President of the New Mayas Society, Mary Lois Sennewald LCSW, fell in love with Latin America after college when she went to teach in Bolivia. In the decades that followed, she traveled extensively and worked as an educator, journalist, psychotherapist and entrepreneur, both in the U.S., North Africa and Central America. More recently, she volunteered as a human rights observer in Guatemala with NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala), accompanying witnesses in the genocide cases against former military dictator Efraim Rios Montt, who was considered responsible for many violent massacres of Mayan indigenous in their villages. While working in the Ixil region in the highlands, she discovered the School for New Mayas (Centro de Formacion Nuevos Mayas) devoted to providing students with vocational and academic education for their middle and high school. Back in St. Louis she and several friends founded the New Mayas Society in May, 2009 for the purpose of raising money, recruiting volunteers and offering consultation. Presently she is a member of the Core Committee of IFCLA (Interfaith Committee of Latin America) in St. Louis MO, and is the representative in North America for APRODEFI, the civil association headquartered in Xix, Municipality of Chajulin, the Department of El Quiche, which founded and runs the school. She travels to the school once a year to learn about their projects and work and get to know the students and faculty of the school, invaluable information which she willingly shares with people in the United States.
When Phyllis Meagher heard her grade school friend Mary’s story about the School for the New Mayas, she was especially touched by the school operating without a secure water source. Impressed with what the community had already accomplished, she realized members could produce miracles with just a little extra help.
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica in the 60’s, she learned first hand about living in an underdeveloped country. There she worked to establish an in-school teacher training program. Following the Peace Corps, she worked for 15 years in computer systems in Chicago, then relocated to St. James Missouri where she bought a vineyard. She opened the Meramec Vineyards winery in 2000 which she continues to operate.
Phyllis served on the Management Systems Advisory Board at the University of Missouri Rolla (Missouri University of Science & Technology). She volunteers with both the Phelps County and school based Mentor programs. She founded the Missouri Grape Growers Association and served on the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Wine and Grape Advisory Board both as a member and Chair. She was awarded the industry’s Pioneer Award in 2008.
Susan Littlefield of St. Louis has long been involved in non-profit endeavors. She served as manager of community radio station WEVL-FM in Memphis, and later co-founded and guided the implementation of the highly successful KDHX-FM 88.1 in St. Louis, another community radio station. While Executive Director of Craft Alliance Education Center, she served as Project Director on state and federal grants for craft workshops, and project coordinator during the expansion of CAEC's studios and facilities. As a Board Member and/or Officer of various volunteer groups - Double Helix Corporation, Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council, Mid-Memphis Improvement Association, Grand Jury Association of St. Louis, and the 28th Ward Organization - she has handled finances, developed promotional materials, chaired fund-raisers, written newsletters, and coordinated volunteers. While President of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers & Advisors (Washington DC) she led its corporate re-structuring and raised its profile as an entity representing public and municipal interests in the fields of cable TV and telecommunications, speaking before municipal associations, professional trade groups, the Federal Communications Commission, and other regulatory agencies. Her professional career with the City of St. Louis encompasses municipal telecommunications, right-of-way management, cable franchise negotiation, billing systems and customer service.
Lenore McGarry is a retired city firefighter, long-time activist and organizer, and member of Witness for Peace steering committee for Mid-Atlantic region. She currently lives with her husband in Freewill, NY outside of Ithaca.
“I am passionate about the people of Latin America in general and especially in those places where I’ve visited and made friends: Guatemala and Mexico. I try to contribute in ways which foster self-sufficiency, such as education. I like to work in solidarity with persons who struggle for basic needs, human rights and dignity. Mostly I network— connect people who can help with those who would benefit. In the future I hope to teach English to people who desire it. In exchange, I would like to be taught an indigenous language—perhaps Mixtec.”
Carolyn Vaughan is the newest member of the Board and has traveled and studied in several Third World countries, in particular, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. She considers herself a citizen of the world. She worked in non-profit organizations for most of her life and lived with her husband, Joe, in Boston over 30 years, coming back to St. Louis in 2006. They have an adopted daughter from El Salvador who now has five children of her own in California. In the 1990’s they co-founded a small sustainable/spiritual community in South Carolina. Currently she does book design/layout, website design and is an artist creating paintings of landscapes, pet portraits and other things of beauty!