Board and Staff of The Pollination Project
Meet the people who make The Pollination Project possible.
Ajay Dahiya, Executive Director
Ajay was born in Surrey, England, to a working-class immigrant family. Growing up in a diverse and disparate environment he enjoyed a childhood which immersed him in a variety of cultures. From early on in his life, Ajay felt a great need for inner transformation. While in pursuit of this deep spiritual calling Ajay became ordained as a monastic in his late teens.
As a monk for eight years, Ajay had the honor of serving diverse teams across the globe and after transitioning out of monastic life would go on to hold executive leadership positions in a variety of mission-driven organizations including Insight LA, Hope Not Hate, and The Bhakti Center. An entrepreneur in all that he does, Ajay strives to realize a healthy, equal, and just society for all by bringing out the goodness and compassion in everyone he meets.
Ajay was privileged to have gained invaluable experience in non-profits that question the status quo. His personal success has been a product of engaging and inspiring others to grow. He relishes solving puzzles involving the relationship between human growth and a compassionate society. He thrives in helping individuals to recognize their true selves as part of an integral whole and in applying transcendent principles to organizational and strategic contexts.
Desire Johnson-Forte, Grantee Liaison – Youth Rising
Desire Johnson-Forte is an Oakland native and community stakeholder for the interest of young adults. She attained her B.A in English from Mills College (Creative Writing) and minored in Ethnic Studies. Between her full-time work and passion-oriented consulting: she uses shared narrative to transform the possibilities society & culture have outlined for black youth; a budding innovator of participatory pilot-program implementation & monitoring. In between time she’s building three very small business social enterprises: the BIZ Stoop (educational consulting, lifestyle curation, and youth development); Damn Good Teas (naturally refreshing herbal beverages); and Luv Euphor (crafts & artisan goods). She received her first grant from The Pollination Project in 2015 to launch BIZ Stoop, and has since served as a volunteer grants reviewer; grantee hub participant; and in 2019 she serves as the Grantee Liaison for the California Youth Rising Hub.
Gerardo Omar Marín (Nican-Tlaca/Coahuilteco/Chicano), Program Director – Youth Rising
Rising from the Chihuahua deserts of the El Paso, TX, border, Gera is a 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 (Guna name 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.
James West, Director of Programs
James joined TPP because he believed deeply in the power that committed, connected community members have to change the world and wanted to play a role in supporting that work. James has worked with TPP for over 5 years yet remains amazed every day by the imaginative and innovative visions for a better world that grassroots changemakers share with TPP.
Joshua Baer, Technical Operations Analyst
Joshua is our in-house Systems Administrator. 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 as well as providing support for our employees and grantees. 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 Houston, Texas, where in his off-time loves to take advantage of the outdoors and bike, plus sharpen his photography skills. Some of his other hobbies include collecting tropical plants, cooking, penny stocks, painting, and donating his time toward small non-profits’ technical needs.
Lauren K. Terry, Director of Communications
Lauren K. Terry joined TPP in 2019 to fulfill her dream of using her communications skills to support and uplift powerful changemakers around the world. With more than 15 years of communications experience, Lauren specializes in developing compelling marcomm strategies for non-profit organizations. A fierce animal welfare advocate, art- and theatre- lover, dedicated volunteer, and continuous learner, Lauren seeks to foster in others (and herself!) a commitment to—and belief in—a better world. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts with her husband, Eric, a clowder of feline friends, and two cheeky turtles.
Milena Fraccari, Website Administrator
Milena is a communications 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 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 program 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 those projects. At TPP, Milena serves as the Website Administrator and manages grantee promotion and online communication.
Peter Hamilton, Development
Peter is privileged to support The Pollination Project’s development initiatives to enable TPP to grow in daily support of social change agents spreading compassion in their communities and in the world for the benefit of all. Peter brings to TPP unique perspective gained by over 30 years of experience in law, business, and real estate, including development experience in education and the future of food. He is inspired by the idea that philanthropy should be equally transformational for donors and beneficiaries and seeks innovative ways to maintain that focus throughout the entire TPP ecosystem.
Peter is based in Berkeley, California. In his free time, he can be found swimming, running, cycling, hiking, experimenting with plant-based cooking, or relaxing with family and a good book.
Selene Gonzalez-Carrillo, Grantee Community and Special Program Developer
Selene Gonzalez-Carrillo worked in the NGO world of social & environmental justice before her positions at The Pollination Project as a Hub Coordinator and Grantee Community and Special Program Developer.
She currently lives in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she is part of a collective called Ecotapatio, that works on creating spaces for community sustainability in the city and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education from the University of Guadalajara CUCBA campus.
Shabnaz Yousefia, Applicant Advocate
Shabnaz has worked in international development and education for 13 years in countries around the globe – including India, Nepal, Nicaragua, Haiti, Malawi and Senegal. Her passion for social justice has led her to document the oral narratives of women in Nepal as a means for documenting sexual exploitation and violence against women; secure emergency visas for those needing life-saving emergency care in the United States; and lead underserved students from the Bay Area on international service trips to build schools in developing countries. She is actively involved with fundraising and advocacy for Raksha Nepal, an organization in Nepal that supports survivors of human trafficking with shelter, psychosocial counseling and skill-building to help them sustain a dignified livelihood.
Shabnaz received her Bachelor’s degree in Global Studies and International Relations from University of California, Santa Barbara in 2004, and her Master’s in Peace and Justice Studies from University of San Diego in 2011. She is deeply passionate about creating a world where everyone lives with dignity and equal access to opportunities.
Tara Matthews, Grants Manager
Tara is a Bay Area, California, native who has spent her life rooted in service and mission-driven work. This brought her to the Peace Corps where she spent 31 months in Uganda as a NGO Program Specialist. During her time in The Pearl of Africa she directed a national youth leadership camp for young women, worked with community leaders and students on reusable menstrual pads, and received a seed grant from The Pollination Project for a project called Kids Who Click, where youth were afforded the opportunity to positively express their emotions through photography. She has seen firsthand the impact that empowering those around the world has in igniting compassionate, positive, social change.
The Board of Directors
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 his worldly goals & dreams, yet left feeling empty inside. This led him to ground his life into practices such as mindfulness, compassionate eating, philanthropy, servant leadership, and transformational entrepreneurship.
Ari hosts and leads meditation workshops/retreats, volunteers his time to spread small acts of kindness, and seeks to create the causes and conditions for a major reduction in global industrialized meat production. On the side Ari invests in start-ups that seek to disrupt factory farming and founded a business that redevelops apartments to be as carbon-neutral, water-efficient, and community oriented as possible. Ari 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, service, health and spirit. He 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. Ari 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.
Birju Pandya, Board Observer
Birju Pandya focuses on the nexus of finance, systems evolution and inner transformation. He has been involved in the Mobius ecosystem since 2014.
Birju has years of experience working in the investment world, towards creative uses of capital and designing for emergence. He also has spent years developing mindfulness-related approaches to support individual/collective human development within business.
Birju has worked with organizations including Armonia (Regenerative Investing), RSF Social Finance (Integrated Capital), ServiceSpace (Gift Ecology), and McKinsey & Company. He has a Bachelor’s from Arizona State and an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Birju’s roles in life include volunteer, husband, father, friend, colleague. He is the son of first-generation Indian immigrants, and lives with his family in Berkeley, CA. A few values that Birju holds dear – authenticity, vulnerability, gratefulness, compassion, equanimity.
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.
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 with her partner Josh, and their son Odin, and spends her time both enjoying the city she loves, as well as traveling the country to be with her family and dear friends.