OUR WINNING TEAM IS LEAD BY:
INDIA HOWELL - FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
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.
PETER LEON MMASSY - TANZANIA MANAGING 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.
NICK BEECHER - INCOMING 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.
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.
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 INTERN
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 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.
ROSE TOBIASSEN – VOLUNTEER MANAGER
Rose is from Northern Virginia and joined the TCF team in January 2017. She has an MSc in Sustainability, Culture, and Development Anthropology from Durham University in the UK, and a BA in Anthropology from Wagner College in New York City. Her Master’s dissertation involved fieldwork in Kenya, where she looked at the impact of mobile phone use on women living in low-income communities. Before coming to RVCV, Rose worked for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) managing program logistics for all CGI conferences and acting as the Executive Assistant to the CEO. In addition to her professional and academic pursuits, Rose is a classically trained percussionist and pianist, and taught private music lessons for ten years.
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.
SEANA WILKERSON - SPONSORSHIP & COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
As Sponsorship and Communications Coordinator, Seana grows relationships with our generous sponsors and tells the many stories of TCF and the surrounding community. A passion of Seana’s is the development of communication content that breaks down stereotypes and empowers the audience and subject. Her professional highlights include Diversity and Inclusion Practitioner, Manager of an indoor campground party venue, a mentor to Congolese refugees resettled in the U.S., and a Communications Volunteer for the German Marshall Fund and the Jane Goodall Institute Belgium. She graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from Oklahoma State University and completed her M.A. in International Development from the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies.
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.