learned in these laboratories how to conduct different types of research studies and about helping behaviors and perception of gestures. Working in these different settings allowed her to have a critical view regarding research and be aware of her individual biases to eliminate them. She also spent a year volunteering at a mental health hospital, where she learned about zoo therapy and mental health in a hospital setting. During this time, she was trained in patient-related contact, which has helped her adapt to different situations and taught her how to help diverse populations.
She currently works as a research assistant in the Global Mental Health lab at Columbia University, where she is involved in a meta-analysis focusing on mental health and nutrition. In this project, she keeps track of the data and has to organize large datasets.
Chiara aspires to specialize in sexual abuse in her future practice and wishes to work around the world with doctors without borders to help women access mental health services.