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.
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.
Ecuador Site Coordinator
Vanessa was born in Quito, Ecuador and graduated from UDLA (Universidad de las Américas) with a degree in Political Science and International Relations. She is passionate about working with the community, human rights and traveling. Vanessa’s goal is to create a positive impact in communities during vulnerable situations through the creation of programs that allow community members to develop in the areas they need. Vanessa considers herself an activist for the rights of women and minority groups. Her dream is to travel around the world and leave a mark on the places she visits. Vanessa speaks Spanish, English and Chinese. She is very grateful for the work that Manna does in her home country and is excited to create a much greater impact in Ecuador.
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.
Andie Reynolds, Director of Program Research and Development
Andie holds qualifications in Sociology, Social Research, Community Education, Community Development and TESOL. She has worked in Scotland, England, USA, Australia and Nicaragua in youth work, community development, adult education, teaching, social enterprise and international development. In 2011, Andie joined Northumbria University as a graduate tutor in Childhood and Youth Studies, and in 2017 completed her PhD in community development. In 2016 she became a full-time lecturer at Northumbria. From August 2019 to August 2020 Andie will be working with Manna in Ecuador as their Director for Program Research and Development.
Olivia Chew, Fellow
Originally from Singapore, Olivia’s interest in Latin America developed through her time at Macalester College. As a sociology and geography major, she was keen on studying human migration and understanding how our access to social discourses is influenced by the identities we hold. Olivia first visited Ecuador in 2017 during a semester abroad program, where the warm and generous community made her feel at home. Deeply impacted by an internship with the organization Las Tres Manuelas, she returned the following year with a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace Foundation to coordinate a series of workshops on gender-based violence for youth and young adults in the Centro Histórico of Quito. Olivia is looking forward to joining MPI as a Community Development Fellow in Sangolqui.
Emily Churchill, Fellow
Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Emily has traveled across five continents, but her heart holds a special place for Ecuador. A summer internship in Cuenca opened her eyes to the country’s beautiful landscapes and the warmth of Ecuadorian hospitality. She is thrilled to return to Ecuador this year as a Community Development Fellow with MPI where she will have the opportunity to learn through teaching and program development. A recent graduate of the University of Richmond, Emily holds a degree in Spanish & International Studies. She has studied and worked in community organizations in Spain, Morocco, Chile, & Costa Rica. In her free time, Emily enjoys running, hiking, playing guitar, creative writing, and taking spontaneous weekend trips.
Madeline Verbeten, Program Director
Madeline joins MPI Ecuador as a Program Director from September 2019 to March 2020, taking time off of her job as a management consultant to explore her passions for community development and individual empowerment. She is excited to build on her experiences within her own community of Minneapolis, Minnesota to contribute to the strength and growth of communities around the world and to connect with the individuals within those communities. Ecuador and Latin America hold a special place in Madeline's heart, having grown up participating in a Spanish Immersion program since the age of five and traveling around the world to different Spanish speaking nations.
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.
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!
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.