OUR WINNING TEAM IS LEAD BY:
PETER LEON MMASSY - FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
To say this man is irreplaceable is an understatement. Peter joined the Rift Valley Children’s Village in 2004 as its Assistant Director when it was just a rented home on a hill and has been working with India ever since. Whether it’s managing the ever-growing Tanzanian staff, overseeing construction, or fundraising in the US and Tanzania, you name it, Peter does it, and then some! Peter has a degree from the Community Development Training Institute and an MBA from Mzumbe University, and his skills and insights have been instrumental in the development and success of RVCV’s various community outreach programs. To top it all off, Peter is an incredibly personable, caring, funny and intelligent individual. He lives and works at RVCV full time along with his wife, Grace, and their three beautiful daughters.
INDIA HOWELL - FOUNDER
India Howell has lived and worked in Tanzania since 1998. She has devoted her life to improving the lives of orphaned and marginalized children. She founded the Rift Valley Children’s Village in 2004 by opening her own home to 17 children in need. Little did she know that one day over 90 children would be living with her at RVCV. Today India is the legal guardian of all 97 children and she is known throughout northern Tanzania as ‘Mama India,’ a woman who has provided not only a home to unwanted children but hope and employment to villagers who have never had a job, and scholarships to high achieving students in the local community. India is the first to say that she has not done this work alone. Hardworking and selfless, practical and compassionate, she inspires tremendous loyalty from friends and colleagues. India has found her work, her passion, and her home in Tanzania.
KATIE ANDERSON - RURAL COMMUNITY CLINIC NURSE
Katie is a born and bred Hoosier 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 that grow up and want to work in healthcare!
NICK BEECHER - DIRECTOR OF THE RIFT VALLEY CHILDREN'S VILLAGE
Nick Beecher first visited Tanzania in 2001 during a study abroad trip as an undergraduate student from the University of Chicago. Although he graduated with a Geophysical Science Degree, Nick, inspired by his experiences in Tanzania, became passionate about education and child welfare. After graduation, Nick changed course, obtained his Masters in Teaching, and spent the next few years as a junior high and high school science teacher. While he was fulfilled professionally, Nick missed Tanzania, the richness of the land, and kindness of its people. Nick returned to Tanzania in 2010, this time with his wife (whom he met nine years earlier during his studies in Tanzania). During his two years as TCF’s Education Director, Nick thrived in his position, helping the children of our community receive a quality education at Gyetighi Primary School. Encouraged by his work as an Education Director, since returning to the United States Nick has held a variety of leadership roles. He worked toward his administrative license and found work as a non-profit program director and as a school principal. Additionally, life became a little busier and a whole lot more fun as Nick and his wife welcomed three active and inquisitive boys over the last five years. Now, as Nick returns to Tanzania as the Director of the RVCV, it will be as a part of a family of five. Nick still possesses the same passion toward the betterment of children he had in 2001, but now with his experiences in leadership and the added perspective of being a father, he will be instrumental in ensuring that RVCV continues to transform lives and build brighter futures.
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.
ALEX BEHAN - EDUCATION DIRECTOR
Alex comes from Liverpool, England. He has spent the past 3 years in Tanzania managing a range of youth development projects with organizations including Restless Development and Raleigh Tanzania, where he taught, coached and supported a diverse range of young people to develop and achieve their potential. During his time in Tanzania he has also focused on building relationships with government schools and teachers, to help bring more student-centered learning practices into the classroom. He studied at University in Sheffield, graduating with a 1st class degree in Geography. Alex has also spent many years teaching English to numerous different levels and contexts. He believes that young people are the future generation and have the power to be change makers, and that education is an essential tool towards this.
EMILY CLOSE - DIGITAL MEDIA & SPONSORSHIP COORDINATOR
Emily joined the TCF team in October 2018 as our Digital Media & Sponsorship Coordinator. After working for a national television station for two years in New York City, Emily is passionate about utilizing media platforms as vehicles for global awareness and social change. On a daily basis, she builds relationships with our generous sponsors, educates new listeners, and enhances the ways in which our followers can explore TCF’s unique programs. She has a bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a focus on Human Rights & Social Justice in Africa. Emily’s motivation to move to Tanzania stems from her term studying at the University of Cape Town in South Africa where she worked with a local women’s rights group to foster entrepreneurship and economic empowerment. Her experience with this group sparked her interest in community development and the ways in which we can use digital tools to create opportunity within rural areas. Follow her stories on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on TCF’s newest initiatives and funniest home videos.
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, who share her desire to help children and her love of adventure, and she is excited to have the opportunity to support the volunteers as they support the children.
SELESTIAN DAMAS – HUMAN RESOURCES AND PURCHASING OFFICER
Selestian joined the TCF team in 2007 as a student teacher. He then moved on to work in the Accounting Department, and now works in Human Resources and as our Purchasing Officer. Selestian graduated from the University of Arusha in 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in Accounting with Education. He is thrilled to work at Rift Valley Children’s Village because he knows the life of living without parents and he is so proud to serve the community and the children.
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.
MARIJA LUKAC - ESOL TEACHER/TEACHER TRAINER
Maria joined the team in May this year as an English Teacher and Teacher Trainer. She is from Serbia, and has both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English and Applied Linguistics from University of Belgrade. Her interests include non-formal education and activism, so she was a member of countless NGOs. However, she still has faith in formal education and does her best to improve it, through designing, coordinating and holding teacher development programmes, reviewing state school coursebooks, as well as an active involvement in English Teachers Associations. Maria values reflection and innovation and enjoys acting as a multiplier. She has been facilitating workshops at state schools and conferences for 10 years now and, as a National Educator for Human Rights, she believes teachers (should) teach more than their subject matter.
Before coming to RVCV, she worked at the American University of the Middle East in Kuwait, and is thrilled to acquire more international experience in a place where education truly matters.
GRACE MMASSY - MICROFINANCE DIRECTOR
Our Microfinance Program is led by Microfinance Director, Grace Mmassy. Grace is from Moshi, Tanzania and joined the team in 2007. She received her college degree from Community Development Training Institute in Tengeru, Tanzania and an MBA from Eastern and Southern African Management Institute in Arusha. Grace used her business background in various capacities at TCF before becoming the Director of our rapidly expanding Microfinance Program in 2013. Grace lives at the Rift Valley Children’s Village with her husband, Peter, and their three daughters.
BETTY MWAIKUKA - CHILD PROTECTION OFFICER
Betty is from Arusha, Tanzania and joined RVCV as a Counselor in 2014. She studied at Daystar University in Nairobi where she received her degree in Peace and Conflict Transformation. After university, Betty studied in Vienna where she received her Masters in Peace Studies at Innsbruck University. With over 90 kids on the premises, conflict resolution is a constant challenge at RVCV. Betty is a great listener and her door has always open to our children and staff members. Betty now serves the whole community as our Child Protection Officer.
ARTURO OSORIO SOLANO - MICROFINANCE DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
Arturo joined the TCF team in August 2017 as our Microfinance Intern. Arturo’s primary focus is the development and growth of one of TCF’s Microfinance initiatives, the Rift Valley Women’s Group. This handicrafts group is composed of 15 women from the community and provides economic opportunities through trainings in beading and sewing. Arturo, who is originally from Colombia, grew up in California. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business from San José State University as well as international experience at City University’s College of Business in Hong Kong. Before coming to RVCV, Arturo worked for the International Student and Scholar Services office at SJSU promoting study abroad programs and working with international students from over 40 countries. Passionate about leadership and community involvement, Arturo also served in several leadership positions at SJSU within the College of Business, Student Involvement, and Athletics.
HOLLY PERKINS - SOCIAL WORK INTERN
Holly joined the Rift Valley Children’s Village team in September 2018. 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!
JONATHAN URIO - SOCIAL WORKER
Jonathan joined the Rift Valley Children’s Village as a social worker in 2005, and has been a gentle and positive influence on our kids ever since. He watched virtually all our kids grow up and is dedicated to helping them fulfill their hopes and dreams. He currently serves as the House Father in Lion’s Den, one of TCF’s two homes for young men. In 2010, Jonathan received his post-graduate degree from Moshi University College of Cooperative and Business Studies. When not at the village, Jonathan is spending time with his wife and daughter in Arusha.
GABRIEL YONA - SOCIAL WORKER
Gabriel Yona grew up in the Karatu Distric 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, teach them life-skills, and to respect themselves and others.”
BECKY ALDRICH - FINANCE & DATABASE MANAGER
Becky joined TCF in late 2015. Her love of Tanzania began while volunteering with Boabab Home in Bagamoyo in 2008. Once back in the US, Becky spent six years in various roles at WorldTeach, supporting volunteer teachers in developing countries throughout the world. Becky has a degree in Economics from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from George Washington University. After one year of early retirement in sunny Florida, she is excited to be back in Cambridge splitting her time between TCF and chasing after her two sons.
ALI CAREY - MANAGING DIRECTOR
Ali is from Maryland and joined the TCF team in March 2016. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Economics from Bucknell University. Prior to her arrival at RVCV, Ali worked in crisis communications and public relations in Washington, DC, where she assisted clients with brand development, traditional and digital media outreach and reputation management. Ali was a volunteer at RVCV and lived in Manyara house for 3 months and then was our Sponsorship and Communications Coordinator in Tanzania for a year before joining us in our US office in April 2017. She is excited to be able to continue working with the kids that stole her heart!
VANESSA HAMANN - DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATE
Vanessa joined the TCF team in March 2019. Vanessa is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, while her father is originally from Lima, Peru. This international background has heavily shaped her world view and left her committed to becoming a responsible global citizen. Vanessa’s family immigrated to the United States and ended up in sunny Florida. Vanessa attended Eckerd College where she studied International Relations and Global Affairs. She spent her time in college working with non profits that served under-resourced youth in the Saint Petersburg community. Her passion for Public Health led her to become a certified Emergency Medical Technician after completing a Wilderness EMT course. Most recently, Vanessa returned to South Africa to work for Operation Smile in Cape Town where she assisted in Development. Vanessa is passionate about advocating for human rights for those around the world. She is beyond excited to work for an organization whose innovative approach allows for both a positive and sustainable impact.
HOLLY TICE - OPERATIONS ASSOCIATE
Holly joined the TCF team in January 2019. She is a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she studied Economics and Writing. After interning with the International Rescue Committee while in college in Baltimore, Holly became interested in international human rights and wanted to pursue this passion at a mission-driven organization dedicated to creating lasting change. She is therefore very excited to be a part of TCF and to help keep its operations going and growing! A native New Yorker, she is equally excited to find the best bagel in the Boston area and welcomes suggestions.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
From left to right: Kirsten Heinemann, Sallie Bear, India Howell, Peter Leon Mmassy, Linda Hayes, Todd Cronan, Peggy Bacon, Rob Rosser, Jody Drake, Eleanor Doar, Will Gray (Not pictured: Pooh Gephart, Dave Meaney, Jim Schubauer)