John Heers | Co-Founder & Director
John Heers is the former History Chair at Seacrest Country Day School and a co-founder of First Things Foundation. John worked overseas as a water resource manager in Mali, serving the Peace Corps for nearly three years. He studied history and education at Columbia University, earning a Masters Degree in 1993. By 1995 John was once again overseas working in the Georgian Republic overseeing the delivery of emergency relief to widows suffering the effects of the war in Abkhazia. After nearly nine years teaching in the South Bronx and Harlem in New York City, John took his family of five (now six) to Haiti where he and his wife assisted and taught at a tiny Orthodox Christian church in Port au Prince. Upon return he was invited to assist in the creation of a new independent high school, Seacrest Country Day School. John now works full-time for FTF.
Ryan Jobe | Co-Founder
Ryan Jobe is the 32 year old co-founder of First Things Foundation and was the first FTF Site Coordinator in country. He left for Adwa, Ethiopia in August of 2013. Ryan previously worked for Seacrest Country Day School, spending seven years working in the Mathematics and Technology Departments. During his summer months, Ryan spent valuable time in the non-profit world. In 2008, he joined Advance Africa and spent two months teaching in Kenya and Tanzania. Ryan then went on to co-found Basketball Beyond Boundaries, a sister organization of Ball For Change, and returned to East Africa in 2009 using basketball as a vehicle to teach about HIV/AIDS prevention in high-risk areas. Ryan returned from his FTF work in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, the Georgian Republic and Guatemala in 2014 and now works in Naples supporting FTF as an administrator.
Andrew Schwark | Executive Field Worker - Guatemala
In 2013 Andrew Schwark graduated with a BA in International Affairs and a minor in Arabic Studies. Along the road to graduation he spent eight months living in Amman, Jordan. There he studied Arabic, immersed in Jordanian culture and spent time alongside Jordanian students as they worked together to refurbish a dilapidated school. Returning from Amman Andrew began work at an artisanal pizza restaurant. There he managed a staff of nearly 50 people from all walks of life. During this time Andrew also spent time working with families at the Columbus Ronald McDonald house. Andrew is thrilled to have the chance to apply his passion for people and his studies in International Affairs to further the work of First Things Foundation in Guatemala .
Dan Padrnos | Field Worker - Sierra Leone
Daniel Padrnos is our new Site Coordinator in Sierra Leone. He grew up with a big family in Colorado and received his Engineering Management degree from Gonzaga University. During summers and between classes Daniel worked with a community in Tanzania to build a primary school, assisted Native American Tribes in the American northwest with water sanitation, and managed construction renovations for an underfunded private school. These projects instilled in Daniel the conviction that deep relationships are essential for generating positive progress. He’s stoked for all the challenges of living in Africa, he’s hungry for a warm slice of humble pie, and he’s ready to assist the Orthodox Mission of Sierra Leone in building orphanages, schools and a health clinic. While away from home Daniel will miss Hot ’n Spicy McChickens, climbing Colorado’s 14ers, and beating his brothers in basketball.
Sergio Castillo MD | Doctor - Sierra Leone
Sergio Castillo was born in Guatemala. Being the first of six siblings he understood the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity presented to him. His ambition led him to graduate third in his class as a Physician and Surgeon in the Salesian Mesoamerican College. His thesis, “The Use of Platelet-Rich Plasma as a Method of Autologous Regeneration in Ulcers Secondary to Vascular Insufficiency” is now a prominent publication. He has achievements in Health in Humanitarian Crises from the London School of Hygiene and Humanitarian Medicine and he has gained an understanding of drugs and addiction from the King College University. Sergio has oriented his life toward social and humanitarian development, volunteering as a medical doctor with nonprofits such TECHO and REKKO where he coordinated emergency housing construction and medical brigades at rural villages in Guatemala. He also participated in the foundation of the nonprofit HEALTH & HELP Guatemala, where he served as a physician, medical director and president of the board. Sergio is also passionate for immersing in different cultures. In 2017 he traveled to 50 different cities in Europe and Asia, spending the 9 months on a low budget and living out of a 30 liter backpack. He is excited to continue his work with First Things Foundation as a medical coordinator in Sierra Leone. There he is serving orphans, disabled war veterans, and families that have been affected by Ebola.
Tom Hornyak | Field Worker - Guatemala
Thomas grew up in Naples, FL and graduated with a B.S. in Innovative Design Engineering from Purdue in 2010. He served two years in Arua, Uganda as a high school math and science teacher with Peace Corps. Becoming tired of equatorial climates, he went off to the northern Rockies to work with the Montana Conservation Corps as a youth crew leader to live among glaciers and grizzly bears. Afterwards he dived into a more technical field as a fundraising specialist with AmeriCorps VISTA and the Maker Education Initiative in Stockton, CA to tinker with S.T.E.M. based activities. Being curious about organic produce, Thomas set forth to Rising Sun Farm in River Falls, WI to pick some serious beans. Deciding it was time to go abroad again, he worked on farms, home-stays and retreats all across eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey. In 2017, he found himself in the Virgin Islands with Red Cross helping with bulk distribution following hurricanes Maria and Irma. He just completed a season with WisCorps as a conservation crew leader based in La Crosse, WI. On his free time, he enjoys bicycling across countries, drinking way too much tea and attempting to pet every animal he sees.
Geena Pietromonaco | Photography and Media
Geena’s been in the Pacific Northwest her whole life, growing up in the Seattle area, going to school at Gonzaga University in Spokane, and currently residing in Portland. Geena has been deeply enamored with film and visual storytelling from an early age, most notably while watching Good Will Hunting. This and a myriad of other beautiful events in the Theatre Arts program at Gonzaga inspired her to pursue a career in acting and video production. She’s thrilled to be working with the amazing people at FTF, is extremely grateful for her time at site in Guatemala, and is eager to see what else is in store for this beautiful foundation.
Margaux Kremp | Development Intern
Margaux is from Paris, France. She graduated last June from a BA in Political Sciences from King’s College London and is now pursuing a Master Degree for Managing Non-Profit Organization at NYU. Having lived in four different countries in 22 years, Margaux is always excited for new adventures and discovering new cultures. Her last big trip was a two-month journey around South America last summer and she is currently planning a car rally from Paris to Mongolia in order to raise money for charities. Being on the field and working with children are her favorite aspects of any NGOs work. She often comes back to South Africa to help in an after-school center for children in one of the Cape Peninsula most challenging township; she has organized HIV prevention presentations and taught English to kids in orphanages. She also taught English to children and adults for a few weeks in a favela in Brazil; she had to create songs from scratch even though she claims that she doesn’t know how to sing. Especially since her trip to Guatemala, Margaux is excited to bring the knowledge she is gaining in her master about NGO Management to the First Things Foundation development and success.
*still under construction*
Mike Joseph, CPA
Fr. Hans Jacobse, Orthodox Priest
Rick Eich, SC Heating and Air
James Bauler, Cruxlove, Samaritans Purse (fmr)
Mike O'hara, Shaw Enterprises
Field Worker Alumnae
Reilly Dooris | February 2016 - August 2018
Reilly was not only essential to making FTF a success in Guatemala, but was critical in shaping FTF as an organization; helping to create a family and not just a non-profit. FTF would undoubtedly not be the same without him and to honor his work and dedication we have listed some of his achievments below during his 30+ months of service:
- Immersed, lived, and consulted with 26 low-resource entrepreneurs in mountain villages to help start or grow their nonprofits and businesses
- Learned to speak conversational K’iche and professional-level Spanish
- Helped to develop fundamental process for entrepreneurial project development, which became a core service offered by FTF
- Created preeminent field manuals on consulting practices, key growth indicators, volunteer involvement, immersion best practices, language acquisition, and building community trust
- Developed digital platform for in-field recording of project updates and entrepreneur growth metrics
- Created interconnected network of dozens of international and domestic collaborators to assist with local projects, accompanied by an auto-updating, digital map displaying volunteer involvement and connections
- Searched for, recruited, and interviewed over a dozen candidates for field positions