About Us

Collaboration, transparency, accountability, diversity, and environmental integrity.


Partners in Progress works with rural based organizations to strengthen local cultural, social, and environmental assets for building sustainable community.


Rural communities are places where people want to live and raise a family; where neighbors all have responsibility to ensure the health and well-being of people and the environment and to continuously imagine and shape a prosperous, hope-filled future.

Our History

Partners in Progress (“PIP”) is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit organization founded in 1999 by the Pittsburgh Haiti Solidarity Committee to promote sustainable rural development in Haiti.

Partners in Progress addresses the issue of limited opportunities and resources for self-determination and the dependency this creates on external development agendas and resources. The Haitian government provides almost no support for rural communities that would enable them to develop skills and resources for advancing their own development priorities. Agricultural extension, for example, has virtually ceased. Most rural development support comes from NGO or faith-based organizations, usually in the form of short trainings in technologies that are prioritized from outside. Though well meaning, this typically results in initiatives that are poorly suited to community needs.

PIP’s initial focus was to link community organizations, primarily in the region of Fondwa, with technical expertise and funding to support health care, education and economic development. We learned that this type of support was not having lasting impact or building the capabilities of communities to become self-sufficient. Decision-making about development priorities were made by a select few and therefore did not lead to growth and innovation. In order to promote more inclusive decision making and to address the capacity building needs of our partners in community organizing and project planning and management, PIP began working more as a collaborative partner in sustainable development initiatives.


Our core values and beliefs guide everything we do, large and small. We:

For PIP, sustainable community development is that which:

  • Takes an integrated approach to meeting basic needs that also works to address systemic challenges facing rural communities
  • Is inclusive and promotes equity and social justice
  • Improves the health of the environment (soil, plant and animal life, air, water) for future generations
  • Generates local wealth, while promoting equitable distribution of resources
  • Depends and builds on local knowledge, resources, and innovation to the greatest extent possible
  • Builds community capacity for self organizing, imagining, and developing the resources needed to realize a shared vision of the future
  • Fosters resiliency and self-reliance

What does sustainable community look like?

  • Believe in the inherent right of all peoples to clean air, water, land and other resources necessary to meet their basic needs and live with dignity;
  • Work to reclaim and revitalize the knowledge, values, and traditions of our ancestors that can lead to more sustainable outcomes;
  • Trust in the power of communities to create innovative solutions to the problems they face;
  • Believe that we should be “inclusive” in our work and that everyone has something to contribute and teach;
  • Consider the implications of our decisions on future generations; and
  • Recognize our inter-dependency with each other and the rest of creation.

Meet the Team

Passionate and dedicated to improving conditions for rural Haiti, our core team brings with them an enormous range of talent, with diverse backgrounds and skill sets to help make a lasting, positive impact. Additionally, we work with some of the best and brightest leaders in the sustainable development field. Meet the people who work as Partners in Progress staff and associates, serve on the Board of Directors, or otherwise represent some of our partners in progress.

Staff and Consultants

Michael Neumann

Michael Neumann

Executive Director

A great friend and ally of Partners in Progress for several years, Michael served first as a board member, later as a consultant, and most recently as Interim Associate Director with former Executive Director, Dr. Richard Gosser. He assumed the Executive Director role in early 2015. Mike brings over 12 years of non-profit management experience and 15 years of experience managing community-led, asset-based development and education programs. This work has focused on agriculture, environmental restoration, health education, supportive housing, and green building efforts, mainly in Native American and low-income communities in Minnesota and rural Haiti. Since 2011, Michael has coordinated PIP’s earth-block construction project (the EGD Project) and its agro-ecology (the KVK, or Konbit Vanyan Kapab) project, both in Deslandes, Haiti. Mike studied political science and psychology at the University of Houston, holds a J.D. from Hamline University School of Law and M.Ed. Agriculture from University of Minnesota.


Sharon Ciummo

Administrative Assistant

Sharon joined Partners in Progress in November of 2019 as an Administrative Assistant. A teacher by trade, Sharon has taught at a private independent school in Pittsburgh for the past 20 years. She also teaches English to young learners online as well as creative writing virtually. Sharon has a passion for non-profits and has been active in helping raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Pittsburgh and ALSKids, which is a non-profit found by her young niece. Sharon was excited about the chance to work with Partners in Progress when the opportunity presented itself. She looks forward to helping develop experiential learning experiences in science and social science as well as working to obtain grants to support growth of such projects through the acquisition of technology and training.

Shannon Kearney

Shannon Kearney

Development and Outreach Coordinator

Shannon has been working with the Partners in Progress team since 2016. She is the marketing director at Mullaney’s Harp and Fiddle and has been working cooperatively with Partners in Progress since 2011. Shannon is passionate about the non-profit community in Pittsburgh and has helped to coordinate fundraising initiatives instrumental in raising funds that support earth block construction training in Haiti that have built three school buildings in Deslandes. Shannon received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Bethany College and Masters in Administration and Supervision from Duquesne University.


Claudy Vital

Agroecology Program Consultant

Claudy is a Project Associate for Partners in Progress, providing logistical and coordination support for the Konbit Vanyan Kapab Agroecology project, as well as the Building Home project. He also serves as our translator. A native of Desdunes, Haiti, he has spent most of his life in Port Au Prince where he attended school and studied English. Claudy has more than 6 years of experience providing translation and other services for medical teams in Haiti. This work began shortly after the earthquake of 2010. He has also served as marketing consultant for Rhum Barbancort and has been involved with various charitable organizations, including the Haiti and Africa Relief Team, Rays of Hope International, Holy Name of Jesus Mission and Friends of Haiti.

Mongesly Clervil

Mongesly Clervil

Program Advisor

Jim Hallock

SCEB Consultant

I graduated from Knox College in Illinois in 1969 and struck out immediately for San Francisco. In the 1970s and ‘80s I supported my Western States wanderings through conventional construction jobs in concrete, drywall, roofing, and carpentry. “Back in the day”, there were unions, and I was first a journeyman roofer and then a journeyman carpenter. I used “journeyman” to its literal meaning.

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In the early to mid ‘80s and into the ‘90s, I was involved with rehabilitation of distressed properties and real estate development and acquisition. During that era, I came to learn the truth of conventional building materials. They are hazardous to health. This fact came home personally. My wife, Nora, was employed by a large medical center in California as a psychologist. The hospital received a brand new building for the mental health department. “Brand new building”….new carpet, sheetrock, paint, upholstery, caulking, new everything, combined with windows that didn’t open, in order to allow the mechanically “managed” air to function without interference. She began a downward health spiral shortly after relocating to her new office.

We decided to leave California for rural Colorado, and I began my search for a healthier, non-toxic, building material. I attended seminars on various “green” systems. I found the answer beneath my feet in a presentation outside of Durango. I leased a machine from New Mexico and built what we now refer to as Earth Block One….my first anyway. Following the completion of our home in 1995, I founded Earth Block Inc. and, for ten years, built many homes of earth in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

In 2004, I was presented an opportunity in Mexico to be the Director of Earth Block Manufacturing for the Loreto Bay Company. I was there from April 2004 until November 2006. We manufactured 1.5 million lime-stabilized earth blocks for the development. An unforeseen benefit of that adventure was an appreciation for Mexico that I continue to carry, for the people, their history, and culture. Departing Baja, my friend and soon-to-be partner, Jeff, and I drove to San Miguel de Allende and with our Mexican partner, Monica, founded Instituto Tierra y Cal A.C. on 20 acres outside of SMA. We were off to a pretty good start, having conducted several well-attended workshops with international students and professors and, in fact, had merged with Mexico’s branch of Engineers Without Borders when the Great Financial Debacle of ’08 decimated our real estate in the U.S. and the gringos stopped coming to Mexico.

I came back across the Rio Grande to Texas. Texas?? Over the course of the previous five or six years, we had conducted about a dozen workshops in San Antonio with Lawrence Jetter of AECT, our machine manufacturer. I met a lot of Texans. One of them, Carson, still my friend and coach, convinced me to have a look at Fredericksburg. Nora and I are still here and have been, primarily, since 2011.

Recently (2017 to 2019), I’m proud to have spent the better parts of two + years (no winters!) co-founding Colorado Earth with Lisa Morey. I have returned to Texas and continue to conduct my earthen building career through Earth Block Texas (U.S. projects) and Earth Block International (over the border). Lisa carries on as the sole owner of Colorado Earth. Lisa and I continue to collaborate on various projects and look forward to continuing to support each other in our mutual missions.

Reaching back to 2006, Nora and I were fortunate to purchase a home in San Miguel de Allende.

We enjoy it as much as we can and plan for a more equal division of our time between Texas and Mexico….a truly Tex-Mex existence.
Throughout this story I have been blessed with travel inspired by my mission for earth blocks: Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia, but, most importantly, Haiti. During these travels I have also had the opportunity to meet, and be mentored by, many of the giants in our field and worked with some great partners and employees. I’ve tried to mention and honor most of them in the “Mentors and Heroes” photo folder.

Haiti: the poorest country in the Western hemisphere…abundant in need and good people. My experience there has been one of resilient and hard-working people, eager to learn and work. They aren’t in need of a hand out, but rather, a leg up. I met Mike Neumann at a conference in Detroit in about 2006. Through Mike’s efforts and belief in our earthen system, we have been working together for Partners in Progress, Pittsburgh, in Haiti, since 2009 and continue to the present. Mike is currently the Executive Director of PIP and has long served as the driver of their successful agro-ecology project in Haiti. Currently, while continuing our efforts in Haiti for earth block schools and housing, and agro-ecology advancements, Mike and I are exploring opportunities in Uganda and Egypt. Food and Shelter are just below Air and Water on the “needs list” for survival.

My mission is to help as many people as possible understand the benefits of earthen construction and to help them into an earthen structure. “Services” is a category stop on this website tour.

This is a narrative auto-biography covering my time in the CEB world.

The Earth has the answers.



Catherine Twohig

Program and Evaluation Assistant

Catherine began working with Partners in Progress as a volunteer in 2015, working with farmers of the Konbit Vanyan Kapab Agroecology Project to begin conceptualizing an initiative to build the skills of farmers so that they can share knowledge with other farmers in Haiti about agroecology. She has travelled to Haiti a number of times, and she developed and delivered workshops for farmers in Deslandes to become adult educators and thereby conduct hands-on workshops for other farmers throughout Haiti in sustainable agroecology farming. She has degrees from the University of Minnesota in Adult Education and Workforce Development. She recently retired from teaching in the graduate program of Adult Education at the University. Beginning in January, 2020 Catherine became a part-time staff member with PIP in the role of Program Development and Evaluation Assistant. She works in the areas of training, education and evaluation as well as administrative activities. Early in 2020 she and a literacy consultant/teacher began development of a literacy program for farmer educators in Deslandes to begin in Summer, 2021. Catherine resides in St. Paul, MN and her favorite things to do are spending time with nieces and nephews and travel to Haiti and Ireland.


Josue Antenor Jean

Construction Design and Engineer Contractor

Board of Directors

Joseph Hoover

Joseph Hoover


Mr. Hoover is a partner in Trinity Portfolios, a Pittsburgh-based financial planning and investment advisory firm. Joe teaches Continuing Education courses to CPAs in the Pittsburgh area through the Community College of Allegheny County. He is past president of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society at St. Philip Catholic Parish in Crafton, PA and current Vice President of Formation for the Saint Vincent de Paul Diocesan Board in Pittsburgh. His background helping to build and maintain a parish church, school and health clinic in Jamaica prepared him well for his service to Partners in Progress. Joe has two grown sons.


Harriet Oyera

Vice President

Harriet is an immigrant born and raised on a farm in Uganda. Harriet is a graduate of Makerere University and worked for 22 years in the Judicial Department, and worked 2 years in the Ministry of Agriculture in Uganda She supports education programs for disadvantaged children in Uganda and environmental awareness initiatives. Since arriving in the US, Harriet has started a community garden in a troubled neighborhood, become involved in the community supported agriculture movement, and led a quilting circle for other survivors of torture. She raised her children while living thousands of miles away from them. While her biological children have arrived in the US, she continues to support adoptive children still living in Uganda.

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In Minnesota, Harriet worked with Redeemer Lutheran Church as Executive Assistant in Minneapolis, MN, currently a Host at Redeemer Center for Life a community service space, and a Community garden coordinator in Minneapolis, MN. She is a member of the council at Redeemer Lutheran Church She is actively involved in community organizing at EJAM (Environmental Justice Advocate of Minnesota). Harriet advocates for peaceful resolutions and is a peace educator, trainer, facilitator, activist and inspirational public speaker.

In her life-long campaign for woman suffrage, Harriet started a community garden, and a diverse women quilting project (The Healing Threads) to enable stressed women find peaceful creative community of peace. While living in Uganda, Harriet initiated and supported orphans of war and HIV/AIDS victims by introducing them to sewing and other sustainable creative activities to give them hope and a feeling of self-worth.

In Minnesota she established and raised awareness of healthy eating and healthy relationship and beautiful environment among the low income community and inspired individuals. Inspires community leaders to embrace solutions and not concentrate on conflicts or problems with conceptions of eliminating “silent killer” – unhealthy eating, “environment” and “environmentalism” across racial, cultural, and socio-economic differences; rural environmental justice; radical environmental and social justice movements.

In Minnesota, Harriet has initiated projects that provide healing that include a community vegetable garden and a healing Thread Project. On June 26, 2010 she spoke at the Commemoration of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In 2009 She spoke at the Feminist Panel to discuss “Realities of Refugee Women in Minnesota Today” at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, MN. In 2010 Harriet spoke at the Noble Peace Prize Forum on “Finding Peace After Pain.” In 2009 she received the Minnesota Quilters “Beginners’ Scholarship Award. She is currently a leader in the Harrison community and in multiple roles at Redeemer Center for Life in Minneapolis. She spoke to “The Young Mom Mission“at Redeemer Center for Life. Harriet is an activist in sustainable food documentary including other creativities that builds peaceful community.

John Kearney

John Kearney

President Emeritus

John is a Senior Consultant at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), a professional services firm focused exclusively on sales force and marketing effectiveness. He joined the Partners in Progress board of directors in 2012 and has served as a key liaison with “Anne Mullaney’s Friends for Haiti,” an organization in Pittsburgh that honors the memory of John’s aunt, a former Partners in Progress board member who passed away in 2011, by supporting the training of Haitians in earth block construction. John traveled to Deslandes in 2014 and 2017.

Barbara Finch

Barbara Finch

President Emerita

Barbara is a Sister of St. Joseph and works as a nurse in the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh, PA. Firmly committed to working for social justice Sr. Barbara is a long-time member of the Pittsburgh Haiti Solidarity Committee, Pax Christi USA, Just Harvest, and the Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence. A long-time Partners in Progress board member and recent past president, Sr. Barbara was part of a 2013 board delegation that visited the partners in Haiti and witnessed the good work they do.

John Newell

John Newell


John is a Manager of Business Intelligence Engineering at Highmark Blue Cross Blue shield. John’s interest in developing countries began during his graduate studies in economics, where he did a research paper on the economic impact of the Peace Corps on developing countries. His interest in Haiti began in the late 1990’s, when he was a member of Sacred Heart’s Social Concerns Committee, which partnered with the Haiti Solidarity Committee, a forerunner of Partner’s in Progress. John’s family has hosted three Duquesne University students from Haiti, who were employees of Fonkoze, a microfinance bank in Haiti. John is a former chair of the Adult Formation Committee at Saint Bede Church and is currently a Eucharistic Minister at that church.


Mary McIntyre


Mary F. McIntyre worked at Duquesne University from 2000 to 2016 serving as the Assistant to the President, the Assistant to the Provost, as well as in the role of an adjunct professor. Mary was an instructor at the Bradford School of Business from 1974 to 1994. She is an active member of her community serving as the Chairperson of the Upper St. Clair Democratic Party and the Treasurer of Upper St. Clair Coterie. Mary also is involved with the Gaelic Arts Society and the Pittsburgh Ceili Club. She remains active at Duquesne University as part of the Retirement Association, the Woman’s Advisory Board, and the Women’s Guild. Mary spends a great deal of time volunteering her time with Bethel Park Meals on Wheels, the South Hills Interfaith Movement, and the Pittsburgh Literacy program. She is happy to be on the Board of Trustees for Partners in Progress and a part of the wonderful work being done.

Pat Carew

Pat Carew

Board Member

Pat Carew is owner and co-founder of Enerstar Inc. an environmental technology company in suburban Chicago. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago. He has a patent pending for a water conservation technology that his company markets throughout the mid-west. He also has inventions in bio-technology, chemical feed systems, water filtration and IOT remote monitoring. For 15 years Pat has been involved in refugee ministry in the Chicagoland area serving two terms as on the Board of Directors of Exodus World Service. Pat is a member of St. Giles Parish in Oak Park, IL where he is an altar server, catechist, a member of the Men’s Society leadership team and the Respect Life group. He also runs a charity basketball league called “Retreads” that supports local charities. Pat is a longtime member of “The Bible Boys” an inter-Christian Bible fellowship in Oak Park. His interest in Haiti began when he became an avid reader of Haitian history after college and he joined the PIP team after a life-altering trip to Haiti in 2016 with Mike Neumann.


Joyce Rothermel

Board Member

Joyce is the co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the region’s largest charitable hunger-relief organization. She has served as coordinator of the City of Pittsburgh’s Hunger Task Force and currently co-chairs the Southwest Pennsylvania Food Security Partnership while also working actively for such Pittsburgh area social justice organizations as Just Harvest, Bread for the World, Amnesty International, the Thomas Merton Center, the Association of Pittsburgh Priests and her local church, St. James’ Parish. Joyce has long been an advocate for Haitians through her work with the Pittsburgh Haiti Solidarity Committee where she played a key role in the establishment of Partners in Progress.


Kathleen Mullaney

Board Member

Kathleen is a research administrator at Dominican University, near Chicago. A former French professor, she studied Haitian history and culture before joining the Partners in Progress board. Kathleen visited Haiti in 2013 as part of a board delegation and has returned three times since. She hopes to honor the memory of her late sister, Anne Mullaney, whose commitment to Partners in Progress continues to inspire her friends and family to work on behalf of the people of Haiti.


Riccardy Volcy

Board Member

Riccardy Volcy is an architect who works as a project engineer with the Massaro Construction Group in Pittsburgh, PA. A native of Haiti, Riccardy was educated in Florida and moved to Pittsburgh in 2011 to continue his studies as a designer while benefitting from a UDREAM Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture. Riccardy is committed to promoting and assisting in the positive changes that are taking place in his home country.


Anne McCafferty

Board Member

Anne McCafferty teaches Human Resource at Carlow University as an adjunct faculty member. She is a former HR director at IBM and Vivisimo and founding director of the Human Capital Policy Initiative at the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics. Her prior work includes designing and managing the City of Pittsburgh’s job training programs and serving as Deputy Director for Allegheny County Clerk of Courts. She is a strong believer in the power of volunteer impact. Her volunteer experience includes VISTA (Chicago Legal Aid), Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission, Allegheny County Workforce Investment Board, United Way, Hearts for Haiti, and many political campaigns. She has an avid interest in workforce development and sustainable economic development, both of which align substantively with PIP's mission and goals.


Michael Kenstowicz

Board Member

Mike is an associate in Jones Day’s Pittsburgh office, where he is part of the Business & Tort Litigation practice group and maintains an active pro bono practice. He became interested in Partners in Progress after participating in fundraising efforts on behalf of Hearts for Haiti at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsburgh, learning about sustainable development as part of Central Catholic’s curriculum, and studying human rights at the University of Chicago, where he attended college and law school. Mike recently returned to Pittsburgh and is committed to helping advance Partners in Progress’s mission.

Interested in becoming a member of the team?

We look for individuals who exhibit leadership, vision and passion for work in Haiti to serve on our Board of Directors, or work as a partner. Experience in fundraising, community organizing, and international development are preferred. If you are interested in learning more about this service opportunity, please reach out to us.

Our work in rural Haiti is fueled by generous contributions from loyal donors like you. Please consider becoming a MONTHLY sponsor of Partners in Progress today.

All donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.