MALAS alum Nancy Kinnally lends skills to non-profit working to reunite Chilean families

Pro bono public relations work crucial to furthering Connecting Roots's mission

MALAS alum Nancy Kinnally lends skills to non-profit working to reunite Chilean families

May 31, 2024

After Nancy Kinnally graduated with her master's degree in Latin American Studies in 1991, she embarked on a career in public relations, where she regularly used her language skills in Spanish and Portuguese to conduct interviews for clients. But in 2023, her work reconnected her to Latin America with even greater significance: she began doing pro bono public relations for the non-profit organization Connecting Roots, which works to reunite stolen children with their biological families in Chile. Read on to learn more about Nancy's career and her work to support the mission of Connecting Roots:

Q: What is your current position?

NANCY KINNALLY: I am founder and CEO of Relatable Communications Group, a strategic communications firm with clients in legal, medical, nonprofit, trade association and other sectors.

Q: How did you get involved with Connecting Roots?

NK: I got involved in Connecting Roots in February of 2023 after its founder and CEO, Tyler Graf, contacted me. Connecting Roots was about to travel to Chile to reunite one of Chile’s stolen children—who was by that time a grown man—with his family. It was an important media opportunity for the organization. Tyler had already gotten significant media coverage by that time, having been featured in The New York Times, Nightline, People, Univision and Telemundo, among other media outlets. I already had a pro bono client, so I almost said no. But when I thought about the opportunity to use my language skills and put my master’s in Latin American Studies to work, I realized that “yes” was the only answer that made sense.

Q: How has your LAS degree helped you in your career, and in working with Connecting Roots?

NK: The main skill or knowledge I have used from my Latin American Studies degree has been my ability to speak Spanish and Portuguese. I learned Portuguese as an undergraduate, but I learned Spanish at UF during my master’s program. I went to the Yucatan with Professor Alan Burns and did my master’s thesis on the education system for Guatemalan refugees living in camps in the Yucatan Peninsula during their country’s civil war.

In my work, I have used both languages to conduct interviews for articles I was writing, usually about legal aid clients, as I have worked with legal aid organizations for the last 16 years. Being familiar with Latin American culture, history and geography has also helped me relate to the interview subjects.

With Connecting Roots, my Latin American Studies degree has been extremely helpful. For one thing, when Tyler contacted me about forced adoptions that occurred under the regime of Augusto Pinochet, I immediately understood the context. And of course, I use Spanish now almost daily when communicating with Connecting Roots leaders and volunteers in Chile, including my public relations counterpart in Santiago.

Q: What is the most challenging part of the work you and Connecting Roots are doing? What is the most rewarding?

NK: The most challenging part is working in an all-volunteer organization with no reliable funding stream. All of us are doing this work in addition to a regular full-time occupation. Tyler is a full-time firefighter for the City of Houston who learned in his late 30s that he had been kidnapped as an infant and not given up willingly for adoption as he and his adoptive parents had always thought. Since meeting his mother in 2021, he’s made it his mission to help others in his situation learn the truth and reunite with their Chilean families. But he still has to earn a living and support his family. So, he does both. He leads Connecting Roots and fights fires.

This challenge is also part of what makes the work so rewarding. I know that if I weren’t doing this for free, they couldn’t just hire someone to do it. And the work I do is critical, because we don’t have the data on which of Chile’s stolen children were brought to the United States, what their names are now, or where they are living. We have no way to contact them, so the only way we have to let them know that they might have been kidnapped instead of given up for adoption is to get this story out into the world. The adoptees Connecting Roots has reunited with their families have come to the organization after hearing about it in the media. In the first three months of 2024 we generated over 50 stories in outlets such as National Public Radio, The Guardian, CNN Chile, and El País. And we have had discussions with prominent filmmakers about potential projects as well.

Of course, the other rewarding part is seeing the results of the reunions and helping share those stories. All of the adoptees who went to Chile in February said it was the experience of a lifetime and they can’t wait to go back.

Q: What are the next steps/goals for Connecting Roots?

NK: Right now, the organization is working on new cases that were generated by the media coverage from a trip they took in February, during which they reunited five U.S. adoptees with their families. They are researching, doing DNA testing with kits donated by MyHeritage, and organizing Zoom reunions, which is the first step in bringing the Chilean families into contact with their long-lost children. Then, they will organize another reunion trip to Chile so that these adoptees can meet their families in person, and so that mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters can hug their lost family member, in many cases for the first time. Meanwhile, they are continuing to strengthen their organizational infrastructure. They have also held meetings with Chilean governmental agencies and with a judicial task force that is investigating the 20,000 or so cases of irregular or forced adoptions that took place in Chile during the Pinochet era, and they will continue to build those relationships.

Q: How can people get involved with or help Connecting Roots in its mission?

NK: Connecting Roots can always use volunteers, but more than anything right now they need financial support. A volunteer who is knowledgeable about grant writing or fundraising would be incredibly helpful. Donations can be made at And anyone interested in volunteering can contact the organization at


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