Our People A-Z

Agness Tilliya

Msichana Initiative, Tanzania

Agness is a holder of a certificate in education level 3A.  She is interested in working with girls and young women on protecting their rights and making their dreams come into reality.  Over the past three years, she has earned several certificates for supporting children and women through programs including African child day, women and girls’ world day for educating women. She serves as Msichana Initiative’s coordinator for Amani clubs in primary and secondary schools.

Alba Taina

Taller Salud, Puerto Rico

Alba is a dancer, actress, theater and circus enthusiast. At 25 years old, the artist and educator believes in “learning by doing”. She grew up among puppet castles, theaters, classrooms and rehearsals and credits her grandparents and parents as her first teachers. She began giving workshops in theater at 12 years old and joined Amani Project so she could serve as a guide for future mentors and community leaders. Her passion is the arts and specifically Bomba music and dance. This is her first project as a part of Taller Salud.

Aluta Humbane

MIET Africa, South Africa

Aluta is the trainer and coordinator for the Creative Arts project at MIET Africa, supporting the Amani Project. She has a decade of experience as a musician, art director, photographer, writer, and arts and media practitioner/performer.

Amber Paulson

ThinkEqual, USA

Amber has been working in education for the past ten years. She is trained in Social Emotional Learning techniques and has teaching credentials, which includes Crosscultural, Language and Academic Development authorisation. She also has experience teaching with an NGO in Vietnam. After teaching primary school in the United States for five years, Amber pursued a career shift and gained an MA in Education and International Development from the Institute of Education at University College London. As Director of Education, Amber has guided curricular and pedagogical developments at Think Equal.

Andy Lewis

Director of Programmes Amani Project, USA

Andy realized at a very young age that music was the best way to channel his energy and emotions – especially because he couldn’t sit still (he still can’t). He’s been a drummer for multiple touring bands, and graduated from the conservatory program at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York. He lives in New Orleans with his wife and daughter.

Andy has a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University focused on Forced Migration and Family Health. Prior to joining Amani Project, he led the Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force. He has also worked with UNICEF, Pearson Foundation, Save the Children, University of Washington, and Columbia University in 14 different countries to develop programming to support children and youth. Throughout his career and personal life, Andy has learned that communities hold their truths in their stories; they also hold the solutions. His goal is to come alongside and first quietly listen to their stories, and through that listening, learn how to support their truths.

Bree Kessler

Director of Development and Communications Amani Project, USA

Bree is an educator, researcher, and writer based in Alaska. She is the owner and principal of the design firm “Dry Cabin Club” where she experiments with the concepts of do-it-yourself urbanism, “Home as Public Space,” and civic dis(courses) – a community meal and conversation.

Bree is a PhD candidate in Environmental Psychology studying interventions into Arctic Cities. She also holds graduate degrees in natural resource management, public health, and social work as well as a certificate in online instructional design.  She is currently completing an MFA in creative writing. Through her academic work, Bree has facilitated participatory action research in Honduras, led a multi-site evaluation for Nike Corporation’s contract factories in Thailand, and worked throughout south India as faculty on a study abroad program with School for International Training.  She has served on grant review panels for ArtPlace America, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Association of Counties creative placemaking challenge. Bree continues to teach courses both domestically and internationally and her writing on topics ranging from community gardening, wildlife biology, emerging cuisines, bluegrass music, and reality TV has appeared in several regional and national magazines. She is the author of the travel guidebook Moon: Big Island of Hawaii.

Chris Ramdas

MIET Africa, South Africa

Chris is a senior manager at MIET AFRICA responsible for overseeing the management and implementation of school support programmes and projects, which includes Amani, Creative Arts, and care and support programmes.

Clarita Arboleda

Fundación Escuela Nueva, Colombia

For 14 years she has worked at Fundación Escuela Nueva (FEN). She is currently Chief Operating Officer, ensuring planning and strategy definition, the smooth running and strategic alignment of national and international programming, and leading strategies for institutional and managerial strengthening. Clarita also provides strategic oversight to FEN´s project management office, which centralizes project design, planning and execution, as well as the Community Connections, Research and Development and Administration teams. She holds a BA in Business from Los Andes University in Colombia; MA in International Education from New York University´s Steinhardt School of Education, Culture and Human Development; Specialization program in Nonprofit Management at NYU´s Wagner School of Public Policy.

Erik Gregory

Executive Director Amani Project, USA

Erik has visited thousands of underserved communities across the globe and believes that the first job of anyone working in the not-for-profit world is to simply listen. At Pearson, Erik was responsible for working with local leaders to co-develop educational technology solutions. These solutions were based on the needs of people who might benefit from such programs. Partnering with Nokia, Ministries of Education, and locals students, teachers, and parents, the BridgeIT program brought rich media content focused on math and science and teacher professional development, via mobile phones, to communities in Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Colombia, India, and many more.

Erik is now using his knowledge of social and emotional learning, edtech development, and experience from the field, to help the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence build an online portal for their award-winning program, RULER. From his early days as a segment producer for FX Networks to his days teaching filmmaking to kids in Ghana, Erik is thrilled to bring all of this experience to the Amani Project team

Gargi Kapoor

Smile Foundation, India

Gargi is a seasoned development professional and has worked in the area of education, disaster management, and community mobilization. Along with strategic planning, Gargi steers the operational aspects and implementation for Amani Project at Smile Foundation. She has an academic background in Social Work and Human Rights.

Giomar Gruz

Taller Salud, Puerto Rico

Giomar has devoted his life to using art and culture as a social change tool for low-income communities. He lives in the town of Loiza, in Puerto Rico, and at 25 years old he teaches music, dance, theater and Physical Education, paying special attention to those with physical, cognitive or behavioral limitations. He’s on the coordination committee, in charge of logistics, coordination and supervision, among other tasks for Amani Project in Puerto Rico.

Jennifer De Jesús

Taller Salud, Puerto Rico

Jenifer is the manager of Taller Salud’s Community and Leadership program. The theater teacher has spent her last 20 years as an educational experience facilitator, specializing in cultural management and community projects management that integrate the arts, a peace culture, emotion management and non-violent communication. At Taller Salud, Jeni’s implemented different projects geared towards youth, mothers, grandmothers, fathers and the general community.

Leslee Udwin

Think Equal, UK

Leslee was voted by the NY Times the No 2 Most Impactful Woman of 2015 (second to Hillary Clinton), and has been awarded the prestigious Swedish Anna Lindh Human Rights Prize (previously won by Madeleine Albright). In 2019, she received the Activism in Arts and Education award from the UN Women for Peace Association. She has also been named Safe’s Global Hero of 2015, Global Thinker by Foreign Policy. A BAFTA and multi-award winning filmmaker and Human Rights Campaigner, Leslee’s documentary “India’s Daughter”, has been critically acclaimed around the globe, won 32 awards (including the Peabody Award and the Amnesty International Media Award for Best Documentary 2016) and sparked a global movement to end violence against women and girls. The searing insights yielded by the 2 and a half year journey making “India’s Daughter”, led Leslee to turn her back on filmmaking and devote herself to Think Equal.

Lightnes Njau

Msichana Initiative, Tanzania

Lightness is a National Club Coordinator of Msichana Initiative. She holds a Diploma in Counselling Psychology from Community Concerning Training Institute, Kenya. She is interested in working on protecting the rights and empowering “the girl child” because she believes that investing in girls is investing in the community.  She supervises Msichana Amani Clubs in primary and secondary schools to provide lifelong learning on gender equity, emotional intelligence and empathy through music.

Lineth Masala

Msichana Initiative, Tanzania

Lineth is a Field Work Coordinator at Msichana Initiative, with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science from Catholic University in Nairobi, Kenya. Lineth has more than 6 years working experiences on Civil Society Organizations and government institution. She is equipped with field work experience, which she accrued from working with young girls on issues of Child Marriage, teen pregnancy, child abuse, FGM, child exploitation and Menstrual Hygiene. She has been involved in different campaigns such as One Billion Rising and she leads fundraising of One girl one bike.

Luz Angela Salcedo

Fundación Escuela Nueva, Colombia

Professional in Finance and International Affairs. Five years of experience in project designing and execution. Ability to manage teams  that interact with diverse interest groups on a goal-oriented focus. Proactive application of knowledge in corporate finance to social and entrepreneurial contexts. Interested in rural development and contributing to improve the quality of education in Colombia. Luz is a Development Analyst at Fundacion Escuela Nueva (FEN) and a member of the Amani Project Colombia.

Maha Cristina Husseini

Fundación Escuela Nueva, Colombia

Maha is the Amani Project Coordinator at Fundación Escuela Nueva (FEN) and a consultant for the Amani Project. Before this position, Maha interned at FEN where she developed a set of systems designed to increase efficiency and replicability of processes for the Project Management Operations department, as well as a number of other non-governmental organizations in Ecuador with similar ends. Additionally, prior to her time in Colombia, Maha worked for National Democratic Institute in Washington D.C. where she was a Project Assistant for the Latin America and Caribbean team. She holds a BA in International Studies from Texas A&M University, focused on commerce and international development.

Priya Lewis

Director of Evaluation and Learning Amani Project, USA

Priya owns two guitars and a tambourine. She writes songs, sings, and plays whenever she can but her 3 year old daughter isn’t keen on sharing her attention. She found public health and arts-based education through her love of theatre. A graduate of the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, Priya also holds a Master of Public Health from Columbia University, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Southern Maine, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brown University. She has worked to create, implement, and evaluate programs and interventions with Columbia University, the Harlem Children’s Zone, NYC Department of Health, Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program, and Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre. Before joining the Amani Project team, Priya worked as a nurse in New Orleans, LA public schools and as a structural heart nurse in Seattle, WA.

Rebeca Gyumi

Msichana Initiative, Tanzania

Rebecca is a Founder & Executive Director at Msichana Initiative, a local NGO which aims to empower a girl child through education, and address key challenges which limit girl’s right to education. A lawyer by profession, Rebeca pursued and won a landmark case on child marriages, through the petition she filed at the High Court to challenge the Tanzania Marriage Act which allowed girls as young as 14 to get married. She was named 2016 UNICEF global goals award winner for her work in advancing girls’ rights in Tanzania. She was named among 2016 African Women of the Year by New Africa Women magazine. She has worked for over 8 years with Femina as a TV personality and youth advocate.

Rebeca is involved in different campaigns and social charities as a volunteer and ambassador, advocating for safe schools and quality education to Tanzanian students. She is passionate about girls and women empowerment. She has paneled and facilitated different national and international forums with a focus on youth and girl empowerment. In Nov, 2013, she was selected by the US embassy in Tanzania to attend the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) for youth with leadership potential. She won 2017 inaugural IVLP alumni award for social innovation and change for her landmark win at the High Court. Rebeca is a Global Shaper, University of Cape Town Young Leaders Fellow,member of the advisory group for UNICEF and UNFPA Global Programme on Child Marriage and sits on the Advisory Board of SNV-Netherlands OYE project.

Sally McShane

MIET Africa, South Africa

Sally is an experienced educator/principal with more than 40 years’ experience in various sectors in the education field. Sally coordinates the logistics for the Creative Arts projects and programmes at MIET AFRICA – this includes the South African Amani Project.

Seema Kumar

Smile Foundation, India

Seema, driven by purpose and a calling to contribute towards the social sector, has extensive experience with children, adolescents, and women. With the Amani Project, Seema has been actively contributing towards strategic planning and designing for the India chapter, which has been successfully progressing, under her able guidance. With an academic qualification in clinical psychology, she has been contributing to the socio-emotional aspects of all her interactions with the community.

Shashank Saxena

Smile Foundation, India

Shashank is a versatile and sensitive artist with an exceptional level of patience and humility. As the Music Teaching Artist at the Amani Project, India, he plays the role of catalyst, inspiring children to explore, learn and use music at Amani club activities. Shashank has studied Rock and Pop Guitar along with Drums from Trinity College, London, and trained in Indian Classical Vocals from Gandharva Mahavidhyalaya, Delhi.

Shauna Tominey, PhD

Oregon State University, USA

Shauna is an Assistant Professor of Practice and Parenting Education Specialist at Oregon State University. Previously, Dr. Tominey served as the Director of Early Childhood Programming and Teacher Education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Tominey also has a degree in music from the University of Washington and finds ways to creatively blend music with social and emotional learning

Shéla McCullough

MIET Africa, South Africa

Shéla is the communications manager at MIET AFRICA and ensures the smooth production of all materials required for the Amani Project South Africa rollout.

Shweta Kausal

Smile Foundation, India

Shweta works as a project coordinator and is responsible for ensuring that Amani Project implementation moves seamlessly. With a post-graduation in social work, Shweta has worked with less privileged communities, especially with youth and women. She believes in empathy being one of the driving forces for bringing the world together.

Tania Rosario-Mendez

Taller Salud, Puerto Rico

Tania has more than 15 years of experience leading community organization and mobilization efforts in Loíza and other municipalities in Puerto Rico. Rosario-Mendez has a high school degree in theater, a master’s degree in public health, and has a solid track record in the use of community theater and popular education as a means of self-knowledge, healing and social transformation.

Vicky Colbert

Fundación Escuela Nueva, Colombia

Laureate of the first edition of the Yidan Prize for Education Development (2017) and 2013 WISE Prize for Education Laureate, Vicky Colbert is founder and director of Fundación Escuela Nueva.

Colbert is a Sociologist from Javeriana University in Colombia and pursued her graduate studies in Sociology of Education at Stanford University in the United States. In 2015, the American University of Nigeria distinguished her with an Honoris Causa Doctorate in Philosophy.

She is co-author of the worldwide renowned Escuela Nueva model and was its first National Coordinator. Colbert has pioneered, expanded and sustained this educational innovation from many organizational spheres: as Viceminister of Education of Colombia, UNICEF´s Education Adviser for LAC and now from Fundación Escuela Nueva (FEN), an NGO she founded to ensure its quality, sustainability and innovation.

She has been recognized with several awards and distinctions in the fields of leadership and social entrepreneurship, such as the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the Clinton Global Citizenship Award and the Kravis Prize. She has also been recognized as Outstanding Social Entrepreneur by the Schwab Foundation, Ashoka and the World Technology Network.


Dena Simmons, EdD

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Dena is a renowned educator and activist. She writes and speaks nationally about social justice and culturally sustaining pedagogy as well as creating emotionally intelligent and safe classrooms within the context of equity. Dr. Simmons is also the director of education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

Jessica Hoffmann, PhD

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Jessica is an associate research scientist at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She serves as project director for RULER for high schools, which helps bring social-emotional learning to high school students and educators to promote safe, nurturing environments where students and educators can reach their full potential.

Our Board

Roy Choi

Founder and Board Chair

Roy is General Partner at Knighted Ventures, an investment firm focused on entertainment and gaming. He also serves as President of KCM Agency, a multicultural marketing agency. In his nonprofit work, Roy is Executive Producer and CEO of Kollaboration, a nationwide nonprofit 501(c)(3) showcasing emerging Asian Pacific artists and performers. Kollaboration began in Los Angeles and is now in 15 cities across North America. Roy graduated with honors from USC with a BA in Cinema from the School of Cinematic Arts.

Fathima Dada

Board Member

Fathima has worked in education all her adult life. She is currently Managing Director of Oxford Education and Chair the board of OxfordAQA qualifications. She serves on the board of Oasis Asset Management, and has been an active board member to affordable school chains, Omega (Ghana) and Spark (South Africa), Bridge (Kenya) and a tech start-up in India, Zaya.  Fathima also is Chairman of Africa Ignite, a not for profit, working with rural community development, and a trustee of MIET, an NGO working with vulnerable children in Africa. She enjoys working with people, particularly committed, talented, innovative thinkers who want to change the world! She loves the idea of working in an education business, bringing together education and efficacy with the edge of business.

Joe Hahn

Board Member

Joe is a turntablist and director best known as the DJ and sampler for the American rock band Linkin Park, one of the most successful rock bands in music history. Joe is also a founder and board member of the nonprofit Music for Relief, bringing the music community together to create awareness and raise funds for those in need.

Jieho Lee

Board Member

Jieho is Managing Partner at Knighted Ventures and leads operations and investment strategies. Previous to Knighted, he was head of International Business Development at POM Wonderful where he oversaw business development, sales and marketing for the Asia Territories. Lee also served as GP at Blue Horizon Capital, where he co-led an investment strategy team focusing on acquisitions in the business information sector. Jieho began his career in the entertainment field: writing, producing and directing commercial productions for clients such as Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret and Tommy Hilfiger. He also wrote and directed the feature film “The Air I Breathe” and oversaw development and production of several other projects for Lionsgate Films, Circle of Confusion, IO Interactive, HS Films and Samsung Entertainment.

Lisa Ling

Board Member

Lisa, an award-winning journalist, goes on a gritty, breathtaking journey to the far corners of America, on her CNN Original Series, “This is Life.” Before CNN, Ling was a field correspondent for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and contributor to ABC News’ “Nightline” and National Geographic’s “Explorer.” She has reported from dozens of countries, covering stories about gang rape in the Congo, bride burning in India and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, among other issues that are too often ignored. Ling got her start in journalism as a correspondent for Channel One News where she covered the civil war in Afghanistan at 21 years of age. She later went on to become a co-host of ABC Daytime’s hit show “The View,” which won its first daytime Emmy during her time at the show. Ling has also served as a special correspondent for CNN’s “Planet in Peril” series and is a contributing editor for USA Today’s USA Weekend magazine. In 2011, her acclaimed documentary journalism series, “Our America” with Lisa Ling, was created and began airing on OWN. Ling is the co-author of “Mother, Daughter, Sister, Bride: Rituals of Womanhood” and “Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home,” which she penned with her sister, Laura. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the California Museum.