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Our Team

 

Tessa Davis

Program Director


Tessa is the impassioned and pioneering architect behind JLMC’s programs in Uganda. In her current position as Program Director, Tessa inspires us all with her ability to successfully navigate and inform on the ground projects that translate JLMCF’s guiding principles into contextually relevant and community-led solutions.

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Tessa’s innate warmth and charm are essential to her success, but her warmth is coupled with pragmatism and level-headedness. What would seem like insurmountable obstacles to many of us, including malaria, no electricity or running water and bats living in the same house with her, are just a way for Tessa to understand her community better. She was already recognized as a well respected and dynamic Peace Corps Volunteer working in the communities we serve when she began consulting with Just Like My Child Foundation’s Founder Vivian Glyck during the organization’s infancy. She utilized her background as an elementary school teacher along with her Peace Corps training to guide JLMCF in defining and refining our aim to build the capacity of individuals and impoverished communities to realize their full potential.

As the superstar premiere Country Director for JLMCF from May 2008 through July 2009, Tessa was instrumental in transforming our big idea of Project Universal Education into a reality that now boasts five safe and successful school buildings filled with smiling Ugandan pupils. During the projects evolution, she supported and armed communities with the tools necessary to become their own agents of change as well as identified and recruited the members of our incredible in-country staff.

In addition to her current role as Program Director, Tessa remains committed to her own personal and professional development by attending the University of London in pursuit of her Masters Degree in Education, Health Promotion and International Development. This influential young woman is already using the progressive knowledge she has gained in her courses to enhance JLMCF projects on the ground, advocating in areas where children and teachers lack the basic resources and training necessary to provide quality education. Without a doubt, JLMCF would not have been able to serve the thousands of people who have been helped without the commitment of Tessa and we are elated to have her on our team.

 

Ashley McElvain

Video Editor & Social Media Specialist


Ashley is the hidden talent behind JLMCF's videos and promotional media. Her love for film making and video production is telling the stories behind our programs like Project GRACE and JLMCF's Girl Power Project.

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  Ashley received her BS in Video Production at The Art Institute of Los Angeles, working as a Broadcast Engineer and Videographer before joining Just Like My Child Foundation in 2010. Native to southern California, you'll find her at the beach or making friends (with just about everyone) - when she's not in an editing suite.

With an infectious laugh and vivaciousness that never seems to fade, she is passionate about the lives we're able to transform, and the children we empower. And as Video Editor, her altruistic heart is the force that propels their voices to be heard.


Uganda Team:



Sara Todd

Country Director, Uganda


Sara is JLMC’s Sagacious cultivator, enhancing the seeds that we have sown in Uganda by coordinating and refining programs on the ground. In her current position as Country Director, Sara continually impresses us with her knack for seeking out program gaps and opportunities by engaging JLMC communities at every level and then fostering collaboration and cooperation to ensure they are filled in and leveraged successfully.

Her commitment to supporting and challenging individuals and communities to fulfill their project responsibilities of ownership, monitoring and maintenance has been crucial to the ultimate sustainability of JLMC’s programs. Sara’s sincere and down to earth personality coupled with her determination to understand the Ugandan culture and context have served her in forging ahead with our partners to take JLMC’s programs to the next level.

Sara came to JLMC as a well respected returned Peace Corps Volunteer, where she served in Armenia consulting with local non-profits on project management and providing education to teachers and children on environmental issues. In addition, Sara was the Project Manager for an Armenian relief and development agency working in the Middle East, addressing issues of human rights and sustainable development by offering approaches that met grassroots priorities.

As a superstar student, Sara holds a masters of science, management with an emphasis on non-profit leadership from New England College. Her enriching past experience and remarkable education has served as the impetus to her determination in advancing JLMC’s initiatives and goals, utilizing our holistic, grassroots approach as her building blocks. Sara’s tenacity to make a career out of advocating for justice and serving marginalized groups makes her a perfect match for JLMC and an essential member of our team.


Nyiraguhabwa Monica

Girl Power Project Coordinator, Uganda


Monica is the unshakable might behind JLMCF's Girl Power Program. She designs, leads and facilitates our weekend long girl power workshops, which teach hundreds of young women that they have the right to live out their lives unencumbered and empowers them with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate life on their own terms.

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Monica came to our team already a dynamic young female leader with natural confidence and a spark that makes her the embodiment of girl power. This young woman is not content with watching the world happen to women and girls, but instead breaks stereotypes by creating a new paradigm that redefines what it means to be a strong Ugandan woman.

In addition to her contributions to JLMCF, she works with a leading empowerment organization that is committed to creating agency amongst women and girls in rural settings and acts as a leading voice in informing policy.

Monica is all that she hopes to inspire in the girls that she works with. She epitomizes the kind of female leader that JLMCF aims to foster in all of the girls we work with in Uganda. This, along with her ability to impressively facilitate a girl power workshop while simultaneously earning the trust and respect of every young lady in the room within an hour, makes her an incredible role model for all bright young women percolating with potential and an invaluable asset to JLMCF's team.

As Girl Power Coordinator, Monica also works closely with our Country Director in developing mentorship programs to ensure sustainability, with an aim in encompassing a sense of responsibility amongst our scholarship recipients to utilize their empowerment and education as a means by which to create positive social change. Monica is one of the strongest and most inspiring young women we have had the opportunity to work with and we are very proud to have her as a member of our team.



Audrey Kanyesige

Project Coordinator, Uganda


Audrey Kanyesige joined Just Like My Child in 2011 as a project coordinator intern, tirelessly organizing with our partners and mobilizing communities involved in our Universal Education and Girl Power programs. She is also the Mandela project leader, supporting, guiding, and counseling the six Mandela scholarship students and their families. Additionally, she assists with translations and capturing beneficiary data through intensive monitoring and evaluation for all 6 programs.

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She comes to JLMC with experience as a HIV/AIDs counselor and educator, having assisted the Ministry of Gender provide local service providers in Uganda working with orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) knowledge on how to intervene on behalf of the OVCs. Her education background is in community development studies.

Audrey is a fun loving individual, always ready to tell a joke and lighten the mood when faced with difficult circumstances. One of her greatest accomplishments in life so far is that she is finally working with an organization that is dedicating all of its resources to make positive and lasting changes in communities with painful and difficult pasts. Coming from Uganda's capital city, Kampala, her greatest challenge to date has been coming to term with the harsh realities on the ground -- For example, seeing children studying daily without lunch just because their parents either cannot afford the lunch fees or refuse to support them.

Each day Audrey learns new things about her country, the communities within which she works and the good in life. She says, “I finally know how much work, heart and generosity is needed to make even the slightest bit of change. I will forever remember that and will surely teach others to be respectful and thankful each time someone offers them a book or even a pig – for the gift comes from the heart.”


Ben Oryang

Project Coordinator, Uganda


Ben is the driving force behind JLMCF's Universal Education Program. He expertly utilizes our school-building methodology to mobilize communities to full participation in the school building process and works to ensure quality education efforts post-construction, to give hundreds of children safe and quality learning environments necessary for them to flourish and achieve their dreams.

Ben’s quick smile and infectious laughter are but a few of the elements of his charisma that make him so engaging.

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He’s an inspiring and natural leader within his community and his charming grin comes from an innate confidence in the potential of his nation - And every individual within it. But Ben is more than a dreamer, he is also an ingenious “do-er”. Just Like My Child Foundation has yet to find something that Ben cannot either do, organize or resource when it comes to helping communities to help themselves. His background as a professor of education and teacher trainer for the Nakaseke teachers college, combined with his natural leadership, makes him a perfect fit for mobilizing communities around schools that are committed to building their own capacities through education.

Ben’s commitment and belief in our first school building project, The Children’s Academy for the Collective Heart, along with his invaluable contributions to enforcing our building methodology, has inspired us all to use these tools to continue to build schools in other dynamic communities. Since joining our team in 2008 as a Project Coordinator, Ben continues to play an integral role in the successes of JLMCF’s school building efforts. He has gone far beyond infrastructure to help our teachers to become visionary leaders and mentors to the children we serve.


Beatrice

Project Coordinator, Uganda


Beatrice is the fortifying strength behind JLMCFs Universal Education Program. She utilizes our methodology to train our teachers how to excel at being powerful mentors and high-quality teachers.

Beatrice’s warm and welcoming heart is what first draws you to her, but when taking a second glance you’ll find a mischievous glint in her eyes that holds the creative brilliance and sharp wisdom that have greatly informed JLMCF’s school development efforts on the ground. 

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As a humble, approachable and popular leader, she has acted as a role model and an inspiration to budding educators for decades as a math professor and “field trainer” for the Nakaseke teacher’s college. Beatrice never sees any challenge as impossible to overcome, but instead finds dynamic and innovative ways to practically address and inform solutions.

Her uncanny ability to both identify and advocate for vulnerable communities that are committed to growing through education, have been instrumental in our successes to date.

As a Project Coordinator, she provides invaluable support and advice in education policy and development for the communities that JLMCF serves. We count ourselves lucky to have this impressive and well-respected individual on our team.



George William

Construction Supervisor


George William is the fabrication genius behind JLMCF's Universal Education Program. He works with our Project Coordinators to create school building plans and then transforms those creations into safe and shining learning environments where eager and knowledge-hungry Ugandan children can thrive.

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George William is a person whom you'll never hear gloat, but we will not hesitate to brag about the wealth of experience that this accomplished man brings to our team. A moment in his presence tells the story of an individual with a steady and true wisdom that comes with years of life and building experience. He is well known and respected within the communities we serve and came highly recommended by our Project Coordinators. Before joining us on our first-ever school building project, George William worked for decades building schools with Plan International. He never fails to continually design feasible and appropriate blueprints, budgets and plans that incorporate JLMCF's methodology and vision. He commands a quiet respect within every community he works with, while at the same time setting an essential standard for ethical building practices. George William has a knack for transforming perceived community constraints and limitations into opportunities for creative building solutions. He acts as a professional mentor and guide to both skilled labor and unskilled volunteers, who are contributing to the building process with an aim to achieve capacity building, community ownership and participation.

Since joining our team as Construction Supervisor in 2008, he has proven an efficient builder, maintaining quality and safety, while still coming in under budget, which allows for JLMCF to spread our resources across a larger population of communities in need of school buildings. George William has a gift for turning our big ideas and inspirations into real life sanctuaries for learning. Our favorite grandfather, who certainly gets the job done.


Past Team Members:

 

Ruthie Espanol

Operations Manager, 2008-2012

Ruthie was the muscle behind donor relations and operations at Just Like My Child Foundation from 2008-2012, wrangling everything between appreciating our incredible donors, coordinating events/volunteers and managing JLMCF's website.

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With an appetite for variety, she relishes in the excitement behind the scenes. It's no wonder, when you consider her background working with youth of all ages as a summer camp leader, before/after school program coordinator and gymnastics instructor. Besides being able to keep up with the latest playground rules and rhymes, the special dynamic she experienced in these environments revealed the incredible potential that can be unleashed from a child - from simply, a little love and support.

Ruthie followed her heart to join Just Like My Child Foundation's mission in 2008, gaining a greater purpose in giving back to those who need it most.


Dena Lewerke

Country Director, Uganda 2009-2011


Just Like My Child Foundation's determined ambassador, Dena provided a voice and acting as a coordinator for all of our programs on the ground in Uganda. She worked closely with our dynamic “in-country” team by supporting existing projects, building new partnerships, strengthening relationships and identifying potential development areas.

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When first meeting Dena it is immediately clear that she exudes a sweet and compassionate nature and you would be hard pressed to find someone more genuine and committed to the causes she champions. She deeply believes that all human beings have a right to the tools they need in order to pursue happiness, security and love. Dena embodies our commitment to sustainable and deep development, which makes her a perfect fit for our team.

Her experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia as well as her extensive work with refugees in the United States has equipped her with the value of contextual knowledge and provided the skills necessary to quickly adapt and integrate into the Ugandan communities we serve. Dena holds an MBA from San Diego State University and utilized her background and passions for entrepreneurial mentorship to inform and manage JLMCF programs aimed at building capacity through education, health and micro enterprise. By properly using JLMCF’s resources, she empowered hundreds of vulnerable women and families to lift themselves out of the clutches of poverty. Dena is without a doubt a superstar who, since joining our team as Country Director in 2009, has proven that a strong foundation paired with dynamic drive and compassion can move and expand projects and partnerships in an efficient and quality way.

 

Tara Hixson

Program Manager, Uganda 2011

A dynamic and passionate member of our team, Tara is by no means a stranger to our efforts. Her nearly 20-year-long friendship with Tessa Davis and her impressive background in education and development have lent to her contributing to JLMC informally as a volunteer, moral supporter and advisor for the last several years.

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Tara's friendly sincerity and natural leadership draw people from all walks of life and she utilizes her popularity as an opportunity to act as a positive role model for all who cross her path. Tara was born a teacher, dedicating her life to igniting the fire of social responsibility into the priorities of young people. She worked with at risk youth in inner city Phoenix while pursuing her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education from Arizona State University. She is a history buff who greatly values using the past to inform and build a better future for the world. This, along with her curious nature, led her to join the Peace corps in 2007 where she served in Thailand. Engaged in youth capacity building, teacher training and curriculum development for remote hill tribe schools, she helped them to create networks and partnerships between stakeholders as well as assist them in utilizing the limited resources they had in the most effective way.

Tara became officially introduced to JLMC in 2009 when she visited us on the ground and committed several months to volunteering with our projects. Her time in Uganda was spent aiding and supporting the team in preparation for the opening of JLMC’s first school building project by assisting with classroom resourcing, teacher training and policy informing. Tara worked closely with Tessa in researching and identifying potential projects and partnerships, while at the same time pursuing her masters degree in Education, Health Promotion and International Development from the University of London. We count ourselves lucky to have such an accomplished, genuinely supportive and down-to-earth member on our team.