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.
Water for Waslala’s US staff manages the organization’s fundraising, marketing, operational, and financial activities in the US.
Our US staff is comprised of our Executive Director:
Dawn Epstein - Executive Director
Dawn joined Water for Waslala as our Executive Director in December 2012 to create a new inflection point in the organization’s history. She is tasked with raising the funds necessary to scale our work and impact in Waslala, maintaining communication with our donors and supporters, and managing our day-to-day operations in the U.S. Dawn brings over six years of nonprofit fundraising experience to Water for Waslala, having worked with organizations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (Bronx Zoo) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Dawn earned her MPA from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University as well as a BA in Communication Studies from The College of New Jersey. She lives with her husband and daughter in Cherry Hill, NJ.
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 nine years putting his plan into action.
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– Vice President, Director of Communication
Since Nora’s first trip to Waslala in 2002, she has maintained her involvement with the region and returned to Waslala approximately ten times. She handles communication and translation with Waslala from Philadelphia and during travel to Nicaragua and works with Matt on communication with US and Nicaraguan partner organizations, fundraising and grant writing, and organizational planning.
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.
Joanna Bowen – Co-Director of Villanova University Partnership
Joanna Bowen serves as the liaison between Water for Waslala and Villanova University, WfW's most important partner. In this role, Joanna serves as advisor to the Villanova Student Group, which holds monthly meetings and sponsors events on campus including the annual Walk for Water.
Joanna holds a M.S. in Counseling and Human Relations as well as a B.A. in English and Art History from Villanova University. After completing her undergraduate degree, she served with the Augustinian Volunteers in San Diego, CA as a Campus Minister at an all-boys high school. Currently, Joanna coordinates the Service Break Program through the Campus Ministry Office at Villanova University which provides opportunities for over 700 students, faculty, and staff to serve domestically and internationally for 1-2 weeks during the University's breaks.
Jordan Ermilio – Director of Water System Engineering, Co-Director of Villanova University Partnership
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. Jordan helps WfW establish and maintain partnerships with technical specialists in Nicaragua, and reviews all water system design drawings. He also frequently travels to Waslala with the Villanova College of Engineering 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.
Justin Knabb - Treasurer, Director of Donor Relations
Justin Knabb manages Water for Waslala’s strategic communication and outreach with our donors, including overseeing our blog, email updates, and events. Justin first became connected with WfW in 2004 when he was looking for a concrete way to make an impact in the developing world. After graduating from the Villanova School of Business in 2005, Justin spent a year as a full-time WfW volunteer, fundraising and expanding WfW’s mission to the state of California. Justin has also mentored students in South Philadelphia, provided in-home water purifiers in Guatemala, directed a camp for children with cancer in Montana, and volunteered at an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico.
Justin currently works as Vice President and Operations Manager for his family’s business, Specialty Design & Manufacturing.
Avi Loewenstein – Director of Corporate Governance, Co-Director of Strategic Initiatives
Avi Loewenstein joined the board of Water for Waslala in 2010. He is board's secretary and manages Water for Waslala's corporate governance and related strategic initiatives.
Avi is a practicing attorney in Colorado, focusing on corporate transactions and non-profit law. Avi graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana with a BS in finance, then worked in Chicago for a few years before spending a summer in Alaska volunteering in Kachemak Bay State Park. He earned his JD from the University of Colorado at Boulder and lives in Denver.
Megan Townsend – Co-Director of Strategic Initiatives
Megan currently leads a set of strategic initiatives within Water for Waslala, including a current business process analysis of our US operations to improve our operations and increase efficiency.
Megan is a Senior Associate 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). Megan is also a volunteer with Back on My Feet, an organization dedicated to helping the homeless “get back on their feet.”
Jerica Youngken – Director of Finance and Accounting
Jerica Youngken manages Water for Waslala’s financial records. This includes tracking all grants, donations, and other forms of funding as well as general, special event, and project expenses.
Jerica graduated from Villanova University in 2008 with a B.S. in Accountancy and a B.S. in Business Administration. She spent the year after graduation volunteering at an orphanage in Cochabamba, Bolivia with the Salesian Lay Missioners. Jerica has also travelled to Honduras, Cambodia, South Africa, Kenya, Peru, and Haiti while working with various service projects and orphanages. Locally, she is involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program as an in-school mentor. Jerica now works at Ernst & Young as a Senior Associate in their Assurance practice and lives in Philadelphia.
Water for Waslala relies on student 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 main student volunteer supporters are from Villanova University, where a dedicated student group has been created to help WfW achieve its mission in Waslala. The WfW student group helps WfW plan its major annual Walk for Water fundraiser on Villanova’s campus, while also running other awareness-raising activities on campus throughout the year.
The student group is run by the following individuals:
Colleen Francke - Co-Chair, Water for Waslala Student Group
Colleen Francke is a sophomore English and Communications 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.
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.
Danny Sidorenko – Co-Chair, Water for Waslala Student Group
Danny is a junior studying in the Villanova School of Business with a double major in Finance and Accounting and a minor in Economics.
Danny first discovered the organization during a club’s fair at the beginning of his freshman year. Searching for a unique community service opportunity, Danny was moved by the student group’s commitment to advocacy. He joined the core team to assist the student group in the event planning process and has been involved for the past two years. Danny’s goal is to bolster student turnout for the organization’s Walk for Water event, raising additional funds to help Waslala’s water needs.
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 Asociación 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 construcción, 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 Aráuz – Administrator
Wilfredo Aráuz, 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 O’Brien - 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 “Betty” 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.