Founded in 2010, The Strongest Oak Foundation (TSO) is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and has a global network of volunteers and affiliates based in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. TSO team members originate from Canada, Argentina and West Africa and have been delivering high-impact, sustainable educational and social projects together since 2006.

Board of Directors and Executive

Stace Wills

Mark McLenahan

Dan Rickard

Nick Foster

Executive

Marlene Ahern

Vivian Hindbo

Darlene Petrie

Melissa Lorenzo

Alpha Sow

Oak Leaders

Seydou Kinda

Team Members

Bridget Wills

Camila Stephure


Stace Wills, Board Chairman (Co-Founder)

Calgary, AB, Canada

Stace WillsStace is a social entrepreneur with a life-long passion for international development, language and culture, and launching technology startups. Prior to leading the launch of TSO in 2010, Stace served as co-founder and Global Director of Fire and Ice – an award-winning Corporate Social Responsibility program of one of the world’s leading educational technology firms, Elluminate Inc. (now Blackboard Canada Inc.).

Under Fire and Ice, Stace spearheaded over 30 social development projects in collaborative education, poverty reduction, and climate change, involving over 5000 participants from 25+ countries. He has also pioneered several online training programs targeting nurses and teachers in remote regions, as well as facilitated thousands of dollars in donations of computer technology and internet connectivity to economically-challenged communities in Colombia, Brazil, Cuba, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, and Kenya.

Stace and his projects have been recognized with several awards by organizations including Stockholm Challenge (Sweden) and the Tech Museum (San Diego, CA). His Fire and Ice initiative helped Elluminate be named as one of the Top Ten Best Corporations in Global Development by InterAction in 2008. In addition, Stace has been featured by international media including CNN.com, The Financial Post, Education Week, CBC, CTV and others.

Stace holds a Canadian Investment Management (CIM) designation, as well as a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary, where he was a member of the 1988 Vanier Cup championship football team.

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Mark McLenahan, Director of Finance and Board Member (Co-Founder)

Calgary, AB, Canada

Mark McLenahanMark has established a broad-based, 20+ year accounting career working in Canada’s oil and gas industry. He has progressed through a variety of accounting and finance posts, both in individual contributor and leadership positions, as well as a 4-year assignment in Halifax on Canada’s east coast where he was instrumental in launching his employer’s regional office. Mark has always been an enthusiastic volunteer in his local community, helping out with various local charities and community associations, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Bishop Carroll Music Society. In his spare time, Mark can regularly be found coaching his children’s sports teams, participating in a community volleyball league, and helping to provide music at his local church.

Mark received his Bachelor of Commerce degree (Accounting & Finance concentration) from the University of Calgary in 1991 and currently resides in Calgary. He speaks English and some Spanish.

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Dan Rickard, Director, Chief Technology Advisor and Board Member (Co-Founder)

Calgary, AB, Canada

Dan RickardWith over twenty years of international experience, Dan has led groundbreaking technology and social projects on every continent, except Antarctica. From 2006 to 2008, he served as co-founder and Implementation Manager for Fire and Ice for Elluminate, Inc. (now Blackboard Inc.).

In the past 3 years, Dan has launched and managed eLearning networks in Africa, Asia and remote areas of Canada. Working closely with aboriginal people, his learning networks have helped deliver much-needed medical knowledge and expertise into remote areas. He continues to develop a number of international initiatives, including a project in remote areas of Indonesia.

Dan was a finalist for the prestigious Stockholm Challenge Awards in 2008, and also was named 2007 Laureate for the Tech Museum Award (Microsoft Education Category). He has been featured by CNN.com, CBC Business News, and other international media.

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Nick Foster

Toronto, ON, Canada

Nick FosterMr. Nick Foster has worked in the technology industry for thrity years, beginning with a sales role at ComputerLand in Edmonton in 1983 after graduating from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Rising into management very quickly, Mr. Foster was transferred to Toronto where he advanced to leading sales for the Ontario region. Nick joined Softchoice in 1994 as Vice President of Sales and Marketing when the company had twenty-five people and sales of $15 million. During his 18 years with the company, growth was tremendous: sales topped $1 billion and employees numbered over 1100. Nick had many different roles over that time including Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Senior Vice President of Operations. Nick is passionate about company cultures, their underlying values and, ultimately, connecting both with a coherent and differentiated brand position.

Mr. Foster became involved with corporate philanthropy when developing the award-winning Softchoice Cares program as a result of the tremendous outpouring of empathy from company employees following the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. Since then, Nick has led more than a dozen international volunteer groups building houses, community projects and computer labs in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and other countries.

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Marlene Ahern, Managing Director

Calgary, AB, Canada

Marlene is an independent management consultant/executive coach with a passion for international development. Based in Calgary, with over twenty-five years of professional and leadership experience, Marlene has worked extensively in the energy and telecom sectors, and also volunteered in various non-profit organizations. Her diverse background includes having lived and worked in both Brazil and Europe, supporting projects ranging from local education enhancement to global, company-wide technology rollout initiatives.

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Vivian Hindbo, Director of Communications (Co-Founder)

Calgary, AB, Canada

Vivian HindboVivian Hindbo has been an active volunteer most of her adult life, including working as a wildlife steward in a conservation area, volunteering at an annual youth music festival (Kiwanis), and working one-on-one with at-risk youth. As a founding member of The Strongest Oak Foundation, Vivian feels she has found her true passion: to make a difference in the lives of those who have faced unspeakable hardship or tragedy. She understands just how fortunate she is to have been born a Canadian.

Vivian graduated from university with a degree in English Literature and began a career as a technical writer and editor in the software industry. She currently works as an independent contractor.

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Darlene Petrie, Director of Fundraising

Calgary, AB, Canada

Darlene PetrieDarlene Petrie has a degree is in Community Studies (BACS) and diploma in Child and Youth Care, with thirty years of experience in grant writing and program development and implementation. She has been successful in creating and implementing numerous programs in Calgary, Alberta, in support of youth in conflict with the law and those experiencing homelessness. She has also been successful in securing the funds to support these programs as well as obtaining capital grants to house homeless youth.

Darlene is a world traveler and enjoys volunteering at the locations she visits. She has volunteered with preschool children in Antigua and St. Lucia, was a Teacher’s Assistant for special-needs K-12 students in Tortola, and helped out at the Humane Society in St. Thomas. Most recently, Darlene volunteered in South Africa at a wildlife conservation facility. Her passions are traveling and helping youth and animals in all parts of the world.

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Melissa Lorenzo, Program Manager, East and Central Africa

Toronto, ON, Canada

Melissa LorenzoMelissa is passionate about youth development in Africa. She has volunteered in Nicaragua and Uganda, where she participated in several educational initiatives and health and sanitation projects in rural communities (building homes, stoves, latrines and water filters). Locally, Melissa volunteers weekly at a women and children’s shelter and at many other organizations through the Rotaract Club.

Since 2006, Melissa has served as a research assistant in clinical laboratories. She has presented and published her work at three international scientific conferences. She currently serves as a study coordinator at the University of Calgary in the Departments of Pediatrics and Orthopaedic Trauma where she operates clinical studies. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology in 2012 and is striving to attend medical school to become a pediatrician.

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Alpha Sow, Solar Project Manager, Burkina Faso

Calgary, AB, Canada

Alpha SowAlpha Sow, an Energy Market analyst, holds a B.Sc. in Business Management and M.Sc. in International Economics and Finance from France. Alpha has multidisciplinary and international experience, having worked as an investment analyst, financial analyst for start-up projects and innovative market analyst in Guinea, France and Canada.

Alpha’s passions are education, energy and economic empowerment in developing countries. His experience began in high school, working with Africare Guinea as a young community relations manager. As a university student, he was involved in many African development projects. In 2014, he launched Action Development Dinguiraye in France, a not-for-profit organization that teaches web literacy and informatics in Guinean Schools.

Alpha joined TSO as our Solar Project Manager for Burkina Faso, supporting the development of solar energy projects. His fluency in French is a definite asset in bridging the communication gap with our Burkinabe team members. Alpha’s moto is “A better world starts with small actions, so why are we waiting for a hypothetical momentum?”

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Seydou Kinda, Oak Leader & Solar Project Coordinator

Bale Province, Burkina Faso

Seydou KindaSeydou is the co-founder of l’Association Monde Meilleur de Pa (AMMP), a volunteer-based non-profit organization whose mandate is to promote sustainable development in the Pâ region through collaboration with international partners, such as The Strongest Oak Foundation. Seydou Kinda’s background is in nursing and public health. He is currently the Chief Administrator of Health Centre 24 of Ouezzinville, Burkina Faso, where he is responsible for statistical analysis and planning and monitoring patient care. Beyond his current management experience, his career has included monitoring and managing various community health programs (for vulnerable groups, immunization, etc.), evaluating the treatment of neglected tropical diseases, coordinating health care education and training programs, as well as other initiatives.

Seydou has successfully collaborated with various organizations outside of Burkina Faso, including the American Peace Corps, the University of Hertfordshire, the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (Alberta, Canada) and Elluminate Inc. (Calgary, Alberta, Canada). Members of the TSO executive met Seydou when they were Elluminate employees and collaborated with him on an online training program for Burkina Faso nurses in the management of malaria. Among the projects he completed with the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School was a solar energy project, providing electricity to a remote village school in Pâ, Burkina Faso in 2015. Seydou has served as TSO’s Oak Leader and Solar Project Coordinator in Burkina Faso since 2016. He and his organization, AMMP, have been instrumental in overseeing TSO’s successful solar installations in the villages of Heredougou and Kopoi.

Seydou is multilingual, speaking his native Mooré and Dioula, as well as French and some English. He holds diplomas in Nursing and Marketing Management and a degree in Management and has taken various courses in Human Resource and Public Health management.

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Bridget Wills, Former Managing Director

Calgary, AB, Canada

Bridget WillsBridget Wills has been involved in international volunteer efforts since 2005, first as a trainer and coordinator of web meetings for LINGOS (helping to train field employees working in NGOs across the world) and as a collaborative coordinator for Fire and Ice (coaching local Calgary classrooms in a climate change series with partner schools in Colombia and Burkina Faso).

Being a devoted mother of two young boys, she is very keen to expose her children to the world outside their backyard and provide an opportunity for them to help make a difference in a world where there is a need to help others. Bridget’s twenty-year career in the travel industry has helped shape her love of people all the world. She hopes that, throughout her volunteer career, she will be able to inspire others to reach out and use their own best skills to make a difference.

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Camila Stephure

Calgary, AB, Canada

A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Camila relocated to Calgary in July 2017. She has an Economics degree from Penn State, an MBA from Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV- Brazil) and has international experience studying abroad at the Universidad de Sevilla (Spain). Camila spent thirteen years at IBM in several roles, including Business Operations, Sales Support and Finance.

In addition to her professional experience, Camila volunteered extensively with organizations that helped orphanages, supported the disabled, helped reintegrate homeless individuals back into Brazilian society, and mentored high school students. Within IBM, she had the opportunity to participate in the Corporate Service Corps as a volunteer in Sheyang (China).

Camila has traveled to Africa on a few occasions and always returns with a desire to give back to the community and promote sustainable development. She is very happy to join The Strongest Oak team as a volunteer and support this cause.