Meet the Team

Our team brings an incredible amount of Global Village experience to our build in El Salvador! Collectively, we’ve been on 36 prior GV builds– and that’s not to mention all the time we’ve spent volunteering or even formally working for Habitat in the US! There’s a map and a list of all our previous experience at the bottom- but first, here’s the team:

Jess WilsonJess
Team Leader
Jess is honored to be the Team Leader for this amazing group of people! Jess first began volunteering on Saturday builds with her local Habitat affiliate in 2002, and the rest is history. She has lead multiple teams in the US for Habitat’s Youth Programming Department, as well as teams to Cambodia, China, and Ethiopia for Habitat’s Global Village program. She recently moved back to the US after living in Israel for the past 4 years; she has also lived in Thailand, Uganda, and Guyana. She is excited to introduce some team members to Habitat for the first time, and to hear lots of great GV stories from those who have been on previous builds!

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ThomasThomas Damsgaard
Hometown: Houston, TX
Thomas is Danish by birth but has lived in the US for +23 years and Lovin’ it. When not engaged in the Global Maritime World as an Executive, he is using his time serving on several non-for profit boards, competing in Triathlons and Duathlons including on Team USA and he has a passion for food and wine – still trying to perfect crème brûlée. Thomas has been a core volunteer for Habitat Dallas and been on Global Village builds in Sri Lanka and Cambodia, always with the goal of leaving a positive and lasting impact in support of the greater good in humanity, with a bit of fun thrown in along the way.

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Nicole GotbergNicole
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Nicole is a geologist who works to clean up contaminated groundwater. This will be her 8th GV build. She is a marathon runner who frequently fundraises for the leukemia and lymphoma society and also enjoys swing dancing. A California native, she has lived/worked in New Zealand and Peru, spent 6 months traveling around the world in 2011, and hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

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Gary PiersonGary
Hometown: Champaign, IL
I am the Construction Manager for Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County in Illinois. I have never been out of the country so all of this will be a new experience for me. We chose El Salvador as I have family that has been adopted from the country. As well as building, I am hoping to get some time in for hiking and fishing. Can’t wait to meet everyone!

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Brooke UnkuriBrooke
Hometown: Charlestown, RI
Hi! I work as a massage therapist at a holistic treatment center but in my free time I love hiking, reading a good book, traveling and spending time with my fiancé and our puppy. I have never been on a Habitat trip, but it has been something I have wanted to do for a long time and I am so excited to be a part of this!

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LukeLukas Rhoads
Hometown: Kansas City, MO (although soon to be changing, most likely to somewhere in Colorado)
I’m 33 and work in orthopedic surgery as a physician assistant. I enjoy being active (i.e. running, biking, and hiking), getting outside in nature, and traveling. This will be my 5th GV trip since 2009–3 to Guatemala and 1 to Honduras. I am looking forward to meeting all of you and doing some manual labor in a foreign country!

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Farah WongFarah
Hometown: Boston, MA
Farah is a preschool teacher and ESL teacher. She enjoys spending time with her family, trying new restaurants, going to art galleries and museums, volunteering and watching jeopardy. She has traveled extensively, but this will be her very first GV build and first time to El Salvador. She is excited about meeting and building alongside the community in El Salvador.

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LesLes Regher
Hometown: Shakopee, MN
Hi everyone! My name is Les. I currently reside in Minneapolis and have worked in the Special Investigation Unit at Prudential Financial for the past 11 years. I believe that I’ve got one of the most interesting jobs out there and really enjoy it. When I’m not working, I enjoy hiking and camping with my dog Jackson, running in half and full marathons (and an assortment of other fun runs), reading, traveling and of course volunteering. This will be my tenth GV trip. I’m looking forward to meeting you all.

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YoniYoni
I came to NY over 20 years ago from Israel to travel and study, but ended up calling NY home ever since! I have worked as a Fashion Designer for almost 20 years in NYC’s Fashion industry. After having been laid off my last job, I decided to scale down my hectic work life and enjoy a more balanced lifestyle (which include more travel and volunteering). My hobbies include Art, Design, photography, crafts, dancing, live music, movies, languages and travel… I have traveled throughout South & Central America, as well as the United States and Europe. I am excited to visit El Salvador for the first time! I also volunteer weekly with HFH in Coney-Island Brooklyn, assisting in home repairs after Sandy Super-storm; This will be my 2nd Global Village trip. My first trip was to Trinidad & Tobago, and I loved every minute of it! I am looking forward to meet and build with everyone!

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VinceVince Cook
Hometown: Brainerd, MN
Currently Vince is a custom furniture and cabinet maker, father of three and an itinerate traveler. He is very active, skiing in the winter, mountain biking in the summer and recently started Spartan obstacle racing. He has volunteered with housing builds in Boston for eleven years and now with Habitat for Humanity in Brainerd. This will be his first experience with Global Village. He has traveled to over 50 countries and is excited to be visiting El Salvador again.

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Karen GollingsKaren
Hometown: Chicago, IL
By day I work in Corporate America selling oatmeal and orange juice. I love to surf, standup paddleboard, visit national parks, and hike anywhere to see a beautiful view. I am so excited to make this trip with one of my favorite people, my sister-in-law, Kim, who is married to my brother. I have a lot of volunteer experience with kids, but this is my first Habitat build ever ! ¡ Hablo un poco de Español, por lo tanto estoy muy feliz visitar El Salvador y conocer a la gente !

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Leo

Leo Reece
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Leo is a Data Integration Consultant for a small IT consulting firm. Outside of work Leo enjoys playing flag football, softball, tennis, and attending concerts and performing arts shows. In addition to those, Leo also enjoys traveling. He has traveled to 18+ countries including Guatemala, where he went on his first habitat trip in January of 2012. This will be his second habitat trip. He is excited to meet new people, connect with previous trip mates, and to share this habitat experience with his best friend, Farah, just days before his birthday.

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Jean KurtenbachJean
Hometown: Lindsay, NE
My name is Jean Kurtenbach and I am excited to be part of the HFH team going to El Salvador. A little about myself: I recently retired from Lindsay Corp. in Lindsay, Nebr. where I had been employed for 39+ years. I live in Lindsay, a small town in the middle of Nebraska. I was raised on a farm south of town and attended Holy Family Catholic School-Lindsay for 12 years. I have one child, a son, who is married and lives in Calif. with his wife, Beth and my grandson, Sage. I love to travel and make several trips to visit them as well as going to other parts of the world. I have been a volunteer for HFH for approximately 17 years, building in Norfolk, Columbus & Grand Island, Ne. as well as going on a “blitz” build to Beius, Romania in 1999 where, with the help of 300 volunteers from all over the world, we built 10 houses in 9 days. It was truly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was also on a team building in Kauai, Hi. in 2009, a Women’s Build in Khujand, Tajikistan in 2010, Fiji in 2011 and the first ever Vietnam Veterans build in 2012, Macedonia in 2013 and Paraguay in 2014, I have been a member of the Board of Directors for the HFH affiliate in Columbus, Ne. since 2010. I am looking forward to this trip to El Salvador and I am anxious to meet our team and get to work.

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John WaiteJohn2
Hometown: Saratoga, CA
I’m mostly retired but still do a bit of work in facilities management. I enjoy all things outdoors and am lucky to live in a great area for cycling, sailing, and not too far from skiing. I love to travel and have done a few international hiking adventures with my college age son. This will be my second GV trip to El Salvador and I’m looking forward to working with a new team on a new project. See you soon!
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KimKim Gollings
Hometown: Champaign, IL
As a professional photographer, I have no pictures of just me so you get me and my kids. I also work for Habitat for Humanity in Champaign County. Many, many years ago I spent time backpacking alone through Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania This is my first GV trip but I am sure it will not be my last. Best trip thus far, white water rafting through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado river with Karen! Excited for good food, new friends, and building homes!

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Manny GarciaManny
Lutz, Florida
Hello everyone, my name is Manny Garcia. I’m originally from northern New Jersey but have been living in sunny Florida for the past 17 years. I work for Verizon as a network engineer in the greater Tampa area. I enjoy CrossFit and recently competed in my first competition. I’m a big fan of outdoor activities: hiking, camping, mountain biking, running and swimming. I am fluent in Spanish and love to travel. Having served in the Army and as a volunteer firefighter in NJ, I draw great satisfaction from serving not only my country, but my community and fellow man as well. As part of this great group, I now get the chance to help and make a difference abroad. This will be my second Habitat trip, my first was to Lanquin, Guatemala in 2012. I look forward to meeting you all, getting our hands dirty and building a home for a deserving family. I’m really excited about El Salvador!

 

Where we’ve been on GV builds:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia (2), China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala (7), Honduras, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Portugal, Romania (3), Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Trinidad & Tobago (2), United States (Alaska 2, Hawaii 1), Vietnam (2)

 

 

*If you’re using Internet Explorer as your browser, the formatting of this page might be a bit weird…apologies!

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