Ellen has spent 28 years in education administration, focused on youth leadership and on non-profit organizational advancement. She holds a Master's degree in Education Administration and Social Policy from Harvard University, a Bachelor's degree in French from Sweet Briar College, and numerous post-graduate certifications in high school reform, team building and youth leadership.
Ellen has worked on public and private high school and college campuses most of her career. In recent years, her work has included Project Manager of two U.S. Department of Education grants for urban high school redesign. Of particular note was her focus on building youth leadership through service. Grateful for having worked among some of the poorest and wealthiest students students in the country, Ellen is inspired by Martin Luther King's adage: "Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve." Her most inspirational experiences have been in leading students on domestic and international service-based learning trips to engage with disenfranchised communities. Humbled by the power of young people who are relentless agents for social change, Ellen joined AYUDA in 2013 to help take to scale the guiding principle that "a lack of education is just as dangerous as a lack of insulin."
Director of International Operations
Merith currently serves as the Director of International Operations at AYUDA. She first joined the organization in 2004 following her postgraduate studies on Latin America at La Universidad Complutense in Madrid. The UK native went on to serve as AYUDA's first Country Officer in Ecuador, later joining the headquarters in Washington DC as Global Program Director, where she was responsible for growing AYUDA's country programs and strengthening local capacity in Ecuador, Bolivia and Belize. Following a Master’s degree in Public Health in Developing Countries at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, she worked with the Constituencies team at the World AIDS Campaign in Amsterdam. Merith returned to AYUDA in June 2010 to help lead the organization through its next stages of development and has been focused on strengthening partnerships and outreach to resource-poor diabetes communities primarily in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. Following her recent support of the first diabetes education camp for young people with DM1 in Haiti, she is also seeking ways to help strengthen the work of the local diabetes organization on the ground.
Director of Communications
After trying out the fields of business, government, academia and television production, Molly Lepeska has spent nearly ten years working in the field of health communications. She worked in a communications capacity for over five years for the World AIDS Campaign in Amsterdam collaborating on global AIDS campaign theme-setting for World AIDS Day and other international mobilization days and producing global advocacy tools. She has been with AYUDA since 2010 and has a Master's Degree in Life Science Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.Molly has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 1999.
Director of Volunteers
As AYUDA's Director of Volunteers, Jon is responsible for the recruitment, selection, training and general management of all AYUDA applicants and volunteers, nationally and during programs abroad. He first volunteered with AYUDA seven years ago in the Dominican Republic, and helped to establish the country’s first diabetes camp, working closely with local partners, volunteers and medical students. Since then, he has further developed AYUDA's programs while advancing from volunteer, to experienced Volunteer Mentor, to a full time staff member with AYUDA several years ago. Native to Philadelphia, Jon graduated from Colorado College, where he studied biology pre-med, global health, and social and political ecology. Jon is passionate about medicine, travel, food, music, and social change; he has volunteered as an EMT in Colorado, and has work, traveled and studied abroad on four continents. Jon now lives in New Olreans.
Stephanie grew up in Brooklyn, NY and recently graduated from Bates College where she studied Psychology, History and Public Health. While at Bates she was also an active member of the Habitat for Humanity club and volunteered as a tutor and mentor at an afterschool homework help program in a nearby housing community. Before finding AYUDA her junior year, Stephanie spent two summers working as an intern for public health non-profit organizations. In 2012 Stephanie joined AYUDA as a volunteer in Ecuador. The following summer, she served as a volunteer mentor in the Dominican Republic for the Campo Amigo program. She is excited to join the AYUDA staff as the Program Coordinator and to kick start a career in public health!
Isabel is 18 years old and is from Los Angeles, California. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 2 years old and has been living healthily with diabetes ever since. She is hoping to study public health in college next year. Isabel first started working with AYUDA last year as a volunteer in Ecuador and had an amazing experience! She is looking forward to her first time in the Dominican Republic this summer as a Volunteer Mentor in-training.
Madeline is 18 years old and was born and raised in the three-square mile town of South Pasadena, just outside of Los Angeles. Her twin sister Isabel, who is also a Volunteer, has had diabetes since they were two years old. This constantly inspires her to be an advocate for diabetes education and empowerment. Last summer, Madeline was a volunteer in Ecuador and she looks forward to volunteering this summer in the Dominican Republic! Madeline's experience with AYUDA has inspired her to study public health when she goes to university next year.
Chris hails from Santa Monica, California, and has also spent four years abroad in Geneva, Switzerland. He has had diabetes for 11 years now and is successfully managing his diabetes as a sophomore in Swarthmore College, PA, where he is pursuing studies in psychology and English literature. He recently received a grant to do public health work assessing and improving mental health of diabetics through AYUDA and their partner organization in Quito, the FDJE. He first began volunteering with AYUDA in 2011 and was thrilled to get the chance to do more work with the organization. He is looking forward to finally being part of the DR team and improving his Spanish and teaching skills.
Stephanie was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently a senior at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, majoring in psychology and history. Stephanie is extremely passionate about public health in developing countries and hopes to continue to work in this field. She beganworking with AYUDA in 2012 and traveled to Ecuador with the organization over the summer. After having an amazing and eye-opening experience, she is excited to continue working with AYUDA this year and to apply what she has learned so far to her new role as a volunteer mentor.
Melanie is 18 years old and is from Los Angeles, CA. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2007 and has been living healthily and happily with it ever since. Melanie is an active volunteer, both with AYUDA and the JDRF, and enjoys dancing, babysitting, traveling, and spending time with her friends. Melanie first joined AYUDA in the summer of 2012 as a volunteer at Campo Amigo Ecuador and had, what she describes as, "the best experience of her life." After this amazing experience, Melanie is very excited about continuing with AYUDA and hopes to do so for many years to come!
Vanessa is 25 years old. She was raised in Haiti and moved to the United States to get her college education. She doesn’t have diabetes but her family has an organization that works with people with diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases, hence her link to diabetes. She first volunteered with AYUDA in the summer of 2012 in the Dominican Republic. It was an amazing experience for her. She is looking forward to going back this summer to reconnect with the kids.
James is 24 years old and lives in San Diego California or Tarragona, Catalunya. He is studying for a PhD in Catalan history at the University of California, San Diego where he also teaches history to undergraduate students. He has lived all over the world, from spending time in Kenya growing up. Living in Belgium and the Basqueland as a bike racer and teaching in Caracas. He spent last year racing bikes full time and travelling across Europe and the world to do so. He speaks Spanish, English, French and Catalan and makes an effort to be understood in Flemish. At the age of 18, while studying (and rowing) at Oxford University he was diagnosed with type one diabetes but hasn’t let this get in the way of his goals in life or on the bike.
Ali began volunteering with AYUDA in 2007 at Campo Amigo Ecuador. In 2008, she participated in AYUDA's first initiative in Bolivia. She has been to the Dominican Republic as a volunteer mentor twice. This Philly native received her bachelors degree in psychology from Cornell University and is currently finishing up her final year at Drexel University College of Medicine. She will be starting a residency in Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Brown University in June. Ali has volunteered and traveled extensively throughout South America. In addition to traveling she also enjoys running, cooking and seeing live music. She is looking forward to returning to the DR this summer for the Ganemosle program and working with the new volunteers and VMs!
Kristin began volunteering with AYUDA in 2007, and never stopped. She has been to Campo Amigo Ecuador three times and is excited to start volunteering in the Dominican Republic. Hailing from the great state of Indiana, she received her bachelors degree in bio-anthropology from Indiana University. After several years of working overseas in Brazil and South Africa she returned to school receiving a bachelors in nursing, followed by a master in anesthesia. Currently, Kristin works at the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center. Outside of work, she enjoys playing banjo, running, reading and watching movies with her dog. She is incredibly excited to join the DR team this summer for the Ganemosle program and working with the new volunteers.
Randy is a returning volunteer with AYUDA, having previously joined the Campo Amigo program in Ecuador in 2009. Randy is project manager for a construction firm in Washington, DC, where he is helping build a project at the National Institutes of Health. Randy previously lived in Spain while working as an English language teacher. Randy is a graduate of The George Washington University with a degree in International Affairs. In addition to AYUDA, Randy is also a volunteer mentor with BUILD, a non-profit organization that helps high school students in low-income communities develop academic and professional skills by creating and growing small businesses.