Who’s Who

All of East Africa Children’s Hope’s projects are locally led and managed by people from the community they serve.

EACH oversees expansion activities in East Africa and will manage all grant funds.   EACH will have the decision-making power regarding monies garnered through international (outside of East Africa) fund raising and grant mechanisms and the broad direction of the project.

The EACH board consists of individuals from a variety of industries.

melanie and evelynPresident and Co-Founder, Melanie Dascenzo, MPA discovered her love for Africa when she volunteered at Upendo in the summer of 2006. She found the teachers and caretakers to be compassionate and the children were grateful for the education and love they received from the Upendo staff. Melanie oversees the progress of the EACH projects and manages their strategic direction. She received her MPA from New York University in 2011 and currently works as the Senior Director of Financial Operations at White Plains Hospital.


Vice President and Co-Founder, Melissa Budnick Maliqi, MPH, MPA visited Africa for the first time in 2011. Overwhelmed by the staggering need for better education, the relentless optimism of the children she met, and the kindness of the communities, she decided to dedicate her time to helping these young students grow to lead successful lives through education. Melissa manages the daily operations of the organization. She currently is a Financial Administrator at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Director of Educational Programs, Linda Seidenstein, M. Ed. became involved with EACH in the summer of 2009 when she traveled to Kenya to meet the Upendo children.  She was moved by how Upendo accomplished so much with so little – from the loving children to the school’s status as one of the top 10 in the county. The hope of these children inspired her to help them each reach their potential in both academics and society. Linda serves as the primary grant writer. She is an academic consultant for a New Jersey charter school and is a retired math and literacy coach. She will oversee the applications for education-based grants.

Director of Grants and Contracts, Renee Bronner Pessin learned about Upendo after Melanie returned from Africa in 2006, full of enthusiasm about the potential of the children of Upendo. Since then she has been actively involved in fundraising for Upendo. In 2009, she traveled to Africa and met the Upendo children, teachers and the Upendo Founder, Eunice Kamotho. Renee performs research, writing, editing and project management for all EACH proposals. She is an independent biomedical grant and manuscript editor as well as a project manager.

Director of Public Affairs, Trish Gross, MUP traveled to Kenya for the first time in 2011 and was overcome by the children’s positive attitudes and their providers’ hard work demonstrated their dedication and eagerness to succeed. Trish manages EACH’s social media platforms and newsletters using her skills from her background in community journalism and nonprofit/government. She is currently a project manager for Turner Construction in Denver.

ScottDirector of Legal Affairs, Scott Tiedke, Esq. has been a supporter of EACH for several years. Since its infancy, Scott has given not only his time but his professional advice to benefit the children of Good Hope and Upendo. Scott is a 2009 graduate of New York Law School and currently works as a lawyer in New York City. Scott will assist EACH with all legal matters.



Director of Content Management, Sarah Zelazinski, MA started fundraising with Melanie in 2010 after hearing about the kids and their need for education. With two young siblings of her own, Sarah recognizes the value of an education and wants to help the children of East Africa reach their potential. Sarah is responsible for the website content and serves as an editor for EACH documents. She is currently working as a consultant in the development and maintenance of clinical research trials at various locations throughout the US.

IMG_0630Director of Cultural Affairs, Jerome Owagage, is a Ugandan who first learned about East Africa Children’s Hope through Co-Founder Melanie Dascenzo. The pair worked at Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala in 2009. Jerome learned about Melanie’s work with Good Hope and wanted to get involved. Jerome has a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and a Master’s degree in Health and Medical Law from the University of Melbourne. He has extensive experience working with both the Ugandan Government and in Uganda’s private sector. Jerome has served as a Policy fellow with UNAIDS/Together for Girls here and is also engaged in piggery business and hopes to become the largest distributor of pork and pork products in Africa. Jerome will serve as our Ugandan expert and will be consulted on anything and everything Uganda.

photo-1Director of Finance, Alex Mostovoi joined EACH in 2014 after learning about our mission and the impact of our programs on children education in East Africa.  He started his career as a lawyer almost 25 years ago in New York City after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and then worked at several financial institutions in the areas of finance and taxation.  Alex will be helping EACH with financial matters and project development.