Melinda Miles, Chairperson of the Board
Melinda Miles is an expert on Haiti and social and economic rights who has spent the last fifteen years working with Haitian grassroots groups, civil society and international organizations on a wide sphere of issues including environment conservation and food security; human rights and gender-based violence; capacity building; economic justice; accountability and labor rights; and much more. Melinda has a history of bringing together diverse stakeholders around shared challenges and coalition building including the Let Haiti Live coalition in 2000-2004 and the Haiti Response Coalition only days after the January 2010 earthquake. As Program Director at TransAfrica in Washington, DC, Melinda maintains relationships with Members of Congress and policymakers and represents TransAfrica at events around the country and the world, including the African National Congress’s International Solidarity Conference in South Africa in 2012.
Jessica Covell, Vice Chairperson
Jessica recently completed her PhD at the University of Miami with a focus on Haitian non-profits. Her academic background focused on international politics and her professional experience is with small, growing organizations in need of operational support. She is working on the practical side of non-profit management through her work with Project Medishare and SOIL. In addition, she works directly with other non-profits as part of the larger academic community at the entrepreneurial center on the UM campus. She speaks Spanish and is in the process of learning Haitian Creole.
David Reese, Secretary
David is language arts department chair at Miami Beach Senior High. Seeking meaningful curriculum, David engages student participation in service learning projects, community action initiatives, and essential questions of human rights through the study of literature and expository argument. He believes that advocating for SOIL has opened a window for democratic minded young people to act locally to affect change globally.
Bob McLaughlin, Treasurer
Bob McLaughlin is a business and finance professional with over 40 years of experience in private accounting, tax planning, and business consulting. He runs a practice in Rockford, IL (albeit now as a semi-retired consultant to his son, who has taken over the practice). Prior to owning his own practice, he worked with the firm BDO Seidman from 1961 to 1980, and was named partner in 1973. Bob holds an MBA from the University of Detroit and he is a licensed CPA. He has also been actively involved in a number of charitable, community, and professional organizations, including serving as president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – St James Conference, volunteering in the Pastoral Care Department at one of the major hospitals in Rockford, as well as being active in his local parish. In addition to serving on the SOIL board, he is currently on the boards of Family Counseling Services of Northern Illinois and Hope for the Haitians. Bob is also involved with Carpenter’s Place (an agency working with the homeless in Rockford) and his local Kiwanis Club. He lives with his wife Mary Lou in Rockford, Illinois, although they travel often to visit their 5 children and 12 grandchildren.
Dr. Sasha Kramer, Executive Director
Dr. Sasha Kramer is an ecologist and human rights advocate who has been living and working in Haiti since 2004. She received her Ph.D. in Ecology from Stanford University in 2006 and co-founded SOIL that same year, while also completing a postdoctoral research position with the Collaboratory for Research on Global Projects at Stanford. Sasha now spends the majority of her time living in Haiti and managing SOIL, but she is also a global advocate for the recycling of nutrients in human waste. She has traveled around the world helping others implement sustainable sanitation projects and inspiring people to participate in a global sanitation revolution. Sasha also serves as an Adjunct Professor of International Studies and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami, as well as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and an Architect of the Future with the Waldzell Institute.
Moira Duvernay is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amitai Schwartz in Emeryville, California. Her practice focuses on civil rights litigation and criminal appellate work, including death penalty appeals. Previously, Moira served as a staff attorney for the Center for Justice and Accountability in San Francisco. She litigated high-impact international human rights cases on behalf of survivors of torture or other severe human rights abuses, serving as counsel in legal victories against death squad leaders and former military officers from around the world. In March 2007, Moira was named an Attorney of the Year by California Magazine for her role in the securing a $19 million judgment against a Haitian death squad leader who was living in New York. Moira has a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University and a J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law, where she helped found the Hastings-to-Haiti Partnership. Before becoming a lawyer, Moira worked as a teacher in Haiti, and as the Haitian Program Coordinator for the San Francisco-based human rights group, Global Exchange. She speaks Haitian Creole, Spanish, and French.
Catherine Ellenbogen is a retired partner and Senior Vice President of CMD Realty Investment Company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, and she has extensive professional experience in corporate real estate development, public relations, advertising, and marketing. In addition to serving on the SOIL board, Cathy has served on the Alumni Board of Dominican University, the Board of Hephzibah Children’s Association, and the Capital Campaign Advisory Committee of Parenthesis. She is also Co-Founder and Co-Director, along with her husband Steve Ellenbogen, of the Ellenbogen Charitable Trust. Since 2011, Cathy has become increasingly involved in supporting Haiti’s economic development, both with Youth C.A.R.E.S. (which provides educational programs for youth in the Cabaret area of Port-au-Prince) and with SOIL.
Lavarice was born in Port-de-Paix, Haiti and moved to Port-au-Prince in 1979. Three years later, he moved to the United States where he completed a BA in Criminal Justice and a Masters of Business Administration at Florida Metropolitan University. Lavarice met Sasha immediately prior to her first visit to Haiti and they’ve been friends ever since. Lavarice has been involved with the What If? Foundation since its inception in 2000. The What If? Foundation began as a simple feeding program providing one meal a week in the Tiplas Kazo neighborhood of Port-au-Prince; today the program provides meals 5 days a week to thousands of children, in addition to operating an after school program and a summer camp. Lavarice is the Program Coordinator for What If? in Haiti and currently resides in Port-au-Prince.
Jessica Lozier received her BA from Johns Hopkins University and then began non-profit work in Haiti. Jessica became acquainted with SOIL’s programs while working with street children during her first two years in Haiti with Project Pierre Toussaint and the Crudem Foundation. Her work focused on education, health, and social opportunities for the children of Cap-Haitien. She returned to Haiti after the Port-au-Prince earthquake in 2010 as the Country Director for Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group. Jessica worked with AIDG to promote the implementation of sustainable technologies in Haitian communities, primarily in the building and energy sector. Jessica is currently in Australia pursuing a medical degree. She is fluent in Haitian Creole and French.
Nick Preneta is a sanitation consultant specializing in ecological sanitation. Prior to joining the SOIL board, Nick was SOIL’s Operations Director from 2010-2013 and SOIL’s Deputy Director from 2012-2013. Fluent in Haitian Creole from his multiple years of experience working with an organization for street children in Cap-Haitien, Nick was instrumental in coordinating SOIL’s emergency response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Nick has a Masters of Public Health from Tufts University and has worked in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and the United States. Nick currently lives in Ashland, Oregon but travels to Haiti often!
Sister Mary Finnick, Member Emeritus
Sister Mary Finnick holds multiple degrees in nursing as well as a doctorate in education. In 2010, Sister Mary celebrated her 60th anniversary as a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart. She has worked as a primary school educator, a staff nurse, Director of Nursing and a nurse educator at several institutions of higher education including Temple University. Sister Mary spent many years working in Peru and Nicaragua leading social assistance programs, and was director of the Matthew 25 Guest House in Port-au-Prince from 2005 to 2013. Sister Mary has this to say about her life, “Despite the facts above, my life has been far from boring, and graced with families (personal and religious), friends, and opportunities to meet and interact with wonderful people.”