Development Team

Helping Three Rural Communities in Ecuador

Meet Our Project Team

The Development Team is the functional foundation of the Healthy Living Initiative. Team members are of interdisciplinary backgrounds in international studies, biomedical studies, communication studies and other majors. The diversity of the team members’ backgrounds and experience has made the initiative more comprehensive and efficient. Based on a weekly meeting, Team members meet each week to share their ideas and the tasks they have worked on. 

Grijalva Dr. Mario J. Grijalva  is director of the Infectious and Tropical Disease Institute at Ohio University. Since 1992, he has continued his research of Chagas disease in Ecuador and created infrastructure and collaborations with local professionals. Despite the ample amount of information  generated from these years of investigation, the living conditions of the people are affected by Chagas disease in these areas has changed little in the past decade. Due to the hard work and dedication of a group of Ecuadorian scientists, Dr. Grijalva has been able to convince the government organizations in the area to support this initiative. Its aims and purpose are recognized both nationally and internationally, which adds to the value of the project. 

Current Members

Esteban Baus

Project coordinator for the Center for Infectious Disease Research at Catholic University of Ecuador. He supervises all of project activities in country and coordinates with the Development Team and project director at Ohio University.

Claudia Nieto

Graduate student in Ohio University's  Communication and Development Studies program and African Community Health. She’s particularly interested in designing, implementing and evaluating health communication strategies, especially at the community level. Her work with the Healthy Living Initiative focuses on coordinating the Development Team at Ohio University and supporting the community intervention in Ecuador. She is currently designing a research project on introducing "Healthy Houses" in the communities of Chaquizca, Bella Maria and Guara.  

Zachary Lawless

Second-year graduate student in Ohio University's International Development Studies Department who is working with the Healthy Living Initiative to develop grant applications to fund the program's projects in Ecuador. He aspires to work as a project manager in emergency/disaster relief affairs in developing countries. 

Chikondi Khangamwa

Also known as Chiko, Khangamwa is a first-year master's student in Ohio University's Communication and Development Studies program who hails from Malawi. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health and has spent more than 10 years working for international nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). He has worked on developing tools for social network mapping and is currently working on branding and message development for the Healthy Living project. His major motivation is exploring communication solutions to community challenges with community members and he is looking forward to visiting Ecuador next summer. 

Santina Da Cruz

Graduate student in Ohio University's Communication and Development Studies program and African Community Health.  She is particularly interested in maternal and child health communication, and plans to focus on community mobilization, mass media and entertainment education. She did a service-learning project in the Healthy Living Initiative in fall 2012. She focused mostly on developing message briefs and organizing fund-raising activities. She speaks Tetum, English, Indonesia and some Portuguese.

Darwin Guerrero

He is the Health Living Initiative's technical facilitator and is stationed in Cariamanga, Ecuador. He is in charge of  implementation of activities in the terrain and the relations with the community and local partners.

Conor Tong

He was born in Massachusetts and grew up outside of Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, majoring in history and minoring in anthropology. After graduating, he worked for three years as an agriculture volunteer and later a volunteer leader in Chinandega, Nicaragua, for the U.S. Peace Corps. He is currently studying international development studies in the Center for International Studies at Ohio University. His research interests include nature-society relationships, food production systems and food sovereignty within a region, focusing on Latin America.

Leigh Oczkowski

Her undergraduate education was at Dickinson College as a history major with a Latin American concentration. She is a graduate student in Latin American Studies at Ohio University. She serves as the Healthy Living Initiative's Latin American Studies representative. She works on events such as the Latin American Cultural Night, as well as other activities that will help with fund raising for the Healthy Living Initiative. 

Adesola Olulayo Ogundimu

Also known as Layo, she is a graduate student in the Information and Telecommunication Systems program at Ohio University. In 2011, she volunteered as a trainer of adolescent peer educators on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health under the National Youth Service Scheme of her home country, Nigeria. Under the same scheme, she worked as an independent monitor for the WHO/Federal Ministry of Health polio immunization program. Layo’s work with the Healthy Living Initiative's Development Team has included transcribing the institute’s video documentation of the 2012 study abroad program for use in multimedia productions, as well as web content development for the Healthy Living Initiative Graduate Student Research Experience. She is interested in the use of information and telecommunication systems as tools for socio-economic development through the promotion of unrestricted access to information.

Past Members of the Development Team

Thanks for Your Contribution to the Project

Carolina Proaño Castro, M.A.  (2010 - 2011) graduated from Ohio University's Communication and Development Studies program. While at Ohio University, she worked on a project proposal on health and environmental education around water issues in Loja province, Ecuador. She has been passionate about biodiversity conservation, environmental sustainability and human development since her undergraduate years as a biology student and has shaped her understanding of the role and responsibility as a young scientist since then. With the idea of bridging the gap between science and social development, she joined the Healthy Living Initiative at the Infectious and Tropical Disease Institute as a volunteer project coordinator.  


Josh Vetter (2011 - 2012) is a second-year graduate student in Ohio University's International Development Studies program. From 2008-2010, he worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia in the areas of new business development, sustainable agriculture, and agroforestry. His involvement on the Development Team included proposal writing and data analysis. Working with the team gave him experience with an exciting and active development project. At the completion of his degree in 2013, he looked forward to continuing his career in southeast Africa in the area of project management.


Hoang Nguyen is a graduate student in Ohio University's Communication and Development Studies program. Her research interest focuses on media management and broadcasting for minority groups in a pluralistic society. She has worked with Healthy Living project in social networking, developing website content and organizing events for fund raising. She speaks Vietnamese, English, Chinese, and some Italian.


Carolina Novella (2009 - 2011)


Katie Schlaudt is a graduate student studying international development and African community health.  As an undegraduate at Ohio Wesleyan, she studied French, Spanish, and Latin American Studies.  Her research interest has focused on refugee health, cancer in Athens County, Ohio, and the Mexican migrant experience. Her work with the Healthy Living project involved creating a website.

Luis Rejano M.A. (2010 - 2011) graduated with a master's in international affairs from Ohio University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Universidad de Sevilla in Spain. He has two years of experience working in the field of international development. As a graduate student, he worked for the Healthy Living Initiative at the Infectious and Tropical Disease Institute and coordinated the development team in Loja province, Ecuador, during the implementation of program activities in summer 2011. Upon returning to his home country of Spain, he collaborated with Solidaridad Internacional-Andalucía by assisting the International Development Department with final and technical reports and updating the database of funding sources. He also teamed up with the Asha Shanti Foundation developing a communication strategy for their project Home of Esperanza in Chunabatti, West Bengal, India. He is currently an Atlas Corps Fellow in Bogota volunteering at Fundacion Escuela Nueva. There, he works as a development assistant on the communication team. He is a native of Spanish and also speaks English, French and Portuguese.


Monica Thuney (2011 - 2012) graduated with a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies. Her research interests involve gender and development in Latin America and agricultural worker's rights in Central America. Her work with the Healthy Living project involved housing analysis and the Healthy Living Initiative Housing Report. This report was used in 2012 in building and improving houses in Chaquizca, Ecuador


Liliana Acevedo Callejas  (2011) is a second-year graduate student in communication and development studies. She’s also pursuing a Certificate in Gender Studies. Her research interest is in narrative and representation and gender roles, relations and power. She enjoys traveling and hopes to work as a visiting scholar or researcher. She worked with the Healthy Living project on collecting stories from the community's elders, aiming to do participatory sketching with fragments from those stories.


Mary Bumpus (2010 - 2011)


Gonzalo Perez (2009 - 2011)