Ellyn M. Ito, Executive Director and Trustee
For almost 20 years, Ellyn Ito has used her background in human resources management to mitigate risks and enhance operations in organizations experiencing growth and contraction. Having worked with start-up and mid-sized telecommunications, technology, and healthcare companies, as well as Fortune 500 corporations, Ms. Ito has held multiple leadership positions helping companies leverage their human capital.
As well, she has led programs in training and development, employee relations, international recruitment and relocation, and relocation of “commodity” labor (such as call-center activities and manufacturing) both domestically and abroad. Having served in executive roles, Ms. Ito has had broad operational experience including sales/marketing, business development, mergers and acquisitions, and business restructuring. From her experience in management, Ms. Ito has the keen perspective of how seemingly small business decisions impact the human element and how this, in turn, directly impacts the success or failure of a work community. Ms. Ito believes that it is important to create opportunities for those less fortunate — particularly women and girls whose sphere of influence is so critical to the well-being of their children, their children’s children, their homes, and communities. Ms. Ito has long been active in working with non-profit organizations with missions to serve underprivileged, at-risk women and children. Ms. Ito is SPHR certified and holds a dual-major Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and English Literature from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She lives in Hopewell, New Jersey with her husband, Daniel Sigman, and her two school-aged children.
Janice E. Ito, Trustee
Janice Ito has been in the teaching profession for 30 years. She has worked mainly with first and second grade children as she has enjoyed teaching younger children. Through her years of professional studies she has a strong background in classroom management techniques, assessing student needs and providing strategies and instruction to increase student achievement. She has played a key role in her school in implementing programs in math, reading and writing. She has participated in leadership roles in staff development and recently served as a representative in the development and implementation of culturally relevant instruction for the district. Mrs. Ito was also selected to be a Mentor for first year teachers and provided instructional support and guidance to her teachers on an individual basis. With her mentor team, she developed and provided instruction in assisting new teachers during their first years. As a mentor, Mrs. Ito received training in Cognitive Coaching and Critical Friends. Both courses emphasize communication through protocols and reflective questioning skills. Mrs. Ito holds a dual-major Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and Special Education. Mrs. Ito retired in 2009 and remains active in her school by volunteering to help kindergarten students with reading. She is also a volunteer at her church, serving in many different capacities. Sewing has always been an interest and necessity for Mrs. Ito. Though she did take a sewing class in high school, her mother, as an expert seamstress, had been her teacher. Mrs. Ito often sewed clothes for herself as well as for her children when they were younger. Now she enjoys sewing as a hobby and sews for her grandchildren. Mrs. Ito lives with her husband in Pennington, NJ.
Lianne Aoyagi, Trustee
Lianne Aoyagi has been involved in education for thirty four years. She taught first, second, third and fourth grades at Eaton Elementary in Eaton, Colorado, and at Roosevelt Elementary and Columbia Elementary in Colorado Springs. While teaching, Ms. Aoyagi was involved in both building and district committees – Language Arts, Staff Development, Standards Based Education, Alternative Structures, PTCO (Parent, Teacher, Community Organization), Accountability and Finance. She also was trained as a facilitator for GESA (Gender/Ethnic Expectations and Student Achievement) and was a trainer in the district Cultural Diversity workshops. Ms. Aoyagi was also involved in professional organizations such as Colorado Education Association, Colorado Springs Education Association and Phi Delta Kappa. Within the community, she served on the Children’s Museum Educational Committee. She received her Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Colorado and her Type D Certification for Elementary Principals from the University of Denver. After Ms. Aoyagi’s retirement from teaching, she participated in the Senior Sounding Board for District 11 and the Colorado Springs Retired Education Association. Currently she is active in the Assistance League of Colorado Springs and serves on the following committees: Finance, Steering and Capital Campaign, By-Laws, and Education. With the Assistance League, she enjoys volunteering in School Bell, the Bargain Box, Fun Fair, Auto Show, Bridge and the Book Club. Her hobbies include quilting, knitting, bridge, and reading. Ms. Aoyagi lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Blair Turner, Board Member
Blair is a Certified Professional Executive Coach through the CAPP Institute (Coaching and Positive Psychology) and a member of the International Coaching Federation. She is a certified member of the Center for Applied AxioMetrics which enables her to administer the Thinking Pattern Profile assessment. She holds a BS in Organizational Behavior from Rider University and serves on the Executive Board of the Rider Woman’s Leadership Council where she participates in the Mentor/Protégé Program for senior girls that fosters leadership and career advancement.
Blair has over 30 years of experience working in small family owned businesses, midsized telecommunications companies, large public corporations, and international companies in administrative management roles. She founded The Blatie Group, a coaching practice that provides motivational and mindful guidance while incorporating the science and application of positive psychology in a solutions-based approach. Her clients make positive change by determining ways to maximize their career, improve relationships, overcome a fear, or push beyond their comfort zone to challenge themselves.
Blair has been involved in Seeds to Sew International since its inception and is a strong advocate for women and girls in compromised communities seeking an opportunity to live the life they have imagined.
Gopi Sundaram, Board Member
Gopi Sundaram has over 20 years experience in investment banking and private equity. An engineer and an MBA, Mr. Sundaram brings unique perspective as he evaluates businesses and considers the synergies that exist between various companies and organizations. Mr. Sundaram has long had an interest in developing ideas and platforms for those less fortunate, and with a teenage daughter of his own, is keenly focused on the support of women and girls. Mr.Sundaram has built a storied career in Private Equity with a combination of Investment and Operational Turnaround experience, in addition to public company M&A expertise, pre-investment due diligence and KPI-based performance management. Mr. Sundaram brings a range of international experience as well, having held transactional and operational responsibilities across the world. Mr. Sundaram holds an MBA from the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College, an MS in Computer Engineering from Syracuse University, and a BS in Electronics Engineering, Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute, University of Mumbai. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC with his wife and daughter.
Nina Moukova, Operations Manager
Nina joined Seeds to Sew on the inaugural trip to Kenya in July/August 2011 to document the visit and the initiation of the first program in our first community, Enoosaen, Kenya and has been involved with Seeds to Sew ever since. In her role of Operations Manager, she is instrumental in everyday operations both in Kenya and in the US, business development, record-keeping, public relations, website administration, graphic design, sales and marketing. She enjoys hiking and all things nature. Nina grew up in the Czech Republic and now lives with her husband in Pennington, NJ.
I am a Senior at Hopewell Valley Central High School. When I learned about the inhumane situations that women in the developing world face, such as young marriage, young pregnancy, genital mutilation, and physical and mental abuse, I was compelled to take action. From this experience, I learned how small the world can feel. I am so grateful for the opportunity to give hope to women in rural Kenya so that they can gain independence, gain access to education, and take on leadership roles in their own communities.
PAST FIELD PROGRAM MANAGERS
Maggie Kimaru, Kenya Program Manager
Maggie was our Program Manager for the programs in Kenya during the years 2011-2018. Maggie grew up in Nyeri, which is in the central region of Kenya. She graduated from Mt. Kenya University with a diploma in business management. She joined Seeds to Sew in the summer of 2011 and has been involved with us ever since. Maggie was instrumental in the Kenyan operations, serving as a liaison between the women and girls in our programs and our US headquarters, as well as providing support to Program coordinators on the ground in Kenya. She is still involved with Seeds to Sew International and helps on a regular basis. She lives with her husband and daughter in Nairobi.
Jordan O’Neal, Enoosaen Program Manager (May – October 2015)
I call Colorado Springs my home but Kenya is my home away from home. I graduated from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs earning my bachelors in Geography and Environmental Science. I first heard about the Seeds to Sew program from my roommate and the first ever program manager Chris Myers. After talking to him about it I realized it would be a great opportunity for me to help those less fortunate and I was happy to travel back to Kenya in December 2015 for another month of service.
Calum Davies, Enoosaen Program Manager (November 2014 – May 2015)
I grew up under the northern mountains of England and in 2014 graduated with a degree in English and International Relations from Keele University. Soon afterwards I found myself in Kenya and took up my post as Program Manager with Seeds to Sew. Whenever people ask me about my experience as Program Manager, I take time to think about my reply to make sure I do it justice. This is because the ideas and programs that Seeds to Sew has introduced are reshaping the lives of women and girls for the better, and are deconstructing the inequalities that have been present in this world for too long. It’s a change that takes will and perseverance, and I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to see this with my own eyes.
Chris Myers, Enoosaen Program Manager (July – November 2014)
I am originally from the mid-western United States, but currently call Colorado and the Rocky Mountains my home. I graduated from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in May 2014 earning a bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental science. My first time to Kenya was in January of 2013 with a different NGO called The Harambee Foundation. I fell in love with the country and the people and was instantly amazed at how much potential this place has. I am very proud of the work that we have accomplished over the 6 months of my term as Program Manager and I look forward to see how the programs develop.