Qualified and Committed
The EAC's education and health programs in Kenya are directed and run by an talented and passionate team of individuals with the support of our board members in Kenya and from across the United States.
US BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Our Board of Directors is elected to serve the goals and programs of the East African Center. Members are responsible for developing a deep knowledge of our organization, shaping policy, overseeing our activities and supporting our work through outreach and fundraising.
Board President and Member since 2011
Nat received his Master's degree in International Affairs from the New School University in New York City. He works at the Open Society Institute's (OSI) New York Office in the Information Systems Department, helping to manage OSI's web-based social networking and online collaboration, platforms and strategizing with programs about how they can use tools on the internet to do their work more effectively. Nat is passionate about exploring the potential for web 2.0 technologies to act as a catalyst for social change. Nat first spent time in Kenya in 2008 as an International Rescue Committee (IRC) Fellow in Nairobi, where he worked with the IRC's Civil Society Program, helping to develop grassroots community groups and adult education programs for urban refugee women. He also spent time at the Kakuma refugee camp in Western Kenya with the IRC's Health Program. Nat is excited to continue his involvement with community development in Kenya through his work with the EAC Board.
Prior to beginning his graduate studies in New York, Nat worked at OSI's Washington, DC Office with the Middle East and Africa Programs, helping to raise awareness with policy makers on Capital Hill on key human rights issues from these regions. Nat received his Bachelor's degree in 2002 from Wesleyan University, where he pursued a double-major in History and Science in Society.
Board Member since 2013
New York, NY
Alessandra DeLaCruz is an abstract artist who spent a month in Takaungu in October 2011, volunteering as an art teacher at Vutakaka as well as the resident artist. Graduating from the FIT with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree, she brought her artistic talents to the school, community and students by painting a 10'x5' world map mural inside of classroom 7, an abstract mural outside of the cafeteria area of the primary school, painting of the newly constructed well, identifying classrooms with painted numbers and flowers as well as bringing an life to the sewing women's cooperative show room. Having a positive upbringing that revolved around the creative arts, she has experienced first hand what a creative outlet can do for a young mind. Being able to give that gift back had a large impact on Alessandra, who now has goals of implementing an after school art club program the next time she visits the school.
As an artist, Alessandra has both exhibited and curated her own art shows and currently works for an independent curator. The experience and knowledge she has in both fields influences her impact on the creativity and fundraising skills she is able to bring to the EAC. Alessandra and her colleague Pansum Cheng spearheaded Art for Soul: Kenya in December 2011, which was a one night art exhibition and fundraiser held at New York City's Gallery Bar which brought artists, collectors and supporters alike together to support the EAC. Excited about her recent involvement with the EAC board, she continues to help raise money and awareness for the organization including curating the next exhibition, Art & Harmony to benefit the EAC.
Executive Director and a board member since 2008
Jen received her Master's degree in International Affairs from the New School University and her Bachelor's degree in Cultural Anthropology from Ohio University. At the New School, she worked on various projects including an analysis of the UN's new One UN program in Tanzania and Vietnam from a gender perspective. Jen also worked as an Outreach and Communications intern for African Refuge, a non-profit organization addressing the needs of the Liberian refugee community in New York.
She began working for the EAC as a Development and Communications Intern in Takaungu in 2008. There, she assisted the clinic and community health workers, taught at the after-school program and spoke with community members to gain a better understanding of the role that the EAC does and should play in their lives. Jen continued to work for the EAC in various capacities and is now the U.S. Program Director based in Durham, NC. She concentrates her efforts on pursuing grants and fundraising, communications, and monitoring and evaluation of programs. In the fall of 2011 and in the Summer of 2013, she returned to Takaungu to conduct a transparency campaign and to develop a strategy to meet those needs while creating more sustainable, locally operated and supported programming.
She has experienced the positive impacts of the EAC's programs in Takaungu and is honored to support an organization that truly demonstrates the best practices in development; community participation, accountability, transparency, capacity building, and empowerment.
Board Member since 2016
San Francisco, CA
Emily's work in international development began in 2000 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay where she focused on soil conservation and sustainable farming practices. Her interests in sustainable farming practices broadened after completing the Peace Corps when she worked for the Environmental Education Department at a Permaculture center in Brazil before returning to the United States for graduate studies in environmental science and policy at Columbia University. Emily currently works as an environmental consultant for Aspen Environmental Group, focusing on environmental review of renewable energy projects and environmental policy.
Emily began her work with the EAC during a one-year stay in Kilifi, Kenya. She volunteered at the Vutakaka Junior School, helping to design and plan and plant one-acre of field crops and a half-acre garden to supplement the student lunch program. The goal of the field crops and garden is to improve the nutrition of the students' meals and increase the sustainability of the school. In addition, Emily worked with the Vutakaka teachers, staff, and with the Program Director to plan and teach agriculture planning to Class 6 and Class 7 so that the students can help in the school garden. Her time in Kenya was greatly enriched by her work with the EAC and with the Vutakaka Junior School.
Board Member since 2016
Noelle Voges is a graduate from Arcadia University, located in suburban Philadelphia, where she received her Master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis in global health. During her graduate studies, she interned with the East African Center in Takaungu. Witnessing first-hand the profound difference the EAC is having on the everyday lives of the students and community members greatly influenced Noelle’s educational and career tract and also encouraged her to remain involved with the EAC when she returned stateside.
Utilizing her skills and passion for the EAC’s mission led Noelle to become a coordinator for the EAC’s student sponsorship program, where she corresponds with current and future donors and sends updates to the donors about the students attending Vutakaka Primary School in Takaungu.
Noelle has done research and been a devoted volunteer in Jamaica, the Netherlands, and South Africa. She is excited to continue her involvement with the EAC and to expand into the role as a Board member.
Board Member since 2016
Josh Gilbert received his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) with a dual concentration in Entrepreneurship and International Business from Clarkson University and his Bachelor’s degree in Finance from the State University of New York at Buffalo. During his graduate program, he completed coursework in Lille, France where he studied emerging markets.
Upon completion of his degree, Josh co-founded a startup that provided consumers with healthier food alternatives. He quickly identified that his target demographic was also very socially conscience. As a result of his findings, Josh established a charitable foundation that donated a percentage of all profits to the fight against breast cancer.
What started out as purely a business decision turned into a passion for Josh. He noted the significant impact that a few can have on many. Therefore; he has incorporated this sense of charity into his everyday lifestyle and dealings.
In early 2017, Josh reconnected with a childhood friend and current board member, Alessandra DeLaCruz. Alessandra, AKA Alex inspired Josh to join forces with her and the EAC to build a productive community that pays residual dividends to its people.
Board Member since 2018
Maria Siegel earned her undergraduate degree in International Relations from Michigan State University then later received her M.Ed. in Elementary Education from the University of Maryland College Park. After teaching for over ten years she decided to step out of the classroom to raise her two daughters. She did not return to teaching, but instead started an Interior Design Company. Although she loves the creative expression of her design work, she was searching for a way to once again serve children. When the offer came to serve on the board of the EAC, she didn’t hesitate for a second.
The mission of the organization immediately resonated with and moved her, as she feels passionately that every child, regardless of geographic location, should have access to a quality education, adequate health care and nourishment. What most spoke to her is the empowerment aspect of the EAC. We don’t just provide donations, like some organizations (which of course, are still important!). The EAC provides opportunities for growth and learning that last a lifetime, even for generations, as education and literacy are passed through parents to children.
Based in Durham, North Carolina, you can often find Maria sipping on coffee, trail running or spending time with her family and dogs – but not all at once. Her happiest moments often entail hiking through a forest, cooking and sharing a meal with friends, or huddled under a warm blanket reading.
Board Advisory Staff and Former Members
Emma received her MSW from the University of Washington in 2011 where she focused on child and family development. Emma has worked with the Eritrean Education Project, Stroum Jewish Community Center, Save Darfur campaign, and The Kenyan Future Leaders Fund. She has experience in grant writing and fundraising, but most prefers direct practice and community work. Emma began her work with the EAC in 2007 during her first trip to Takaungu and learned about the organization first hand by living and working in the village we serve.
Emma served as the organization's Executive Director starting in June of 2009 and continues today as an advocate for the Takaungu community, primarily focusing on spreading awareness and fundraising state-side. In her free time Emma enjoys practicing her Swahili as much as possible and planning her next trip to Kenya!
Suzanne Wilson, MPA, MPH, BSN-RN
Founder and Board Advisor
Suzanne Wilson began her development efforts in Kenya in 1997 through her work with PCEA Kikuyu Hospital. In September 2000, with the help of the Seattle Junior Chamber (Jaycees), she founded the Kenya Kids AIDS Project. This project provided an emergency shelter, as well as over two-tons of humanitarian goods to HIV/AIDS orphans in a Nairobi slum.
In 2001, with the help of a Bill and Melinda Gates Leadership Grant, she founded the East African Center for the Empowerment of Women and Children.
As Executive Director of the East African Center, she oversaw all of the EAC's operations in Kenya, as well as the EAC's efforts to establish future Centers in Kenya and elsewhere. Ms. Wilson is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Nurse Midwifery at the University of Washington and is looking forward to a long career supporting maternal and infant health in resource-limited settings.
Falls Church, Virginia
Theresa has worked as a policy analyst for the Social Security Administration, a Researcher/Analyst on a Gender and Development project for the Presidency of the country of Colombia, and as a Social Worker for the State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services. Her professional interests include gender and development, women's labor force participation, and women's economic policy.
Theresa has a Master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington, a graduate specialist degree in Regional Development Planning from the University of Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science with a focus on gender and development from the University of Washington. She is married with two young sons and lives in Falls Church, Virginia.
Chapel Hill, NC
Tricia Petruney began her work with the EAC in 2005, as part of a Practicum component within the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School University in New York City. In early 2006 she moved to Takaungu to oversee the EAC's international interns and volunteers, to design a monitoring and evaluation system for the EAC's various programs, and to help launch the Community Health Worker outreach initiative. She moved back to the US in 2007 to begin work with Family Health International, one of the world's largest international non-profit organizations focused on improving public health in the developing world. She is a Technical Officer in the Applied Research Department, and provides Ministries of Health and partner organizations in Africa with support to design and implement evidence-based reproductive health and HIV/AIDS policies and programs. Her work is mainly focused in Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. When not traveling for work, she lives in Chapel Hill, NC with her boyfriend and their two dogs.
Jared is an attorney with the Los Angeles law firm Cypress LLP. He received his J.D. in 2009 from Brooklyn Law School, and is licensed to practice law in New York and California.
Jared received his Bachelor's degree in 2003 from the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout his undergraduate tenure, Jared mentored and tutored children in the North Philadelphia and West Philadelphia areas through the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project and Project Home.
Former Board Secretary 2009 - 2016
Libby began working with the EAC in May 2009, helping to expand their fundraising efforts on the East coast. She will also be directing her energy towards young philanthropist outreach as well as increase the EAC's online presence specifically through social networking sites.
Previously working with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Libby has raised thousands of dollars for society through their Team in Training program. She also served as a fundraising liason for the Brooklyn chapter, assisting over 100 Team in Training participants raise nearly $1 million dollars for cancer research. Libby received her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Art History and Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her undergraduate studies, Libby participated in the UCDC internship program where she interned with the Senate's Health and Education subcomittee under Senator Dodd's office. This was in addition to studying abroad at the Univeristy of Sussex in Brighton, England. Libby looks forward to her involvement with the EAC and expanding their growing network of supporters.
Former Board Member
After sponsoring a student for several years, Corrie began volunteering with EAC by organizing the efforts around collecting student artwork and distributing to our sponsors. She quickly fell in love with seeing the smiling faces on the kids’ yearly pictures, as well as the effort that goes into each piece of artwork that gets sent.
Corrie graduated from Kent State University in 2003, and moved to NYC to pursue a career in Fashion Merchandising. After working at Perry Ellis and Gap, Corrie landed at Stella & Dot as Director of Product Development for Jewelry & Handbags. In this role, she worked closely with Design to transform a sketch into a finished product, and was responsible for negotiating all costs. She had the opportunity to travel throughout Asia to source materials and work one on one with the artisans making the jewelry. In 2011, she traveled to Santa Ana, Nicaragua with BuildOn, to help build a school in a small farming community. Corrie still consults for Stella & Dot, and also is the co-founder of a dance costume company, Paper Dolls Dancewear.