Board of Directors

CAREY SMITH-MARCHI

Carey was born and raised in a small coastal community in Northern California. She received her BA in Education from Emory College, and MBA from Emory’s Goizueta Business School. In her time at Goizueta, she traveled to Nicaragua with CommunidadConnect, where she was inspired by with the nation’s people, natural beauty, and collective community focus. She currently serves as Vice President for Strategy & Execution at SunTrust Bank driving enterprise strategy and transformational change initiatives. Prior to SunTrust, Carey was an Alumni Relations Manager for EY, leading development and delivery of the US alumni engagement strategy.

BEN THROWER

Ben Thrower M.D. is a neurologist and has served as the Medical Director of the Andrew C. Carlos MS Institute at Shepherd since 2001. Prior to that, he served as Medical Director of the Holy Family MS Center in Spokane, Washington. Dr. Thrower is the Senior Medical Advisor to the MS Foundation and has served on the boards of the Consortium of MS Centers and the Georgia Chapter of the National MS Society. He is the recipient of the Norm Cohn Hope Chest Award from the National MS Society and was the first physician inductee into the Georgia Chapter Volunteer Hall of Fame. He co-authored Navigating Life with MS and is the principal investigator on many clinical MS studies.

LESLIE STEWART

Leslie was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Syracuse University Leslie moved to Los Angeles where he worked in commercial real estate before joining the US Peace Corps. Leslie served as a Peace Corps Volunteer for 3 years while living in the department capital of Rivas in Nicaragua. He taught entrepreneurship to high school students and implemented various initiatives to support personal & professional development, financial planning, and leadership amongst locals.. Currently residing in San Juan del Sur, Leslie is an active real estate investor and consultant.

KAREN THROWER

Born and Raised in Jupiter, Florida, Karen attended college at Florida State University where she received her B.S. in biology. After receiving medical training from the University of Florida College of Medicine, she completed her pediatric residency in San Antonio at Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center. A tour of duty with the Air Force led her to reach the rank of major until her obligation was completed in 1995. After a trip to Nicaragua in 2014, Karen and her husband, Ben, immediately felt a connection with the people. This has led to a commitment of supporting the people of Los Robles, to introducing their experiences to their friends, colleagues, and family, many of whom have joined them on medical mission trips. She looks forward to continuing the goals of improving the quality of health and life for the wonderful people of Los Robles. Karen now practices general pediatrics and works part-time for a private practice in Marietta, GA

MAT MENDONCA

Mathew Mendonca spends his summers fighting forest fires in his home state of Oregon as a smokejumper. During the winters he has had the opportunity to travel in Latin America, and in 2010 he found himself in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, and began to collaborated with CC. He originally started as a Comunidad Connect volunteer, where Mathew co-founded and piloted the Nica Agua program. Mathew serves on the Strategic Planning committee.

MICHELLE MARINO DRILL

Michelle earned an English degree from Rollins College in 1998, and returned to her hometown of NYC to work as a Producer at VOGUE magazine. She eventually left publishing and moved westward to parlay her print experience into a production career in film and television in Los Angeles. In 2005, she and her husband made their first trip to Nicaragua, and fell in love with the vibrancy and authenticity of San Juan del Sur. They slowly transitioned their lives to Central America, where they dedicated their time to establishing a natural building firm, Casa de Tierra, believing that sustainable development answers the need for effective, efficient, and affordable housing. Michelle proudly joined the board of Comunidad Connect in 2014.

AUSTIN DRILL

Austin received a B.A. from Rollins College in 1999, and returned to New York City to begin a career in the real estate arena. He soon became a founding partner in a firm specializing in property acquisition and restoration. In 2005, he migrated west to continue his real estate education at UCLA, where he turned his focus to sustainable development. After several years of exploring progressive building techniques, Austin and his wife moved to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, where they founded, Casa de Tierra, a natural building firm that furthers a global effort to integrate environmentally responsible building materials into the construction industry. Austin soon began partnering with Comunidad Connect on projects, including the eco-construction of a bathroom for a schoolhouse in a rural community, and joined the board in 2010.

BRANDON PITTMAN

Brandon Pittman is a Senior Developer, Trainer, and Director of Business Development for Teksouth Corporation’s Huntsville Office, and currently resides in Madison, Alabama. With a technology degree in Computer Information Systems from Athens State University in 2003, Brandon has held many positions across multiple organizations in the defense industry. He got involved with Comunidad Connect after a visit to Finca el Peten and San Juan del Sur during a vacation in 2010 and has been an active board member since 2011. Brandon currently serves as the Vice Chair for Comunidad Connect. He is also a licensed Foster and Adoptive Parent in Madison County Alabama and enjoys spending time with his family, riding his motorcycle, and youth ministry in the ELCA Southeastern Synod

DAN ZAMBRANO

Dan is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, The George Washington University Law School, and Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he studied Entrepreneurship and Finance. An experienced negotiator, strategist, and adviser, he is a valuable new addition to our Board of Directors. Dan’s experience includes managing complex transactions, compliance projects and corporate governance in the United States and international markets. In his spare time, he enjoys fishing, flying (he holds a private pilot’s license), and hiking in the North Georgia mountains

KRISTINE WAGER

For more than ten years, Kristine has worked in the development field as a fundraiser, writer, field photographer, graphic designer and knowledge management specialist on major international projects. Before starting her own media consultation company, she created a multi-media communications campaign for UNICEF’s emergency program in the Philippines, incorporating content from 12 INGO partners. Kristine’s passion is giving a voice to growing organizations who make an impact on global suffering, regardless of their size or access to resources. She officially joined the board in March 2018.

CONTACT US:

info@comunidadconnect.org

PO Box 1687 Madison, Alabama 35758

Telephone: +1(404) 444-9147

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