Leah Battillo is a special education teacher and board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) supervisor. She studied elementary education and linguistics and concentrated in special education and English as a second language at Gordon College. She was given the Presidential Award in 2014 for making significant contributions to the college and the community. She was the founder and director of Gordon College’s Beyond Disabilities Week, a 7-day event focusing on the topic of disabilities, which included Temple Grandin as the keynote speaker.
Leah was also the project coordinator and is a current team member on the internationally recognized Accessible Icon Project. Currently, over 40 states and 25 countries use the Accessible Icon symbol. In addition to this, she is the vice president of Mom of Multiples (a mom’s group that offers support to twin moms in the Lehigh Valley).
In 2017, Leah received a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis with an emphasis in autism from Ball State University where she received her BCBA license. Since then, she has been providing in-home supervision and training for parents and behavior technicians.
Before her move to Pennsylvania, Leah was a special needs consultant in her community and church, as well as an Outreach Coordinator, providing community relief during COVID-19 through events, food drives, volunteer opportunities, and local partnerships. In 2019, she became a Funds for Teacher Fellow, allowing her to travel to Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, and Holland with a Holocaust survivor from NJ’s Commission on Holocaust/Genocide Education. In addition, she manages a website and an Instagram page (@ParentTools) that supports parents who have children with behavioral needs.
Read more about Leah’s experience in her LinkedIn profile here.
Christine Allen has an MBA from MIT Sloan and is passionate about helping vulnerable children experience the fullest life possible. She is currently a Senior Program Manager in the Digital Transformation Office at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Read more about Christine’s experience in her LinkedIn profile here.
Jeff holds a Master of Divinity degree and currently serves as the Disability Services Director at JVS Boston. Jeff has committed his career to increasing workforce engagement and community access for people with disabilities. Over the past decade Jeff and his teams have equipped over 1,000 transition age youth and adults with disabilities to secure employment in the community. In recent years, Jeff has led a number of workforce development initiatives that have connected people in Greater Boston to the industry recognized credentials (i.e., ServSafe Food Handler and Certified Nursing Assistant certifications) that they need to participate in growth industries like hospitality and allied health.
In past years, Jeff has participated in innovative initiatives like IMPACT:Ability, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported initiative that empowered organizations and individuals with disabilities to prevent abuse, and Empowering People for Inclusive Communities, an organization that empowers transition age youth with disabilities to develop their leadership skills through community service.
As Kupenda’s Vice Board Chair, Jeff is responsible for overseeing Kupenda’s board and executive committee meetings. He works in partnership with the executive director to ensure Board resolutions are carried out and calls special meetings preparing board meetings agendas, organizing board evaluations of staff, and recruiting new board members.
Read more about Jeff’s experience in his LinkedIn profile here.
Keita Rone Wilson is a native of Detroit, Michigan and has worked in the field of special education over 20 years as a speech pathologist, special education teacher, educational consultant. Keita has both a MS and PhD in special education and is currently an Assistant Professor of Special Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She has taught courses that address inclusion and diversity. In addition to her work in teacher preparation programs, Keita is passionate about her research interest which includes studying how other cultures perceived and experienced disabilities. Keita is excited about working towards improving the lives of children with disabilities and their families through the mission and vision of Kupenda for the Children. In her role as Board Secretary, Keita records meetings minutes and ensures their accuracy, safety and availability.
Read more about Keita’s experience in her LinkedIn profile here.
Patty holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Pre-Med and a Master’s degree in Public Health. She has worked with several non-profits over the past 20 years, both in the U.S. and abroad, in multiple roles. In addition to her public health and research background, Patty has worked in corporate marketing, psychiatric program management, and as an area director for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. She has served on 11 different boards and actively volunteers within her community and abroad. Near and dear to her heart is her family’s work with the Chadalawada School (Pure Religion in Action [PRIA] Ministries) in India. Her experience in community and international development, as well as faith-based leadership, is a valuable resource for Kupenda.
As Kupenda’s Board Treasurer, Patricia manages the review of and action related to the board’s financial responsibilities. She also works with the executive director to ensure that appropriate financial reports are made available to the board on a timely basis.
Read more about Patricia’s experience in her LinkedIn profile here.
Daniel Huss has a B.A. in history from Gordon College in Massachusetts. He volunteered for a year in Khartoum, Sudan, working with a team doing relief work in North Darfur. He has worked for Bridgewell, a non-profit in the Boston area that works with adults who have intellectual disabilities. He is currently a carpenter in the Boston area.
Read more about Daniel’s experience in his LinkedIn profile here.
Caroline Kamau is a mother and domestic violence advocate from the Great Rift Valley, Kenya. She joined Miss Kenya USA in 2015 and continues working as an ambassador for Miss Kenya through her domestic violence platform. In 2017 she became the pageant president. Her background in volunteering and helping others has inspired many young people to volunteer and bring change to their communities. Caroline has also represented Kenya at the Annual International Human Rights Summit, organized a college preparation workshop for high school students in her community, and launched an ambassador program to help young women give back to their communities.
Read more about Caroline’s experience in her LinkedIn profile here.
Lauren is an experienced policy writer and author. After she earned an honors degree in English, she went on to write policy for multiple government agencies and contracting companies. She also wrote An Unlikely Gift, a book about Kupenda’s founding and growth. Lauren has a heart for Kupenda’s mission to serve children with disabilities because she underwent numerous pediatric health challenges herself. In addition to working with Kupenda in Kenya on multiple occasions, Lauren has hosted a variety of awareness and fundraising events. Without her fundraising efforts in the early stages, Kupenda would not be where it is today.
Her love of the children she met in Kenya is also evident in her devoted leadership of Kupenda’s board of directors. Lauren served as the board chairperson for over a decade. She currently serves in a non-voting ex officio capacity while also operating in a program support contracting role with an emphasis on writing and editing projects.
Read more about Lauren’s experience in her LinkedIn profile here.
Reverend Robert Mangi has been a pastor for over 30 years leading congregations at eight different Anglican churches in Kilifi County. He currently serves as the Archdeacon for the Anglican Church of Kenya in the Malindi Diocese. His church was the first one Kupenda worked with to include children with disabilities early in the organization’s development. The programs at this church serve as a model to other churches seeking to be more inclusive. Reverend Mangi’s work and experience helps Kupenda connect to other pastors in Kilfi County.
Jacob has been a primary school teacher for nearly 40 years and a pastor since 2012. He has also served as the head teacher at Magarine Primary School since 1995. Very early in his career Jacob met Kuhenza’s founder and director, Leonard Mbonani. Leonard and Jacob were teaching together and began to fundraise to pay the school fees of high-performing, impoverished children in their classes. Over the years, Jacob developed a deep passion for vulnerable children, particularly those with disabilities, and agreed to join the Kuhenza Board as an advocate for these young people. Although he will retire soon from teaching, Jacob wants to continue supporting these children through Kuhenza and a farming project he has started to provide nutritional support to special education schools and units in Kilifi. Jacob holds certificates in Primary Education and Theology, as well as a diploma in Education Management.
Gabriel has over 20 years of experience working as a teacher for children who are deaf. He was also the head of a special unit at the Gede Special School for children who are deaf or have physical disabilities. His extensive experience and attention to detail make him a strong Board Treasurer and great asset to the Kuhenza team.
In Kenyan nonprofit organizations, the executive director typically holds the role of secretary. In his role as board secretary, Leonard is responsible for ensuring that accurate and sufficient documentation exists to meet the Board’s legal requirements. In order to fulfill these responsibilities, Leonard records minutes of meetings, ensures their accuracy and availability, proposes policies and practices, submits various reports to the board, and maintains membership records.
Read Leonard’s full biography here.
As the CEO and founder of the organization, Cynthia continues to hold a position on the board. She provides the board with updates on both the U.S. and Kenyan operations in addition to financial reports. Cynthia facilitates the board’s strategic planning, decision making, evaluation and fundraising efforts. Read Cynthia’s full biography here.
Francis Robert Katoi Kalu has been the Bishop of Kenya’s Mombasa Diocese Anglican Church since 1994. In addition to providing spiritual guidance and counsel to the Kupenda/Kuhenza teams, Bishop Kalu has extensive teaching and nonprofit management experience. He has served as an executive member of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, a council member of the Technical University of Mombasa, Executive Chairman of the Shanzu Teachers’ Training College, Executive Chairman of Godoma Secondary School, a council member of the Coastal Interfaith Council of Cerics, a board member of the Mama Nguni Girls High School, Executive Chairman of Kilifi County Leaders Association. He has also been in charge of relief food distribution in Ghanzi, Malindi, Taba Delta, and the Galole Constituency for more than 10 years. Bishop Kalu has earned multiple diplomas in education and theology from Kenyan training institutions and a master’s degree in theology from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has also completed vocational training programs in advanced adult education, ecumenics, and AIDS awareness in both Kenya in the United States. Bishop Kalu is fluent in Kiswahili, English, Kigiriama and Hebrew.
Susanne King has more than 30 years of experience working as a social pedagogue (a teacher and social worker) in Denmark, Tanzania, Zambia, and Kenya. She served both the Danish Council and Danish Refugee Aid as a family counselor and worked as a development professional and nutrition group coordinator in Zambia. Susanne also served as headmistress at the Nordic School in Dar es Salaam and as Deputy Head of a Nature at a kindergarten in Denmark. She has experience working with teenage mothers, families with alcohol issues, and young adults with special needs and has earned diplomas in adult education and business administration.
Dr. Kathryn Quissell is an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia, and a researcher with expertise in global health policy, advocacy, and governance. She has a PhD in Public Administration and Policy from American University, an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University, and an MSc in Health Policy, Planning, and Financing from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the London School of Economics. In her work with Kupenda, Dr. Quissell is helping the team design and implement assessments of their advocacy work in order to better understand the root causes of disability-related stigma and discrimination, and how to mitigate these factors to improve inclusion and access to healthcare and education. As a member of the Advisory Board, she advises the organization on their monitoring and evaluation work, their data dissemination, and their internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.
Read more about Dr. Quissell’s experience in her LinkedIn profile here.
Dave Deuel, PhD, has held various leadership roles related to disability advocacy, including as Joni and Friends regional director for San Fernando Valley, CA, as well as Wheels for the World international instructor. He also helped start a chapter of the National Down Syndrome Association and served with Parent to Parent services for parents of children with disabilities.
Britta Magnuson is a health care professional and researcher who has been supporting Kupenda’s work for more than 10 years. Britta provides pro-bono writing, editing and event planning support to the organization. She also sponsors two children in Kenya.
Suzanne van de Visser has been a pediatric nurse since 2005. She also spent 2 years volunteering in Benin, Togo and South Africa for the organization Mercy Ships. She is a foster parent through Fostering Hope Merrimack Valley and also has 3 adopted children. In addition to her nursing degree, Suzanne completed a Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) trauma training. She currently serves as a Board Member for Kupenda and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Haverhill.
Heidi Busch is a health and human services professional who currently focuses on monitoring, evaluation, and data analytics. She has a background in refugee health, international development and psychology.
Read more about Heidi’s experience in her LinkedIn profile here.
Jon Busch is an advertising and marketing copywriter who has been supporting Kupenda for more than 12 years and who advises the organization on their marketing and fundraising strategies.
Read more about Jon’s experience in his LinkedIn profile here.