Our Leadership Team in Sierra Leone
Aaron Ackerman ~Field Officer
I grew up just outside of Minneapolis and studied International Politics at Middlebury College, including a year abroad at l’Institut d’études politiques, Paris. Despite initial interest in diplomacy and international affairs, certain classes and service trips led me on a path towards addressing unnecessary suffering and helping people realize their own potential. Consequently, I moved to India following graduation, where I got my first taste of international development work with Seva Mandir. After a few years of nonprofit management and research for nonprofits and think tanks in Minnesota, I am very happy to be back in the world of development with OneVillage Partners.
I was originally drawn to OVP for its results-oriented and holistic approach to development, and worked in Minneapolis for two years on finances, operations, and fundraising during the organization’s nascent stages. After building and learning the organization from the U.S. side, I was very excited to accept a two-year Field Officer position in the villages. It has been a gratifying and challenging privilege to be involved with OVP’s work on the ground, and I have very high expectations for myself and the organization in the coming years.
Jennifer Artibello ~Finance and Capacity-Building Officer
I grew up in a small town in central Ontario, Canada. It was only after teaching in South Korea that I discovered my passion for international development. After completing post-graduate work in international project management, I gained valuable experience in the accounting department of a Canadian community based organization before moving to rural Ghana to work as an education program manager. Since then, I have visited many communities across Africa and also lived and worked in Kenya. Through these experiences I came to understand the fundamental role that education and empowerment can play in bringing communities out of poverty and into prosperity. I’m particularly interested in methods for building local capacity and training trainers to increase impact. I was drawn to OVP’s inspiring, holistic approach. From my experience in developing nations, it just makes sense.
Yusuf Johnny ~Program Manager
I was born in Jokibu village, but the war drove me and my family away from our home. I had to move around a lot during the war as the rebels and government soldiers fought, but I eventually was able to do some work as a cocoa trader in different cities. I began my work with OVP as a sales agent for cocoa programs. Later I received a loan for a bicycle business from OVP; I repaid the loan early, which allowed me to receive a bigger loan for a motorbike taxi business. The businesses both went well, so I was nominated to become OVP’s Program Manager.
As Program Manager, my job is to oversee OVP programs and organize the communities. What I like best about the program is the way our staff here work together. We operate as a team, with no struggles over power and leadership. I hope that we can continue these efforts to rebuild our villages from the war.
Josephine Sellu ~Women’s Trainer
My name is Josephine M. Sellu, and I am from the Mende tribe in Sierra Leone. I am married with four children. I was in primary school when the civil war began, and my father was killed by the rebels. We were displaced and only returned to Jokibu after the war was over. In 2006 I joined OVP as a community teacher, and with the help of OVP, I got my teachers’ certificate. In 2013 I became a local women’s trainer because I wanted to help women know they have the right to do anything they want to do. Many women here in Sierra Leone do not know this. I am excited to help them understand their rights!
Staff in Minneapolis
Deborah Greebon ~Executive Director
After more than a decade working in international development, I am delighted to join OneVillage Partners and contribute to its unique model of holistic empowerment and long-term partnership with rural communities in Sierra Leone. When I first moved to the Global South (Honduras) to teach elementary school in 1999, I experienced many conflicting emotions – sadness and anger about the glaring economic disparities I encountered, joy in living more simply and learning to see beyond my ethnocentrism, belonging as I developed close ties to new friends and the culture, and hope when I got involved with a nonprofit organization for street kids and saw the power of effective grassroots programs to transform lives. Since that time, these sentiments have continued to motivate me as I lived, worked, and traveled in over 30 developing countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
I’ve worked for various development organizations including CARE International, Management Systems International, WorldTeach, and the International Initiative to End Child Labor, with a focus on building the strategy and capacity of organizations through evidence-based program design, management, evaluation and training. I am a former Fulbright fellow and hold master’s degrees in international education policy (Harvard) and public and nonprofit management (Syracuse). I’m honored to lead OVP’s remarkable team!
Melissa Shelton-Davies ~ Director of Development
I come to OneVillage Partners with over twenty years of nonprofit management experience. I grew up in the Twin Cities, and graduated from the University of Minnesota, majoring in Journalism and Political Science. I felt an intimate connection to the natural world, and was an early canoe guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I followed this passion, and helped lead the effort to pass the legislation that preserved this beautiful wilderness area. I continued to develop my skills in all areas of fund development and nonprofit management, serving arts, social service and educational organizations. Having worked with various refugee groups over the years, I am excited to join a truly grassroots organization with an international focus on development, as well as such a dedicated staff.
Andrea Roeger ~Operations Manager
After spending one year studying in Germany and two years teaching in Thailand and Germany, I moved to Minneapolis and began development and fundraising work in the nonprofit field. I’m very excited to be on board with OneVillage Partners and to learn about the people of Sierra Leone in addition to managing our finances and day-to-day operations. I believe in our holistic model and am thankful for this opportunity to serve the people of Sierra Leone!
Catherine Roman ~Communications Coordinator
After graduating with a degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, I learned about OneVillage Partners and their passionate dedication to rural development, and I knew I wanted to work with them. My parents taught me that everyone should use their unique talents and resources to improve the world and support their fellow human beings, and I couldn’t be more excited to be working with OneVillage Partners to do just that. I believe their holistic and sustainable model has the potential to revolutionize rural development and am honored to be a part of it.
Julia Ekeberg ~Program Associate
My first experience in international development came while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal in West Africa. For two years I lived in a large city primarily teaching business, English, and computer classes and doing other work primarily with women and girls. Prior to Peace Corps I spent five years in the private sector working in Finance. Currently, I am a second year graduate student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. I am studying international community and economic development and hope to work in the international development field when I complete my studies. I was drawn to One Village Partners while looking for volunteer opportunities in the Minneapolis area and specifically their holistic approach to development. I am very excited to be a part of the organization and cannot wait to learn more!
Andrea Pesola ~Fundraising and Development Associate
My passion for social justice, both domestically and abroad, was sparked the instant I began my Bachelor of Individualized studies, with concentrations in Global Studies and Social Justice, at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. I have done a lot of work with various social justice organizations in Minneapolis, and when I began looking for an organization whose focus is international I stumbled upon OneVillage Partners. I was immediately drawn to this organization for many reasons; their holistic model, the way in which they empower the villagers they work with to be self-sufficient and think for themselves, and the long-term relationships they keep with the villages they partner with. I am honored to be a part of the OneVillage Partner team!
Abby Carlson ~ Fundraising and Development Associate
I graduated from college a French major with a minor in Linguistics. Basically I’m a word nerd. While in school, I traveled abroad as often as I was able in an effort to expand my view of the world and the people in it. I appreciate the approach that OneVillage Partners has adopted and am excited to join the team and continue to learn more about how what we do affects the lives of people half a world away.
Stella Thomas ~ Communications Associate
I was born and raised in Kenya. I moved to the U.S. in 2005 to further my education. I recently graduated from Metropolitan State University with a B.A. in Public Relations. I have interned with different non-profits in the Twin Cities area, including Minnesota Children’s Museum, Bridging and Neighborhood Involvement Program. My passion for Africa and OVP’s holistic model drew me to OneVillage Partners. I’m looking forward to gaining a lot of experience while making a difference in a part of the world I can relate to. I’m thrilled to be a part of OVP, and can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Kelvin Williams ~ Administrative Assistant
I was born and raised in Minneapolis metro area. I graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2013 with a BA in Political Science. I first developed a passion for international development while volunteering for a non-profit called Friends of the Orphans. I was looking for another opportunity to engage in international development work when I found OneVillage Partners’ website online. Their long-term approach towards uplifting the war-torn country of Sierra Leone truly appealed to me. I’m excited to contribute to the great efforts of OneVillage Partners!