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Team 2017-05-19T19:56:51+00:00

Leadership Team in Panama

  • Neil Christiansen

    Founder/President
    The founder and brainchild behind Give & Surf serves as the captain whether he’s jungle living or doing development work in the states. Packing more excitement and energy than the normal human, Neil is a modern day energizer bunny. Learn more about Give & Surf through his eyes here.
  • Emily Talentino

    Executive Director
    Emily toyed with the "Should I move to Panama" idea for sometime so it was not hard to lure her to join us in Panama when the idea of working outdoors with children in the warmth of Panama was proposed. Emily shed her Massachusetts wardrobe and brings years of experience in development and counseling as the Executive Director of a YMCA.
  • Sam Rugamas

    Director of Education
    Sam was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and spent most of her youth in El Salvador. After working in the corporate world for some time, she decided to switch gears and become an early childhood educator at a well-loved non-profit preschool in San Francisco, California. During this time she began to explore her passion for education and outreach and helped strengthen her school’s Service Learning and Outreach program. In 2015, she invited some of her colleagues to volunteer teach in Bocas del Toro, Panama and in 2016 she decided to move to the islands indefinitely. Sam is excited to make this transition back into education and to share her love, knowledge and passion for teaching with our local lead teachers!
  • Drew Berger

    Volunteer Director
    Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, meet Drew. After studying graphic design at Rollins College, he decided that a desk job was not for him and worked as a kindergarten teacher in Thailand prior to joining us. His love for the ocean and giving back landed him here in Panama. Drew has jumped right in and gotten his hands dirty...literally! He has led the construction of the new Bahia Roja school as well as is the chief host of the volunteers. He loves taking our volunteers on new adventures, especially surfing and spearfishing!
  • La Loma Jungle Lodge

    La Loma Jungle Lodge is family to us. Henry, Margaret, little Lucho, and the rest of the gang have our back.  La Loma has helped the local community of Bahia Honda for ten years and it was their guidance and support that allows us to do what we do.  Give and Surf partners with La Loma to provide a number of community development projects.  We look forward to many collaborative efforts and good times with our La Loma family in the future. 
  • Eddy Gomez

    Logistics and Project Coordinator
      Eddy is our knight in shining armor.  Eddy is the wave behind the surfboard that is Give and Surf. Our unwavering captain can fix anything, and his immense knowledge of the island archipelago is invaluable when it comes to transporting our precious preschool cargo.  Eddie is also a baseball and volleyball legend in Bahia Honda, and enjoys fishing, painting dolphins, and sharing his knowledge of the flora and fauna of Bocas del Toro. 
    • Maria Elena Santos

      Lead Teacher
        Our teaching staff would not be complete without Maria Elena and her always present smile. As an instrumental person in the community of Bahia Roja Maria Elena tirelessly pursued a life of serving others through obtaining her teaching degree. Her main focus is working with the kindergarten aged children ages 5-6.
      • Vaneza Milton

        Lead Teacher
          Vaneza has been part of the Give & Surf family from the very beginning! With a strong connection to her children's future education Vaneza played a supportive role as a teacher in during the first years of Bahia Honda kindergarten. Vaneza is now our lead kindergarten teacher and will soon be graduating from teacher's college thanks to Education is Power.
        • Eddie Jones

          Volunteer Coordinator
          Eddie is our fearless Volunteer Coordinator whose primary role is to ensure that our volunteers have a safe, fun, and fulfilling time with us in Panama. Eddie hails from the US of A, although we're not sure where. He grew up outside of Washington D.C., studied in Colorado, kayak guided in Delaware, managed a business in Wyoming, ran a haunted forest in Maryland and guided adrenaline sports for kids along the Potomac River. Eddie is amazed that he gets to share his passion for making other people happy, working with children, building relationships and giving back to the communities that we work with and with volunteers from around the world.
        • Jennifer Jackson

          Lead Teacher/Trainer of TEFL Bocas
          Jennifer began her love of teaching in the United states teaching elementary education and special education. She has been traveling the United States and Central America teaching every chance she gets.  After teaching in Costa Rica and traveling to Bocas many times, she has decided to share the excitement of being in the classroom by teaching the Teaching English as a Foreign Language course in Bocas Del Toro.
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