La mano amiga: Our Team


Germán Velasco, Co-Founder, President and Executive Director

Educated in the United States and Bolivia, Governor Velasco was privileged to hold posts as a top-level public servant in his home country, and for two years he served as the Governor of La Paz, the most populous province in Bolivia. He also held the post of Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs in the Bolivian national cabinet. Governor Velasco is an experienced writer and director whose career spans television, radio, documentaries, and newspaper columns targeting both U.S. and Bolivian audiences.

As vice president of Foqus SRL, the most important movie and television production house in Bolivia, he was the executive producer for New York writer/producer Sally Hunter’s documentary, Testimonies for Yesterday, Today, and Forever. Also an editorial writer, Governor Velasco has contributed to most major Bolivian newspapers. In the United States, he has written for La Columna Vertebral (The Support Column), an advice column published by more than 200 Hispanic newspapers. He was also founder and publisher of Vivir Santa Cruz Magazine and Segunda Mano Newspaper, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Ellen Alderton, Co-Founder, Executive Secretary and Director for Education

Ms. Alderton lived overseas for thirteen years and has worked and studied in six foreign languages. She received her A.B. in psychology from Wellesley College and her M.A. in international relations and economics from Johns Hopkins University SAIS. Ms. Alderton has worked for various international and multicultural causes. She launched two computer training programs for the International Atomic Energy Agency, served as a journalist covering European Union technology policy in Brussels, executive-produced hundreds of educational radio spots serving U.S. Latino audiences, and oversaw marketing efforts for the Peace Corps' university programs. She has taught writing and business communications at Marymount University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

David Bruce Leonard, Vice President

Mr. Leonard is a practitioner and teacher of all five branches of traditional Chinese medicine: acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, dietary therapy, and martial arts exercises. He has studied traditional medicines with healers in Asia, North and South America, and Hawaii, and has a working knowledge of more than 400 traditional plants. He lectures and teaches on cross-cultural uses of plant medicines, environmental concerns, traditional plant gathering practices, subgenius perspectives, and pragmatic approaches to health care.

Kathryn Janak, Treasurer

Ms. Janak received her B.S. in environmental design from the University of Colorado at Boulder and her master of interior design from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has over 25 years of experience in architectural direction and design and has received numerous awards for her work including from the American Society of Interior Designers and the National Home Builders Association. She has worked on project sizes ranging up to 300,000 square feet and has a particular interest in creating spaces for the elderly.

Advisory Board

Joel Cohn received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his J.D. from the Washington College of Law at American University. His areas of expertise include affordable housing for low- and moderate-income individuals, and he currently serves as legislative director for the Washington, D.C. Office of theTenant Advocate.

Ayo Heinegg studied at Brown University and Cornell University. She began her career as a development economist before discovering her love of teaching. She now works as a bilingual teacher and academic adviser at an inner city charter school serving primarily low- and moderate-income children.

Pablo Pardo studied at the University of Navarra in Spain and at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. As Washington correspondent for El Mundo, the second largest daily newspaper in Spain, he covers a broad range of stories on the United States ranging from politics to economics and society for international audiences.

Dr. Paul Posner is associate professor of political science at Clark University. Dr. Posner's research focuses on democratization and political participation in developing regions, particularly Latin America. He is also interested in social organization and collective action in both developing and developed nations. Dr. Posner received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Constance Werner Ramirez holds degrees from Wheaton College, Yale University, and Cornell University. A national expert in urban planning and historic preservation, she directs the National Park Service’s Federal Preservation Institute. She has further overseen projects for the U.S. General Services Administration, the National Park Service, and the Department of the Army, and she has taught preservation planning at universities throughout the greater Washington D.C. area.

Dr. Robert Russell is a national expert in the area of informal learning. He is founding director of Acceso la Ciencia (Access Science) one of the country’s largest science education projects targeting Latinos, and he also founded and directs Pulso Global News, a national Spanish-language science news service. Dr. Russell received his Ph.D. from Cornell University.

Nelly Rojas Schwan, Ph.D., LCSW, ACSW is a social work practitioner and an assistant professor at Saint Joseph College. Dr. Rojas Schwan has worked with underserved populations for 30 years. She was drawn to social work in the late 1960s when priests rooted in liberation philosophy were advancing ideas of social justice and political activism, and she considers her profession to hold social justice as a core value. Dr. Rojas Schwan received her Ph.D. from Smith College.

Monica Villavicencio, a freelance writer and journalist, has managed national social marketing campaigns for Latino audiences broadcast across Hispanic Communications Network. She held a Kroc Fellowship with National Public Radio and has served as a correspondent for America Abroad Media. Ms. Villavicencio holds degrees from Columbia University and the London School of Economics.