The Team

It Takes a Village

U.S Project Team

Devon Austin – Blogger/Event Planner, Founder and Project Manager, It Takes a Village, San Francisco, CA. Devon is a Client Advisor with Marsh & McLennan, a Global Insurance Brokerage firm, and a former Stockbroker. She is also a certified Image and Color Consultant with a love of fashion and interior design. Devon is an advocate for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Her past accomplishments with It Takes a Village include leading a successful project to send 125 handmade dresses to the girls of Casa Emanuel Orphanage in Guinea Bissau.

Willie Coleman – Project member, It Takes a Village, Greenbelt MD.  Willie has a long history if helping others, first as a member of the United States Armed Forces, he has an extensive background as a Drug Abuse counselor, Project Manager on Government Contracts, Consulting, and he has been working to help young people both through his Church (First Baptist Church of Glenarden) and as Executive Vice President of HUG’s (Helping Youth Grow).  He also served as the Project Co-Leader for our visit to Guinea Bissau and the village of Djati

Randall Oliver – Project member for Djati. Working as a graphic designer for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Randii helps the world to understand our amazing Universe, by using art, to explain how scientists employ Space Technology for exploration.  Randii’s greatest joy comes from teaching people to recognize all life on Earth as unique, rare, precious, and sacred.


IMG_0230Shelly Earnshaw – Mother/Writer/Educator and founder of Friends of Guinea-Bissau, an online networking group and project supporter, Northern California. With a background in early childhood education and development, Shelly uses her days to promote the overall mind, body, and spirit of not only her own children, but she also has a heart to help give hope, love, and an education to all children. With her fourth sweet babe being from Guinea-Bissau, it seems only fitting that Shelly has an overwhelming desire to see the children of Guinea-Bissau flourish…in hopes they may forge a hopeful and more sustainable tomorrow.

Connie Alessi –  President, Founder and CEO of Life Link,Inc (nonprofit 501c3). has been helping children for more than 25 years. She has taught parenting classes and served as a family counselor. She also has a background in accounting and tax preparation. A mother and grandmother, Connie’s passion is to help every child receive love, care and hope for their future

Hasan Salaam – is an award winning hip hop artist, humanitarian, and public speaker. Hes toured with some of hip hops greatest legends, and been recognized both in the US and internationally. Hes been featured in major media publications, websites, and TV stations as an emerging force in hip hop culture. Hasan’s work with charities, non-profits, and youth all over the world is a testament of his passion to touch lives. He is the first U.S hip hop artist to ever perform in Guinea-Bissau.

FLOW – is a hip hop music, media, and management company, founded in 2004, focused on musicians striving to make a difference in society. The core belief is that music should touch people, and be a voice for those that dont have one. FLOW is the management and label partner for Hasan Salaam. Together they traveled to Guinea-Bissau in November 2010 to work with the youth, and hold a freedom of speech concert.

Left to right – Jeremias N’batna, Maritza Alvarez, Raquel & Freddy Schafer

Guinea Bissau Project Team

Maritza Alvarez Romero – Project Advisor, It Takes a Village, Bissau, Guinea BissauMaritza is Principal of Liceu Communitario Emanuel High School at the Casa Emanuel orphanage.

Freddy Schafer – Executive Director, Project Self-Help, Quebo, Guinea Bissau. Freddy has been doing humanitarian work with the villages of Djati and Quebo for 9 years.

Raquel Schafer Nurse, Quebo, Guinea Bissau. Raquel works with her husband Freddy and their youngest son Luke with projects in Quebo and Djati.

Jeremias N’batna – Assistant and helper


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