Staff & Founders
Steve Brescia is the International Director of Groundswell International. Mr. Brescia has over 25 years of experiences supporting international development, social change and grassroots advocacy. From 1996-2009 he worked for World Neighbors in positions including Area Representative for Mesoamerica and Haiti; Latin America Regional Coordinator; and Associate VP for Program Learning and Innovation – facilitating the documentation of a program methodology guide. He previously worked for the Inter-American Foundation, the International Liaison Office for President Aristide of Haiti, and with community-based organizations in Nicaragua. He holds an MA in International Development from American University and a certificate in Asset-based Community Development from the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University.
Christopher Sacco serves as Director of Operations at Groundswell. He also continues to consult on disaster risk reduction and community and family preparedness for a number of international organizations. Mr. Sacco brings 10 years experience in resource development and managing community development and disaster preparedness and rehabilitation programs. He previously worked as a project coordinator for the Yachana Foundation and as a project manager and consultant for Catholic Relief Services. His academic preparation includes a BA in Government and Spanish from Franklin & Marshall College, a graduate certificate in the Design, Management and Evaluation of Sustainable Development Projects from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, and a graduate certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management from UNC Chapel Hill.
Cristina Hall is Groundswell’s Community Outreach Coordinator. Before joining the Groundswell team in September 2012, Cristina served as a Communications Consultant for small businesses while traveling extensively throughout Central America. She has also served as Vice-President of Multi-Task Solutions, a business development company based out of Nashville, TN, where she spearheaded non-profit communications and fundraising projects for non-profits such as the YMCA and MS Society. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a double major in Human & Organizational Development and English-History. Cristina is also currently studying to be a Holistic Health Coach at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
Fatou Batta is the Executive Director of Association Nourrir Sans Détruire (ANSD), Groundswell’s national partner in Burkina Faso, and serves on Groundswell’s Board as the Representative of Groundswell’s International Council. Until 2009 Ms. Batta had worked for over 15 years as World Neighbors’ Area Representative for West Africa, overseeing all aspects of strategy, programs and management for the region (4 countries). Prior to joining World Neighbors, Ms. Batta held several positions with the government of her native Burkina Faso, where she helped to develop family planning policy and planned and administered projects sponsored by international and bilateral agencies. She received her Master’s degree in Public Health from Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. She did her undergraduate work at School of Technical Education in Paris and has recently completed a diploma in participatory development at the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University.
Cantave Jean-Baptiste is a Haitian agronomist and rural development practitioner with over 30 years of experience supporting rural development, agriculture and sustainability, as well as strengthening peasant organizations. He is the Executive Director of Partenariat pour le Développement Local (PDL), Groundswell’s partner organization in Haiti. Before creating PDL, Mr. Jean-Baptiste worked with Caritas (Gonaives and Hinche) from 1981 to 1991 as sustainable agriculture program coordinator, and then from 1995-2009 as the national director of World Neighbors Haiti. Mr. Jean-Baptiste holds a degree from the College of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, State University in Haiti. He speaks English, Haitian Creole, Spanish and French. In 2011, the Clinton Global Initiative chose Cantave as an honorary member, and he attended CGI’s Annual Meeting in New York City, which convenes global leaders to promote innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
Ross Mary Borja is Executive Director of the Ecuadorian NGO EkoRural. Before taking the helm at EkoRural, Ms. Borja served as the Program Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) Specialist for World Neighbors Andes program, where she developed a global PME system that was implemented in Ecuador and Peru. She holds a BA in Economics from the Universidad Catolica del Ecuador in Quito and a Masters of Professional Studies degree from Cornell University’s Community and Rural Development Program in the Rural Sociology Department. In January 2004 she obtained her degree and went back to her native Ecuador. She has authored or contributed to a number of professional works, including “Documenting Farmer Field Schools in the Ecuadorian Highlands: A Case Study of the Province of Carchi”.
Stephen Sherwood and his wife Myriam Paredes own a family farm in Ecuador, where they are activists in national and regional food movements. In addition to his earlier work at Cornell University, the International Potato Center, and World Neighbors, Steve is a co-founder of the Ecuadorian NGO EkoRural and Groundswell International, a global partnership of grassroots organizations dedicated to people-centered development. Throughout his career, he has been a proponent of locally led, endogenous approaches to development. Drawing on over 20 years of experience, Steve is a lecturer and research fellow in Rural Innovation and Social Change at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
Jackie Chenier is Groundswell’s Latin America Regional Facilitator, working to develop program strategies with community-based organizations, farmer’s organizations, networks and local NGOs. Ms. Chenier has 20 years of experience supporting natural resources management, rural development, agriculture and sustainability in Honduras, with an MsC in Rural Development from Cornell University and a degree in Agronomy for Zamorano University. Most recently she was national coordinator for ANAFAE, the National Association for the Promotion of Agroecology. She has also worked for Caritas, and represented funding supporting rural development in Honduras.
Peter Gubbels is Groundswell’s West Africa Regional Facilitator. He has 30 years of experience in rural development, including 20 years living and working in West Africa. Currently based in Ghana, Mr. Gubbels provides action research and advocacy support to Groundswell’s partners who empower rural communities to build equitable and ecologically sound local economies, spread lasting solutions, and engage in wider coalitions for change. Mr. Gubbels is also the co-author of From the Roots Up: Strengthening Organizational Capacity through Guided Self-Assessment. Before co-founding Groundswell, he was the Vice President of International Program for World Neighbors. Mr. Gubbels holds a college diploma in Agricultural Production and Management, an Honor’s degree in History from the University of Western Ontario, and an MA in Rural Development from the University of East Anglia in Great Britain.
Natalie Elwell is currently the Economic Growth and Agricultural Development Advisor for USAID’s Office of Women in Development (WID) and she has extensive experience providing consultative leadership and technical assistance on improving gender equity in all sectors of rural community development. Ms. Elwell’s professional experience includes over 7 years as Associate Vice President of Action Learning & Gender Equity at World Neighbors and more than 2 years as Program Coordinator at the Cleveland International Program. Prior to embarking on a career in international development, Ms. Elwell served as a Peace Corps volunteers in Moldova. She holds a Master of Arts in Sustainable Development from the School for International Training and a BA in Communication from Cleveland State University.
Roland Bunch is Groundswell’s Mali Program Coordinator. He specializes in ecological agriculture and the design of agricultural development programs, with a focus on training village extensionists/promoters and the use of participatory technology development (PTD) and specific agricultural technologies such as soil conservation, soil restoration (through the use of green manure/cover crops) and micro-scale water management (including very simple drip irrigation, water harvesting and water storage techniques). In 1982, Roland published Two Ears of Corn: A Guide to People-Centered Agricultural Improvement, which is available in 10 languages and is used by more than 60 universities and organizations. He holds a degree in International Agricultural Development from California State Polytechnic University.
Emma Kirwan currently works with the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program at Cornell University. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a dual bachelors degree in Environmental Studies and Public Health, and a concentration in Food Studies. She co-founded a student-led local food group on campus and worked with Fair Food to develop a farm-to-institution tool-kit designed to help universities and hospitals purchase locally-grown food from small-scale farmers. Emma has continued to focus her research and work on building healthier food systems and direct market relationships with the Food and Agriculture Organization in Kenya, Millstone Farm in Connecticut, and the Majora Carter Group in NYC. In 2007 she traveled to Ecuador as a Fulbright scholar, where she collaborated with EkoRural on a long-term study of the Canastas Comunitarias, an urban-rural grassroots movement for healthy, affordable food.
Rainera Lucero is leading Groundswell’s work in the Philippines, where she has worked on rural development for over 20 years, managing local NGOs, leading agriculture and community health outreach programs, and as Country Representative for World Neighbors for nearly a decade. During the past four years, she has led efforts to establish new programs on the troubled island of Mindanao. In 2006 Ms. Lucero initiated the organizing of INGOs in Mindanao and has been co-coordinating the group’s activities since then. Also, from 2003-2005, she served as the Coordinator of the International Advisory Board of Grantmakers Without Borders. Rene holds a BS in Psychology from the University of San Carlos, Cebu City, and a Master in Health Social Science from De La Salle University, Manila.
Kaia Ambrose is the Monitoring, Evaluation and Organizational Learning Manager with CARE Canada and she consults extensively as an Outcome Mapping Trainer and evaluator with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Previously Ms. Ambrose worked as a project manager for IDRC/EcoPar and as a network coordinator for FAO in Ecuador. In the past, she has completed evaluations and research consultancies for CGIAR Gender and Diversity Program, the Flemish Office for Development Cooperation, USAID, CIAT, IIRR, FAO and GTZ. Ms. Ambrose holds an MA in Community-Based Natural Resource Management from the Catholic University of Ecuador and a BA in Comparative Development Studies from Trent University.
If you are interested in finding out more about theories of social change, agriculture and sustainability in countries around the globe, contact Groundswell International. Our team of social change, agriculture and sustainability experts can provide insight into a variety of community development strategies that have proven successful over the years.