Our Team

Occupation: Retired Civil Servant

Background: Grandson of Bila Victor Guirma

Why are you involved?: Because of my grandfather’s opportunity I was blessed with the life I have today. Growing up, my father made sure that we always had a connection to Burkina Faso (especially Guirgho) and never failed to remind us of our obligation to reach back and help those who weren’t blessed with the same opportunities. I would like to share my blessings by helping change the paradigm for the children in Guirgho.

VICTOR GUIRMA

Occupation: Educator

Background: Special Education, MS Music Therapy, BS

Why are you involved?: Teachers and students in Guirgho learn and work with limited basic materials such as pencils, chalk, books or paper. Exposure and opportunities to innovative technology as a learning tool is non-existent. As an educator in the United States, it is necessary that both my students and I have a basic level of proficiency to operate a computer. Technology is used daily, across all academic and the arts classes as a tool which educates students for the technology-driven world they are preparing to have an impact on. It is necessary to provide opportunities which align with the world we are preparing our students for and Guirgho is way too far on the other end of the global spectrum, they need our assistance.

MARY GUIRMA

Occupation: Financial Representative Assistant for Northwestern Mutual/Pascal Guirma

Background: I was born and raised in Sweden, in a very small town in the south called Lagan. I came to the US as an exchange student in 1991, studying Marketing and PR at SUNY New Paltz where I met my husband. After graduating we moved around quite a bit, returning twice to Sweden/Lund and Stockholm, we came back to the US and are now raising our two teenage daughters in New Paltz, NY, right back where we started. I’ve had the fortune to work with Pascal Guirma, Wealth Management Advisor and FoG founder, for the last 10 years, servicing our insurance and investment clients.

Why are you involved?: Having worked with Pascal and learning of Burkina Faso, his family, and their ancestral village of Guirgho; when Friends of Guirgho was started I knew I wanted to be involved and do my part to try to help students get the same opportunities as my children, and have these kids see their own potential and the world beyond.

LINA GINGOLD

DAWN RICH

Occupation: I am the office manager at The Law Offices of Robert F. Rich Jr.  in New Paltz.

Background: I am a life-long resident of the Hudson Valley, having grown up in nearby Highland, New York. After graduating from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and Newhouse School of Communications, I worked for more than a decade as a magazine journalist in New York City, on staff as a writer and editor for such publications as Golf Illustrated, Health Magazine, Self Magazine, and Shape Magazine. After moving back to the local area, I stepped back into my most cherished role as full-time mom to my two daughters, Mandy and Jenny. 

Why are you involved?: I have decades of experience planning, fundraising, and writing press releases for charitable organizations. Friends of Guirgho provided an incredible opportunity to continue giving back and to help children reach their full potential.

Occupation: Attorney and Town Judge

Background: I was born in Kingston, New York in 1961 and lived in Arlington, Virginia until age 12. I grew up in a single-parent household. I graduated from Highland High School in 1980, then SUNY Albany in 1984 (first in my family to go to college), and Albany Law School in 1987.  I am currently in private practice in New Paltz, New York and Town Justice in Gardiner, New York.  I’m married to my wife, Dawn, and have two adult daughters, Mandy and Jenny.

Why are you involved?: I have had the privilege of knowing Pascal and Victor Guirma for many years, and when Pascal invited me to join this project, I enthusiastically accepted. As someone who has seen first-hand how education can create opportunities, I strongly believe that every child has unlimited potential, but that lack of access to resources can rob the world of that potential before it is realized. Having been to Guirgho myself, I am more committed than ever to doing my part to help fulfill our mission and goals. I look forward to returning this fall.

BOB RICH

Occupation: Architect

Background: As the founder and President of Alfandre Architecture I am an expert in the design of energy-efficient and climatically responsive buildings that utilize state of the art construction systems to create healthy places to live and work. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from SUNY New Paltz in 1980 and a Master of Architecture degree in 1987 from the School of Architecture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. I am National Council of Architecture Registrations Boards certified (NCARB), a member of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), and the Construction Contractors Association of the Hudson Valley (CCAHV).

Why are you involved?: I am happy to work on this project for two main reasons: I truly love and respect the people who are making this happen. Pascal and Victor are awesome human beings. They have brought in other great folks including Bob Rich. The mission of the work is most important. We know that true sustainability can only come about through education.  Education is the primary means by which people are lifted up out of  poverty. Through education innovation truly can occur.

RICK ALFANDRE

Occupation: I.T. Director of The Manischewitz Company in New Jersey 

Background: A graduate of the State University of New York art New Paltz with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science. I have over 30 years professional experience.

Why are you involved?: Africa is full of resources and the most valuable resource is her people. Education is the key to sustainable development and in this digital age, ICT education is a must. I believe Africa can leapfrog into the digital age and Friends of Guirgho plans to do its part by facilitating ICT education one village at a time. “It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education. Those who do not believe this have small imaginations.” - Nelson Mandela

MUSTAPHA KAMARA

Occupation: Digital Content Writer at UNICEF

Background: My years of experience are in writing, editing, and producing both print and digital content in the health and wellness space. I hold a BA from McGill University and an MS from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. 

Why are you involved?: I believe that all human beings are limitless potential, impeded only by circumstance. Taking part in a project dedicated to breaking down barriers to success is a dream come true. I am honored and humbled to be a part of it.

MANDY RICH

Occupation: Co-founder QUAIL HOLLOW EVENTS: Promoters of Art & Crafts Fairs

Background: Background in events promotions, woodworking, and carpentry

Why are you involved?: At first I became involved with the organization out of a 38 year friendship with Victor and Pascal Guirma. As I learned of the needs and goals of their ancestral village, I began to understand the universality of the community's situation and the possible contribution I could make to specific solutions.  Seeing the progress that has already been made has fueled my interest in its success.

SCOTT RUBENSTEIN

Occupation: Yoga Teacher/Deputy Supervisor, Town of Gardiner, NY

Background: 20+ years as a community development consultant and researcher; public service experience in state, county, local, and school district governments.  

Why are you involved?: I am a Friend of Guirgho out of my deep respect for the Guirma family and the opportunity they provide to help them nourish their native community and its children.

LAURA F WALLS

Occupation: Full Professor at the University of Ouagadougou/Burkina Faso, Head of the Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine departments at Bogodogo University Medical Center, and President of the National Medical Council, Burkina Faso

Background: Having studied general medicine and specialized in gynecology and obstetrics at universities in Ouagadougou, Abidjan, Tours, Paris and Bordeaux, I hold diplomas in Obstetrics/Gynecology and a University diploma in Epidemiology and Statistical methods. I have been instrumental in initiating the AQUASOU project, which allows me to partner with different organizations (IMI, IRD, E&P) to set up a cost-sharing system to reduce financial barriers and permit access to SONOU (Emergency Obstetric and Neo-Natal Care) and to improve community participation. My work is being tracked by several scientific publications around the world.

Why are you involved?: I am convinced that to succeed in achieving sustainable development, we have to raise the standard of education and the education level of children.

PROFESSOR CHARLEMAGNE MARIE R. OUEDRAOGO 

Occupation: Wealth Management Advisor

Background: Grandson of Bila Victor Guirma

Why are you involved?: As a child, straddling two cultures was natural for me. I’ve never felt the need to choose one way of life or the other. I’ve always felt equally comfortable in my new country and the country of my birth. In many ways, visiting Burkina Faso, seemed as if I was stepping back in time 100 years and experiencing life as it was for my grandfather and his grandfather. As an adult, I’ve noticed that the time differential is both shrinking and expanding. The cities are quickly moving into the 21st century at lightning speed and the rural villages are being left further behind. Education gives us the choice of which era to live in. Because I’ve had the privilege of living two cultures simultaneously, I’ve benefited from the richness of both. I have seen that when ordinary people get together in friendship, with a common purpose, they can accomplish extraordinary things. FoG is the first step into the ultimate melding of people and the realization that there is much that we can learn from each other and there is much we can do together.

PASCAL M GUIRMA

Occupation: Elementary school Teacher in Colorado

Why Are You Involved?: As an elementary school teacher, I see so many students arrive full of potential and it’s my responsibility to motivate them to maximize their talents. The teachers in Guirgho see the same potential in their students the only difference is that I have resources at my disposal that isn’t available to those teachers. Fate intervened in Bila Victor’s life resulting in the life I have today in the United States. I have never forgotten Burkina Faso and FoG allows me to give back in a meaningful way. We all have a responsibility to reach back.

CECILE JOHNSON

Occupation: FOG Director in Burkina Faso

Why are you involved?: My maternal great- grandmother was one of Bila Victor Guirma step-mothers who took care of him after his mother died. My grand-mother Kouma Jeanne Guirma was Bila's sister and she lived with him until she got married. I’m connected to Guirgho on my mother’s side and I wanted to be part of an organization that will have a meaningful impact to the students in the rural areas. Students having access to technology is a necessity and will open the door to better opportunities and means to a better future for everyone.

SANDRINE FOROGO

Occupation: Environmental Consultant; Alpine Environmental Consultants, Inc.

Background: I am a soil scientist with experience in geology, site planning, water resources, forestry, agriculture, and organic agriculture. In my spare time I am the weekend crop man and mechanic on my sister and brother-in-law’s organic dairy farm.

Why are you involved?: I have wanted to do something like this for my whole life. Pascal has presented me with a tremendous opportunity to do some good.

JIM ULLRICH

Occupation: Healthcare practitioner

Background: I am a granddaughter of Bila and member of the advisory board. Currently I am in my second year of studying healthcare and sciences while also working as a healthcare practitioner. As Bila's granddaughter, my roots go back to the village of Guirgho and I still have distant family members living there. 

Why are you involved?: My involvement in Friends of Guirgho stems from my desire to bring modern and relevant technology to students abroad to help prepare them for this fast-paced world.

SARAH GUIRMA

Occupation: College Student

Background: I grew up in Burkina Faso and moved to the US at 14 years old. My parents brought me to the US to have a chance at the academic opportunities available in the hopes to acquire a better future for myself.

Why are you involved?: Bila is my grandfather and Burkina Faso, my home country, is filled with many young minds who hunger for the opportunity to make a difference in their loved ones lives, their country, and contribute something meaningful to the world. I know this because I grew up there and I am well aware of the scarcity in economic, academic, and technological resources that prevent the youth from exploring and cultivating their potential. I was able to have access to resources through the opportunities given to me when I came here to the US and acquired a quality education and today I am heading for my Masters in Speech and Language Pathology. I would like to help extend the same opportunity to others like me because I feel I have a responsibility to give back and help make the world a better place. After all, “Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

JOELLE GUIRMA

Occupation: President, The Council of Industry of Southeastern New York

Background: I work as the Executive Vice President of the Council of Industry of Southeastern New York, an association of 155 Hudson Valley manufacturing firms which employs more than 16,000 people. Prior to joining the Council of Industry I worked as an Economic Development Specialist with The Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation, and as Campaign Director for the United Way of Ulster County. Earned a Bachelor’s degree from Allegheny College, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from SUNY New Paltz.  I am the Vice Chair of the Manufacturers Alliance of New York State, a member of the Board of Directors of the World Affairs Council of the Hudson Valley, and a voting member of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council.  I am also a past member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and was Vice Chairman of the NAM’s Affiliate Organizations Board. I live in New Paltz with my wife Amy.

Why are you involved?: I am excited to be part of this grass roots effort to improve educational opportunities to the young people of Guirgho by improving their learning environment and access to technology in their schools.  Working directly with the teachers, parents, and community leaders in Guirgho, we can make a real difference in the lives of these students. 

HAROLD KING

Occupation: Importer/Exporter (Military non Lethal, furniture, Shipping, Used Heavy Machinery, relocations). I’m also in the restaurant business.
Background: I am from Burkina Faso.

Why are you involved?: After I was approached by my dear two friends Pascal and Victor Guirma, I made the decision to become involved because it’s a chance for me to do the right thing by helping improve the lives of those less fortunate.

CHEICKNA MAIGA

Occupation: Director of Analytics

Background: I have over 20 years of professional experience in data analytics, process improvement and project management in the Financial Services industry. I have lent a hand to several non-profits in various roles including operations, communications, funding proposals, process analysis/improvement initiatives and compiling data to create “the story.” In addition to working with FoG, I love spending quality time with family and friends, traveling and believe massage therapy helps cure all that ails you.

Why are you involved?: I am passionate about rolling up my sleeves and giving back to others, especially our youth. I am inspired by giving kids options & resources and watching them thrive, and I believe that we all can do something to make a positive impact in someone’s life and being a part of a team like FoG that can help change the trajectory of a child’s life is a golden ticket!

LISA WALLACE

Occupation: Financial Attache at the Permanent Mission of Burkina Faso at the United Nations. I am a Public Accountant and work with a lot of local authorities in the development of their region.

Background: From Burkina Faso

Why are you involved?: I'm involved in this organization because I would like to share in this experience and be part of the development of Guirgho.

 DOMINIQUE YAMEOGO 

Occupation: Business owner in the field of technology.

Why are you involved?: As soon as I heard about the project I immediately joined. Indeed technology for me is the fastest way to reduce social inequalities in the world. However, the traditional education systems in Burkina do not provide the opportunity for students to appropriate this tool for better training and also an openness to the world. Friends of Guirgho is a bold project that must be fully supported. The technology can be used from the earliest ages without language or culture barriers. I will therefore give my full support to this initiative, especially since I am myself evolving in this sector.

STÉPHANE SANOU

Occupation: High School Student

Why are you involved?: I am truly convinced that human beings are only limited by their environment, and with the appropriate resources, any human, child or adult, can achieve wonderful things when given the proper tools and opportunities. Therefore, it is every human’s responsibility to help, whether it be a large act or a simple friendly gesture, anyone who could benefit from it. I am honored to be a Friend of Guirgho and assist in achieving development in a sustainable and ethical fashion. 

JOSIE GRAVATT

© 2019 Friends of Guirgho

Mailing Address: 

176 Main St.
New Paltz, NY 12561

Friends of Guirgho is a 501(c)(3) charitable not-for-profit corporation.  Donations are tax deductible.

Call us:

845-320-6917

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