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 Mmassy, 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.
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.
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.
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.
GRETCHEN KEHDE - RURAL COMMUNITY CLINIC NURSE
Gretchen Kehde, RN, BSN, hails from New York City where she has practiced nursing for over 24 years. Gretchen studied nursing at St. Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing, and recently earned a specialized diploma in nursing from Liverpool’s School of Tropical Medicine. Gretchen always wanted to work in international health, specifically health promotion and treating chronic diseases and acute issues. Her warmth is felt by every patient she sees, and she has already started mentoring the future want-to-be nurses and doctors at RVCV.
AGAEL LESIKAR - SOCIAL WORKER
Agael is from Arusha, Tanzania and, like Jonathan, has been a social worker at RVCV since 2005. Agael graduated from the Community Development and Training Institute in 2004 and received his degree from Moshi University College of Cooperative and Business Studies in 2010. One of Agael’s many roles at the village is House Father in Eagle’s Nest, home for 20 of our young men. When Agael is not busy serving as the protector of order and peace among our children, he is with his wife and three daughters in Arusha.
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.
JASARA ROSENDAHL – VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR
Originally from Minnesota, Jasara graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Community Health from Montana State University. She spent four years working with Thrive, a Montana based nonprofit, coordinating volunteers, events and logistics for three of their signature school-based programs. Spending summers working for AmeriCorps and Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth provided additional opportunities on a national and global scale. Passionate about working with youth and drawn to the holistic mission and vision of TCF, Jasara is extremely excited to further support this vibrant community!
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.
NATALIE PRUELL - US MANAGING DIRECTOR
Natalie first fell in love with Tanzania while working as a Communications Assistant for IEFT in Monduli. After returning to the US she was looking for a way to stay involved with mission-driven organizations in Tanzania and started volunteering in TCF’s Boston office. Two short months later, in December of 2013, Natalie became an official part of our team. Natalie graduated from Boston College in 2012 with a BA in Political Science.
ALI CAREY - DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS 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!
BECKY ALDRICH - DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR
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.
CHELSEA STRELSER - DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE
Chelsea is from Virginia and joined the TCF team in 2018. Prior to her time at TCF, Chelsea was heavily involved in human rights activism and grassroots organizing. She has worked for multiple international and advocacy organizations, including The Enough Project and The Young African Leaders Initiative. Chelsea also spent two months in Jinja, Uganda working for the Phoebe’s Education Fund for Disadvantaged Youth where she helped families generate supplemental income to help pay for school fees. She holds a B.A. in Government & Africana Studies from The College of William & Mary and a Master’s in African Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.