Meet Our Team

The Barrio Planta Project

Dyani Makous

Founder, Executive Director

Born in New York City and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Dyani attended public schools and was always very active in social service. She volunteered for the Philadelphia Student Union for 6 years, worked as a Peer Educator and "Know Your Rights" activist for the ACLU, and in 2002 won the “Youth Activist of the Year” award. She went on to earn a B.F.A. in Writing, Literature and Publishing with a minor in Photography from Emerson College in 2006 and spent two semesters abroad (The Netherlands & Granada, Spain) where she learned Spanish in a four-month intensive program. The following year, she worked as a team leader for Citizen Schools, from which she drew a lot of the inspiration for the Barrio Planta Project. In 2008, Dyani went to Nicaragua to pursue a career in travel writing, but ultimately founded the Barrio Planta Project. She has been able to combine all of her life experiences, passions and skills, as well as her beliefs in the value of high-quality education and the power of the arts in order to consistently maintain BPP as it continues to grow and thrive.

Denis Obando

Director of Art & Culture

Denis studied Education and Art at Ricardo Morales Avilez University in Jonotepe. He has been the Director of Art and Culture for the Association for Cultural Promotion (APC), the owner of BPP’s building, for 22 years. Denis has been working with BPP since 2009, as both a liaison to the APC and as BPP’s Director of Art and Culture. In addition, Denis has 29 year’s experience dancing with Youth Dance Groups that specialize in Traditional Nicaraguan Folklore Music. He recently formed his own group, Renacimiento del Sol, in which BPP students participate. Denis has represented San Juan del Sur through participation in various dance competitions, workshops and groups all over Nicaragua and globally. He is passionate about the visual arts and preserving Nicaraguan culture through teaching Folklore Dance.

Damaris Calderon

Director of Administration & Finance

A San Juan del Sur native, Damaris is happy to work for the betterment of the community she grew up in. Due to the booming tourism industry in San Juan del Sur, Damaris began her professional career by working in hospitality. In July 2010, Damaris left that path and started working for the Barrio Planta Project as a secretary, before there was even an office. Through hard work, dedication, reliability and adaptability Damaris created an office environment and worked her way up to Administrative Director. She now handles all of the data entry, human resources, translations and organization of files and serves as a liaison for professional legal and accounting services. Additionally, Damaris teaches Fitness classes to BPP students and leads all community-based initiative. Damaris firmly believes in the importance of education and is happy to work hard with the rest of the team to offer opportunities to children and adults that enable them to accomplish their goals and enhance their futures.Type your paragraph here.

Savannah Armstrong

Program Manager Nicaragua

Savannah hails from Boston, MA in the USA; yet is no stranger to finding new homes all over the globe. She started at BPP as an intern in 2017 and now she is more than humbled to have the opportunity to lead such an amazing team in Nicaragua and to continue helping these incredible children grow. With a background in Social Work, teaching English as a Learned Language as well as a Master’s Degree in International Peace, Conflict and Development, with a focus on community development through education, she is excited to put her skills to use in San Juan del Sur and Escamequita. Education, coupled with positive mentors have always played very powerful roles in her life and she believes that this combination is truly what is needed to change the world for the better. Savannah is a firm believer that where someone starts in life doesn't have to dictate where they end up if given access to equal opportunities. BPP is that access point for so many children and families and she is immensely proud to be sharing her time in this community through this life changing organization.

Mercedes Peñalba

Program Coordinator Escamequita

Mercedes is the Program Coordinator for BPP Escamequita. She is originally from León, Nicaragua where she studied Biology at the UNAN-León University. Since 2009 she started working as a volunteer in Environmental education for children, teaching them to learn about how to respect and live in harmony amongst our natural resources. BPP has allowed her to continue her objective to create environmental knowledge in children and how to make agricultural projects more sustainable for the community. “Every day is a challenge, but the results at the end are rewarding”, at BPP we are a family with so much potential and we are sharing that with these children.

Yeri Perez Sanchez

Agriculture Program Coordinator

Yeri is the Agriculture teacher and program coordinator in Escamequita. She has worked in Education for the past 9 year. Her passion for education comes from inspiration she received as a child. She lives in a community called Las Brisas in the south of San Juan del Sur and loves nature and listening to music. She has been working for BPP for 3 years and hopes to continue to share her knowledge with children in low resource communities and leave a mark on them. She is a very happy person and her goals this year are to continue to study.

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