Max Perel-Slater, Founder and Tanzania Executive Director
Max grew up in Berkeley, California. He received his B.A. in Environmental Studies & Earth and Environmental Science from Wesleyan University. As part of his degree, Max completed a graduate-level field course in Hydrogeology at Clemson University. The course included well drilling and borehole geophysics. He also studied abroad in Tanzania with World Learning and completed an independent research project about the water situation in Shirati. He continued his research the following summer as part of his Senior Capstone Project at the Wesleyan College of the Environment. In 2009, he led the construction of a ferro-cement rainwater catchment system and has worked on similar projects ever since. In 2011, Max worked for the CBO Shining Hope for Communities in the Kibera slum, coordinating a water project and co-leading a summer program for American university students.
Bruce Maj Pelz, Founder and US President
Bruce grew up in Boulder, Colorado. He attended the University of Colorado where he received honors for his B.A. in Environmental Studies. Bruce wrote his honors thesis on The Future Environmental Views of Children across Cultures and Socioeconomic Class. As part of his research, he surveyed students in five Tanzanian primary schools and two American elementary schools. While attending college, Bruce studied abroad in Tanzania with World Learning. In 2010, Bruce assisted in managing daily operations for The Paul Hewitt Care for Africa Foundation, an Australian NGO. He has also taught at an inner-city Denver public school about environmental science and sustainable living.
Rachel Stephen, Director of Operations
Rachel Stephen grew up in the Iringa Region in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Community Development from the University of Iringa (formerly, Tumaini University, Iringa). She has 10 years of experience implementing and coordinating behavioral changes, income-generating activities, legal aid, health education, and WASH programs in rural Tanzanian communities. She coordinated a WASH program (Usafi wa Mazingira Tanzania-UMATA) for Plan International Tanzania (INGO) from 2016-2020. The program focused on improving sanitation and hygiene through behavior change using the Community Led Total Sanitation approach (CLTS) to Equality and Non-Discrimination (EQND), MHM, and Gender Inclusion in communities and schools (SWASH). She is a national facilitator for MHM, as well as a member of the MHM Coalition in Tanzania, and very passionate about empowering women and girls through education. Her special passion is to give Menstrual Health and Hygiene much greater importance and recognition, and it brings her great satisfaction to see the people she is serving adopt and benefit from the intended changes.
Rebeca Oyugi, Program Manager
Rebeca Oyugi is originally from the Shirati area. She did her A-level studies at Ikizu Secondary School and her O-level studies at the very highly respected Kowak Girls’ Secondary School, both in the Mara Region. Rebeca received her Bachelor of Arts in Project Planning, Management and Community Development at the University of Dodoma. After graduation in 2011, Rebeca started working in the Rorya District at KMT North Mara Diocese as a monitoring and evaluation officer for “Pamoja Tuwalee”, a program for orphaned and vulnerable children for whom she visited program beneficiaries in the Shirati area.
After her contract ended in May 2017, Rebeca joined Maji Safi Group as program manager.
Anuciata Benasius, Program Manager
Anuciata Benasius grew up in the Rorya District. She has studied in several parts of Tanzania. In 2015, Anuciata received her bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Mzumbe University before continuing and getting her Master of Science in Human Resource Management at the same school. While studying, Anuciata started doing fieldwork with SNV Netherlands Development Organization in 2014. After finishing school, Anuciata continued her career with SNV and moved up from being a volunteer and to being a paid employee. During her time there, she helped develop market-based solutions to sanitation problems. She also has professional experience teaching about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and is a young Tanzanian woman on the rise!
In February 2019 Anuciata joined Maji Safi Group as program manager.
Pendo Messanga, Accountant
Pendo Messanga grew up in Tarime in the Mara Region. She received her Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance at Ardhi University. She studied for her A-Level at Morogoro Secondary School and her O-Level at Kowak Girls Secondary School in the Rorya district. During her studies, Pendo Messanga did fieldwork at the Tarime District Office as an accountant and later worked on field research at Renovex Consultants, located in Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam. Prior to joining Maji Safi Group, she worked as the Finance Officer and Office Administrator at North Mara Community Trust Fund located in Nyamongo, Tarime District.
George Kwilasa, Monitoring and Development Manager
George Kwilasa is from Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania. Between 2010 and 2013, he completed a Bachelor of Tourism Management at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania. George is now the Monitoring and Development Manager at Maji Safi Group. He has over five years of experience with sustainable development, monitoring, and evaluation of humanitarian work. George oversees program and project data systems to produce, enter, and analyze reliable and accurate quality data to enable informed, data-driven decisions to guide Maji Safi Group’s work and development goals. He also participates in grant writing to ensure availability of financial resources for implementing Maji Safi Group’s WASH and disease prevention programs in rural areas in the Mara Region. Before joining Maji Safi Group, George worked in different positions with Governance Links Tanzania for over six years, with Research and Policy Analyst being his last position. He has also helped design monitoring and evaluation frameworks for programs and projects for other organizations and undertaken field assignments for generating field-referenced recommendations for strategic adjustments.
Shemaya Okong’o, Assistant Accountant
Shemaya Okong’o and his family are originally from the Shirati area in the Rorya District. Shemaya finished his advanced levels of secondary school in 2012 from Makongo High School in Dar es Salaam. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in banking and finance at the Institute of Finance Management in 2015. After graduating, Shemaya worked as the accountant for the cancer research organization EMBLEM and served as the purchasing manager for the NGO Shirati Health and Education Development (SHED).
Erna Maj, US Fundraising and Outreach Coordinator
Erna was born and raised in Denmark and immigrated to the US in 1978. She received her undergraduate degree from City University of New York in American Studies and her master’s degree from the University of Colorado in Linguistics and Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL). After raising three sons and working as a language teacher and translator for 20 years, Erna now devotes her time to philanthropy in general and Maji Safi Group in particular. Erna has volunteered for aid organizations in the US, Tanzania, Guatemala, and Argentina. She visits Shirati annually to provide educational instruction and help with the development of MSG teaching materials and methods.