The all-volunteer Management Team is responsible for the majority of day-to-day operational activities and includes four Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Nicaragua.
Ashley Martin Wendt, Executive Director
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
- Nelson Mandela
Ashley served as a Community Health Peace Corps Volunteer from 2006 to 2008 in San Miguelito, Nicaragua, a small village on the coast of Lake Nicaragua in the Department of Rio San Juan. Her primary focus was youth group development and training adolescents as health promoters. She also worked in her local schools and community based birthing center. In 2011, Ashley returned to Peace Corps as a Response Volunteer in Belize working with the United Nations Development Programme as a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist on their Global Fund HIV Grant.
Ashley grew up in South Carolina and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from the College of Charleston. After Peace Corps, she attended Tulane University, earning her Master of Public Health Degree with a focus in Maternal and Child Health and International Health and Development. For over ten years, Ashley has worked in the public health nonprofit world. She is excited to be able to bring her nonprofit experience to Help Educate and its mission in Nicaragua.
Benjamin Nathanson, Development Director
"While other non-profits provide university scholarships, we at Help Educate are diligently working to ensure that these scholars lead Nicaragua’s development tomorrow. Although I’m over 3,000 miles away from Ocotal, Nicaragua, Help Educate has afforded me an opportunity to continue working with the people and communities I so deeply miss for their own economic and social development."
Ben served as a Public Health Peace Corps Volunteer based in Ocotal, Nicaragua from 2005 to 2007. During his service, Ben created the “Gran Sueno” project, training youth in video journalism. Understanding the importance of leadership development and serving in a central location for Help Educate students, Ben joined the team.
Ben is a Senior Vice President at Ichor Strategies, a public affairs consultancy headquartered in New York City. Before joining Ichor, Ben was the Policy Director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and served as policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Chairman Charles Schumer’s leadership committee. He also served as a health policy advisor to Senator Chris Dodd and Senator Tom Udall.
Ben grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He received his Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies and Legal Studies from Northwestern University in 2004. After his service, Ben earned a Master's in Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins University.
David Metres, Secretary
"Help Educate represents the best of collaborative, volunteer efforts to remake our world into a better place. Our community-based selection committees select deserving students from impoverished backgrounds who exhibit leadership potential. The committees then oversee the student's performance in college and arrange community service projects in their home communities, ideally employing the new skills our grant recipients learn in college. Back here in the United States, our Management Team and Board of Directors all volunteer to ensure the organization has a strategic programmatic vision and sufficient funding to continue providing Nicaragua's future leaders with opportunities. Help Educate embodies the vision that it takes a global village to raise our children."
Dave lived and worked in El Jicaral, Nicaragua as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Environmental Education sector from 2004 to 2006. A graduate of Northwestern University and University of California, Hastings College of the Law, he now practices environmental law at Barg Coffin Lewis & Trapp, LLP in San Francisco, California. He has been working with Help Educate since 2005, and looks forward to continuing growth and opening up new opportunities for Nicaraguan youth through Help Educate's second decade of programming.
Melissa Matlock, Program Manager
“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” - B.B. King
Melissa grew up in the small town of Yorkville, IL. She served as a community economic development volunteer with Peace Corps in Nueva Virginia de Siquirres, Costa Rica, where she worked to build the capacity of a local community credit organization. Melissa holds a Bachelor’s degree in Global Studies and Economics from North Central College. She currently works for AZMJ, an international development consulting company specializing in agriculture and rural finance and enterprise development. Melissa has worked with Help Educate since 2013.
Ryan LeMier, Program Coordinator
"Pues si te empeñas en soñar te empeñas en aventar la llama de tu vida.” -Ruben Dario
Ryan served as an Agriculture and Food Security Peace Corps Volunteer in Chinandega, Nicaragua from 2011-2013 where he helped promote organic fertilizers and pesticides, agro-forestry techniques, farmer loan programs, women's baking groups and low-cost irrigation technology. He currently works at Results for Development Institute in Washington D.C.
Ryan also serves as a member of the working group at the Trinidad Conservation Program which supports sustainable agriculture and rural livelihood in Honduras.
Ryan received a BS from the University of Dayton where he studied environmental biology and Spanish. He is currently completing his master's degree from the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources focusing on international development.
Lydia Olivas, Nicaragua Program Manager
"El trabajo voluntario es una de mis características porque considero que cada persona de la comunidad debe devolver sin interés económico lo que sus raíces le regalan. Como soy maestra de primera profesión me encanta enseñar, aprender y que las personas apliquen lo que saben y lo reproduzcan. Por eso me motiva apoyar proyectos educativos que generen mayores conocimientos en las personas para que puedan transformar la realidad de sus comunidades hacia el desarrollo. Me llena de orgullo saber que en mi país la juventud pueda tener derecho a estudiar sin ninguna discriminación y se conviertan en profesionales haciendo algo por el desarrollo para que las familias vivan calidad de vida, quiero apoyar de alguna manera para que poco a poco mi país salga de la pobreza y siempre he pensado que solamente con profesionales de calidad lo podemos lograr.
“Desde el año 2002, siendo Directora de la Universidad del Norte de Nicaragua, John Kuenhle, me comentó del proyecto de becar estudiantes de El Jícaro Nueva Segovia, de la existencia de comités de becas y de las gestiones para la ejecución del proyecto; con gusto le ofrecí matricularlos en la universidad para apoyar el proyecto. De esa manera les daba seguimiento porque me gustó la idea de que personas jóvenes extranjeras quisieran apoyar a la juventud en Nueva Segovia y Nicaragua. Poco a poco fui dándome cuenta de todo el proyecto e involucrándome en las acciones de voluntariado (reuniones, monitoreo, seguimiento a las calificaciones etc). Desde mi trabajo de Ayuda en Acción yo visitaba los municipios donde había estudiantes becados y eso me facilitaba poder reunirme con ellos e informar a la Junta Directiva. Este actuar se convirtió en un compromiso para mí, de manera que estoy enamorada del proyecto porque tiene resultados en los egresados que hoy están desempeñándose exitosamente y estoy segura que vale la pena invertir en personas que quieren salir adelante en sus proyectos de vida a través de la profesionalización."
"Volunteer work is one of my defining characteristics because I think that each member of a community should give back to repay the gifts bestowed by one's roots. As a professor, I love to teach, learn, and ensure that my students apply and reproduce what they have learned. That is what motivates me to support educational programs, so that young people can transform the realities of their communities. It fills me with pride to know that in my country, the youth have the right to study without discrimination and can become professionals contributing toward development, so that their families can live a higher quality of life. I want to help in some way so that little by little my country overcomes poverty, and I have always believed that only through quality working professionals can we reach that goal.
“In 2002, when I was Director of the Universidad del Norte de Nicaragua, John Kuenhle told me of his initiative to offer scholarships to students in El Jícaro, Nueva Segovia via local selection committees, I was happy to enroll the students in the university to support the project. I supported the students because I liked the idea of young people from another country who wanted to support youth in Nicaragua. I became involved in the project as a volunteer, holding meetings with the selection committees and monitoring the progress of the students. Since I frequently visited the communities of the scholarship recipients through my work at as part my work at the nonprofit Ayuda en Acción, I was able to meet with the students and follow up with the selection committees. This became my personal commitment to Help Educate. I remain passionate about the scholarship program because of the changes I have seen in the graduates, who are growing as individuals successfully. I am certain that it is worth it to invest in young people who hope to move forward in their personal goals through becoming professionals."
Lydia is the Program Manager for Help Educate, and lives in Ocotal, Nicaragua. She is the manager of the Citizenship and Governance program at the Instituto de Liderazgo de Las Segovias and also volunteers as secretary of the local city commission.