Pittsburgh Staff

  • Ma. Soledad Cabezas, Executive Director
    Soledad brings a wealth of experience working with businesses and nonprofits, including several Pittsburgh-area NGOs. She has a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. A native of Ecuador, Soledad is our first multilingual director, a quality that is increasingly important for our work in Central America and the United States.
  • Jennifer Novelli, Former Executive Director and Transition Consultant
    Jennifer Novelli started with Building New Hope as Executive Director in 2015. Previously she worked at the international medical relief and development organization Global Links for over 10 years – drinking Building New Hope coffee that entire time – and in the field of international education at the University of Pittsburgh Study Abroad Office for over 6 years. Jennifer has her Master in International Development from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, with a focus in environmental sustainability.
  • Sandi Suni, Administrative Director (part-time position)
    Sandra (Sandi) Suni has been involved with Building New Hope for over 10 years, first packing coffee, then packing off two kids as BNH volunteers in Granada; their experiences highlighted BNH’s important role in Nicaragua. After 21 years as a homemaker and homeschooling mom, she took a part time job as Barbara Wein’s assistant in 2011. Sandi was deeply moved visiting the schools and projects in Granada; hope was truly being built through BNH’s partnerships. Sandi served as Interim Director between April 2013 – December 2014 and currently serves as Administrative Director for BNH. Sandi has a BS in Accounting from Valparaiso University.
  • Melissa Nix, Fair Trade Coffee Project Coordinator (part-time position)
    Melissa joined the Building New Hope team as staff in October 2018 but had been volunteering with us since she moved to Pittsburgh earlier in the year.  Melissa has her Master of Arts in International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and recently spent a year as the Internationalization Coordinator at EUSA University Center in Seville, Spain.  Melissa brings to the BNH team experience in marketing and event planning.

Granada Staff

  • Ivañía
    Head Teacher, Escuelita Yo Puedo
    Ivañía joined the Escuelita staff in 2008 after earning a degree in education. She currently serves as the program’s lead teacher.  Ivañía loves her work; her greatest satisfaction comes from seeing students achieve academic success.  She also loves music and her four daughters.
  • Karla is a native of Granada, joined Escuelita Yo Puedo in 2007. Karla, who holds a degree in primary education, is proud of changes that the teachers have made over the years to improve their ability to meet each student’s learning needs. She believes that adults also need to learn from children who teach us how to live and to enjoy life’s every moment.
  • Norma (part-time) joined the staff of Escuelita Yo Puedo in May of 2017.
  • Fátima (part-time) joined the staff of Escuelita Yo Puedo in March of 2018.
  • Mario
    Head Teacher, Quinta Los Chavalos
    Mario earned a Masters degree in Primary Education in 1980.  He has worked with BNH for 15 years and is the lead teacher at Quinta Los Chavalos. Before that, he worked in public and private schools in rural and urban Nicaragua. Mario believes that education is the most important vocation one can have because teachers carry the responsibility of turning children and teen-agers into thinking citizens of both Nicaragua and world.
  • Luis has been an educator with Building New Hope for 14 years; he has been nurturing children and adolescents for nearly twenty years! Before joining BNH, he has worked with child street vendors and youth struggling to overcome drug addiction.  He currently tutors  students in second through sixth grades. He is grateful for the opportunities and support that BNH has provided him.
  • Juan joined the Quinta Los Chavalos staff in February of 2017.  He comes from a family of educators and lives just outside of Granada.

The Board

Building New Hope is a small volunteer-driven organization that relies on the talent, energy and enthusiasm of its Board of Directors. Any given day, you might find members of the Board sampling coffee at an event, presenting to an area school, or organizing a fundraising event. The current Board of Directors of Building New Hope is:

  • Barbara Wein, board member emerita is a co-founder of Building New Hope and has worked as an organizer on social justice and international issues, many involving Central America, for more than 30 years. She helped found several NGOs including Building New Hope, where she has carried out all aspects of the organization. She has a Masters of Arts in Economic and Social Development and a Certificate in Latin American Studies from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Eileen Kraus-Dobratz, board Treasurer, has been involved with Building New Hope since the early years and was part of the 1994 steering committee when the organization incorporated as a 501(c)3.  Eileen traveled with the early brigades to El Salvador.  She traveled in subsequent years to the coffee cooperative.
  • John Soluri, board chair, is a professor of Latin American history and directs Carnegie Mellon University’s Global Studies program. His research and teaching focus on food, energy, environment, and social justice. He has lived and traveled throughout Central America. John  joined the board of Building New Hope in 2005 after teaching a seminar on Fair Trade coffee.
  • Loraine Taylor, board Secretary, is a retired Spanish teacher.  A longtime supporter of Building New Hope, she was a member of the first work brigade in 1992 that completed two projects in Nueva Esperanza, El Salvador.  She has visited Granada, Nicaragua, twice to observe Building New Hope’s programs. In Pittsburgh she enjoys volunteering as a BNH representative at various outreach events.
  • Annia Aleman joined the board in 2018.  She is a Civic Innovation Specialist for the City of Pittsburgh, Innovation and Performance.  She is making Pittsburgh a better place to work and live and has roots in Nicaragua.
  • Bibi Al-Ebrahim joined the board in 2017 and is the Education Director at Amizade Global Service-Learning.  Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Bibi spent over a decade working in Ecuador.  Bibi was first able to go to Ecuador as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  She then returned to the U.S. to complete a masters in International Public Health in 2008.  Soon afterwards, Bibi re-located to Ecuador and began work as the Director for Manna Project International, a community development organization working just outside of Quito.  In 2011, Bibi returned to Peace Corps/ Ecuador as the Program and Training Specialist for the Community Health program and then as the Training Manager.
  • Jason Norris, inspired by BNH’s mission, joined the board in 2017.  Jason is Senior Counsel for FedEx Ground’s Litigation team.  Prior to joining FedEx Ground, Jason was an associate with Blank Rome LLP where he focused on white collar crime, class actions, securities, and other complex litigation matters.  Jason received his J.D. from Temple University School of Law.  He received his B.A. in History and International Affairs from The George Washington University.  He concentrated his undergraduate studies on diplomacy with a particular focus on U.S. relations with South and Central American countries.
  • Therese Tardio is a professor of Hispanic Studies at Carnegie Mellon University where she teaches and conducts research related to Central American cultures and politics. She has also advised and led numerous student groups on trips to Nicaragua. Therese is the board’s primary liaison with both BNH’s teaching staff in Granada and the El Porvenir coffee cooperative.
  • Anne Marie Toccket holds an M.A. in international development and nonprofit management from the University of Pittsburgh, as well as bachelor’s degrees in Spanish, journalism and international affairs from Penn State University. She has extensive experience in nonprofit fundraising and program development. She joined the board of Building New Hope in 2012 after visiting El Porvenir as part of a graduate school capstone project.