Erik Swanson and scholars

Our Team

The U.S. office of Roots & Wings International (RWI) is fully staffed by volunteers. Without a core team of volunteers in fund raising, writing and publicity, RWI wouldn't be where it is today. Check out our latest volunteer openings and join us in changing lives through education.

Meet Roots and Wing's U.S. Team

Erik holding a present given to him by one of our scholars family

Erik Swanson, Founder and Executive Director

Erik spent two years as Director of El Instistuto, La Asuncion in rural Guatemala before founding RWI. In his capacity as director he developed a passion for using education to promote sustainable development, and learned about the importance of creating access to higher education in impoverished communities. Erik is a corporate lawyer by profession, and received his Juris Doctor from American University, Washington College of Law. He currently works remotely for Immix Law Group PC from his Guatemala office, and teaches US Business Law at Francisco Marroquin University. Erik also graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business and Public Administration from the University of Puget Sound.

“I have gained an appreciation for the potential that exists within all people and have learned that most people long to live up to their potential when given the opportunity.” ~Erik

Tammy on her descent in Yosemite

Tammy Chiang, Director of Marketing

Since 2008, Tammy has helped to expand RWI's volunteer and donation base. She has 10 years of product marketing experience with technology start-ups. Tammy is fluent in Chinese (Mandarin) and is learning Spanish. She has a bachelor's degree in business administration from National University of Singapore and an MBA from Santa Clara University, California.

“If I could change one thing in the world, it would be to give every child an opportunity to receive an education.” ~Tammy

Agus Dillon

Agus Dillon, Spanish Project Senior Manager

Agus is studying technical, scientific and literary translation at I.E.S. in Lenguas Vivas "Juan Ramón Fernandez" and is taking a diploma course in English literature and cinema. She has translated for several nonprofits and is currently working as a freelance translator.

“Guatemala has the highest rate of malnourished children in Latin America and I strongly believe that education is what Guatemalans need to improve their lives.” ~Agus

Adriana Baranek

Adriana Baranek, Online Positioning Senior Manager

Since late 2009, Adriana has helped increase the number of visitors to RWI's website. She is also in charge of the online positioning of RWI's website amidst charity organizations. Adriana is from Zagreb, Croatia. She has a master's degree in marketing from Zagreb University and 17 years of experience working for a leading bank in Croatia. Adriana is a private entrepreneur.

“Independence is the best gift that you can give to children, and independence is easily achieved with education. It is my honor to be a part of a great team that enables Guatemalan children access to education.” ~Adriana

Adriana Baranek

Jeanne Santos, Partner Relations Senior Manager

Jeanne has been involved with several projects since joining RWI in 2009. She continually works to develop and maintain relationships with our web-based partners. Jeanne has an M.A. in Romance Languages and Literatures from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a B.A. in Spanish from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jeanne is a proud stay-at-home mom of four and part-time Spanish teacher. She also enjoys reading, writing and playing tennis.

“After living in Central America for two years, part of my heart was left behind there. While RWI offers so much to their students in Guatemala, they also offer me the personal satisfaction and pleasure of being able to contribute to their worthy efforts in some small way.” ~Jeanne

Jazmine Rodriguez

Jazmine Rodriguez, Blog Operations Senior Manager

Jazmine is a graduate student in International Development living in New Orleans. She has a BA in Anthropology and International Development and has experience in non-profit fundraising. She is currently studying methods to improve education through new technologies with a focus on Latin America. She writes on these and other topics on the Roots & Wings blog.

“RWI is unique because it empowers youth to learn and create change from within their communities. Community development must be led by the people to truly create the change they want to see in the world.” ~Jazmine

Chaitanya Kumar Thatipamula

Chaitanya K Thatipamula, Web Designer/Team Lead

Kumar has over 6 years of IT experience. He is currently working as a J2EE web developer. He is a Sun certified Java Web component developer. Kumar provides website layout, HTML and CSS help to RWI.

“RWI is doing an excellent job in creating educational opportunities to the people of Guatemala. I am very happy to be a part of this great team and organization.” ~Kumar

Shadi Mirza

Shadi Mirza, Senior Writer/Twitter Lead

Shadi received a MA in Literacy, Technology, and Professional Writing in 2006 from Northern Arizona University. Since then, he has worked in a variety of fields, including copywriting and education, before settling with his wife in South Korea. Shadi is currently in his second year of teaching in a small town in the eastern part of the country.

“To me, there's nothing better than doing work without asking for anything in return - it's the best thing we can do to connect with our local and global communities.” ~Shadi

Anabel Merchán

Anabel Merchán, Translator

Anabel studied Translation Studies at the Universidad de Málaga and the HU Berlin, in Spain and Germany. She works as a translator, proofreader and technical writer, but her passion is teaching. In the past eight years Anabel has been involved with several non profits in Europe and the U.S., volunteering as a teacher of literacy and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

“Coming from a humble family, I could go to college and study abroad thanks to the scholarships that I was granted. Roots and Wings creates opportunities for young Guatemalans who dream of a brighter future, like I did. I believe that a better tomorrow for Guatemala starts with the education of their youth today” ~Anabel

Kristen Keller

Kristen Keller, Blogger

Kristen has alternated working as a student and teacher of English. She studied literature at Gonzaga University, taught language courses in Guatemala, and returned for another round, finishing her master's and teaching composition at Washington State University. The work of the student and interest in language haven't stopped with school; she continues to practice her Spanish and hopes to pick up other languages down the road.

“Hay que luchar. I heard this phrase from one boy, but I learned it – what it means to push hard and push forward – from many people. And I think that's the way luchando works best, with a lot of people pushing with and for each other.” ~Kristen

Marie LeBlanc

Marie LeBlanc, Blogger/Blog Outreach Coordinator

Marie works closely with the RWI blogging team to coordinate blog outreach. She spent the past year in London, earning an MSc in International Development Studies, and currently works in the nonprofit sector in Washington, DC. Marie also has BA's in International Affairs and French/Spanish from the Florida State University, where she spent most of her free time volunteering or studying abroad. Marie has traveled throughout Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, but is most passionate about indigenous communities in Central America.

“I've always believed that when a group of people share a common vision for making social change, anything is possible. I'm excited to be part of a group like that at RWI and share my passion for development in Central America with communities across the world.” ~Marie

Harriette Newcombe

Harriette Newcombe, Blogger

Harriette has been blogging with Roots and Wings International since November 2011. She gained her BA in French and Spanish at the University of Leeds and during her four years of studies spent time living in both France and Argentina. Since graduating she has travelled extensively around Central America and India and spent over a year working in the editorial team of Modern Languages at Oxford University Press. Harriette will start her MSc in Development Studies at the London School of Economics in the fall.

“Education empowers, inspires and broadens horizons; it enables people to make the right choices to better themselves and the world they live in. In this way, RWI is contributing to a better world and I couldn’t be more proud to be involved.” ~Harriette

Sarah Lahm

Sarah Lahm, Newsletter Editor

Sarah joined RWI in the spring of 2013 as the Newsletter Editor. She helps produce the monthly newsletter by soliciting and editing articles and working with the communications team to get the newsletter published. Sarah has a M.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas, a post-graduate degree in Early Irish Literature and Language, and a B.A. in English and Irish Studies from the University of Rhode Island. She has spent many years as a college-level English Instructor and is currently working as a freelance education and travel writer. Sarah has four children ages 4 to 14, a wolf dog, and a blog she is working on called

Steve Long

Steve Long, IT Volunteer

Steve has over 10 years experience working in the Information Technology (IT) field. He is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and a Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD). Steve is currently pursing a degree in Computer Information Systems at Delaware Technical and Community College. He is an Honors graduate of the Computer Learning Center programming curriculum.

“I believe the best thing that can be given to a mind is the opportunity to obtain an education, and I applaud RWI's efforts in doing so for the people of Guatemala!” ~Steve

Edwin and his new car

Edwin Lunandy, Design Consultant

In between freelance assignments, Edwin finds time to help RWI with website and promotional materials. Edwin has been a graphic designer since 2005. He's worked at several architectural companies in the U.S. and Indonesia. Edwin has a bachelor's degree in architecture.

“What sets RWI apart is how truly appreciative they are. I felt welcomed and supported by their very dedicated team of volunteers.” ~Edwin

Meet Roots and Wing's Guatemala Team

The RWI field office is located in Pasac, Nahualá, Sololá, in our Roots and Wings Learning Center and employs four staff members who come from the local community. From that vantage point, they are able to respond in a culturally sensitive way to both the students who participate in RWI's educational programs and the development needs of the region.

Cristóbal Guarchaj

Cristóbal Guarchaj, Executive Director

Cristóbal has been a part of RWI since it was founded in 2006. Among his many responsibilities, he is on the selection committee for RWI's University Scholarship Program and he organizes the monthly Community Development Meetings attended by RWI scholars and youth from around the region. Cristobal has a teaching degree in Rural Elementary Education and is currently studying psychology at the Rafael Landívar University of Quetzaltenango.

Dora Cristina Guarchaj Tahay

Dora Cristina Guarchaj Tahay, Computer Teacher

Dora teaches RWI's Computer Literacy Program. Dora's teaching degree is in Elementary Bilingual Intercultural Education.

Quote: "It is my privilege to be able to teach the children in their own language [K'iche] to facilitate the teaching-learning process in our communities."

Tammy on her descent in Yosemite

Catarina Cecilia Cotiy Ixmatá, Office Administrator/Tutor

Catarina tutors in RWI's After-School Elementary Tutoring Program. Cecilia has a teaching degree in Rural Elementary Education and she is studying toward her Bachelor's degree in Social Work and Community Development.

Quote: "One of my most important roles in the tutoring program is to share with the children the joy and importance of reading, so that in the future they will be great critical and analytical thinkers."

Diego Chox Chox

Diego Chox Chox, Bookkeeper/Tutor

Diego tutors in RWI's After-School Elementary Tutoring Program. He is responsible for the day-to-day financial administration of the office, which includes generating financial reports and controlling the budget. Academic Degree: Technician in Business Administration.

Quote: "In the tutoring program, I have been able to raise the children's awareness of the importance of reading every day so that in the future they are intelligent, critical and analytical people."

Our Board of Directors and Advisory Board

Board of Directors

  • Erik Swanson
    Committee: Budget/Finance
    Profession: Attorney, Immix Law Group PC
  • Kevin Espirito
    Committee: Nominating Committee
    Profession: Manager of Employee Community Engagement, Microsoft
  • Cristobal Guarchaj
    Committee: Executive
    Profession: Director, Raices y Alas Guatemala
  • Tammy Chiang
    Committee: Communications
    Profession: Volunteer, Roots & Wings International
  • Angela Brown
    Committee: Fundraising
    Profession: Director, Spokane Public Schools
  • Rod Achtmann-Mendoza
    Committee: Budget/Finance
    Profession: Microsoft
  • Jess Arnsteen
    Committee: Fundraising
    Profession: Founding Shareholder, BuyWell Coffee

Advisory Board

  • Giancarlo Ibárgüen
    Universidad Francisco Marroquín
  • Robert Goldman
    Professor of Law
    American University
    Washington College of Law
    Louis C. James Scholar
  • Anders Kompass
    Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala
  • Juan Luis Aguilar
    Founding Partner
    Aguilar & Aguilar

Contact Our Team Members

Can't decide who to contact? Email us at or call us
at ++1 503-564-8831 (PST).

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