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.
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 six 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:
Junior Gasparini - Program Director
Fisherman. Philosophy teacher. Tank gunman. Seminary student. Junior has been with Water for Waslala since the beginning when Matt and Nora undertook the mission to end the water crises in Waslala. Originally from Chapeco, Brazil, Junior arrived in Waslala in 2004 at the invitation of the Brazilian priests who headed La Parroquia, the Catholic parish in Waslala. As the Administrator of funds for the parish, and with experience in community organizing and education, Junior helped Water for Waslala organize communities, purchase the materials for projects, and contract the masons who constructed each project.
Junior was a mainstay in Waslala and for the organization as he supported the work of his two predecessors from 2004 to 2011. Throughout these years he continued to administer funds, facilitate projects, and supported the Villanova student groups that volunteered each semester. After a two-year hiatus to start what is today a very successful coffee farm, Junior was ready to get back into the action. He was also the natural choice when WfW decided to expand the team and hire a more permanent in-country Program Director.
Junior officially accepted the position of Program Director in July of 2013. He oversees all projects, fund management, community relations, and is working to develop and implement a strategic plan and obtain sustainable sources of funding from aid organizations working within Nicaragua. When he is not working for WfW or on his farm, he can most likely be found coaching a local baseball team or playing soccer.
Denis Taleno - Water System Technician (Construction Manager/Full-Time Technician)
Denis Taleno is not a Waslala native, but he may as well be, as he has lived in the community for almost 20 years. Denis is, using the Spanish term, a maestro de construcción, or master constructor, and is skilled not only in plumbing and masonry, but also in carpentry, electrical work, and welding. He has a remarkable life story, having been working in the building trades since the age of 10, before spending his teenage years in the army.
Known to the entire WfW team simply as “Taleno,” Denis has been?with Water for Waslala since the beginning. At the outset in 2005, Denis worked as temporary contractor responsible for constructing dams, stream crossings, and other essential infrastructure. He was always engaged and learned all that he could from the Villanova engineering professors who would visit to review the clean water projects. As the organization grew and scaled its projects, it made sense that Denis joined the team as the full-time Water System Technician.
Over the last 8 years, Denis has been involved with every WfW project and has managed the construction of all but one of the WfW water systems constructed. He spends his weekdays living in the community, waking early, in order to construct the essential infrastructure necessary to provide clean water to communities. He loves this work because each water system project is its own experience with unique challenges and opportunities to learn. He enjoys spending time getting to know the entire community by working alongside them, and is happiest in the sun, mud, or waist deep in a river. Even when he is not constructing in the field, Denis loves to build and his favorite pastime is remodeling or making additions to his home.
Virginia Leiba - Director of Community Outreach (Community Organizer)
Virginia Leiba is a native of Waslala and is well known in all of the 90 rural Waslalan communities due to her remarkable career. Virginia served the people of Waslala for over 20 years, first with the Red Cross during the Contra war and later with the Health Ministry of La Parroquia Inmaculada, the Catholic parish in Waslala. Throughout these years, she constantly pursued her goals by first finishing the middle school classes she was unable to complete as a child, and then attending adult high school classes at night, before finally enrolling in nursing school. At the same time, she raised a son and 4 daughters.
Virginia became a member of the Water for Waslala team on the 11th of August 2009, 20 years to the date after beginning her career in community organizing and health education. Her extensive knowledge of the Waslalan communities and experience working with community leaders is invaluable to the organization. At the start of her work as the Director of Community Outreach for WfW, she helped establish connections with numerous communities in the municipality and built the report of WfW as an organization that was there to help. Virginia is incredibly passionate about the project and the goal to bring clean water to her own people. She is currently responsible for conducting community meetings, aiding water committees in their legalization process, and leading health and environmental education workshops.
Virginia is a great cook, very nurturing, has an inquisitive mind, and loves to learn. In the past 20 years, she has hosted many volunteers from all over the world in her home. She enjoys learning about different cultures, practicing natural medicine, and cooking up a feast of creative foods, as well as spending time with her children and grandchildren.
Junior Martinez - Water System Engineer
Junior is originally from a small town in the far northern Nicaraguan zona de Régimen Especial Alto Wangki y Bocay, part of the region many refer to as the Mosquito Coast, a very isolated area whose native inhabitants speak the indigenous language Miskito. At age 13 Junior made a big decision and left home to further his education by attending high school in Managua, where he not only earned his secondary degree, but learned to speak Spanish as well. Shortly after graduation, he enrolled in the Agua Para La Vida water system technical school in Rio Blanco, Nicaragua. This intense two and half year program teaches all of the ins and outs of water system design through a grueling twelve hours of class each day.
In a short two and a half years, Junior earned his title as Technician in the Design and Management of Potable Water Systems and began his career providing clean water to communities in rural Nicaragua. He has extensive experience taking topographies, reviewing project designs, and supervising construction projects in several different regions in Nicaragua. Most recently, he worked with the United Nations to execute clean water projects in his home region in the Mosquito Coast.
Junior took on the position of Water System Engineer in April of 2013. In the last 8 months, he has made significant contributions to the work of WfW by reviewing the designs of two existing water systems and beginning to design the water systems that we hope to construct in the upcoming year. At this point, he has completed six complete water system designs. While some of Junior’s designs for annexes and renovations have already been constructed, the 2014 construction of the water system in Ocote Kubalí will be the implementation of the first complete water system that Junior designed for WfW.
Wilfredo Aráuz - Project Administrator (Accountant)
Wilfredo Aráuz, a Waslala native, is the Project Administrator for Water for Waslala’s local partner ADIS, the Asociación de Desarollo Integral y Sostenible. He is also a founding member of the ADIS board of directors, serving as the organization treasurer. Wilfredo became an integral member of the Water for Waslala team in 2012, when WfW partnered with ADIS in order to expand operations and scale projects. In this role he is responsible for managing all of the WfW funds that pass through ADIS, as well as funds for ADIS’ other health related projects, including the Villanova University supported tele-health initiative.
Wilfredo is experienced with fund management and public health projects, as he worked from 2007 until 2011 as project administrator for the Health Ministry of La Parroquia Inmaculada, Waslala’s Catholic parish, 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. Only one class stands between him and his degree.
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 the Service Learning Coordinator and adjunct professor 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.
Jennifer Platt - Director, Program Committee Member
Jennifer brings twenty years of experience in domestic and international water, sanitation, and public health programs to Water for Walala. She thrives on using evidence-based research to develop programs that facilitate inter-sectoral collaborations and sustainable paradigms. Throughout her career, Jennifer has focused on developing stakeholder coalitions and on creating consensus-based policy solutions to complex environmental problems. She has applied her skills through positions at WASH Advocates; the University of North Carolina; WaterPartners International; North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Vanderbilt University’s Center for Health Services.
Jennifer has spent many years helping small water enterprises grow into large and successful endeavors. She looks forward to supporting Water for Waslala’s growth into its next phase of development.
Ann, a mission-driven and innovative leader of non-profit organizations, brings expansive experience and wisdom to Water for Waslala’s Board of Directors.
Ann's 15-year career in non-profit management and five years in the for-profit sector enable her to bring strategic planning, fundraising, board and business development skills to Water for Waslala. Currently the Executive Director of the American Diabetes Association of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Ann’s knowledge and operational skills make her a tremendous asset to our leadership team.
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.
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.