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Our Team

East Africa Children's Hope grew from an idea among friends to a charity with the ability to help thousands of people in a life-changing way.

Melanie Dascenzo, MPA

and Co-Founder

Melanie discovered her love for Africa when she volunteered at Upendo in the summer of 2006. She found the teachers and caretakers to be compassionate and the children were eager for the education and love they received from the Upendo staff. Melanie oversees the progress of the EACH projects and manages their strategic direction. She received her MPA from New York University and currently works as the Senior Director of Financial Operations at White Plains Hospital.


Melissa Budnick Maliqi, MPH, MPA

Vice President
and Co-Founder

Melissa visited Africa for the first time in 2011. Overwhelmed by the staggering need for better education, the relentless optimism of the children she met, and the kindness of the communities, she began to dedicate her time to helping these young students grow to lead successful lives through education. Melissa manages the daily operations of the organization. She currently is a Financial Administrator at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.


Joan joined EACH in November 2018 as Finance Manager and Kenya In-Country Coordinator. The love and the desire to see young adolescent girls achieve their academic and career potential to become empowered citizens inspired her to work and support the Upendo girls. Joan's hold a bachelor's degree in Business Management with specialty in Finance. She has worked in the past as a project coordinator and administrator for both International and local organizations in Kenya. In addition to the work she does at EACH, Joan coaches young adolescent girls on life skills and offers mentorship services to Upendo and Tree house children's homes.

Joan Omini

Finance Manager/Kenya In-Country Coordinator

Patricia Gross_Breezy Ritter_Centennial_

Trish traveled to Kenya for the first time in 2011 and was overcome by the children’s positive attitudes and their providers’ hard work demonstrated their dedication and eagerness to succeed. Trish manages EACH’s social media platforms and newsletters using her skills from her background in community journalism and nonprofit/government. She is currently a project manager for Turner Construction in Denver.

Trish Gross, MUP
Director of Public Affairs

Sarah Zelazinski, MA
Director of Content Management


Sarah started fundraising with Melanie in 2010 after hearing about the kids and their need for education. Sarah recognizes the value of an education and wants to help the children of East Africa reach their potential. Sarah is responsible for the website content and serves as an editor for EACH documents. She is currently working as a consultant in the development and maintenance of clinical research trials at various locations throughout the US.


Jerome is a Ugandan who first learned about East Africa Children’s Hope through Co-Founder Melanie Dascenzo. The pair worked at Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala in 2009. Jerome learned about Melanie’s work with Good Hope and wanted to get involved. Jerome has a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and a Master’s degree in Health and Medical Law from the University of Melbourne. He has extensive experience working with both the Ugandan Government and in Uganda’s private sector. Jerome has served as a Policy fellow with UNAIDS/Together for Girls here and is also engaged in piggery business and hopes to become the largest distributor of pork and pork products in Africa. Jerome will serve as our Ugandan expert and will be consulted on anything and everything Uganda.

Jerome Owagage
Director of Cultural Affairs


Alex joined EACH in 2014 after learning about our mission and the impact of our programs on children education in East Africa.  He started his career as a lawyer almost 25 years ago in New York City after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and then worked at several financial institutions in the areas of finance and taxation.  Alex will be helping EACH with financial matters and project development.

Alex Mostovoi
Director of Finance


Renee learned about Upendo after Melanie returned from Africa in 2006, full of enthusiasm about the potential of the children of Upendo. Since then she has been actively involved in fundraising for Upendo. In 2009, she traveled to Africa and met the Upendo children, teachers and the Upendo Founder, Eunice Kamotho. Renee performs research, writing, editing and project management for all EACH proposals. She is an independent biomedical grant and manuscript editor as well as a project manager.

Renee Bronner Pessin
Director of Grants and Contracts


Linda became involved with EACH in the summer of 2009 when she accompanied Melanie to Kenya and met the Upendo children. She was moved by how Upendo accomplished so much with so little. The hope of these children inspired her to help them each reach their potential in both academics and society. Linda is a retired educator who most recently served as an academic consultant for a New Jersey charter school. During her lengthy educational career, Linda worked for the New York City Department of Education in several capacities as a general and special education teacher, a learning disability consultant, and a math and literacy coach. She oversees the applications for EACH's education-based grants.

Linda Seidenstein, M. Ed.
Director of Educational Programs

Be a part of our growing team of volunteers

We are always looking for dedicated professionals looking to make a difference.

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