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.
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.
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.
UCLA '18, Human Biology and Society
Kate grew up in Santa Cruz, California. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Human Biology and Society. Her mother grew up in Nicaragua and much of her extended family still lives there; thus Kate is strongly connected with this part of her heritage. She travels frequently to Nicaragua and has worked as a volunteer for an orphanage in Mexico. These experiences opened her eyes to the rampant poverty that affects much of Latin America. Her drive to learn about life in different Latin American nations and pursue grassroots efforts to improve the quality of life in such areas drew her to MPI. She particularly values Manna's emphasis on building lasting relationships with community members. In her spare time, Kate enjoys painting, hiking, meditating, and trying new foods. She plans to attend law school after her time with MPI.
North Carolina State University ‘17, Biomedical Engineering
Gaby grew up in Memphis, TN. She graduated in May 2017 with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from North Carolina State University. After traveling to Ecuador last year to volunteer with a nonprofit, she knew she wanted to return and work in the nonprofit field for a longer duration. She felt drawn to MPI because of its efforts to establish authentic relationships with the community and work toward sustainable change. In Gaby’s spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, reading, and relaxing with friends and family. She hopes to attend medical school in the future.
Northeastern University ’20, International Business and Spanish
Abigale is originally from Seattle, WA. In May of 2020, she will graduate from Northeastern University in Boston with a degree in International Business and Spanish with a focus on Social Entrepreneurship and Food Systems Sustainability. Abigale is passionate about social change and sustainability, having worked previously with organizations in the US and abroad that focus on rural community development, sustainable consumption, and issues of urban homelessness. Abigale loves to travel and apply her passions abroad, having most recently spent time working and studying in India and Mexico. In her spare time, Abigale loves to cook, spend time with friends, and explore new places!
University of California ‘15, Political Science and Psychology
Kelly grew up in Oakland, California. She graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2015 with a double major in Political Science and Psychology. Kelly has always loved the Spanish language and is passionate about equality in education and serving communities. However, it wasn't until teaching in Japan that Kelly discovered an interest for international education and development. Kelly is excited to join Manna's team in Ecuador to support, engage with, and learn from the local community. In her spare time, Kelly enjoys hiking, watching sports, and discussing public policy.
Urban Youth Development Volunteer, Peace Corps Ecuador
Coppin State University '15, Global Studies
Imhotep was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He's currently serving as an Urban Youth Development Volunteer with Peace Corps Ecuador's Youth & Families Program. Prior to serving at Manna Project, Imhotep served at Casa de la Niñez #2 working with adolescent boys who have had challenges with drug addiction and experience living in the streets. Prior to his service in Ecuador, Imhotep served as a program manager for Concerned Black Men National's CBM CARES® National Mentoring Initiative where he had an opportunity to serve over 100 middle school boys in West Baltimore. What motivates him to work in Public Service and Youth Development specifically, are the mentors he had growing up and the opportunities they provided that improved his overall quality of life. Imhotep's ultimate personal and career goal is to contribute to ending extreme poverty.
James Madison University ‘18, International Affairs
Pechta graduated from James Madison University 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.