postheadericon The TSO Team

Founded in 2010, The Strongest Oak Foundation (TSO) is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and has a global network of volunteers and affiliates based in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.  TSO team members originate from Canada, Argentina and West Africa and have been delivering high-impact, sustainable educational and social projects together since 2006.

Our team consists of the following members:

  • Dan Rickard, Director and Chief Technology Advisor (Co-Founder)
    • Mali Foster, Assistant Program Manager, East and Central Africa
    • Alpha Sow, Solar Project Manager, Burkina Faso


    Stace Wills

    Board Chairman
    Calgary, AB, Canada

    Stace is a social entrepreneur with a life-long passion for international development, language and culture, and launching technology startups. Prior to leading the launch of TSO in 2010, Stace served as co-founder and Global Director of Fire and Ice – an award-winning Corporate Social Responsibility program of one of the world’s leading educational technology firms, Elluminate Inc. (now Blackboard Canada Inc.).

    Under Fire and Ice, Stace spearheaded over 30 social development projects in collaborative education, poverty reduction, and climate change, involving over 5000 participants from 25+ countries.  He has also pioneered several online training programs targeting nurses and teachers in remote regions, as well as facilitated thousands of dollars in donations of computer technology and internet connectivity to economically-challenged communities in Colombia, Brazil, Cuba, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, and Kenya.

    Stace and his projects have been recognized with several awards by organizations including  Stockholm Challenge (Sweden) and and the Tech Museum (San Diego, CA).  His Fire and Ice initiative helped Elluminate be named as one of the Top Ten Best Corporations in Global Development by InterAction in 2008. In addition, Stace has been featured by international media including, The Financial Post, Education Week, CBC, CTV and others.

    Stace holds a Canadian Investment Management (CIM) designation, as well as a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary, where he was a member of the 1988 Vanier Cup championship football team.

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    Bridget Wills

    Managing Director
    Calgary, AB, Canada

    Bridget Wills has been involved in international volunteer efforts since 2005, first as a trainer and coordinator of web meetings for LINGOS (helping to train field employees working in NGOs across the world) and as a collaborative coordinator for Fire and Ice (coaching local Calgary classrooms in a climate change series with partner schools in Colombia and Burkina Faso). Being a devoted mother of two young boys, she is very keen to expose her children to the world outside their backyard and provide an opportunity for them to help make a difference in a world where there is a need to help others. Bridget's twenty-year career in the travel industry has helped shape her love of people all the world. She hopes that, throughout her volunteer career, she will be able to inspire others to reach out and use their own best skills to make a difference.

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    Dan Rickard

    Director and Chief Technology Advisor (Co-Founder)
    Calgary, AB, Canada

    With over 20 years of international experience, Dan has led groundbreaking technology and social projects on every continent, except Antarctica.   From 2006 to 2008, he served as co-founder and Implementation Manager for Fire and Ice for Elluminate, Inc. (now Blackboard Inc.).

    In the past 3 years, Dan has launched and managed eLearning networks in Africa, Asia and remote areas of Canada.  Working closely with aboriginal people, his learning networks have helped deliver much-needed medical knowledge and expertise into remote areas.  He continues to develop a number of international initiatives, including a project in remote areas of Indonesia.

    Dan was a finalist for the prestigious Stockholm Challenge Awards in 2008, and also was named 2007 Laureate for the Tech Museum Award (Microsoft Education Category).  He has been featured by, CBC Business News, and other international media.

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    Vivian Hindbo

    Director of Communications (Co-Founder)
    Calgary, AB, Canada

    Viv profile2

    Vivian Hindbo has been an active volunteer most of her adult life, including working as a wildlife steward in a conservation area, volunteering at an annual youth music festival (Kiwanis), and working one-on-one with at-risk youth. As a founding member of The Strongest Oak Foundation, Vivian feels she has found her true passion: to make a difference in the lives of those who have faced unspeakable tragedy. She understands just how fortunate she is to have been born a Canadian.

    Vivian graduated from university with a degree in English Literature and began a career as a technical writer and editor in the software industry. When she isn't working and volunteering with TSO, she likes to spend time enjoying her other passions: nature, literature, music, her pets and her family and friends.

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    Mark McLenahan

    Director of Finance (Co-Founder)
    Calgary, AB, Canada

    A self-described “accountant by accident”, Mark has enjoyed a 17-year accounting career in Canada’s oil and gas industry.  He has cycled through several accounting and finance posts, including a 4-year assignment in Halifax on Canada’s east coast.  Mark has always been an enthusiastic volunteer in his local community, helping out with various local charities and community associations as well as serving as the Vice-chairman on the Parish Council at his local church. In his spare time, Mark can often be found coaching his children’s sports teams.

    Mark received his Bachelor of commerce degree (Accounting & Finance concentration) from the University of Calgary in 1991 and currently resides in Calgary.  He speaks English and some Spanish.

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    Darlene Petrie

    Director of Fundraising
    Calgary, AB, Canada

    Darlene Petrie

    Darlene Petrie has a degree is in Community Studies (BACS) and diploma in Child and Youth Care, with thirty years of experience in grant writing and program development and implementation. She has been successful in creating and implementing numerous programs in Calgary, Alberta, in support of youth in conflict with the law and those experiencing homelessness. She has also been successful in securing the funds to support these programs as well as obtaining capital grants to house homeless youth.

    Darlene is a world traveler and enjoys volunteering at the locations she visits. She has volunteered with preschool children in Antigua and St. Lucia, was a Teacher’s Assistant for special-needs K-12 students in Tortola, and helped out at the Humane Society in St. Thomas. Most recently, Darlene volunteered in South Africa at a wildlife conservation facility. Her passions are traveling and helping youth and animals in all parts of the world.

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    Melissa Lorenzo

    Program Manager, East and Central Africa
    Calgary, AB, Canada


    Melissa is passionate about youth development in Africa. She has volunteered in Nicaragua and Uganda, where she participated in several educational initiatives and health and sanitation projects in rural communities (building homes, stoves, latrines and water filters). Locally, Melissa volunteers weekly at a women and children’s shelter and at many other organizations through the Rotaract Club.

    Since 2006, Melissa has served as a research assistant in clinical laboratories. She has presented and published her work at three international scientific conferences. She currently serves as a study coordinator at the University of Calgary in the Departments of Pediatrics and Orthopaedic Trauma where she operates clinical studies. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology in 2012 and is striving to attend medical school to become a pediatrician.

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    Mali Foster

    Assistant Program Manager, East and Central Africa
    Toronto, ON, Canada

    Mali Foster

    Mali is in her final year at McGill University where she is studying international development, African studies and East Asian language and literature. Since 2007, she has been on several volunteer trips to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, working on construction and education projects. Following graduation, Mali hopes to spend a year doing internships abroad in Rwanda and China then go on to pursue a Master's degree in global policy. 

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    Alpha Sow

    Solar Project Manager, Burkina Faso
    Calgary, AB, Canada


    Alpha Sow, an Energy Market analyst, holds a B.Sc. in Business Management and M.Sc. in International Economics and Finance from France. Alpha has multidisciplinary and international experience, having worked as an investment analyst, financial analyst for start-up projects and innovative market analyst in Guinea, France and Canada.

    Alpha’s passions are education, energy and economic empowerment in developing countries. His experience began in high school, working with Africare Guinea as a young community relations manager. As a university student, he was involved in many African development projects. In 2014, he launched Action Development Dinguiraye in France, a not-for-profit organization that teaches web literacy and informatics in Guinean Schools.

    Alpha joined TSO as our Solar Project Manager for Burkina Faso, supporting the development of solar energy projects. His fluency in French is a definite asset in bridging the communication gap with our Burkinabe team members.

    Alpha’s moto is “A better world starts with small actions, so why are we waiting for a hypothetical momentum?”

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    María Teresa (Mayte) Esponda

    Director of Social Media (Co-Founder)
    Mar del Plata, Argentina

    Mayte is one of the world’s leading specialists in online collaborative tools and projects. She has been a teacher for 15 years and holds a degree as a Social Psychologist operator and a Psycho dramatist. Prior to joining TSO, Mayte served as Latin American Coordinator for Elluminate’s Fire and Ice program, where she helped launch and deliver a groundbreaking online ESL distance training program for teachers in rural areas of Colombia. Also with Fire and Ice, Mayte managed hundreds of K12 online educational projects, workshops, and conferences on topics of social importance including cultural exchange, climate change, poverty reduction, and art – involving thousands of participants from over 25 countries.  Currently, she is delivering an online course on collaboration for teachers on behalf of Thomas University of Thomasville, Georgia. Mayte speaks Spanish, English and Italian.

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    Success Stories

    Many of our Oaks have come a long way since we met them. We would like to celebrate their successes in feature articles. Read about our next featured Oak, Gertrude Nanyonga.

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