Metro Manila is a sprawling metropolis of more than 12 million people. It is estimated that as many as 20%-35% of its inhabitants live in an informal setting. Project Propel works with communities mostly located along the city's waterways.
Project Propel works with indigenous communities on the main island of Luzon. The Pamihahaup EcoFarm Project of the Aeta tribe is located in Tarlac, two hours north of Metro Manila. The Manide EcoFarm of the Manide tribe is in the southern Bicol region of Luzon.
Board of Directors
ELIZABETH A. LANNING
Founder & CEO
Elizabeth Lanning’s early journeys to different parts of the world, many of which alongside her father, made a profound impact on her passion to listen and deeply connect with humans of diverse cultures and traditions. It also helped cultivate the empathy and love that propels her life’s work. The first Project Propel urban garden began in 2013, stemming largely from her graduate research among riverside communities in Metro Manila. Harnessing her background in Social Work and Public Health, Elizabeth promotes a vision of holistic health for all, and the importance of being responsible stewards of Earth’s abundance. She fervently believes that an integrated approach to development is the key to sustainable positive change. One of her favorite aspects of Project Propel is witnessing women empowered by informed health choices, and in turn teaching their families and leading the community at large!
AMANDA S. BARIZO
Chair & COO
Amanda S. Barizo has been based in the Philippines since 2012 and joined the Project Propel team in full capacity in 2019. She combines her experience in international non-profit management and her work as a global health educator to help bring the mission and vision of Project Propel into realization. Coming from a family of educators, she is a firm believer in empowerment through education. Amanda is driven by a sense of responsiveness to those most affected by systemic imbalances—societal, economic, or environmental. In Project Propel, she finds joy in listening and learning from others. She also loves planning, organizing, and all things involving systems, numbers, tables or charts!
Founding Board Member
Roberta Plantak was instrumental in establishing Project Propel as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the United States, before moving to the Philippines in 2016. She has a diverse background in international political science, children’s wellness and advocacy, and non-profit marketing and fundraising. Roberta’s infectious energy inspires and propels action within the local communities, while she brightly reflects the spirit and mission of Project Propel to the donor community through fundraisers and marketing campaigns. While in the Philippines, Roberta spearheaded program development, community organizing, and she continues to keep the Project Propel network engaged and growing. The Fresh Perspectives (children’s arts & writing program) and the EcoWings (sustainable, eco-conscious livelihood) both came to fruition thanks to Roberta’s drive and passion for women, children & the environment.
Sara-May Colón grew up throughout the globe, and her exposure to different cultures, customs, and climates has contributed to her remarkable adaptability. During her board visits to the Philippines, she has immersed herself among the indigenous mountain tribes, and also stayed with community members living along the San Juan River during flood season. Sara’s diverse skill set stretches far beyond her formal education & work experience in Business, Theology, and Art. Whether it be on projects or during strategic meetings, her positive & team-building spirit, as well as her keen ability to problem-solve, organize, and mobilize others, have been a true asset to the organization. We also have the Project Propel logo thanks to her graphic design skills!
Boryana Alexandrova is a professional photographer and cinematographer, who as a board member offers her gifted field of awareness and discerning eye, both around the conference table and behind the camera. Based in New York City, she first travelled to the Philippines in 2018 for the first Project Propel face-to-face board session. While in the Philippines she engaged with community members, documented programs and program members, filmed in-depth interviews with Project Propel volunteers and staff, and used her skills to accurately capture and portray the heart and vision of Project Propel.
Team on the Ground
May promotes Project Propel’s integrated and holistic approach to development by applying her experience in coalition-building and policy advocacy for child rights, gender equality, and food security. She believes having a human rights lens in program implementation will ensure that outcomes are people-centered. She seeks to translate communities' needs into rights and is actively pursuing partnerships to further Project Propel’s programs and reach!
EcoFarm Project Coordinator
Project Propel was first introduced to Cherrys "Che" Abrigo in 2018, when visiting the organic farms of indigenous Dumagat farmers that she helped establish in Tanay, Rizal. Since then, Che provided friendly guidance as Project Propel endeavored to start the EcoFarms. In 2020, we asked her to officially bring her expertise to the team as the EcoFarm Project Coordinator. Her extensive experience in project management & organic agriculture is only eclipsed by her humble determination and compassion to improve the health and livelihoods of indigenous farmers.
Rowena joined Project Propel in 2020, helping with various program needs. She comes from Sorsogon, Bicol. She cares deeply for the environment, actively teaching the community to "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle." When asked what her favorite aspect of working with Project Propel is, she said “the way we treat each other like a family, and also planting vegetables!”
EcoWings Head of Production
Emelita is originally from the province of Pangasinan, She brings her positivity and natural leadership abilities to the EcoWings and the urban EcoGardens. Her favorite vegetable is eggplant, but she grows a wide variety of vegetables and medicinal herbs. She is always inviting others to join the EcoGardens, wanting to share the benefits of growing your own food, including during times of crisis.
EcoWings Head of Production
Teodora “Dora” is a part of the EcoWings production team. Her positive attitude keeps the EcoWings team moving forward. As a mother, she is proud to share the EcoWings with her daughter, and has become passionate about positive environmental action. She enjoys vegetables and cooking, and often has yummy vegetarian dishes to share during potlucks in the office. She enjoys sewing, but especially enjoys the time shared with fellow EcoWings teammates.
Administration & Finance
Sheila first got involved with Project Propel in 2013, volunteering in various program activities. Sheila offers support and guidance on administrative and financial matters as her busy schedule allows. She is adept in our Oracle NetSuite database and has helped in developing a business model for the EcoWings livelihood program. An MBA graduate herself, she truly enjoys seeing other women achieve economic empowerment!
Community Engagement Manager (Bicol Region)
Jon's innate ability to connect with others is essential for his role as Community Engagement Manager. He possesses a genuine care for preserving the health of the natural environment. He has enjoyed forming of relationships and learning the cultures and traditions of the Manide people. He coordinates the agriculture and WASH programs among the Manide communities in Bicol and liaises with tribal leadership, LGUs and partners on program activities.
Program Assistant (Bicol Region)
Genalyn was raised in Lopez, Quezon and relocated to Camarines Norte, Bicol in 2001. She studied Education and Agriculture in college as a scholar of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples. Genalyn belongs to the Manide Tribe. She was part of the original Manide EcoFarm families and joined as a Program Assistant in 2021. She especially enjoys teaching health to fellow members of the Manide Tribe during community visits!
SARASWOTI BHURTEL GAUTAM
In-Country Liaison Officer (Nepal)
Saraswoti is propelled by a passion for women’s health and empowerment. She is excited to ensure that Project Propel maintains an integrated approach while replicating our programs through local partners in Nepal. With a background in education, and serving more than a decade as an elementary school principal, Saraswoti has a knack for detail and outlining what is needed to achieve desired outcomes. She looks forward to continually learning how to better uplift the lives of women and children.
EcoWings Quality Control Officer
Originally from Negros Occidental, Philippines, Mercy took her first job with Project Propel at the age of 65. She is always early and takes pride in her work. Mercy is also an urban EcoGardener, growing vegetables to provide for her and her grandchildren. She enjoys keeping the environment clean, preserving the trees, especially for future generations. Attributing it all to God, Mercy serves as a pillar of strength in her home, in the community, and in the Project Propel office.
EcoWings Production Officer
Liza Red comes from the province of Samar. She is a vibrant member of the EcoWings team. She enjoys working with Project Propel's EcoWings livelihood because it provides her extra income to support her family. She also is happy to make products that are good for the environment!