Kristin Van Busum
Founder & CEO
Kristin has over ten years of experience as a scholar and an advocate for resilient communities. She has worked in New York City on public health initiatives to prevent obesity, helped families in need in Mexico secure stable housing, and provided counseling to incarcerated women in Indiana. Prior to founding Project Alianza, she served as Manager of Health Advisory Services at RAND Corporation, a global policy think tank. Kristin has earned degrees from Butler University and New York University, and is a Fulbright Scholar.
Amalia Castellanos AltamiranoNicaraguan Country Director
Born in a remote community in Nueva Segovia and as a long-term resident of Matagalpa, Amalia knows the realities of farm life and rural educational structures in the coffeelands. Amalia brings a strong vision for promoting social mobility through action: she believes that real progress will be achieved by opening doors to economic and educational opportunities to the most vulnerable populations in Nicaragua, mainly women and children. Amalia has dedicated her life to being part of this change as a manager, educator, advocate and campaigner in social impact organizations, including Fundación Mujer y Desarrollo Económico Comunitario (FUMDEC) and Grupo Venancia. Amalia has degrees in Sociology and Business Administration, from Universidad del Norte de Nicaragua and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua, respectively.
Amalia leads the actions, programs and operations in Nicaragua to bring the vision of Project Alianza to life. She works to develop strategies and build relationships with farmers, families and children to do what she does best -- promote social change through educational opportunities.
Yolanda Esperanza Méndez HernándezCommunity Allies Program Manager
Yolanda’s work has revolved around the serving the most vulnerable sectors of society, especially women, children, and youth. She comes from a rural agricultural family and immigrated to a community near Matagalpa when she was 19. She became a community leader, and then began working for “Asociación para el Desarrollo Integral Comunitario,” a community development NGO. There, she coordinated several projects including a relocation project after hurricane Mitch. Yolanda went back to school to get a BA in Sociology with a concentration in Social Work and Development. She worked for a private school in Matagalpa as an instructor, curriculum developer, and mentor for a debate team that participated in an international championship. Yolanda is dyslexic but has not allowed that to become an obstacle to fulfill her professional goals.
Yolanda is leading Project Alianza’s Community Allies Program (CAP): Enhancing learning through literacy, e-learning, health, and environmental education. She trains and supports community allies to be effective instructors in the communities they serve.
Loyda Maria Davila SalinasMonitoring and Evaluation Manager
Loyda Maria Davila Salinas was born and raised in Matagalpa. Last year she culminated her studies and earned a B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in Social Work and Development from the Universidad del Norte de Nicaragua. She is passionate about working towards building a better and dignified society through education. Since 2010, Loyda has been an active volunteer in various projects, including “Funcadión Cadena Cici Lagos y Vidas sin Cancer,” and “Conanca,” which support children battling cancer and their families. She has worked on Monitoring and Evaluation projects at the “Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas” and the “Instituto Nacional Tecnológico.”
Loyda is supporting Project Alianza’s evidence-based approach by conducting Monitoring and Evaluation for the Community Allies Program, and by mentoring the recipients of Katie’s Fund, our scholarship program.
Elizabeth Perezlead teacher
Elizabeth is our team's lead teacher who works (and lives) on the front lines with kids living on coffee farms. She joined our team during summer 'harvest' camp in 2015, and through her overt passion and dedication quickly became a student favorite! Elizabeth creatively manages a one-room classroom by helping students develop problem-solving skills, compassion, respect for the environment and independence. Elizabeth is originally from a rural community in Matagalpa, and the second youngest in a family of six. Most of her siblings and friends did not go to school, so she understands the importance of a strong support network to make education accessible for kids in rural contexts. Elizabeth credits her siblings, especially one of her older brothers, as her main influence to work towards a career in education. She took a leap to pursue her dreams and in 2016, completed her teaching degree at Escuela Normal in Matagalpa.
Elizabeth's is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in Language and Literature on Saturdays. She believes that having an education is the most fundamental part in a human’s development, especially when it helps define the destiny of her beloved home country, Nicaragua.
Camila de la VegaProject Alianza Princeton in Latin America Fellow
Growing up in Bolivia made Camila keenly aware of the deep educational disadvantage at-risk children face, and sparked a passion for education that has been growing with every experience she pursued to expand her knowledge on what interventions are the most effective. She graduated from Carleton College with a degree in International Relations/Political Science (2016). After college, Camila served as an Americorps volunteer at an elementary school dedicated to underserved communities in Boston. She enjoyed learning more about the hands-on aspect of education, and being challenged by her students to become a better communicator, instructor, and mentor.
Camila is very grateful for the opportunity to join the team at Project Alianza, and hopes to make a contribution to the education of children in the coffeelands through the development of Alianza's technology and literacy program, and through fundraising.
Tyler WrightGlobal Engagement Manager
Tyler is our resident volunteer in Nicaragua, but his beginnings at Project Alianza trace back to an Alianza event in Indianapolis. Along with the rest of the attendees, he was invited to witness Project Alianza’s work firsthand on an Advocate’s Trip. Three visits to Nicaragua, several piñatas, and plates of gallo pinto later, it became apparent it was time to stay.
Tyler captures and curates the stories told through Project Alianza’s work to share with present and future allies. Inspired repeatedly by Nicaraguans desire for a better education, Tyler’s devoted to connecting those stories to like-minded people in the states. He hopes to continue being a part of the movement to bring quality education to all despite the geographical or socioeconomic limitations a child is born into. He’s also a major coffee nerd and will talk about it as long as you let him.
Prior to Project Alianza Tyler worked in Finance. He graduated with a BA in Journalism from Indiana University.
Michelle BaltrusitisMarket Research Intern
Michelle is currently a rising Senior at Emory University studying Consulting at Goizueta Business School with a double major in Spanish. This past semester, Michelle took a class at Goizueta called Social Enterprise in Nicaragua in which her passion for working in the nonprofit sector was ignited, specifically after taking a nine-day trip to visit nonprofits and coffee farms all across Nicaragua.
Michelle is heavily involved on campus as the Vice President of Community Engagement on her BBA Council. Through this position, she hopes to foster a greater connection between the business school and the Atlanta community, as well as provide more opportunities for business students to work in the nonprofit sector.
This upcoming summer, Michelle will be working as an intern for Project Alianza on a market entry recommendation. She will conduct expansive research with the team in order to suggest the best strategic move for Project Alianza’s future expansion. She is excited for the challenge and ready to form part of the team!