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African Sky Prepares for a Second Decade of Friendship & Service
September 25, 2014
by Susan Schunk

African Sky is beginning a new chapter in its efforts to lessen the effects of extreme poverty in rural Mali and expanding its team to meet the growing needs of this exciting organization! Established ten years ago by Dr. Scott Lacy, the organization has depended upon volunteers, students, teachers and schools from around the world to enable it to carry out its projects. During that time African Sky completed over 200 individual, high impact, low cost projects which have transformed lives and provided hope for a better future to hardworking Malian citizens. One remarkable individual, Scott Lacy, has served as Executive Director, overseeing all of the project areas, enlisting the expertise of professionals when needed, traveling to Mali at least twice per year, handling the distribution of donations, filing state and federal financial forms, and serving as the motivator and catalyst of the entire organization. Since African Sky has expanded its service into so many areas of need, it was time to provide Scott with some help.

Dr. Lacy, with the input of Associate Director Colleen Naughton, has developed a new Corporate Structure and Leadership Dossier that will be the foundation of a more focused and more effective organization. In order for this new corporate structure to move forward, Scott and the Board of Directors have brought in 16 amazing individuals, many of whom have served with the Peace Corps in Mali. These young professionals are volunteering to commit a portion of their busy lives to the work of African Sky. Each one brings experience, specific areas of expertise, and most of all, a new level of excitement to the organization.

The Board of Directors ensures that African Sky does the best work possible in terms of achieving its goals and adhering to its values and mission statement. It ensures that we follow legal standards and ethical norms and it oversees annual operations, making decisions about organizational business, policies and budgets. We are fortunate to have four new members of this Board – James Allen, Christy Gillmore, Jessica Luo, and Jennifer Rulon.

James has a Masters Degree in Agricultural Food and Resource Economics and can provide advice about organizational management (programming, communications and financial development). He says, "As a Board Member to African Sky, I hope to apply my experience and studies in international development, food security, and program evaluation to designing, implementing, and monitoring effective programs that tackle the root causes of poverty and uplift our Malian friends."

Christy is currently the Program Manager for a U.S.-based nonprofit that combats human trafficking. She oversees programs in Ghana and Haiti. Her significant experience with nonprofits, program management, and field work will be of great help. Christy writes, "I'm thrilled to join the Board of African Sky. As the recipient of an African Sky mini-grant while serving as a Mali Peace Corps volunteer…I have a long time connection with the organization and have watched it grow and succeed over the years. I hope to contribute my skills in program management, monitoring and evaluation, and organizational leadership to help African Sky continue to build high impact sustainable projects."

Jessica has a B.S. in Managerial Economics and experience as a Small Business Development Advisor. She has served as a consultant to small businesses that are interested in improving their income through improving their business practices – planning, marketing, product development, accounting methods, etc.

Jennifer recently graduated from law school. In her own words, Jennifer states, "Throughout law school, I always looked for a way to continue being involved in Mali. Now that I have graduated law school, I am so excited about serving on the Board of African Sky as it works to improve education, food security, and community health in the country that I love so much."

Mamadou Samake, better known as "Sam" to countless Peace Corps volunteers who have served in Mali, will be stepping into the role of Executive Advisor. The Executive Advisor serves as a mentor and facilitator for the Executive Director and the Associate Director. Typically, the Executive Advisor will focus on a particular initiative identified by the Executive Director. Sam has worked for Peace Corps Mali for decades. His professional skills, extensive experience, and networks will be of great value in the pursuit of African Sky's mission.

Joining us as our new Administrative Director is Kate Camargo. The Administrative Director is the "chief efficiency officer" and plans, coordinates, and assesses African Sky business operations. Kate has a Masters Degree in public affairs, focusing on nonprofit management. She has a strong background in fundraising, governance, and nonprofit administration. Kate says, "…I was really impressed by African Sky's grassroots efforts in the fields of education and literacy….I hope that my education, combined with my experience in Mali as a Peace Corps Volunteer, will help me to make a positive impact on the organization."

Our new Financial Director is Kevin Kwok. As Financial Director, Kevin will advise the Board of Directors on financial business and management, develop and monitor fiscal policies and write financial reports. Kevin has a B.A. in Economics and is pursuing an MBA. He has experience in corporate finance and has worked with low-income entrepreneurs to build and improve their businesses.

Ashleigh Dueker has volunteered to accept the role of Development Director. She will be overseeing the creation and implementation of the organization's annual and long-term fundraising strategies. Ashleigh is a global health professional and has experience in designing, writing and managing public health projects and grants.

We also have seven wonderful individuals who have volunteered to serve either as a Program Director or an Associate Program Director. The Program Directors will develop, manage, and assess all of the project activities in Mali. The Associate Program Directors will support the specific initiatives of the Program Directors according to their expertise.

Our new Education Program Director is Eliza Swedenborg. Eliza has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and an MBA in Business with a special interest in food security. She has experience with sustainable agricultural endeavors and has designed programs for women in the areas of health education and agricultural education.

Lassina Konate will serve as the Food Security Program Director. Lassina has a B.S. in Business Administration. He is interested in health and education projects and has experience with sustainable development through economic growth.

The position of Community Arts Program Director will be filled by Adam Klein. Adam is a singer/song writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has experience with local community development projects and is working on a documentary that will introduce people to Malian music, culture, lifestyles and development issues.

Our new Health Program Director is Alaric Babej. Alaric is interested in renewable energy projects and has experience with solar lighting, pumping, and milling projects. He has also worked in the areas of clean water and sanitation.

Jeremy Coats will serve as an Associate Program Director. Jeremy served as an education volunteer in Peace Corps-Mali where he taught and developed curricula for the American Studies program at the University of Bamako and the English language learning program at Balla Fasseke Kouyate Conservatory of Arts. Currently, he works as a contractor in international exchange programs, African education policy, and curriculum development. He looks forward to bringing his expertise to African Sky in developing their education program.

Janice Levi will serve as our Communications Director. She is a PhD student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and has an M.A. in African Studies. Janice also brings experience in grant writing to the organization.

We welcome Marcy Purcell as an Associate Program Director as well. She served in the Peace Corps in 2011 close to several of African Sky's project sites near Markala, Mali. She worked with Tamba Traore, our long-term project director and host in Markala, and will focus her volunteer service on regional projects in that area.

Last but not least, Ryan Shaw is excited to become a part of African Sky. Ryan received a Peace Corps Mini Grant to implement an innovative garden fertilizer project when he served as a Peace Corps volunteer. He plans to work as part of the team that is guiding our strategic development process.

African Sky is extremely fortunate and very blessed to have these exceptional individuals join our team. We look forward to working with them and benefitting from their ideas and expertise. Each one has a special love for Mali and for the Malian people who have so many diverse needs, and each one hopes to give something back to their Malian friends. Together with these new partners, we can continue to make the dream of African Sky become a reality. We extend to each of them a very sincere thank you from the African Sky family as we move forward to an exciting future.