Water for Waslala is comprised of a US-based Executive Director, an all-volunteer, eight-member Board of Directors based in Philadelphia, a set of local partners in Nicaragua, student volunteers across the US, and the Villanova University Colleges of Engineering and Nursing.
Kevin Kelly – Executive Director
Our first full-time executive director joined Water for Waslala in early 2014 after becoming instantly enamored with our mission. Kevin brings two decades of diverse public service and management experience to our organization and looks forward to leading the charge to end the water crisis in Waslala.
Kevin earned his MA in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University and his BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan. As an award-winning educator in both the Phoenix and Detroit metropolitan areas, Kevin distinguished himself as an innovator and curriculum specialist. As an administrator and educational leader in both urban and rural settings, Kevin comprehensively redesigned and restructured three public schools with remarkable results. More recently, as an educational and fundraising consultant, Kevin has worked with schools and non-profits throughout the United States to reimagine how they do business. As our Executive Director, Kevin looks forward to driving an aggressive expansion of our operations in Nicaragua through the building of diverse strategic partnerships here at home.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Water for Waslala’s Board of Directors manages the organization’s operational, financial, engineering, and project management activities in both the US and Waslala, Nicaragua. The Board is run on a volunteer basis by young professionals who are passionate about helping the Waslalan people live with dignity.
The board is comprised of the following individuals:
Matt Nespoli - Founder & President
Matt spent two weeks after his sophomore year at Villanova University in Waslala, Nicaragua, and has never been the same since. Feeling a conviction to end the water crisis in Waslala, Matt wrote a business plan for Water for Waslala during his senior year of college in 2003, and has spent the last ten years putting his plan into action. In his role as President, Matt focuses on strategy development and management of both the Waslalan and US side of the organization.
Matt is currently a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in Boston, MA. Matt received his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 2012, with a focus on corporate sustainability strategy. Prior to MIT, Matt worked as a public sector strategy consultant in NYC, and as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. Matt earned his undergraduate degree from Villanova University in 2004, receiving the Medallion Award for academic excellence in the field of Economics. Matt continues to direct Water for Waslala part-time together with the Board and other partners.
Nora Reynolds - Director, Program Committee Chair
Since Nora's first trip to Waslala in 2002, she has maintained her involvement with the region and returned to Waslala approximately ten times. As the chair of WfW's Program Comittee, she oversees the development and execution of our approach to delivering water programs in Waslala. Nora also manages the day-to-day communication with our Waslala team to ensure alignment between the Board of Directors and our boots on the ground.
Nora graduated from Villanova University in 2002 with a B.A. in Communication and Spanish. She then moved to Madrid, Spain to pursue a Masters in International Development at La Universidad Complutense. After returning to the US, she spent two years teaching at a bilingual school in North Philadelphia through Teach for America while she completed her MS in Elementary Education. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Urban Education at Temple University.
Jordan Ermilio - Director, Program Committee Member
Jordan has helped WfW develop its community-driven approach to designing, constructing, and maintaining water systems in Waslala since the organization's founding in 2004. Currently, Jordan oversees WfW's partnership with the Villanova University College Engineering, which provides Research & Development support to WfW to improve our gravity-fed and household filtration projects. Jordan also serves as a technical advisor to our Waslala engineering staff, and frequently travels to Waslala to conduct feasibility studies and inspect WfW water systems.
Jordan graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree from Villanova in 1997, and spent the next four years working on rural potable water projects in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and East Timor with the Peace Corps and Oxfam International. Jordan returned to Villanova to receive a Masters in Water Resources Engineering, and now works as an Adjunct Professor and the Service Coordinator in the Villanova College of Engineering.
Megan Townsend - Director, Fundraising Committee Chair
Megan currently leads a set of strategic initiatives within Water for Waslala, including managing a newly-formed Advancement Council that is focused on expanding our fundraising program.
Megan is a Organizational Change Management Consultant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, providing advisory services to clients within PwC's People & Change Group. Megan earned her MBA at Temple University and received her BA in Communication and a minor in Business from Villanova University. She is active in The Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) and The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Rob Gradoville - Director, Program Committee Member
Rob Gradoville joined the WfW Board in 2013 after years of working in water and sanitation projects in Nicaragua, Peru and the Dominican Republic. He serves as a member of our Program Committee and is currently leading our pilot initiative to pair micro-lending with distribution of household water filters to remote Waslalan families.
In his full-time role at Water.org, Rob manages the organization's direct impact and Watercredit programs in East Africa and Latin America. His role involves launching and ensuring quality of programs as Watercredit expands and innovates. Rob was previously a Fulbright scholar in Peru, where he researched water resource management and climate change adaptation practices. He has field experience in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector, having managed projects in various Latin American countries and serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic.
WALK FOR WATER LEADERSHIP TEAM
Water for Waslala relies on volunteers around the country to raise awareness of its mission and funds to purchase the materials needed to bring clean water to Waslala. WfW’s principal annual fundraising event is the Walk for Water, held on the campus of Villanova University, which has hosted the Walk since its beginning and long been a key institutional partner in helping WfW achieve its mission in Waslala. The leadership team comprises several students from Villanova and several alumni who have worked with WfW in the past.
The Walk for Water Leadership Team is comprised of the following individuals:
Colleen Francke - Lead Volunteer Manager
Colleen Francke is a junior English and Communication double major with a minor in Peace and Justice from Southbury, CT. Enthusiastic about raising awareness about the world's water crisis, Colleen found Water for Waslala the perfect fit for her and her desire to ignite change. She hopes to visit Waslala before graduating; she would love to see in person the incredible work being done.
Immediately upon hearing about this fantastic organization, Colleen applied to become a member of the core team. Since she was accepted, Colleen volunteered at Water Awareness Day and the Walk for Water. Amazed by the work that was spearheaded by a small group of Villanova alumni, Colleen desires more than anything to add her own passion to the difference in the world that group is creating and has the power to continue to create. Although we are miles away from those in need, Colleen is confident that the hope to improve the quality of life for others can span continents, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who usually do.
Mary Bianco - Volunteer Manager
Mary Bianco is a junior Communication and Cultural Studies double major and Spanish minor. She is from Westchester, New York, but spends most of her breaks working as a ski instructor in Killington, Vermont. She is involved in Catholic Relief Services, the Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, the Relay for Life Committee, Water for Waslala, the Villanova Ski team, and also works as an intern for the Villanova Law School as a community translator. She spent her summer in Valparaiso, Chile teaching English and recently returned from a semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is extremely excited to be working with Water for Waslala again this year and looks forward to a more active role in the organization.
Boratha Tan - Volunteer Manager
Boratha Tan is a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Philadelphia, PA. Both of his parents are from Cambodia, so he pays attention to the humanity crisis in Southeast Asia. There are similarities among Third World countries, including the unusually poor conditions of most people living there. The people of Waslala are no different.
“Where there is injustice, I always believe in fighting. The question is: do you fight to change things, or do you fight to punish? We are all such sinners that I believe God is the only one who judges those for punishment.”
Mahatma Gandhi, just as any key figures of compassion, has worked to change how we act towards one another. He sacrificed his life, every moment of it, to make the world one step better. We are all continuing to do just this, with small acts of kindness. Boratha takes this as his inspiration and thinks that he is doing the same work as everyone else. Some want to solve poverty; others want to make racism a thing of the past. Boratha would like to create an awareness of the challenges for life in Waslala, Nicaragua. Something as small as coordinating the Walk for Water is an opportunity to positively change the lives of those less fortunate.
Christine McQuade - Walk Outreach Coordinator
Christine first went to Waslala during her sophomore year in 2011 as part of the engineering service break trip program. Having no idea what to expect, she was blown away by the beauty of the mountainous region and the compassion and drive of the community members. Ever since then, Christine has been committed to helping provide clean drinking water to the communities in Waslala. The first trip completely changed the focus of her time at Villanova and she went to Waslala two more times in 2012 and 2013. Christine graduated from Villanova in 2013 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and currently works for the Philadelphia Water Department.
Bryan Kerns, O.S.A. - Walk Leadership Team Coordinator
Bryan Kerns, O.S.A., is a 2011 graduate of Villanova University with degrees in Honors and Humanities, minors in philosophy and theology, and a concentration in Irish studies. He was also involved in student government, campus ministry, and the campus newspaper, The Villanovan. He is an Augustinian Friar and currently pursuing degrees at the University of Chicago Divinity School and Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. While a student he helped coordinate the Walk for Water and now works with the students to coordinate the efforts that go into planning the Walk. Bryan views working with Water for Waslala as a near perfect combination of opportunities for learning, service, and increasing awareness of the issues with which we deal and also of the issues facing much of the world in ways that those of us living in the United States so rarely experience firsthand.
WfW partners with local Nicaraguan organizations to manage the water system and filter project delivery and maintenance processes in Waslala. WfW's primary partner is the AsociaciÛn de Desarrollo Integral y Sostenible (ADIS), a Nicaraguan NGO based in Waslala dedicated primarily to community health initiatives.
ADIS employs four staff dedicated to WfW's work. ADIS staff take leading roles in designing and managing the construction of water systems, working with community volunteers. ADIS staff are also in charge of educational and promotional initiatives to help ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of WfW projects, covering topics ranging from health and hygiene to reforestation and environmental conservation to accounting and community funds management.
ADIS Staff dedicated to WfW's work consist of the following:
Iain Hunt - Project Manager
Iain Hunt is responsible for managing WfW's activities with ADIS, which include selecting viable water projects, organizing community members, overseeing design, construction, and maintenance activities, and serving as the link between the Water for Waslala Board and supporters in the U.S.and the Waslalan people.
Iain arrived in Waslala in January 2011 from the Dominican Republic, where as a Peace Corps volunteer, he managed rural potable water projects. Previously, Iain also previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica and worked for environmental consulting firm Golder Associates. Originally from Colorado, Iain graduated in 2004 from the Colorado School of Mines with a degree in applied mathematics.
Virginia Leiba - Director of Community Outreach
Virginia Leiba is a native of Waslala and is well known in all of the 85 rural Waslalan communities due to her remarkable career. Prior to joining WfW, Virginia served the people of Waslala for 20 years with the Red Cross during the Contra war and later with the Health Ministry of La Parroquia Inmaculada. Virginia is currently responsible for conducting community meetings and leading health and environmental education workshops for ADIS. She is passionate about the project and bringing clean water to her own people.
Virginia enjoys learning about different cultures, practicing natural medicine, and cooking up a storm of creative foods as well as spending time with her children and grandchildren.
Denis Taleno - Water System Technician
Denis Taleno, also a Waslala native, has been with WfW from the beginning, working as both full-time staff and as a temporary contractor since 2005. Denis is, using the Spanish term, a maestro de construcciÛn, or master constructor, and is skilled not only in plumbing and masonry, but also in carpentry, electrical work, and welding. Denis has a remarkable life story, having been working in the building trades since the age of 10, before spending several of his teenage years in the army. Denis is responsible for managing the construction of WfW water systems.
Wilfredo Ar·uz - Administrator
Wilfredo Ar·uz, another Waslala native, is ADIS' project administrator, responsible for managing all Water for Waslala's funds that pass through ADIS, as well funds for ADIS' other health related projects, including the Villanova supported tele-health initiative. Wilfredo is also a founding member of ADIS board of directors, serving as treasurer. He worked from 2007 until 2011 as project administrator for the Waslala Catholic parish's community health ministry, following in his father's footsteps who as a certified nurse had worked as a promoter with the ministry for several years. On the weekends, Wilfredo is working on finishing up his bachelor's degree in accounting at the Popular University of Nicaragua in Matagalpa.
VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY ENGINEERING & NURSING
Villanova's Engineering and Nursing Colleges ensure that Water for Waslala's water systems and complementary health & hygiene workshops are designed and executed according to best practices. Both Colleges have developed service-learning programs in conjunction with Water for Waslala. Each year, Villanova engineers travel to Waslala, Nicaragua to conduct feasibility studies and inspect water systems, while nurses perform exams and health workshops for Water for Waslala's beneficiaries.
The following Villanova engineering and nursing professors lead the University's service-learning programs in conjunction with Water for Waslala:
Dr. Gerard Jones - Project Advisor
Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs - Department of Mechanical Engineering, Villanova University College of Engineering
Dr. Jones has been involved with WfW since its inception in 2004, and first visited Waslala in 2004 to conduct a needs assessment with Jordan and Mr. O'Brien. Along with Mr. O'Brien and Jordan, Dr. Jones has created the service-learning component of the Mechanical Engineering undergraduate curriculum to allow Water for Waslala to successfully meet its objectives, while also providing an exciting service opportunity for engineering students.
Dr. Jones received his BSME in 1972 from Villanova University, and received his MSME and PhD degrees in 1975 and 1981 from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Jones joined the Villanova Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1987, and now works as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs where, among other strategic tasks, he is responsible for day-to-day running of the undergraduate engineering program.
Mr. James OíBrien - Project Advisor
Assistant Professor - Department of Mechanical Engineering, Villanova University College of Engineering
Mr. O'Brien has traveled to Waslala every March since 2004 with various groups of Villanova University Engineering students and faculty, conducting feasibility studies, inspecting water systems, and conducting water quality sampling. Mr. O'Brien works with mechanical engineering students during their senior design seminar to create sustainable, innovative technologies that address specific water-related needs in Waslala.
Mr. O'Brien received his BECE from Villanova University in 1971, and received his MA and ME from Temple and Villanova Universities in 1972 and 1977. He has worked as an assistant professor in the Villanova Department of Mechanical Engineering for many years, and teaches courses such as Engineering Computation, Engineering Service Learning, and Mechanical Engineering Analysis and Design.
Dr. Elizabeth ìBettyî Keech - Project Advisor
Assistant Professor - Villanova University College of Nursing
Dr. Elizabeth Keech received her BSN (1966) from Villanova University and a Masters in Nursing (1978), Social Gerontology (1987) and PHD in Nursing (1991) with a focus in gerontology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently an assistant professor in the College of Nursing, Villanova University.
The focus of Dr. Keech's professional career includes a focus on Public Health Issues and on the needs of the elderly. She has been teaching health promotion principles to nursing students and has traveled with them to Peru and more recently Nicaragua. The students assess the community's needs, identify priority problems, plan and deliver an intervention and evaluate the project. While in Nicaragua, the students work with the engineering students to complement the engineering project of supplying water to rural communities through health education.
Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy - Project Advisor
Assistant Professor - Villanova University College of Nursing
Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy, assistant professor at Villanova's College of Nursing, first visited Waslala, Nicaragua with nursing students for the Health Promotion course in 2007. She worked with the nursing students as they educated the lay health workers (LHWs) about water hygiene and infectious diseases in the region. She was impressed by the collaboration between the community, the parish, Water for Waslala, and Villanova Engineering and Nursing faculty to improve the health of the people of Waslala.
Ruth earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from Wilkes University; her MSN and PhD are from Villanova University. She teaches adult health and community health nursing. Her primary field of research involves the examination of Arab-Muslim experiences in higher education and health.
Dr. Bette Mariani - Project Advisor
Assistant Professor - Villanova University College of Nursing
Dr. Bette Mariani, RN is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing at Villanova University College of Nursing. Bette traveled to Waslala, Nicaragua in 2009 and 2010 with Villanova nursing and engineering students to provide health education on topics such as: clean water, infectious diseases, disaster preparedness and safety. Bette is committed to sharing the message about Water for Waslala in an effort to help bring clean water and health to children and adults and reduce infant and maternal mortality.
Bette received her PhD in nursing from Widener University, MSN from University of Pennsylvania and BSN from Villanova University. She teaches primarily in the accelerated BSN Program for second degree students where she teaches in the acute care clinical area as well as health promotion. She also teaches introduction to professional nursing, advanced medical-surgical nursing, leadership and health promotion.