Board of Directors
Kody Gerkin, M.A.
Founder and Board President
Kody’s passion for the environment was fostered by his father while hiking and camping in Northern Michigan. His compassion for other people and his desire to improve the world was instilled in him through the love of an amazing woman, his mother. Driven by these dual passions, he decided to study International Relations (B.A., Michigan State University), join the Peace Corps (Guatemala, 2006 – 2008), and study International Human Rights (M.A., University of Denver). Subsequently, Kody moved to the Middle East for several years where he worked as a University lecturer and worked on nonviolent theory and human rights research projects. He returned to Guatemala in 2014. Chronic unemployment and child malnourishment, coupled with a severe and ongoing drought, wrought conditions that were worse than those he’d seen eight years prior. Kody founded Mujerave with the aim of working alongside local women’s groups to find sustainable solutions to these problems.
Rasa Kaunelis, M.P.A.
Rasa’s passion for female empowerment started at an early age. In elementary school, she drafted a petition demanding girls be allowed to play football with the boys at recess and collected over 40 signatures, successfully changing school rules. This drive compelled Rasa to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Social Relations from Michigan State University and her master’s in Public Administration from the University of Colorado. Rasa currently works as the Director of Program Support at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains where she manages the organization’s internal evaluation processes and their grant writing and reporting process. Prior to this position, Rasa worked as a researcher at the Center for Policy Research. In this role, she provided technical assistance to nonprofit and government organizations to aid in the development, implementation, funding, and evaluation of programs designed to promote self-sufficiency. When she’s not working, you can often find Rasa reading, camping, backpacking, biking, or cheering for the Michigan State Spartans.
Melissa Martinez, M.A.
Melissa has more than 12 years of experience working with women's groups and other marginalized populations in the United States, the Middle East, and Latin America. After visiting rural Guatemala in 2010, she became passionate about the plight of indigenous women, environmental degradation, and the fight for food sovereignty in the Global South. Shortly thereafter, she began a certificate program in International Sustainable Development, which she completed in December of 2013. She currently resides in Guatemala and is deeply committed to the work of Mujerave, to minimalism, and to integrating indigenous ways of knowing into her life. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys traveling, reading, studying Spanish, and teaching English.
Matthew Bayma is an attorney in Denver, Colorado, by way of Rochester, Michigan. Matthew came to Colorado after attending Michigan State University, where his studies focused on environmental economics. Matthew practices law at a litigation-based firm, representing plaintiffs and defendants. His clients range from individuals to Fortune 500 companies. When Matthew isn’t working, he enjoys snowboarding, backcountry skiing, cycling, and camping. The hands-on approach Mujerave takes with the people it serves fits in with Matthew’s personality and skill set. Matthew is proud to be a member of Mujerave and help improve communities by empowering women.
Pat Curtin came to NowPow in 2016 as the Head of Service Information. At NowPow, Pat designs and executes the strategy to build and maintain high-quality, accurate and effective service information databases. His experience at NowPow builds on a career of using streamlined technology to supercharge social work and to connect clients to reliable resources. Prior to NowPow, Pat worked for the Food Bank for New York City for 7 years, leading the TEN (the Tiered Engagement Network) Program, where he led a team of 10 AmeriCorps VISTAs to build the city’s largest closed loop referral network, resulting in 1,500 clients referred monthly. His interests in community development and lasting change has brought him to Mujerave, where he delights in the opportunity to work with his fellow board members to improve the health and well-being of Guatamalan communities.
Emily Gerkin Guerrant
Charged with managing the marketing and communications efforts for the state of Michigan's branding efforts, Emily Gerkin Guerrant joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in April 2013. As the Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations, she works with her team to develop the communications strategy surrounding economic development, community development, business attraction, talent development and the popular tourism campaign. Prior to joining MEDC, Emily spent 10 years in the private sector with two public relations firms; John Bailey & Associates and Lambert, Edwards & Associates. Her varied experience touched all aspects of public relations at the state and regional levels, including strategic planning, media relations, branding campaigns, research and legislative outreach. She worked with coalitions, state associations and non-profit clients who advocated for a variety of issues around the Capitol dome - from healthcare to education, energy and business issues. A third generation Central Michigan University Chippewa, Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science in 1997 and completed a master's degree in public relations from Michigan State University in 2008. She lives in Lansing, Michigan with her husband Kyle, and children Maddox, Katie, and Zachary.
Alexis has a strong connection to Santa Maria Chiquimula. From 2007-2009, she lived and worked there as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Her primary project, Escuelas Saludables, worked with primary schools in the municipality to develop health education programs. She also helped organize a girls leadership camp for teenagers girls across Guatemala. While her passion for women's rights spans back to college, it was in Guatemala that she came to understand the importance of sustainable development and community empowerment. After completing her Peace Corps service, she earned a Master's degree in Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Alexis currently is a Policy Analyst at a national farmworker organization, promoting health care access for U.S. farmworkers and their families. She is thrilled to be part of Mujerave and once again work with the communities of Santa Maria Chiquimula and Totonicapán.
Brandi M. Planet, Esq.
Ms. Planet is an associate with the law firm of Bremer Whyte Brown & O'Meara. She specializes in defense litigation and transactional law, having graduated Magna Cum Laude and with University Honors from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in 2004. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Psychology. Ms. Planet later received her Juris Doctor from the William S. Boyd School of Law. She’ll use her law and public relations experience to provide support to Mujerave as it develops and implements projects throughout Guatemala.
Walter Rosales was born and raised in a small village named Nimasac in the south of the Department of Totonicapán, where Mujerave operates. He finds it to be a very beautiful and peaceful place, but is also concerned about the poverty and environmental degradation he witnesses in his homeland. Walter is an Agricultural Engineer by training, and he uses his knowledge and skills in rural areas to work on sustainable development whenever possible. He believes the lack of political leadership in rural areas contributes significantly to these and other problems. For these reasons, Walter encourages you to read about Mujerave and get involved by donating or even visiting Guatemala as a volunteer. He promises the families Mujerave’s projects benefit, and women in particular, will be very grateful for your support.
All of our Board of Directors serve as volunteers without compensation.