Brandon Blache-Cohen, MA | Executive Director | Brandon Blache-Cohen, named one of Pittsburgh’s 40 under 40 in 2012, has almost ten years of experience in the nonprofit, service-learning, and international education sectors. Blache-Cohen first began experimenting with social entrepreneurship and service-learning while an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh. After sailing on Semester at Sea, he combined his passions of travel and social justice by helping to create a student-initiated NGO, FORGE. As Associate Director of FORGE he worked in three refugee camps in Zambia and Botswana on a slew of small-scale development projects. Since then, Blache-Cohen has worked in development for the Tahirih Justice Center in Washington, DC, as a researcher and program assistant for aids2031 in Worcester, MA, and as a consultant for several other small nonprofits and foundations. In 2007, Blache-Cohen was named as a Social Change Fellow at Clark University, where he earned an MA in International Development and Social Change, focusing on nonprofit/NGO management. In addition to his work with Amizade, Blache-Cohen was a US delegate to the One Young World Summit in Zurich, Switzerland in 2011, is Adjunct Faculty at West Virginia University (Political Science), and since 2009 has sat on a planning committee for the Pittsburgh Holocaust Center. To date, Cohen has worked, studied, or traveled in 65 countries on five continents, and has work authorization in the US and EU.
Katie Baucco, MBA, MA | Director of Operations | Originally from Washington, PA, Katie attended Penn State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering. After five years working as an engineer for a major package delivery company, Katie returned to school to work on her master’s degree. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in December 2010 with an MA in International Development and an MA in Business Administration. Katie traveled to Tanzania in July 2010 as an Amizade facilitator, had an incredible experience, and looks forward to visiting other Amizade sites in the near future.
Nathan Darity, MPH, MA | Project Director | Project Manager for The Global Switchboard | Darity was raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and moved to Pittsburgh in 2001 to complete his undergraduate education at the University of Pittsburgh. Darity first participated in an Amizade program as a student on a service-learning course in Santarém, Brazil. A year later, in 2003, he returned to Amizade as a member of a small research team for a short-term public health project in Karagwe, Tanzania. In 2008, Darity finished a dual masters program in public health and international development at the University of Pittsburgh. A year later he relocated to Santarém, Brazil to begin his new position as Amizade’s local Site Director. In 2012, Darity became Amizade’s Project Director, responsible for new program ideas, oversight of foreign faculty-led programming and development of health-related multinational collaborations and exchanges. He maintains a role in Santarém as the current Brazil Site Coordinator and is adjunct faculty at West Virginia University.
Beth Nardella, MFA, MA | WVU Academic Coordinator | Beth is an Assistant Professor of writing in the School of Medicine at West Virginia University. She led her first service learning course to Jamaica through Amizade in Summer 2011 where she and her students in Exercise Physiology helped teach at the AOC’s camp for at-risk youth. She continues to lead service learning courses and works with faculty and students at WVU who are engaged in global service learning.
Beth, a native West Virginian, holds an MFA in studio art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a MA in American Literature from West Virginia University. She lives in Morgantown, WV with her husband and their daughter.
Sara Noel, MA | Assistant Director | Sara Noel discovered her love of international travel and intercultural learning as an exchange student in Chile when she was 16. Since then she has lived, worked, studied and traveled to almost 50 countries including a trip around the world with Semester at Sea, a semester in Berlin, Germany, and a year teaching English in Hungary.
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Sara holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Michigan as well as two master’s degrees in international studies and conflict resolution from the University of Denver. Before coming to Amizade Sara worked with the Denver-based non-profit organization, Critical Mass Leadership Education that develops and implements programming in leadership development, conflict resolution, social dialogue, and citizen and community advocacy for teenagers from around the world. In 2011 Sara traveled with a group of 10 young professionals from the Pittsburgh non-profit community to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on a State Department grant to teach about community volunteerism and service-learning.
Anna Phillips | Group Programs Director | Anna was raised in Parkersburg, West Virginia by parents who emphasized cultural diversity by opening their home to exchange students. Anna’s first international experience was a six week trip to Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and Turkey with her family to visit the first 6 exchange students her family hosted. She spent her college career studying Public Relations, Spanish and French and traveled on 6 different study abroad programs. She was introduced to Amizade in 2007 when she participated in Service-Learning course in Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent the last 6 years learning and sharing the importance of understanding service, the pedagogy of service-learning and concept of global citizenship. Phillips believes that her mission to empower people to change the world will also encourage increased education, acceptance, and global awareness.
John Matthias Brown | Jamaica Site Director | Mr. Brown has been working in community development for the past 35 years. He is the founder of the 25 year old Petersfield Sports & Community Club (PSCC) which he served as President for the first 2 years. Three years later, he co-founded the old Association of Community Based Organizations Ltd (AOCBO), formerly Association of Clubs (AOC), which is the umbrella organization for seven community based organizations in the parish of Westmoreland, Jamaica. Mr. Brown has been the Facilitator of the AOC from its inception. Through his commitment, influence and guidance, the AOC won the 2007 and 2012 Michael Manley Award for Community Self Reliance which is one of the most prestigious awards in Jamaica.
Mr. Brown also serves in his parish as a Justice of the Peace. He sits as Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and as Community Representative on numerous school boards and organization committees. He takes pleasure in counseling young people to help them boost their self-esteem and ways to work harder towards achieving their goals. He has served as Amizade’s Site Director since 2004.
Jean Carla Costas | Bolivia Site Director | For the last 11 years, Ms. Costas has managed more than 300 volunteers throughout Bolivia as Amizade’s Bolivia Site Director. She has worked on community development projects ranging from direct-services with at-risk youth to overseeing construction projects in schools. She holds a degree in business from the Universidad Mayor de San Simon, has studied entrepreneurship at Boston University, and is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Jean Carla resides with her children in Cochabamba, Bolivia. When she is not organizing community development projects for Amizade, she can be found enjoying music and dance in the streets of Cochabamba.
Micah and Lidiane Gregory | Brazil Site Director | Micah and Lidiane Gregory currently reside in Santarém Pará and have been involved Amizade since 2010.
Lidiane is a graduate of the Federal University of Pará in Portuguese Language and Literature and was born and raised in Santarém. She assists Amizade by providing language support as well as working to develop and strengthen local partnerships.
Micah arrived with his family at the age of 16 as a missionary kid and soon fell in love with Brazil and decided to stay for a while. In 2009 he was accepted into the nursing program at IESPES, the university affiliate of Fundação Esperança (Amizade’s primary community partner in Santarém). After a chance encounter with Nathan Darity, the Brazil Site Coordinator, in the hallways of his school, Micah began working with Amizade as a volunteer and fell in love with the organization and it’s vision for community development.
Dr. Matthias Hass | Germany & Poland Site Director | Dr. Hass is a political scientist and expert in the historical foundations of politics. He is a native of Germany and a graduate of the Free University of Berlin. From 2005 to 2009, he was the director of the U.S. program Action Reconciliation Service for Peace in Philadelphia, and is experienced in organizing international educational programs and has been Amizade’s Site Director in Poland since 2010. Dr. Hass is the author of The Politics of Memory in Germany, Israel and the United States of America.
Beulah Joseph-Clunis | Trinidad & Tobago Site Director| Beulah was born and raised in the little rural village of Matelot, situated on the North Coast of Trinidad, West Indies. She is the mother of four (two deceased) and the grandmother of three beautiful young ladies, and is married to her loving husband. Joseph-Clunis is the founder of three youth groups and one womens group in Trinidad. Recognizing that most of the young people in her village migrate to the city in search of jobs and a better life, she founded the Dorcas Women’s Group. The group aims to create better opportunities in the community for women and youth. She is a devout Christian and believes that people need each other greatly. She loves working with youth, cooking, reading Biblical books, and travelling.
Sam Kayongo | Tanzania Site Director | Sam Kayongo is a Tanzanian national residing and working in the North-western corner of the country. He obtained his first degree in the field of social work and social administration. Later, he specialized in the field of public administration and management after attaining a Masters degree from a historical academic institution in Uganda called Makerere University. His first work experience was obtained in Uganda where he worked in the central region doing administration and extensive project work. Sam dealt with programmes that were geared towards poverty reduction through agriculture modernization, education and health. The demanding tasks performed by Sam as a fresh graduate gave him a solid basis for handling responsible offices. In 2007, he took up my current job in Tanzania working as a planning and development officer for a protestant church diocese in Karagwe, where he was also nominated to be a member of a task force committee spearheading the establishment of the first university college in the area.
Sam is a founding director of a non-profit organization based in Kagera region called Kagera Development Facilitation (KADEF) whose long term vision is to contribute towards achieving equitable development for the rural communities of Tanzania. Sam takes much of his time to study and read broadly especially on matters regarding East Africa and the great lakes region of Africa. In his career, Sam concentrates on imparting managerial skills among his junior employees. Sam has a strong Christian orientation and believes deeply in the bible and enjoys preaching. He is married with two children.
Kevin McGuckin | Northern Ireland Site Director | Kevin is from Belfast where he is currently the Operations Manager at YouthWorksCIC, Amizade’s longtime community partner in Northern Ireland. Kevin is a qualified youthworker who, in addition to facilitating trainings, is involved with the daily operations of the organization. Kevin also coordinates and plans programs and educational experiences for overseas visitors and groups.
Pastor Chris Nyame | Ghana Site Director | Pastor Chris Nyame has been working with Amizade Global Service-Learning since 2003. Hailing from Jukwa, Ghana, Pastor Chris currently resides in Accra, where he is completing studies in political science. For almost a decade, Pastor Chris has been the Executive Director of Peace Humanity International, a small NGO, which assists Ghanaians with small scale community development initiatives.
When Pastor Chris is not assisting a community with a development project, he can be found enjoying life with his family. Pastor Chris also enjoys soccer, dancing, and traditional West African music.
Suzanne Unger, MT| Washington, D.C. Site Director |After obtaining her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from University of Virginia, Suzanne taught gifted fourth and fifth graders for four years in a public school system in Virginia. These students accelerated Suzanne’s passion for providing youth with opportunities to make a difference in the world outside of traditional classroom walls. For three years following her teaching experience, she acted as Director of Student Programs & Curriculum for the global non-profit organization, Operation Smile; enabling her to support youth as they grew through education, leadership, service, and awareness. A portion of this career afforded her the opportunity to travel with and educate students in counties including Brazil, China, Guatemala, Paraguay, and the United States; but she supported students from 54 countries as they sought to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Currently Suzanne is focusing her research interests in the field of service-learning as she works toward receiving her PhD in Education, Curriculum and Instruction.
Melissa Woody | Navajo Nation Site Director |
Yá’át’ééh,Shi éí Melissa Woody yinishyé, Áshiihí nishlíí dóó Táchii’nii bá shishchíín. Kiyaa’áanii éí da shicheii dóó Tódich’ii’nii da shinalí. Tónaneesdizí déé nashá, kót’eego Diné asdzání nishlí.
(Hello, my name is Melissa Woody. I am Salt Clan (maternal) born for Red Streek Running into the Water People Clan (paternal). My Mother’s Fathers (shicheii) clan is Towering House. And my Father’s Father (Shinalí) clan is Bitterwater. I am from Tuba City, this is the Navajo woman I am.)
I consider my life as a journey, mentors that have helped me shape who I am and what my calling in life is. I am Navajo, born and raised in Tuba City, AZ. A reflective person, whose awareness and development of identity has been a long process. Much of the process has been very challenging. Through it all it has emerged me into an in tuned, compassionate Human Being, whom is giving and worthy of being called a teacher of many. Lessons learned and shared with others, in order to promote a brighter, healthier and conscientious future for myself, children, family, and for my reservation community of Tuba City.
Melissa is a mother of three, twin sons Brian and Anthony and her daughter Mariah. She is currently a full-time student at Dine College, in Tuba City AZ. Melissa is a runner, she enjoys the comfort of the long distance races, especially desert running on her reservation homeland. Running is her connection to her traditional Navajo Culture.