Service with Manna Project: Nicaragua 2005-2006 Current Title and Employer: President, The David Weekley Family Foundation
"My time at Manna Project was one of the most formative years of my life. I was empowered by the autonomy that Manna Project instills in its Program Directors to take ownership, not only of the work we were aiming to accomplish, but of my role within the community at large. This quality has been ever-present in my work since, whether working with big companies on corporate responsibility or running an entrepreneurial MBA program."
Service with Manna Project: Guatemala 2010-2011 Current Title and Employer: Executive Director, PelotonU
"Manna Project was the most important thing that happened to me in college. Because of an MPI Spring Break trip my freshman year, I majored in international development, moved to Guatemala after college, and choose a career in social entrepreneurship. The mentors I followed and responsibility I was given were critical in equipping me to now run an education organization."
Service with Manna Project: Guatemala 2010-2011 Current Title and Employer: Vice President of Global Payments, INTL FCStone Global Payments
“I am continually inspired by the incredible people who make up Manna Project. Not only do they care deeply about the communities they serve, they care equally about the personal growth of the volunteers who have chosen to invest their time and heart with Manna Project. Manna Project continually inspires me as it not only invests in the development of communities in Guatemala, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, but also in cultivating compassionate, thoughtful, and dedicated leaders."
Service with Manna Project: Ecuador 2009 - 2010 Current Title and Employer: Senior Financial Economist, FDIC
"My time with Manna Project really opened my eyes to what life is like outside the United States. It helped me become a better global citizen and gain firsthand knowledge of some of the economic issues facing developing countries, which has proven invaluable in pursuing a graduate degree in economics."
Service with Manna Project: Ecuador 2007-2009 Current Title and Employer: Co-founder, Assemble Coaching & Consulting
“My two years with Manna Project in Ecuador have continued to shape my career. Some of my fellow volunteers remain my closest friends and (hopefully) future coworkers, and some of what we learned - how to interact with other organizations, manage projects, work within a team - has accelerated my career significantly.”
Service with Manna Project: Co-founder; Nicaragua 2004-2005 Current Title and Employer: General Surgery Resident, University of Texas Health Science Center
"Manna Project, its communities and its mission, made a huge impact in my life. My MPI experiences empower me to more closely relate with the growing Latino patient population and to appreciate to a greater extent the blessings, opportunities, and privileges we are afforded in the United States."
Service with Manna Project: Nicaragua 2005-2006 Current Title and Employer: Law Clerk, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
"My initial interest in Nicaragua grew from a visit as part of a college course surveying the economics, politics, and culture of several Latin American countries. Although I thought I was well prepared to understand the challenges faced by Nicaraguans, my year of service with Manna Project opened my eyes to the real challenges faced by those struggling to make ends meet and to provide decent living conditions and education for themselves and their families. When I left, I felt that I had gained more from my time amongst the people of Cedro Galán and Chiquilistagua than I had contributed to their lives and community."
Service with Manna Project: Nicaragua 2004 - 2005 Current Position and Employer: Real Estate Development & Urban Planning Project Manager, Carmel Partners
“I really enjoyed working with a group of ambitious young people with such diverse interests and backgrounds to build places and programs that made great social and physical impact on communities. Now in real estate development, I work with experts in a wide variety of fields to create places that make neighborhoods better and communities stronger. I'm better at and really enjoy collaborating across disciplines thanks to Manna Project.”
Service with Manna Project: Nicaragua 2012-2013 Current Title and Employer: Executive Director, Lacrosse the Nations
“My time spent with Manna Project has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I developed incredible relationships and made memories that I will cherish forever. I'm certain that a part of me will always be involved with Manna Project in one way or another."
Service with Manna Project: Ecuador 2012-2013 Current Title and Employer: Legislative Director for Congressman Bruce Westerman
"My year with Manna Project was a wonderful experience which I will cherish for the rest of my life. Not only was I fortunate enough to spend it with an amazing group of people but I learned a lot about myself both personally and professionally. Having a number of roles taught me how to balance my work load and showed me the importance of being well-organized."
Maddie (Jalandoni) Orange
Service with Manna Project: Nicaragua 2008-2009 Current Title and Employer: Program Officer - English Access Microsponsorship Program, AMIDEAST
"One of the most valuable lessons I learned as a Manna Project Program Director is the importance of recognizing your program's stakeholders and their values. Whether they are 6 year old Nicaraguan boys, local teachers, or multi-million dollar donors. By keeping this in mind, I have successfully advanced my career in international exchange programs while also pursuing a Masters in Public Health."
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Annie Freyman, Board Chair
Global Strategy, Paypal
Annie first got involved with MPI as a sophomore at Vanderbilt University and served as the VP of Global Programs for MPI's Vanderbilt campus chapter her senior year. Annie recently moved to San Francisco to join PayPal’s Global Strategy Team. Previously, she worked as a consultant with McKinsey & Company, focusing primarily on financial inclusion by offering formal financial services to low-income families. She lived in Bogotá, Colombia for a year doing research on the same. Annie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Spanish from Vanderbilt University.
Program Manager, LinkedIn
Masters Candidate, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, San Francisco State University
Jocelyn was a Program Director at MPI's Ecuador site from 2008-2009, leading the Adult English and Spring Break Volunteer programs while supporting other initiatives such as women's health & nutrition and the after school program. Currently living in San Francisco, Jocelyn is a Program Manager for LinkedIn and holds a Master of Industrial/Organizational Psychology degree. Her interests lie in organizational development and international work teams. She is thrilled to continue supporting MPI as Board Chair.
Flight Controller, NASA Johnson Space Center
Fiona was first introduced to MPI as a summer volunteer in Ecuador in 2009, shortly after graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a mechanical engineering degree. Two years later, she returned as a year-long Program Director in Nicaragua in 2011-2012, and was involved in the English, math, literacy, and child sponsorship programs. Currently, Fiona lives in Houston, where she works as a flight controller in NASA's Mission Control Center for the International Space Station.
Lori Scharffenberg, Secretary
Co-Founder, Manna Project International
As one of Manna Project's founders, Lori has been a vital part of the MPI team since graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2004 with degrees in Psychology and Elementary Education. Lori's involvement began when she helped charter the organization in January of 2004. In September 2004, Lori and 9 others journeyed to Nicaragua where they founded MPI's first international site. Lori taught preschool and designed and implemented the first art and literacy programs. Lori acted as the Nicaragua Country Director before stepping into the role of Executive Director. She now serves on the Board and lives in Orlando, Florida with her family.
Nicaragua 2014 - 2015
Front Row: Natalie Ball, Julie Sawyer, Brittny Randolph, Erica Crosley, Katy Clements, Christina Palazzo (Country Director)
Back Row: Connor Smallwood, Gretchen Heine, Juliene Joyner, Elena HogenEsch, Dana Hanley, Sam Schadt
Not pictured: Robert Grundmeier, Blair McGee, Alexa Rothenberg
Ecuador 2014 - 2015
Front Row: Catherine Althaus, Jessa Armstrong, Amelia Hulbert, Carley Clement
Back Row: Fred Schick, Evan Quinnell, Sydney McKenney
Not Pictured: Virginia Green, Katherine McCaw, Ann-Lowry Brown, Michael Weiner, Allegra Mangione
Nicaragua 2015 - 2016
Front Row: Martha Lee, Michael Graham, Kayla Sloane, Carissa Chen
Back Row: Christina Palazzo (Country Director), Liz Rosenbaum, Shanelle D'Alessio, Daniel Lewis, Heidi Tso, Jessica Whitney
Not pictured: David Schmid, Maria Molinaro, Madeline Drake, Hank Cohen and Mike Fisher
Ecuador 2015 - 2016
Front Row: Marina Wells, Kristin Sorenson, Amanda Rasch, Kelsey Williams
Back Row: Nancy Shattuck (Country Director), Melissa Picon, Monique Lara, Alex Saal, Emily Pratt, Everett Phelps, Gabby DeMarco
Ecuador Country Director
Born in Haiti, Deborah has over 16 years’ experience in international development and nonprofits in the US, Latin America and the Caribbean. She is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Haitian Creole and has recently began learning Italian. Throughout her career, Deborah has learned that the best way to help people and communities is to first understand their hopes and dreams; hence intercultural communications is her most developed skill set. Deborah holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Economic Development from Sonoma State University and a Master’s of Science in Administration from the University of West Florida.
Nicaragua Assistant Country Director
Dana’s interest in nonprofit work was sparked while pursuing her B.A. in International Development at Clark University, where she had the opportunity to intern at various nonprofit organizations including Habitat for Humanity and Lutheran Social Services of New England. She first joined MPI Nicaragua in 2014 as a Program Director after receiving her M.A. in Community Development & Planning. During her first year in Nicaragua, she fell in love with the communities that MPI serves and was impressed by the organization’s holistic and sustainable approach to development. After a year of working in MPI's educational and business development programs, Dana decided to extend her contract to work with MPI as a Senior Program Director for two more years, providing on-site and organizational support before transitioning to her current role. She is thrilled to be a part of the Manna Project team and for the opportunity to continue working with the communities she has grown to love.
Villa Guadalupe Clinic Administrator
Yami has been working with Manna Project International for over ten years and has become an invaluable part of the work the organization does in the Villa Guadalupe community. She first began working with MPI while the organization was still operating in La Chureca, which was the largest open-air landfill in Central America. She has over fifteen years of experience working in the health field. Yami handles the administration of the Villa Guadalupe clinic, helping with everything from making sure patients receive a kind reception to keeping all of the clinic's files organized and up to date.
Nurse, Cedro Galan Clinic and Villa Guadalupe Clinic
Selma has been part of the MPI team for three years, working as a nurse at both of the organization's health clinics in Nicaragua. She has thirty-three years of nursing experience under her belt. She was first drawn to nursing through her love of helping others and she feels that working with MPI has given her a chance to reach those most in need.
Doctor, Villa Guadaupe Clinic
Lilliam has been working as a general practitioner at MPI’s clinic in Villa Guadalupe since it opened two years ago. She has over ten years of medical experience and her warm personality never fails to put patients at ease. Lilliam knew from a very young age that she wanted to become a doctor so she could help people improve their health and prevent illnesses.
Gynecologist, Villa Guadalupe Clinic
Karla has eight years of experience working as a Gynecologist at Carlos Roberto Huembes, which makes her an incredible resource for the women of Villa Guadalupe. Karla's favorite part of her job is working with new mothers and getting to witness the joy they experience after giving birth. She also believes that improving women’s health in Nicaragua is critical for the country’s development and feels passionate about improving access to care in underserved communities like Villa Guadalupe.
Doctor, Cedro Galán Clinic
Wendy decided to become a doctor because she loved the idea of helping others to improve their health. For the past three years, she has been doing just that by providing care for patients at MPI’s clinic in Cedro Galán. With 17 years of experience as a general practitioner, Wendy is a tremendous asset to our staff. She is passionate about providing access to quality healthcare to people with limited resources and feels that the presence of a clinic in Cedro Galán has made a huge difference for the community.
Social Worker & Health Promoter, Villa Guadalupe Clinic
Julio has been with MPI for over ten years. In addition to helping with the administration of the Villa Guadalupe clinic, he also serves as a community health promoter and oversees Manna Project's childhood nutrition program. His favorite part of working at the clinic is going door to door in the community and finding people that MPI can help through the services the organization offers.
Radiologist, Villa Guadalupe Clinic
Dr. Mitre became the newest addition to the Villa Guadalupe Clinic team after signing on as our first ever radiologist in November 2018. She works at the clinic one day a week to provide regular and specialty ultrasounds to the community. Dr. Mitre was drawn to radiology because it allows her to work across all different medical specialties and with all kinds of people. With three years of residency in a local public hospital and two years of work experience already under her belt, we know that she will be an extremely valuable resource to the community!
Angela has been working with MPI since the organization first began to operate in Villa Guadalupe over three years ago. Angela has become an invaluable part of th clinic team. Thanks to her, members of the Villa Guadalupe community always have a clean and organized space to receive care. Angela says that she loves being able to do her part at the clinic and believes that the community really appreciates the services offered.
Volunteer Community Advisor & Host Family
Laura has more than 10 years of experience in Social Development Projects and has collaborated with Manna Project since 2008 in various aspects such as summer camps for kids, spanish classes, accommodation for volunteers in the Valley of Chillos, volunteer program in her garden organic besides to support with advising in programs and projects of the foundation. She is a certified Spanish teacher and holds a Masters in Business Administration and a postgraduate degree in Business Creation, Laura works as a freelancer in training and assistant to small businesses. Lastly, she manages a web-based business that encourages national and agro-ecological production known as, De la Mata a la Olla.
Volunteer Community Advisor & Host Family
The main interest of Alexandra is to contribute with good initiatives and improvement to the community. She strongly believes that is important to help to develop skills, customs, knowledge, values and good manners in society. She had implemented different initiatives, such as embroidery class and helping with some recipes in cooking class, even, she is used to helping with the day of inscription to the English course. She and her two children participate in these English classes, the same one that she recommends. Alexandra was a host mother of one volunteer of MPI. Also, she really likes to spend time with volunteers and learn about them and their culture of USA. She likes to share Ecuadorian culture and customs, like food, history, and museums. She has organized different trips with them to the center of the Quito city. She has collaborated in other foundations, always maintaining her spirit of humanity and respect for the values and customs of the people, which fills her with happiness and desire to continue helping.
Volunteer Community Advisor
Sonia has been an English teacher at the Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas-ESPE for 15 years. Through her hard work and determination, MPI and ESPE will now be collaborating on a project that will provide academic support and reinforcement in Math, Language and literature, and English to middle schoolers in Centro Manna, as well as neighboring schools. The program will bring together local teachers, university students from Espe and Manna volunteers to address and enhance the academic needs of its young participants. Let´s always keep in mind that Education is the core of success and freedom.
Jeff has over 25 years of mission-driven experience including serving in leadership roles with an HIV policy advocacy project in SE Asia, a Fair Trade education nonprofit in the U.S., and a social venture supporting community health in Uganda. He has managed education programs for over 15 years, including service-learning trips to Ecuador, Cuba, Costa Rica & Thailand. He brings over 10 years of intercultural work and travel experience in 59 countries across 6 continents. Originally from Baltimore, he earned a BS in Systems Engineering from University of Virginia, and a master’s focused on energy & environmental policy from MIT. Jeff is a health nut who enjoys tennis, hiking & cycling in nature’s wonders. Based in Washington, DC, he seeks balance, sustainable living, and life lessons with his wife and two children.
Jackie first visited Nicaragua in 2009 to volunteer with an orphan foundation. A few visits later, she was certain she wanted to get more deeply involved in international development. After studying International Communications in Queensland, Australia and graduating from Virginia Tech in 2011, Jackie traveled back to Nicaragua as a summer intern for Manna Project. She quickly fell in love with the culture and community, and stayed involved by becoming a child sponsor and creating an advocacy blog. With a B.A. in Communications-PR & Marketing, she then spent the next 6 years in professional roles focused on marketing, publishing, business development and sales. During these years, Jackie spent most of her free time organizing events for Maryland nonprofits centered around children facing a life-limiting illness. Today, Jackie lives in Baltimore, MD with her boyfriend and 2 dogs, and enjoys hiking, painting, gymnastics, snowboarding, waterskiing and international travel.
Finance and Administration
As one of Manna Project's founders, Lori has been a vital part of the MPI team since graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2004 with degrees in Psychology and Elementary Education. Lori's involvement began when she helped charter the organization in January of 2004. In September 2004, Lori and 9 others journeyed to Nicaragua where they founded MPI's first international site. Lori taught preschool and designed and implemented the first art and literacy programs. Lori acted as the Nicaragua Country Director for before creating and stepping into the role of Executive Director. Lori served as the Executive Director until 2016 when she stepped down to focus on her family. She continues to be involved with Manna Project as the Financial Manager and as a board member. She lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and son.
Since 2015, Yarissa has provided consulting services for clients in the areas of strategic business analytics and technology design. Her passion for global health led her to work as an environmental scientist for the Florida Department of Health, and as a researcher for the World Health Organization in Switzerland. She has supported economic empowerment of underserved communities through membership in The Association of Junior Leagues International, Forte Foundation and Net Impact. Originally from Puerto Rico, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Rollins College.
Extractive Industries Senior Program Coordinator, Oxfam America
Kate Stanley is a passionate social justice advocate which drew her to Manna Project International and role with Oxfam America. After completing a Public Policy and Public Health dual Master’s degree program at the University of Virginia, she has been working for Oxfam America, working alongside communities to demand their rights to information and decision making power. Kate has a special interest in the intersections of gender and development and has been working to design stronger programming, monitoring and evaluation methods, and advocacy materials. She has also designed M&E system training for Spark Microgrants in Rwanda, conducted her own survey research in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda, studied women's protective strategies in townships of South Africa, supported relationship development for rural rotations for Emory & Morehouse School of Medicine students in Haiti and advocated for better and more effective use of aid money on the Hill with CARE USA. Kate also holds a Bachelor's degree from Emory University.
Financial Services Digital Manager, PwC
Upon moving to Westchester County New York, Matt wanted to connect with his new community by engaging in socially focused initiatives. He joined the board of Teens Run Westchester, a nonprofit organization that sought to develop goal oriented teens through the training and completion of marathons. Having witnessed the positive impact of the program, Matt caught the nonprofit “bug.” He has since become a pro-bono consultant at Lazarus Rising, a nonprofit that seeks to find meaningful employment for individuals experiencing homelessness. Matt works at PwC as a technical consultant helping financial services firms better manage and scale their operations through technology solutions. At Manna Project International, Matt is focused on fundraising and recruitment.
Social Business Founder, AlmayEspiritu.com
A few years ago Criss identified a need in the Latino population, and decided to leave corporate America at the top of her career in the quest to find new ways to help everyday Latinos healthily cope with work/life balance, stress, and the pressures to live the “American dream” in the United States. Therefore, in 2015, Criss founded AlmayEspiritu.com, a socially responsible business which mission is to promote mindfulness practices, reading and meditation in Latinx communities and workplaces.
Criss currently teaches meditation and mindfulness online and in-person via workshops and virtual webinars. She also serves in the Executive Board for Manna International Project. Additionally, Criss assists as the Registrations and webinar lead for Lideramos.org, this nonprofit’s mission is to enhance and develop Latino Leadership Programs to strengthen a nation of diverse leaders who are culturally aware, civically engaged and community-serving, providing effective leadership for a multicultural society.
In her free time, you can find Criss meditating, reading, philosophizing or just being with nature. She also loves to walk without a purpose, and play a good tennis match!
Program Associate, Meridian International Center
Adelaide is a Program Associate at Meridian International Center in Washington, DC, where she coordinates professional exchange programs through the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. A native of Omaha, Nebraska and a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a degree in Anthropology, she has worked in a variety of intercultural contexts, from assisting her father's immigration law practice, to teaching refugee and immigrant children about agriculture through Project Localize, to interning with Sister Cities International. In her free time, she enjoys learning languages (current challenge: Irish), cooking with her boyfriend, and planning future getaway weekends out of DC.
Carley Rojas Avila
Fellow, Cornell University Institute for Public Affairs
Carley is a fellow at the Cornell University Institute for Public Affairs, where she is finishing her Master in Public Administration degree with a focus on international development in Latin America. Carley first joined Manna Project in 2014 as a Program Director in Ecuador, and immediately fell in love with the communities in the Chillos Valley and the holistic development approach of MPI. She stayed in Ecuador with MPI for an additional year as Senior Program Director. Carley enjoys hiking and cooking, and currently lives in Ithaca, NY with her husband, José and their three-legged cat, Mae. She is excited to have another opportunity to continue to give back to communities in Latin America by supporting Manna Project.
Fellow, Vanderbilt’s Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship
Danielle began her journey with Manna Project International as a spring break volunteer. She later became a site leader and President of MPI while at Vanderbilt. During college, she studied abroad at the London School of Economics and on Semester at Sea, where she lived on a boat for 104 days. Inspired to see more of the world, she received Vanderbilt's Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship, which has funded research for a year following graduation studying the relationship between civilians and the military in 20 countries. Born and raised in Kentucky, Danielle is an avid fly fisher, runner, and UK basketball fan.
Program Associate, Meridian International Center
Gianna was born and raised in Modesto, California, and graduated from American University in 2018 with a double major in Political Science and Philosophy. While an undergraduate, she studied abroad at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy, where she studied Italian and French. She currently lives in Washington, D.C. where she works at Meridian International Center in the Professional Exchanges Division, implementing the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). There, she manages the logistical and budgetary aspects for projects involving leaders of all types from around the world who are invited to the U.S. to meet with their professional counterparts. Gianna’s hobbies include playing chess, cooking, and playing the harp.
Student, Northeastern University
Tori served as a Program Director in Ecuador from July-December 2018. She completely fell in love with Manna's community and was eager to continue to support the programs when she returned to the US. She has also volunteered with other non-profit organizations that support health education, academic achievement, and elder engagement in her local community. Currently, she is a student at Northeastern University in Boston. She will graduate in May of this year with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Spanish. Following graduation, she plans to move to North Carolina and work as a middle school teacher for Teach for America.
Independent Business Owner, SI Restoration
Mikhael Cohn graduated from Tulane University in 1991 with honors in Business Administration. Mikhael has over 28 years experience in the remediation and structural repair industry. Mikhael has played a vital role in the growth of his Restoration Company, and is very proud of his team (which has expanded from 2 employees to over 50). Mikhael has been very active within the Dream Builders organization, This includes participating on their board of directors, fund raising and leading teams for local build site projects. His philosophy is no task is too small or too large, he is happy to help wherever it is needed. Mikhael is eager to bring his entrepreneurial spirit and leadership experience to Manna Project International as a board member. He currently resides with his family in the Washington, D.C. area.
Human Rights Lawyer
Roger is a Human Rights Lawyer with extensive overseas experience in Africa and Asia. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa where he was involved in efforts to eradicate Guinea Worm and to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. He is a strong believer in the transformative impact of volunteerism and is excited to be supporting Manna Project as a member of the Board.
Pechta graduated from James Madison University, VA, and earned an International Affairs degree with a minor in economics. Her passion for human rights work has driven her to pursue roles inside and outside her community. She served as president within her university’s human rights organization, a devoted activist and coordinator, and life long student. She has a diverse background and identifies with three different countries. And although she has lived in three different countries, Manna will her first solo international trip. She aspires to be a global citizen and assist communities through communication and relationship-building. She is excited to share her knowledge and stories with the world, and she wants them to do the same. On her spare time she likes to try out different sports and activities, but she is currently involved in yoga, journaling and reading.