Board and Staff of The Pollination Project
Meet the people who make The Pollination Project possible.
After an epiphany in 1997 changed the way Ari related to food, his heart opened up to the impact every person’s life has on countless beings and the world at large. Soon after this insight, Ari had a vision of himself attaining all of his worldly goals and dreams (aka the American Dream), yet still feeling empty inside. Thus began his journey, which has culminated in the development of The Pollination Project.
In Ari’s day job he oversees a real estate re-development company that focuses on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. He shares with his wife, Becky, a doctor who cares for underserved populations, the desire to serve others and act as a role model for their two young boys. Ari also leads meditation and yoga workshops and actively experiences the challenges of being a modern-day yogi, and the delusion that life can be compartmentalized into separate boxes such as family, work, hobbies/exercise and spirit. As a committed peace activist, Ari remains constantly challenged to live his life in alignment with his values, and to utilize the numerous privileges he has been given to turn seeds into blossom and blossom into fruit.
Stephanie has always had a great love for animals, participating as a foster parent for stray dogs and volunteering with various programs aimed to help the welfare of pets. After connecting her love for animals with her food choices, she began to open her heart to both suffering and compassion in the world and connecting the choices we make in life to a more blessed and blissed life. She realized the power that one person truly has to impact the world, and thus teamed up with Ari (her brother-in-law) to create The Pollination Project. Stephanie is also extremely committed and dedicated to her career as Vice President of a literacy curriculum company and children’s book distributor and feels a deep connection with empowering youth to be readers and writers in the world, while also empowering them to change the world. Stephanie lives in NYC with her dog Miles and spends her time both enjoying the city she loves, as well as traveling the country to be with her family and dear friends.
Peggy has been passionate about animal protection and environmental issues since participating in the first Earth DayEvent in 1970. This passion was fueled by growing up in a family that believed in giving back to their community and opening their door to others (of all species) in need.
She has been involved with numerous nonprofit organizations for more than 30 years – as staff, consultant, board member and volunteer. She currently works for a large healthcare organization providing grants out to the community that support efforts to increase educational opportunities and career pathways to economically challenged youth and adults.
Peggy is blessed with a terrific son and partner both of whom share her belief that each of us can make a huge difference in the world. She currently (when you do rescues the number always changes) has two sweet feline family members, Harley and Beatrice. The most recent addition to the family is a little rescued horse named Chester, who represents the beginning of a dream to have a Sanctuary where humans and animals come together for healing through connections of the heart and in nature. Daily meditation, hiking, kayaking, camping, spiritual exploration and amazing connections with family, friends, animals and nature make her heart sing.
Alissa is the founding Executive Director of the Pollination Project, a foundation that gives daily $1000 grants to up-and-coming changemakers around the world. Prior to her role with the Pollination Project, she co-founded and served as co-Director of The Engage Network, a social venture nonprofit that provides best practices in citizen-driven organizing. She led or advised on complex civic engagement projects for groups like Habitat for Humanity International, Slow Food USA, The Pachamama Alliance, Roots of Change, Green for All, Off the Mat Into the World and the Flawless Foundation.
From 2001-2007, Alissa served as Executive Director of Julia Butterfly Hill’s Circle of Life, leading efforts to create and produce We the Planet, the most eco-friendly large-scale rock concerts in the U.S., which at the time became the primary model for “green events”. Alissa is also the former Executive Director of the women’s philanthropic organization, Resourceful Women. She proudly serves on several nonprofit advisory boards and boards of directors, including Youth Empowered Action Camp, Bread for the Journey, Go Inspire Go, Veg Youth, Philanthrogeek, and Food Empowerment Project, and regularly provides strategic and business consulting to a wide variety of philanthropic and social change efforts. She holds an MBA in Nonprofit Management from the University of San Francisco and a BA from Oberlin College. Alissa is also a mom and a passionate advocate for her local foster care system.
Aabha is a Nutrition Coach and a Fitness trainer with a degree in Software Engineering. Her passion for healthy food and fitness developed out of her desire for the best health for her family and herself. She started observing the strong connection between eating habits and health and explored numerous schools of thought to further her knowledge in Nutrition. She can make uncompromisingly healthy food that is very tasty. Above all, she is passionate, committed, and has a high level of integrity in everything she does, including her work. She is also a volunteer for PCRM in India.
Her heart expands when she sees the incredible work being done by so many around the world, and it humbles her that she can be a small part of The Pollination Project’s effort through her work. She feels grateful to be a part of this incredible team!
Rising from the Chihuahua deserts’ El Paso, TX border; Gera is generator of connection, love, and motivation whose being is rooted in traditional Mexican healing art, agriculture, and music. For ten years based in Oakland, CA; he has dedicated his service to boost the power and inter-cultural unity in youth, social justice, and Mother Earth rights networks across Abya Yala (Nahuatl for “the Americas”). Through a popular education approach, he facilitates interactive learning, play, and exploration that inspires people’s inherent creative wisdom. Gera mentors youth, community organizers, and educators in indigenous mindfulness practices, ritual, and inner-resilience practices to recharge their souls and bodies. He has served and organized in a variety of spaces from schools, in the outdoors, churches, youth detention centers, prison, homes, and in the streets. Gera is in his element when he gets to facilitate Power Up Circles that include physical training, dance, stress-relief breathing techniques, and relaxing meditation. He carries a music altar, often with extra percussion and indigenous wind instruments for community to cultivate rhythm and joy with. Gera is also a trainer and (Ollín-Teotl) movement building mentor for Rooted in Community National Youth Food Sovereignty and Justice Network that for 18 years has offered programs that activate transformative youth leadership for building a just, sustainable, and nourishing food system for all.
Using her background in writing and marketing, Hong-An curates stories for The Pollination Project newsletters and oversees social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. She is also the event coordinator for The Pollination Project’s salons and public events in the Bay Area. In her free time, she writes Young Adult novels, does comedic acting, and is involved in the Wake Up International movement for young adults launched by Thich Nhat Hanh to coordinate communication between young adults to practice mindfulness together as a community in their hometown and get them involved in social action projects.
James comes to The Pollination Project from a background in social anthropology. Through his work with TPP grantees, James has seen the power of empowering people to effect change in their own communities, and believes that these grassroots efforts are vital when working towards a more just world. He is a transplant from England, and currently lives in California.
Jamila Banks is a Motivator, Mentor, and Entrepreneur with a diverse background in arenas such as social services, mental health, environmental advocacy, and education. She is Founder and Executive Director of Foster & Banks Walk in Faith Foundation, an environmentally friendly, social services 501(c)(3) organization located in Los Angeles, CA.
Jamila stepped into the workforce at the age of 12 as a Care Worker for the State of California and has held numerous positions in Education as a Tutor and Substitute Teacher, and as a Counselor/Case Manager/Advocate for children and adults with special needs. Additionally, Jamila completed an internship with Bay Area Addiction, Research and Treatment (BAART) as a trainee counseling adults diagnosed with substance abuse/dependency as well as with co-occurring mental illnesses. She currently interns in several group homes as a M.F.T. Therapist, working to empower and encourage “at risk” males. Jamila has also been a personal mentor and motivator to youth and young adults around the community encouraging them to be their best, authentic, selves.
She hold a B.A.degree in in Political Science from the University of Southern California(2004), and graduated from the Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Program with her M.S., M.F.T. from the University of LaVerne(2011). Concurrently, Jamila has attended numerous workshops and seminars to promote her knowledge and advancement namely trainings on Mental Illness and Autism Spectrum Disorders in School Aged Children, and Workshops on the Stages of Change, and Conflict Resolution. She is also a student member of the American Psychotherapy Association, and an Alumni of the U.S.C. Passing the Mantle Program (2010). After deciding to pursue her dreams of making a tangible impact in her community, in 2012, Jamila founded, and began operating Foster & Banks Walk in Faith Foundation with her Co-Founder and mother Ar’Lisa Foster, Husband La-Ty Banks, Daughter Kirsten Chavis, and Brother Jobari Coleman-Wilson. She is a Grantee of The Pollination Project, Grant Advisor, and works on many special projects. Jamila is also the mother of 3 young children, Kirsten, Ar’Destiny and Nyaire.
Jes’s interests lie at the nexus of people and place, the potential for the two to interact and support one another. She explored this concept as a Peace Corps volunteer in both Gambia and the Republic of Georgia and has lived, studied and worked alongside social change makers with similar interests in Costa Rica, Tanzania, Cuba, Israel, Chicago, Washington DC and Santa Cruz, California — where she now calls home.
These experiences are Jes’s source of inspiration and have led her to working on issues of sustainable agriculture, environmental education, social justice and many others. Her role in these fields has ranged from research and advocacy to policy and development, but her passion is rooted in cultivating a world where coexistence and compassion are the norm. Jes has an MA in International Affairs and an MA in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development and spends her spare time doing yoga and biking everywhere and anywhere. She has a love for cross cultural interaction and supporting community leaders in realizing and fostering their dreams for a better world, and she strives to bring joy and hope to all situations she finds herself in.
Joshua is our in house tech guy. He uses his background in Business Analysis and Technical Support to improve our daily processes here at The Pollination Project, and to maintain our website and business software. He has a strong passion for technology as a way to help those trying to better the world, and he believes The Pollination Project is the perfect foundation for him to reach this goal.
Joshua has set up his command center in Eugene Oregon where in his off time loves to take advantage of all that nature provides there. You can find him on weekends high in the mountains hiking and riding his bicycle while photographing all that captures his eye.
Julie Santos has been actively volunteering with grassroots movements and international relief agencies for over 8 years. Her efforts have brought her to work in disasters like Katrina and the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti. She has volunteered in multiple countries, helped spear-head several grassroots projects mainly focusing on community and individual action as the pivotal component to inspire change and progress.
She is a graduate student at the Academy of Art University and is working on her thesis, a platform that encourages resource sharing among nonprofit organizations and individuals on an international level. Julie is constantly striving to find ways to remind people that now is the perfect time to practice a random act of kindness with the tools you have in the place you are at.
Maureen Miller is a California certified public accountant (C.P.A.) and earned her Master’s degree in Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Golden Gate University in 1999. Since then, she has been working in partnership with non-profit organizations, small businesses and individuals to help them establish and maintain cost-effective and user-friendly accounting systems.
Maureen is the mother of an 11 year-old son and lives in Oakland, California.
Milena is a communication consultant and activist from Italy. She majored in Communication and Advertising at the Turin University. She’s been working for over 15 years in Sustainable Communication and in the non-profit sector, helping green companies and associations to promote their eco-friendly products and practices. In 2000, she met the American activist Julia Butterfly Hill, and since then has worked as her Italian spokesperson and event organizer. She has also served as the International Coordinator of What’s Your Tree, a programme created by The Circle of Life Foundation inspired by the story of Julia Butterfly, and has collaborated with the Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams and her Center for Peace and Compassion in the south of Italy.
Her deep passion for Environment, People and Communication always leads her to put her skills and her heart in service of projects and initiatives to make a positive difference in the world, and TPP is one of them.
Selene Gonzales Carrillo is an environmental advocate and change-maker based in Guadalajara, Mexico. Originally born in the dry, desert-like state of Zacatecas, her family immigrated to the United States when she was four years old. While she grew up in the United States, she never lost her connection to Mexico – she visited the village where she was born every year, and found great joy in speaking Spanish.
Selene originally planned on becoming a teacher – but something in her changed when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. She was in an environmental studies class in university hundreds of miles away, and a professor showed them a picture of the hurricane and said, “This could be avoided.” This was the turning point for Selene: she realized that no one could stop natural disasters, but by working with people and their environments, she could help prevent the kind of devastation that had hit New Orleans.
And so began Selene’s lifelong passion for environmental justice. She moved to Guadalajara (in Jalisco, the state that neighbors her home state) to pursue her master’s in environmental education. However, Selene also educated herself in the streets of Guadalajara by exploring grassroots environmental initiatives. And this inspired her and a group of friends to found a collective called Ecopatío, whose mission is to bring increased visibility to community-driven environmental initiatives that were hidden across the sprawling metropolis. They bring this visibility in two ways: the first is an online guide of these community businesses and projects, and a bicycle tour of a select number of these sites called Ecopaseo (which also serves the goal of helping people lessen their fears around using bicycles as a form of transportation in the city).
Ecopatío’s approach to this form of living documentation is unique – they are not looking to be the most comprehensive or extensive guide to the city. They value quality over quantity – the volunteers take the time to get to know each individual initiative and the people behind them. They want future consumers and allies to understand the stories