Board of Directors

Andrew Dorantes (since 2016) - Chair of the Board (2022)

Andrew is a CPA with a stellar background in finance and business management. He is Vice President for Administration and Finance/Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer at Harvey Mudd College and an Adjunct Professor of Finance and Economics of Higher Education at Claremont Graduate University. He has also served as partner with Capin Crouse LLP, a national firm that provides auditing, accounting, tax and advisory services to colleges, universities and other non-profit organizations and has also worked as a professor at Azusa Pacific College at the School of Business and Management. He holds an MBA from California State Polytechnic University Pomona and a Ph.D in Education from Claremont Graduate University. He accompanied Xela AID to Guatemala in 2015 and brought his entire family on Xela AID’s August 2016 service trip. He is impressed at Xela AID’s ability to do “so much good with so little money.” Andrew’s preparation and commitment to previous Xela AID trips has been exceptional and he has taken a leadership role, inspiring others to prepare.

Leslie Baer Dinkel (since 1992) - Executive Director (1993)

Ms. Baer Dinkel has more than 20 years experience in community development focused on health, education, job creation, promoting traditional weaving arts, medicines and midwifery. Her past professional posts have included Chief of Communications and Marketing for a leading land trust (10 years), VP of Marketing for the Natural History Museum of L.A. County, and a member of the executive teams of Harvey Mudd College and Whittier College. She is an author, award-winning documentary film maker and co-creator of the nationally syndicated radio series’ Earthwatch, FutureWatch and Isla Earth. Ms. Baer Dinkel served with an Order of Mother Teresa from 1988-1993, working with volunteers to provide emergency services to underserved and homeless individuals. She has been honored by the United States Congress and Senate. She holds an M.A. in Organizational Development

James F. Bruce, Jr. M.D. (Since 2018) - Vice Chair (2022)

Dr. James Bruce is a retired orthopedic surgeon who continues to lend his talents with Local Hope in Guatemala. Born and raised in Alabama, he has lived in Georgia for almost 40 years. After completion of medical school at Duke University and residency training at the University of Virginia, he started a private practice in LaGrange, Georgia. Upon retirement, he and his wife, Debbie, moved to Tiger, Georgia in the mountains of north Georgia. Debbie is an accomplished artist and is a member of the Board of Local Hope partner organizattinoo Art Ambassadors for a Colorful World. Dr. Bruce has worked with the medical mission organization, Faith in Practice, for 10 years and is also a member of that organization’s Board. As a member of both the Local Hope and Faith in Practice Board, his vision is to "blend the complementary strengths of these two organizations to improve the healthcare delivery for the people of San Martin Chiquito and the surrounding region.” Dr. Bruce and Debbie have 2 children and 4 delightful grandchildren.


Mel Dinkel, P.E., MBA (since 2005) - COO and Treasurer (2005)

Mr. Dinkel is a turnaround specialist with a track record of developing winning teams to improve profitability, reduce inefficiencies and build strong relationships with stakeholders. His areas of expertise include strategic business planning, operations management, project management and process improvement. Posts have included V.P. of Operations and Strategic Planning for General Electric where he served more than 20 years and was responsible for profitability for operations in the Western U.S. and nationwide strategic customers. Mr. Dinkel managed a budget in excess of $200 million annually, a staff of more than 250 people, and hundreds of projects of up to $20 million. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA, and is a Registered Professional Engineer. He served as Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer for 10 years for a prominent land trust, and is former CEO of the Claremont University Consortium. He is currently an operations consultant for the Center for Plant Conservation at San Diego Zoo Global, and lives in Huntington Beach, Calif.

John G. Douglass, Ph.D. (since 2015) - Secretary of the Board (2019)

Dr. Douglass began his career conducting archeological research inHonduras in the early 1990s, and through that experience, first visited Guatemala. He received his doctorate in Latin American archaeology from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2012 he returned to Guatemala with his wife, Jill Onken, as a Xela AID participant. Dr. Douglass is excited to apply his skills and experience to benefit the communities Xela AID serves. He currently conducts and oversees archaeological research in the U.S. Southwest and California as the Director of Corporate Research for Statistical Research, Inc., and is serving, or has served, on the Board of the Register of Professional Archaeologists, the Society for American Archaeology, and the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society. He and Jill and their dog Luci, live in Tucson, Arizona.

Sue Rikalo (since 2012) - Immediate Past Chair (2022)

Ms. Rikalo is an entrepreneur who has owned and operated five successful businesses during the past 35 years. She has served as Chair of the Board of her city's Chamber of Commerce, as a City Council Member, as a Planning Commissioner, and as a Director on the Board of a prominent museum. Her significant life experience and skills inform her role on Xela AID's Board as she works to empower constituents through building small businesses and leadership skills. Ms. Rikalo is a firm believer in giving constituents the opportunity to better their lives through the power of entrepreneurship. At the core of her interest and current focus is building the entrepreneurial capacity of Xela AID's youth group, Leaders of the Future.

Franklin Long, MD, MPH/TM (since 2008) Coach and Advocate, Medical Operations

Having completed many dozens of medical missions on four different continents, Dr. Long has utilized his special knowledge of tropical diseases to the benefit of rural populations in developing countries. He has worked in multiple family practice clinics and hospitals, has worked as an emergency medical service provider, and has applied these experiences to helping those who most need it. He has shared this in-depth understanding of tropical diseases and disease prevention and treatment broadly through lectures to volunteer lay medical workers and with other doctors and nurses. In his current post, he is practicing family medicine on Catalina Island and in the Hawaiian Islands. He is additionally engaged in writing book for a mass, lay audience on health and nutrition so that readers can easily determine best strategies to care for themselves and to live healthy, vibrant lives. Dr. Long lives in Sacramento, Calif.

Hon. Judge Leon Kaplan (since 2015) Coach and Advocate, Legal and Cultural Issues; Mental Health Program

The Honorable Leon Kaplan retired in 2008 after 27 years as a judge of the Los Angeles Superior court, presiding over juvenile, criminal, and civil courts. Prior to that, Judge Kaplan was a Board Member of the California Youth Authority. Immediately after law school, he was the volunteer attorney for Volunteers In Service To America, founded in 1965 as a national service program to fight poverty in America (now VISTA AmeriCorps). Judge Kaplan was a Fellow under the prestigious Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship Program established in 1967 by the University of Pennsylvana to attract talented young lawyers to the field of poverty law. He served on a USAID task force to evaluate the success of a criminal courts reform effort by the Guatemalan Ministry of Justice and USAID. He is currently a resident of Los Angeles, and a native of Chile.

Jill Onken, Ph.D. (since 2016)Coach and Advocate, Clean Water & Environment Program

Dr. Jill Onken is an earth scientist with more than 30 years experience working in environmental consulting and conducting research in the U.S. She has a doctorate in Geosciences from the University of Arizona. Her undergraduate training was in Anthropology, and she has a longstanding fascination with the interplay between culture and the natural environment. Jill grew up on a Midwest farm, and she sees many parallels to rural life in Guatemala. She believes that access to potable water is a basic human right and is eager to help guide the Clean Water Program, including exploring new cost-effective ways to harvest and store water. She is also interested in using her knowledge about natural hazards and sustainable subsistence agriculture to benefit the San Martin community. Jill and her husband John Douglass live in Tucson, Arizona, but enjoy periodic sojourns to the cooler and wetter Guatemalan climates to participate in Xela AID volunteer trips.

Cheryl Carter (since 2017) “El Comal de San Martín” Food Services Development Project

A volunteer since 2015, Cheryl is an entrepreneur and restaurateur. She opened her first business at the age of 24. Her career in the restaurant industry hasspanned 35 years focusing on concept development aspects of the Johnny Rebs' True South brand while overseeing day-to-day operational duties. She continues to be involved with every aspect of the concept including interior and brand design, menu development, human resources and training. For Xela AID, Cheryl is focusing on entrepreneurial development and expanding food services operations to serve volunteer groups and later, a broader community. She has participated in several volunteer trips with her husband Larry and daughters Ashley and Savannah and other trips focused on recipe and food service development. The Carter's reside in Sunset Beach, California.

Karen Yoshino, Ph.D (since 2004) Assessment and Continuous Improvement

Dr. Yoshino began volunteering for Xela AID in 2004. She has three decades of experience in outcomes assessment, accreditation review, and diversity management for colleges and universities. She has served on numerous accreditation teams in public and private institutions and contributed to educational policy at the national level. Her professional roles have included Exec. Director for the SAT at The College Board, Director of Institutional Assessment at Occidental College, and Exec. Administrator at Harvey Mudd College. She holds a Ph.d. in Education from the Claremont Graduate University, was a visiting scholar at New York University, is an accreditation team member for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and chairs the Board Academic Affairs Committee at LaRoche College. Dr. Yoshino currently provides consulting services to academic institutions in outcomes assessment and educational planning and improvement.

Anne Wickham Smith (since 2018) – Artist, Entrepreneur

Anne spent the first 20 years of her career in video and film production. In 2004 she learned to paint and was hooked, going on to study with the some of the top oil painters in the country. Trained in classical painting, she’s developed a style that expresses her love of the natural landscape. Her years in the film industry have given her a unique talent for composition, an understanding of light, and an ability to work productively out in the field. She is a member of The Berkshire Artists Guild, the Belmont Artists, and was recently accepted to the Oil Painters of America as an associate. During the last few years, Anne has dedicated her art to a vital cause: supporting and empowering children in impoverished areas of Guatemala with Local Hope..

Lori Kaplan (Since 2021)

Lori Kaplan is a seasoned design leader having grown up with Silicon Valley and the tech industry. She is currently Head of Design, Cloud Migrations and Buyer Experience at Atlassian, a communications and collaboration company whose mission is to help unleash the power of every team. Lori is known as much for her foundational work in design systems and guidelines as she is for her work with some of the hottest tech companies (Apple, Netscape, Netflix, Good Technology, and Groupon top the list) during their brightest moments. Lori is passionate about bringing simplicity and ease to technology that solves real problems so that people can focus on their passions. She is a resident of Menlo Park, California. • Lori has traveled three times as a volunteer with Local Hope, in 2016 and 2019, and is scheduled with her two adult children (Becca and Gabe) to travel to Machu Picchu this August. Since 2016, Lori has sponsored 3 students in Local Hope's LEAP Scholarship Program. Through Atlassian's Foundation, she also sponsors students with Room to Read. She looks forward to melding her passion for education with her experience designing software and building high performing teams. Lori will help Local Hope leverage technology to become more efficient and effective and support our emerging student support services in our technology lab.

Phil Wilson ( Since 2021)

Phil Wilson is an attorney who is presently a Claims Consulting Director for global insurer CNA. Prior to joining CNA in 2018, he was a commercial litigator and shareholder with Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, and a partner at DLA Piper prior to that. He earned a BA in International Studies from Kenyon College with an emphasis on Latin American studies (1991), and graduated magna cum laude from Temple University School of Law (1996). Phil served as a Board Member with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, where he chaired the Communications Committee and served on the Governance Committee, and is a regular volunteer for the Interfaith Food Alliance. He enjoys coaching and working with children and young adults to provide opportunities for personal growth and development through sports and other team-based activities. He and his older daughter Meghan first traveled to Guatemala with Local Hope in 2019. He is eager to return to Guatemala and potentially to lead trips that incorporate opportunities in healthcare, the visual arts, and youth sports.

Frank Cronin (Since 2021)

Frank is an attorney who’s career over five decades began as a trial lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice where he was tasked with enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His career led him to hold posts with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and as a partner both with Jackson Lewis P.C. and Snell and Wilmer LLC. He currently provides private mediation and arbitration services with emphasis on labor and employment disputes, trade secret issues and general business disputes, and Frank first traveled as a service volunteer with with Local Hope in 2018. He and his wife Susie are the sponsors of Alejandra Yulissa, a young student in Local Hope’s LEAP Scholarship Program, and have supported other education initiatives including our COVID-safe computer lab. He is enthusiastic about sharing his talents and insight including those gleaned from his career practicing law.

Kathy Burt(since 2008) Co-Founder, Tesoros del Corazón Fair Trade Weaving Cooperative; Coach and Advocate, Weaving Cooperative Business Planning

Kathy has more than 20 years experience lending her time and talents in non-profit development to organizations serving her communities. She has served on Boards including the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Westmont Art Council, Marymount School, Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy, the National Charity League, and the Wilding Museum. Her professional experience includes work in consumer products sales and marketing. Ms. Burt is co-founder with her daughter Amy Logan of Xela AID’s Fair Trade Weaving Cooperative Tesoros del Corazón. She has been involved with Xela AID since 2008, and lives with her Australian shepherds and alpaca in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Jim Ehlers

Jim Ehlers joins us for his second term as a Board member. He served on the Board between 1995 and 2003, during which time he made five trips to Guatemala with the organization, co-leading two of them. Jim has been involved in Fundraising for higher education in the Los Angeles area since 1992. He currently is the Executive Director for the Office of Gift Planning at the California Institute of Technology. He is also a member (and past president) of the Los Angeles Council of Charitable Gift Planners. Jim graduated from Whittier College with a major in Political Science and a minor in Spanish. He and his partner George live in Pasadena with their two cats.

Board Advisors

Carlos L. de la Rosa (Since 2005)

Dr. de la Rosa is a conservation biologist and tropical sustainable development expert. He received a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Pittsburgh, PA, and has recently been Adjunct Professor and Senior Researcher at the University of Costa Rica and the National University of Costa Rica, biodiversity advisor to the Organization of American States, the US Agency for International Development, and other organizations in the US and in Central and South America. Dr. de la Rosa has worked extensively in environmental education programs, sustainability issues, and conservation of wildlife and wildlands. He has led wildlife protection and conservation programs in California, Florida, and Central America and is committed to communicating to the public the urgency for a better relationship with nature and wildlife. He is a published author, a TEDx speaker, and a seasoned nonprofit executive. Currently, he is the Executive Director of the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in California. He has lent his expertise to Xela AID since 2005.

Cliff Hague (since 2007) Sustainable Development and Board Best Practices

With a three-decade career in entrepreneurial businesses and business development, Mr. Hague now lends his talents to the strategic positioning and sustainable growth of nonprofits in the fields of conservation and integrated community development. His expertise includes business and new product development and marketing, systems analysis, the biomedical industry, land management, and venture investment philanthropy. Mr. Hague has been a director on numerous non-profit boards in the past, and is currently a director on San Diego Zoo Global's governing board, along with serving on several other for-profit and nonprofit boards in California.

Amy Marks (since 2013), Education Programs and Marketing

Amy is a graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts with a degree in Public Relations & Advertising and more recently, a graduate of Interior Designers Institute with her degree in Interior Design. Amy now works as an Interior Designer for a residential design firm in Newport Beach, California. Amy has experience in marketing, social media, fashion merchandising, and social entrepreneurship. Her past careers include President of JOJI Bags, a social enterprise that benefits and empowers the women of Xela AID's Fair Trade Weaving Cooperative, Tesoros del Corazon, which she co-founded with her mother, Kathy Burt. Amy is also the past Director of the U.S.-arm of Xela AID’s highly successful LEAP Scholarship Program which has graduated more than 300 critically underserved Mayan children from high school and thus far 15 from college. She has participated in volunteer trips since 2008 and has a passion for working with the young students in the WSS Program and the women of Xela Aid's weaving cooperative. She lives with her husband, Tim, and their puppy Ollie in Costa Mesa, CA. 


Sherry Robin (since 2014) Coach and Advocate: Literacy Program, San Martín Tots Preschool, Mental Health Program

After receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology from the University of Southern California at Berkeley, Ms. Robins continued her education by securing a teaching credential in the methods developed by the late renowned Italian educator Maria Montessori. She taught using the Montessori method for a number of years in Mexico and the United States. She later earned a graduate degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), and worked at several California Regional Centers where, among other responsibilities, Ms. Robin served as an intermediarybetween parents of developmentally disabled children and adults and service providers. Under the auspices of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney, Ms. Robin later created a truancy intervention program that strived with success to keep children involved in their studies. Ms. Robin later resumed her career in counseling, working with the organization CALM (Child Abuse Listening and Mediation) where she has worked as a psychotherapist for the past decade. In her professional career, Ms. Robin has strived to help parents and children have successful, happy, and fulfilling lives. This is consistent with what she so generously brings to the communities served by Xela AID.

Dr. Steve Kent (since 2014) Chair, Medical Operations Committee; Coach and Advocate, Medical Mission and Clinic

Dr. Steve Kent has worked for more than 30 years as an interventional cardiologist, including performing emergency treatment for heart attacks and pacemaker implantation. He is a passionate advocate forpeople developing and enjoying a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Kent attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and served in the Strategic Air Command when he traveled throughout the world. His travels endeared him to diverse cultures and made him aware of the serious challenges faced by people in the developing world. Dr. Kent is dedicated to Xela AID's mission and to using his skills to help ensure that rural, underserved communities can enjoy a healthier and happier quality of life. He is additionally passionate about sports, and has coached youth basketball, soccer, baseball and football. He and his wife, Dr. Nancy Rikalo, live in Santa Barbara, California.

Bailey Smith (since 2016) Chair, Education Committee; Coach and Advocate, Literacy Program

Bailey has worked in higher education for 15 years and has a background in job training and alternative high school teaching. She has a Master’s Degree in Multicultural Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, but says she is most proud of her hard-won Certificate in Legal Interpretation and Translation. She took her first volunteer trip with Xela Aid in 2013, and with Board Member Sherry Robin, co-founded Xela AID’s now highly successful Literacy Program currently serving adult women. She is excited to use her background to assist Xela AID’s various education programs in becoming increasingly integrated and to evolve current measures of success to be increasingly meaningful within the local cultural context.

Jackie McDougall (since 2014) Institutional Advancement

Ms. McDougall has more than three decades of experience in non-profit management and funds development. She most recently serviced as Vice President for Development at the Crystal Cove Alliance, where she directed membership, major gifts and grants programs and the spectacular gala held each fall on the bluffs at Crystal Cove State Park. Prior to that, served for eight years as the Chief Development Officer for one of California's largest land trusts. Earlier, she was Senior Director of Development at U.C. Irvine College of Medicine. Born in England, Ms. McDougall earned a Bachelor's Degree in pharmacy from London University and a Master's of Business Administration from Henley School of Management in the United Kingdom. She worked in various marketing roles in the U.K. and Belgium before relocating to California. She currently consults for Crystal Cove and the Center for Plant Conservation.
Jackie is the Manager of Local Hope’s LEAP Scholarship Program.

Heather Lambert (since 2019), Advisor

Heather is a certified Montessori teacher, school director and teacher trainer. She has been passionately involved with children and the Montessori philosophy for the past 32 years. She has served in a volunteer capacity on many committees and boards in the Montessori world over the years. Her latest projects include starting a non-profit association for the teachers and parents at her school, and designing and implementing staff development and parent education. Heather’s dedication and experience have lead her to be a part of the development and implementation of the Montessori classroom for Local Hope. Her vision is to empower children ages 3 to 6 years old to develop their minds and bodies to their maximum potential in classrooms specially designed for children supported by trained teachers. The social, emotional, physical and academic growth of all children is at the heart of her work.

Staff Members

U.S. Staff

Leslie Baer Dinkel
Executive Director

M.L. (Mel) Dinkel
COO, Treasurer

Jackie McDougall, Manager, LEAP Scholarship Program

Ms. McDougall has more than three decades of experience in non-profit management and funds development. She most recently serviced as Vice President for Development at the Crystal Cove Alliance, where she directed membership, major gifts and grants programs and the spectacular gala held each fall on the bluffs at Crystal Cove State Park. Prior to that, served for eight years as the Chief Development Officer for one of California's largest land trusts. Earlier, she was Senior Director of Development at U.C. Irvine College of Medicine. Born in England, Ms. McDougall earned a Bachelor's Degree in pharmacy from London University and a Master's of Business Administration from Henley School of Management in the United Kingdom. She worked in various marketing roles in the U.K. and Belgium before relocating to California. She currently consults for Crystal Cove and the Center for Plant Conservation.
Jackie is the Manager of Local Hope’s LEAP Scholarship Program.

Guatemala Staff

Elmer Gomez Avilio Mazariegos, Interim Director of Guatemalan Operations

Interim Director of Guatemalan Operations, Elmer also has run Local Hope's Leadership Training Program since 2015, and the Clean Environment program focused largely on clean water since 2014. Prior to joining Local Hope/Xela AID, he worked for two years in the Environmental Sanitation Office of the local Health Center monitoring water quality and addressing health hazards. He served one term on the Municipal Environmental Board, and two four-year terms in local government as Chair of the Youth Committee of San Martín Sacatepequez. Elmer began his tenure with Xela AID in 2011 as a student sponsored through Local Hope's LEAP Scholarship Program. He received his teaching credential in 2013. He completed a bachelor's degree in 2017.

Maria Julia Donis Barillas, Deputy Director, Accountant, LEAP Program Coordinator

Estrella Beatriz Vásquez Vásquez, Health Care Administrator, Nurse, Health Educator

Fernanda Ochoa, Manager of Tourism and Hospitality Services

Ilsy Mazariegos, Coordinator of Special Needs and Montessori Preschool Programs

Juana Lopez Gomez, Teacher, Xela AID Montessori

Sofia Everilda Gomez Perez, Coordinator, Xela AID Computer Laboratory and READ Adult Literacy Teacher

Maria Luciana Perez Lopez, Coordinator, Tesoros del Corazón Fair Trade Weaving Cooperative

Marisela Suy de Guzmón and Jairo Guzmón

Guardianes, Xela AID Headquarters


Oscar G. De Leon, MSLM (Since 2010) Farmers Markets Director

Over the past 20 years, Oscar has been engaging with Southern California communities to develop Certified Farmers Markets that support farmers, stimulate local economies, increase access to fresh nutritious foods, promote local sustainability and more. His multifaceted role involves coordinating with counties, city officials, town merchants, farmers, food vendors and others. Oscar is is a member of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Certified Farmers Market Advisory Committee. Each market champions equitable and diverse practices in their vendor recruitment and expands food access to families by offering EBT, WIC and FVC services. Oscar manages three certified farmers markets in Riverside County sponsored by and benefitting the work of Local Hope.