Our Leadership Team in Sierra Leone
James Brewah ~Managing Director
The civil conflict lasted for eleven years in Sierra Leone, and it was declared over in 2002. In that year, I had my first humanitarian employment opportunity with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and was sent to Kailahun district where the civil conflict started and the last disarmament by the United Nations took place. I saw firsthand the aftermath of the brutal civil conflict and the resilience of people against all odds to improve their status. I have since developed a passion for working with the poorest of the poor.
I have worked with various humanitarian organizations like Save the Children and Ibis in rural communities in Sierra Leone and have eight years of teaching experience. I hold a Master’s degree in Public Administration, a Bachelor’s in Agricultural Education, and a Higher Education Teacher Certificate. Working with OneVillage Partners is a great opportunity for me, and I’m delighted to be part to be part of such a formidable team.
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.
Maada Koroma ~Education Manager
After graduating from Sierra Leone’s Njala University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in education with a specialization in Linguistics, I taught English at the senior secondary school level for two years. I then began to work with communities to realize their dreams in the area of education. With various NGOs, I helped promote youth empowerment through life skills, worked with teachers to facilitate the creation of good classroom environments so students can learn without fear, and promoted community literacy particularly for rural communities in eastern Sierra Leone.
OVP’s philosophy and aspiration for communities is what motivated me to join this great team. OVP is unique, because they encourage communities to participate in project identification, planning, implementation and monitoring. These values are what I admire most in this work, and I am glad to be part of OVPs’ team to help communities in this way.
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.
John Joseph (JJ) ~Income Officer
As one of the longest serving staff members of OVP, I have a lot of responsibility, especially helping new staff members and American interns and travelers learn about the programs and our communities. One of my main goals as an OVP staff member is to increase the level of community engagement.
I was born in Foindu and began primary school there before the war broke out, when I had to go to a town some 20 miles away for safety. I finished primary and junior secondary school there in a refugee camp before the rebels drove us to the city of Kenema, where I completed my senior secondary school. I was fortunate enough to receive a college scholarship from OVP, and I completed my Higher Teacher’s Certificate at Eastern Polytechnic University in Kenema. After graduation, OVP asked me to be an Income Officer in Foindu, and I was so happy to serve my community and gain NGO work experience. Without OVP’s important work in education, there would be far less learning, many more dropouts, and I probably would not have been able to attend college.
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 a master’s degree in international education policy (Harvard) and public and nonprofit management (Syracuse). I’m honored to lead OVP’s remarkable team!
Andrea Roeger ~Director of Development
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 fundraising and development initiatives. I believe in our holistic model and am thankful for this opportunity to serve the people of Sierra Leone!
Yufeng Lai ~Research Associate
International development work interests me, largely because I am from a developing country, China. I studied development as an undergraduate. Later I worked as a volunteer in Benin City, Nigeria for a local NGO providing business knowledge and skills training primarily to females. Currently I am a graduate student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, with a concentration in Policy Analysis and Global Issues. I have a background in both quantitative and qualitative data analysis and teach a lab section on statistics. I am grateful to have this opportunity to contribute to the well-being of people in Sierra Leone with OVP.
Chendong Pi ~Development Associate
I grew up in coastal China and witnessed the dramatic changes brought by economic growth and infrastructure development. When I was studying for my undergraduate degree in economics in Hong Kong, a highly developed market economy, I was surprised by the city’s enormous living standards gap, limited living space, stress and overly-indulged consumerism. This life experience has motivated me to explore the area of development and brought me to the United States for a master’s degree in public policy with a concentration on development. This summer I was fortunate to work with OVP conducting research to help inform its future strategy. Now I work in fundraising, researching grants and supporting resource development.
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.
Steve Turnbull ~Program Associate
While pursuing majors in International Business and French at Concordia College, Moorhead, I was afforded the opportunity to travel overseas – once to Cameroon and again for a semester in France where I studied at l’Institut de Gestion de Rennes. After graduating I served with the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa as an Environmental Education and Preventative Health volunteer where I discovered the joys and hardships associated with international development. Upon my return I met with OVP staff and was impressed with their unique and sustainable approach to development work. I joined as the Program Associate intern and am honored to be a part of such a wonderful, vibrant, and devoted team.
Amanda Gehman ~Volunteer Coordinator
I first began my overseas work in London, working with political figureheads and Members of Parliament. Although I gained valuable experience, I wanted to do hands on work that directly impacted those living in extreme poverty. So for a year, I moved to a rural village in Sierra Leone where I lived and worked side by side with the people living there. Working directly with those in poverty was a profound experience for me. When I came back to the United States, I knew I wanted to be involved with an organization that worked at a grassroots level where I could directly impact the lives of those in need. I was so impressed with OneVillage’s unique, long-term development methods that I moved from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Minneapolis to join OVP’s extraordinary team!
Abdoulaye Ba ~HR Coordinator
After graduating from the University of Saint Thomas with a Masters in Human Resources and Leadership Development, I decided to broaden my knowledge and experience working as a Human Resources Professional with non-profit organizations. My passion for helping the less fortunate in Africa led me to OVP, which impressed me with its mission, vision and accomplishments in Sierra Leone. OVP is giving me an opportunity to gain more experience and to help improve lives as well. Born and raised in Senegal (West Africa), I am so happy to be part of a team of people who care deeply about others.