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 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.
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
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.
Allie is a junior at Loyola University Chicago, where she is studying International Affairs, Spanish and Chemistry. She currently works as a pharmacy technician. She has lived in the Spanish Basque Country, studying Spanish language and culture while tutoring three children. Allie has helped out at the First Things site in Momostenango, Guatemala, and plans to continue service work abroad in the future.
A few month ago, Abel decided to leave his comfortable corporate career to start a new journey in an attempt to live out limitless love as a servant. He maintains a spirit of directed curiosity with optimism and has fun while playing his part to drive humanity toward a brighter tomorrow. FTF is excited to have Abel and his skills on board (not to mention his fly blue suit).
Jo Ann Miksa-Blackwell is a deeply inspired creative individual with a contagious enthusiasm for social entrepreneurship. Some of her non-profit experience includes Mountain BizWorks/BizCapital (CDFI), USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher Program and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. Educational accomplishments consist of a Bachelor of Science Business Administration (BSBA) and a Masters of Entrepreneurship (MA), from Western Carolina University.
Mike Joseph is a finance and operations executive with Arden Place Associates. He has diverse interests and has worked in a variety of diverse business environments, including financial services (corporate, holding company, and family office), distribution, manufacturing operations, real estate development and investment management, and public accounting.
Michael Ohara graduated from Villanova University in 1987 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. In 2000, he received his MBA from FGCU. For the past 25 years Michael has been working in the Engineering sector for Shaw companies designing and testing fluid system components for aerospace and heavy duty ground vehicles.
James Bauler, a graduate of the Fletcher School at Tufts, has spent his career leading cross-cultural teams in multi-national organizations. In start-up companies, post-crisis disaster contexts and large-scale corporate change initiatives, James enjoys leading teams to develop and execute mission critical initiatives. Mr. Bauler spent more than 10 years working overseas, directing operations for Samaritans Purse in Afghanistan and Ethiopia. His last post with Samaritan’s Purse was as Director of Risk Management, 2013 to 2015. His latest endeavor finds him founding Cruxolve, a business incubator for innovative ideas.
Rick Eich, a graduate of Gordon College, grew up in the NYC/New England area chasing the American dream and a relationship with his Creator. While both quarries have been elusive at times, one has delivered deep and abiding peace. The other, the American dream part, continues to outpace Rick’s best efforts. Rick is a technical salesman in the commercial services industry with a focus on green energy solutions. Rick is most invested in building brilliant ideas and excellent brick and mortar projects. Rick looks forward to helping the entrepreneurial efforts of FTF with technical building skills and innovative marketing tools, lending his experience in both.