The Pollination Project Grant Advisors2019-02-25T08:04:42-07:00

Our Grant Advisors

We believe that the best people to review grant applications are those who have personal experience working on similar initiatives. Our grant review team includes Pollination Project grantees and other trusted individuals working on many different issues around the world. A minimum of 3 people on this team reviews each qualified application. Together, they use the breadth of their experience to make the funding decisions for our grants

Julia Butterfly Hill

For 738 days, Julia Butterfly Hill lived in the canopy of an ancient redwood tree, called Luna, to help make the world aware of the plight of ancient forests.  From the branches of Luna, she co-founded Circle of Life, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and educating people about their ability and responsibility to make a difference in the world.

For many years after she returned to the ground, Julia actively toured the world speaking about her experience to audiences large and small and about the many lessons she learned.  Her speaking engagements brought her to over a thousand classrooms, having the opportunity to meet and work with innovative social change educators all over the world.

Julia wrote a bestselling book, The Legacy of Luna, which is available in 11 languages, followed by her environmental “handbook”, One Makes the Difference. Her story has inspired millions around the globe to take action in their own communities.

Kansiime Honest Fortunate

TPP Grant Recipient


As the founder and Executive Director of Girls to Lead Africa, Kansiime Honest Fortunate incubates, grooms, nurtures and mentors a breed of transformational and visionary female leaders who can rise to positions of leadership. She does this through training and capacity building workshops for girls in Secondary and High Schools where she has raised 700 female leaders. Girls to Lead Africa Received a Pollination Project grant in 2015.

She is YALI –RLC fellow (Young African Leaders Initiative), CSP- IREX fellow, (Community Solutions Program) and an Akili Dada Fellow. She is a politician and belongs to the Forum for Democratic Change Political party for which she was the flag-bearer for the position of Member of Parliament in the February 2016 general elections.

Leslie Mestman

TPP Grant Recipient

leslie mestman

Leslie brings more than 16 years of innovative program development and management in non-profits, education, government and the private sector. Specializing in new program development, she has extensive experience in stakeholder/partner identification and recruitment, contract development and compliance monitoring, outcome-based planning and managing multi-million dollar budgets. She is the founder of Off the Sideline, a health equity focused non-profit that aims to strengthen communities by providing scholarships to low-income youth that enable them to play team sports. After starting her career in social services, she spent a decade in energy-efficiency and now works for Portland Community College where she manages a team responsible for programming hundreds of non-credit and CEU course for over 25,000 students a year. She has a BA in Environmental Studies and an MA in Political Science.

Maria Maneos

TPP Grant Recipient

Maria Maneos

Maria Maneos earned her Bachelor’s of Fine Art Degree from Arcadia University located in Glenside, Pa and accomplished her Masters of Fine Art Degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts located in Philadelphia, PA. Her paintings have been shown extensively in the Philadelphia area in such galleries as Artists’ House in Old(e) City and Art in City Hall as well as some galleries in the New York Metropolitan area.

In 2013 she started the now nonprofit program, Brush with the Law. The idea to start this: (1) stemmed from her work at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Rehabilitation located in Philadelphia where she developed and implemented a class and worked with the patients (elderly, stroke victims, disabled veterans, dementia) of the facility using the arts for therapeutic purposes, and (2) her son’s unforeseen addiction to heroin that inevitably led to his arrest, conviction, and sentencing to prison for a non-violent offense.
Visiting him in jail brought to light for her the lack of, or for the most part nonexistent rehabilitative programming absent within most of our country’s overcrowded and overburdened prison system. Her son’s experiences shattered Maria’s illusions concerning the rehabilitative goals enshrined in the charter of correctional institutions. She soon learned that inmates for the majority of the day have few – if any – emotional, educational, or social outlets, to help alleviate, and lessen feelings of self-defeat, depression, and cynicism that ultimately further entraps them in a […]

Marisa Catalina Casey

Marisa Catalina Casey HeadshotMarisa Catalina Casey is an artist, educator, social entrepreneur, and marketing professional using words and photographs to tell the stories of mission-based organizations.

Prior to serving in Ecuador as a Peace Corps Volunteer advising local micro-enterprises, she founded the Brooklyn-based nonprofit arts center, Starting Artists, Inc. Over the 5 years of Marisa’s leadership, she inspired and educated hundreds of 10-19 year olds through hands-on training in the media arts and entrepreneurship.

Currently, Marisa is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Verité, a global, nonprofit organization with a mission to ensure that people worldwide work under safe, fair, and legal conditions. A Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and a Schwab Award for Social Entrepreneurship winner, Verité works with the largest corporations in the world to illuminate labor rights violations in their global supply chains and to resolve them to the benefit of companies and workers alike.

Marisa obtained her BA from Brown University and her MA from Columbia University and has held positions at the Hearst Foundations, CARE, Alliance for Children Foundation, and APERTURE Foundation. Marisa co-authored the book Born in our Hearts with her adoptive mother, and donated all proceeds to international orphanages, including the one she was adopted from in Colombia.

Marisa lives with her husband, their daughter, a miniature schnauzer, and a turtle in Western Massachusetts.

Matthew Kaplan

TPP Grant Recipient


Matthew is dedicated to ending middle school bullying one student at a time. When his younger brother was bullied at their middle school, Mathew wanted ‘somebody’ to do ‘something’ about it. The summer of his 8th grade year, he created The Be ONE Project, a community-building and bullying-prevention nonprofit organization for middle school students.

Through team-building games, activities, and guided discussions, Be ONE fosters empathy through shared experience. Students learn to celebrate similarities, rather than tear each other apart over differences. To date, The Be ONE Project has reached more than 5,000 students across four different states. Today, Matthew leads a team of dedicated program presenters that work with students across Arizona.

Matthew is currently an undergraduate at Duke University, where he self-designed a major around the theme of positive psychology. He was a recipient of a seed grant from The Pollination Project and later named TPP’s Thanksgiving Hero in 2013.

Mary-Justine Todd

TPP Grant Recipient

Mary-Justine Todd

Mary-Justine Todd, an international humanitarian expert consultant, with more than ten years of experience, has a Master’s Degree in International Public Health, from New York University, as well as a Master’s of Arts in International Studies, from the University of Iowa. Both degrees and much of her work has been focused on refugees, internally displaced people, and specifically, women from under-privileged communities, post conflict zones, and humanitarian disaster areas.

Mary-Justine is the founder and CEO of Women’s Crisis Care International (WCCI), through which she initiated the first and only violence crisis intervention program for women in the Arabian gulf and the Middle East. She is a New York State rape crisis counselor, a certification which she earned from Columbia University Hospitals in New York City, where she was also the President of the advisory board for their violence crisis response program.

She has been working in, managing and evaluating humanitarian and health programs around the world including in places such as NYC, Liberia, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait. She is fluent in English, Swahili, French and is learning Arabic. In 2014, Mary-Justine received a seed grant from The Pollination Project in support of her work with WCCI.

Mbusa Bahweribugha Eric

TPP Grant Recipient

Mbusa Bahweribugha Eric is the Founder and Programs Director of MUB – Home Foundation. MUB – Home Foundation is a Community Based Organization for women working to improve the living conditions of the under privileged community members who in their context includes women, children, youth, elderly, people with disabilities, people affected and infected with HIV/AIDS and those with life threatening illnesses. It is a not-for-profit, community based organization that was started in the year 2005.

Eric is a double trained teacher and has certified courses in Human Rights Approaches for Programming, Grants Management, Fundraising, Monitoring and Evaluation.

Eric believes that everybody has the potential to live a better life; given the Opportunity, Education and Motivation, anyone can become someone admirable. Nobody is a nobody, everybody is somebody.

Miriam Wambui

TPP Grant Recipient

Miriam Wambui

Miriam is passionate about empowering unprivileged youth, especially girls from the informal settlements through information and computer technology, “ICT”. She believes that we are all equals but we don’t get the same opportunities. She says, “I am where I am today because I got a life changing opportunity that has shaped me to the person I am today.” Her vision is to give these youth an opportunity to education by facilitating ICT trainings in the informal settlements so they can be able to use the skills to get jobs or venture into entrepreneurship.

After graduating from NairoBits Trust with a Diploma in ICT, she has been privileged to work in different organizations including NairoBits, where she currently runs the Girls in ICT project. Miriam has also initiated her own initiative, Maendeleo Mtaa, which aims to reach out to more youths through ICT. Miriam’s objective is to reduce youth unemployment, thus eradicating poverty in the informal settlements and contributing to broader social change.

To read more about Miriam’s Pollination Project Grant, click here.

Nathan Georgette

TPP Grant Recipient

Nathan Georgette

Nathan is currently a resident in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in Chicago. He has experience partnering with clinics in South Africa to use text messaging to help people living with HIV or Tuberculosis stay healthy. More broadly, he is passionate about using low-cost and sustainable technology to improve the health of underserved communities around the world.

Olympia Auset

TPP Grant Recipient

Olympia Auset

Living and learning through the awakening experiences of Vippassana Meditation, Inippi ceremony, and many other transformational, synchronistic events in her journey, Olympia Auset has became steadfast in her commitment to creating infrastructure for a better earth. Having lived in neighborhoods across Los Angeles throughout her life, she has become very familiar with the differences in creativity, potential, and happiness which accompany differing food landscapes. She knows that no collective shift can be had without engaging the least empowered people, and no empowerment is possible without access to quality food- so she has set out to create a building block for our collective upliftment with SÜPRMARKT.

SÜPRMARKT brings affordable produce to the people and places that need it most in a weekly pop-up and subscription service poised to create a culture of equal access and conscious consumerism across the board. Since starting in 2016, SÜPRMARKT has served up hundreds of cases of organic produce and has been featured by Afropunk, Blavity, LA Weekly, and Forbes. 1.3 million people living in South LA have access to just 60 grocery stores and 23.5 million Americans are food insecure. With innovation, information, and inspiration as the heart of its operations, this is the climate SÜPRMARKT is working to change.

In addition to her role as founder of SÜPRMARKT, Olympia serves on the board of her local cooperative grocery, […]

Paul Talliard

TPP Grant Recipient


Paul Talliard is founder of Hands of Honour, a Social Enterprise based in Cape Town, South Africa. Hands of Honour creates jobs for people who have experience hardship by up-cycling goods for sale. The program also has an environmental element – corporations act as partners, ‘donating their unwanted goods or obsolete stock rather than sending it to landfill .

Paul is the creator of the Angel Classroom on Wheels, a fully equipped fold-up Mini-Library and Puppet Theatre designed for children in vulnerable and under-resourced early learning centres. The classroom supports three learning areas: Numeracy, Literacy and Life-Skills, and is equipped with educational aids and reading books. In 2016, 20 Early Learning Centres benefited from a sponsored Angel Classroom on Wheels, with another 20 earmarked for delivery in January/February 2017.

Peggy Hilden

Peggy HildenPeggy has been passionate about animal protection and environmental issues since participating in the first Earth Day Event 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.

Phil Wilmot

TPP Grant Recipient

Phil Wilmot

Phil, originally from central Pennsylvania, is a co-founder and operations director of Solidarity Uganda and a clergyman-in-training in the Church of Uganda. His interests are strategic nonviolent action, the redistribution of power, service-learning, interfaith and cross-cultural collaboration, the re-indigenization of education, and nonindustrial agriculture.

Phil is a musician of several instruments and genres, ranging from americana to jazz to metal. He calls Lira “home,” and enjoys playing soccer and spending time with his wife Suzan and daughter Aceng Nadia.

Pranita Walavalkar

Pranita-Walavalkar-Grant-AdvisorPranita Neeti discovered, after leaving a long time comfortable corporate job and believing totally in the plans of the Universe, that life has been terrifically amazing. Trying to find answers about life from a very young age led her to volunteer with the blind, the under privileged and elderly. One thing led to another and her journey into self exploration led her to Service Space. Neeti is an avid traveler and nature lover, meditates daily and hosts  Awakin Gatherings once a week.

She strongly believes that service does not start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take. Pranita lives in India, where she is blessed with a wonderful life partner, 18 year old son, an adorable Lhasa Apso, a little flower garden on the window, and sparrows on the sill that make her family complete.

Load More Posts