Meet Our New Staff!

Peg Commons –  Volunteer Coordinator

Peg grew up travelling throughout the Middle East with her family but had never visited Africa until she first volunteered at RVCV in the summer of 2016. Peg fell in love with the Children’s Village. After her first trip, she returned twice more as a volunteer and is excited about taking on the challenge of being our Volunteer Coordinator! Peg received her Master of Economics and Master of Public Health degrees from Boston University and worked as a researcher in health economics.  She began teaching preschool and elementary children when her own children reached school age, working with non-English speaking children in a private daycare and with primary school children in a Montessori school.  She has enjoyed meeting and working with the RVCV volunteers, as they share her desire to help children and her love of adventure.  She looks forward to her new role and the opportunity to support the volunteers as they support the RVCV children.

Peg’s Favorite Swahili Word: “Kweli?” Meaning “really?” when said with disbelief (and a smile). The children love to joke, and when some of RVCV’s youngest hide a toy and claim they can’t find it, Peg loves to say ‘Kweli?’. Then they all laugh and the toy magically appears.

Holly Perkins – Social Work Intern

After volunteering at RVCV throughout her teenage years, Holly always dreamed of returning to the village for a longer period of time. In September 2018, this dream came true! Holly is from Maine where she worked as a youth worker with the nonprofit My Place Teen Center. As an aspiring social worker, Holly spends the majority of her time mentoring our teenage population and developing teen engagement programs. She is thrilled to spend her days learning from our kids and staff!

Holly’s Favorite Swahili Word: “Cheka” meaning “smile,” because then she gets to see the kids’ smiling faces all the time.

Gabriel Yona  – Social Worker

Gabriel Yona grew up in the Karatu District and is a graduate of our Student Teacher Program. After earning an advanced level degree at Arusha Teacher’s College through the support of TCF, in 2012 he became a teacher at Gyetighi Primary School. While Gabby loved teaching, he always felt inspired when working more closely with Mama India, Peter, and our team of Social Workers. This year, we asked Gabby to join our team in a different capacity and become our newest Social Worker. Today Gabby says, “I am so happy to be a part of this team. I will work tirelessly to help our young kids, sisters, and brothers to maintain their hobbies, learn life-skills, and respect themselves and others.”

Gabby’s Favorite Swahili Word: “Hakuna Matata.” Gabby loves this phrase because it means no worries and is associated with happiness. It teaches people to be less stressed about small things in life and to always be positive.

Suzana James – Social Worker

Suzana James grew up in the Arusha region in a village called Monduli. Suzana has always had a passion for helping children find paths to healthier futures. She received her Bachelor of Science in 2016 from the Institute of Social Work in Dar Es Salaam, receiving honorary distinction. During her studies, Suzana conducted extensive field research with Tanzania’s Social Action Fund regarding the impact of adolescent pregnancy on Secondary School students. Most recently, Suzana worked as a Social Welfare Officer at Nkoaranga Hospital in Arusha. In this role, she provided psychological support and care for families coping with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses. She has strong skills in crisis management, counseling, and research monitoring and evaluation. Suzana is excited to work with RVCV’s primary and secondary school kids so that she can learn about their interests and help ensure they are always happy and healthy.

Suzana’s Favorite Swahili Word: “Habari Gani,” meaning “how are you.”  In Tanzania you say “Habari,” to ask “how are you”, but Suzana grew up saying “Habari Gani” because she grew up 3 hours from the Kenyan border and this was how they greeted our friends and neighbors. This is the first thing she says to others when she wakes up each morning.

Katie Anderson – Rural Community Clinic Nurse

Katie is a born and bred Hosier from Indiana, who attended nursing school for her BSN at Xavier University. After nursing school, Katie spent the next 6 years working in a Level 1 Trauma Center and Emergency Department. She attended the University of Notre Dame for a Master of Science in Global Health degree and then worked for a year in trauma research. However, Katie decided she missed direct patient care. Katie found RVCV, a perfect blend of patient care and global health. She looks forward to working with and mentoring the RVCV kids who grow up and want to work in healthcare!

Katie’s Favorite Swahili Word: Katie’s favorite thing about the Swahili language is that many words are translated literally, but do not mean or are not being used in literal translation. For example, the first time a mother told her a child had a moto (fire), she was looking for flames or a burn. Turns out it meant that the child had fever!

Sheyanga Beecher – Director of Public Health

Sheyanga Beecher received her Masters of Science in Nursing and Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. She is certified as a pediatric nurse practitioner and has special interests in early childhood development and global health. Sheyanga first fell in love with Tanzania during an undergraduate study abroad program in 2001 and then returned to Tanzania in 2010 when she was hired on as Rift Valley Children’s Village’s first community health nurse. After two years at the Children’s Village, Sheyanga went on to work as a nurse practitioner in a hospital in Minnesota, caring for children in various settings: primary care, urgent care, and travel medicine.  In 2019, Sheyanga rejoined the TCF team, but with the new role of Director of Public Health. Sheyanga hopes to focus on disease and injury prevention as well as health promotion. As the Director of Public Health, Sheyanga works to better the health of individuals where they live, learn, work and play.

Sheyanga’s Favorite Swahili Word: Shaghalabaghala, another word for chaos. She loves using this word because she thinks if you start your day by accepting shaghalabaghala, then everything else will fall into place.