BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President-Director: Tometi 'Tim' Gbedema
Tometi K. Gbedema, popularly known in the Davis community as “Tim” and by his childhood friend’s as “Tom Gbedema”, is a Community and Regional Development lecturer at the Department of Human Ecology, University of California, Davis (UC Davis). He holds an MS degree in Community Development and a PhD in Human Geography from UC Davis. Before moving to the US in 2000, he earned an MA in Translation with French and English as his working languages from Université du Bénin in Lomé, Togo, West Africa. Gbedema’s community services on the UC Davis campus led to his honoring in 2005 with a UC Davis Community Service Award.
An addict of soccer, Tim has been involved in the Davis community playing and coaching youth soccer since arriving in the US. He has coached youth league soccer and served as the Davis Senior High School (DHS) JV Girls team as assistant head coach. Coming from humble backgrounds, one of Tim’s goals is to assist people in need and in poverty. Thus, since 2007, with the help of the Davis soccer community, he launched a nonprofit organization, The Otwetiri Project (www.otwetiri.org) to improve the educational environment for children in underdeveloped nations, including but not limited to, such rural villages as Otwetiri (Ghana) and Tsiviépé (Togo). He directs and presides over this organization.
Martha Gegan (VP Secretary)
Dorie Melon (VP General Advisor)
Belinda Kesser (VP Treasurer)
Belinda was born and raised in California. She received a Bachelor’s of Science degree at UC Davis in Physiology, a teaching credential from UC Berkeley, and a Master’s of Science degree from UC Davis in Pharmacology & Toxicology. With a high interest in wildlife and the environment, she spent many years working as a wildlife toxicologist at UC Davis and with local governing agencies, and has enjoyed sharing her love for science and nature as an elementary school teacher in Davis for over 20 years.
Belinda met her husband Keith at UC Davis while working at the student-run Coffee House. They have two children, Merek and Quinn; together, they fostered a high interest in exploring the mountains, coast and valleys of California both on and off the trail. Belinda also enjoys adventuring to new and unfamiliar places abroad. Both children played soccer as kids growing up in Davis which led to Belinda’s involvement as a founding member with Tim Gbedema of the Otwetiri Project. Belinda and her family are very proud of the school, latrine and annual soccer tournaments which are directly funded by the Otwetiri Project and successfully sustained in collaboration with the village teachers, students and community members.
Robert Smith (VP Project Designer)
Bob Smith was born and raised in Reno, Nevada where he met his wife Toni in high school. Bob attended Stanford University where he earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering. After five years of consulting engineering with the firm of Metcalf & Eddy, Bob and his wife Toni moved to Davis, California in 1975 to attend graduate school at UC Davis where Bob earned his doctoral degree in Environmental Engineering in 1980. Bob continued at UC Davis as a Research Engineer and Instructor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Bob also worked as an independent environmental engineering consultant during that period. Bob left UC Davis in 1996 to take a full-time position of Associate with the consulting firm of Larry Walker Associates (LWA) in Davis. Bob retired from LWA in 2011, but continues to consult occasionally on engineering projects on a part-time basis.
Outside of work Bob has enjoyed a wide variety of activities including backpacking, water skiing, running, tennis, and, more recently, yoga and golf. However, Bob’s true passion has been coaching soccer. Bob began coaching AYSO soccer when his daughter was 7 and has continued to coach at the club level and at Davis High School. Bob currently serves as head coach for Women’s JV Soccer at Davis High School. Bob connected with Tometi Gbedema through soccer and the two have coached together for many years. Bob became a founding member of the Otwetiri Project Team as a result of his connection with Tim. Bob is pleased to be an active contributor to the Otwetiri Project, which is a true grass roots organization that has had a positive impact on the lives of the Otwetiri villagers by providing educational facilities and supplies, sanitation facilities, and student incentives through sports programs.
Jan Poole (VP Secretary)
Born in Mare Island, California to a Navy family. She lived in many places during her childhood, including Guam and Hawaii. She continued her military career by marrying an Air Force officer of the name, Jerry Poole. She had three children with Jerry, enjoying her life in many US states, and spending six years in Panama.
Stationed in Sacramento, the family settled in Davis in 1977 where they found their new “hometown”, and happily put down deep roots. Widowed in 2000, Jan is currently married to Roger Gambatese, a lawyer in Davis.
Jan graduated from California State University in Sacramento (CSU Sacramento) with a degree in social works. She worked for the Yolo County Office of Education for twenty-five (25) years with the First Steps Infant Program, a program for children from birth to three years with disabilities and their families. Jan retired in 2010.
With her incredible care and love for all people, humility and respect, desire, and determination to assist the needy, her dedication to always elevate the spirit of others, Jan continues her volunteer works in many capacities at Saint James Catholic Church and in the classroom at Korematsu Elementary School at Davis, and picking up fruits for the Community Harvest of Davis.
Jan Poole have been involved from the outset of The Otwetiri Project. She is very proud of the accomplishments of this organization: building a new school with a computer-room and a community latrine, purchasing two new laptops and soccer balls for the Otwetiri school, and sponsoring an annual regional primary and junior high soccer tournament for kids in school.
Toni Smith (VP Advisor)
Toni Smith had a joyous childhood in Reno, Nevada and had a positive college life at the University of Nevada at Reno. After graduation, Toni attended medical technology school at UCDMC. She and her high school sweetheart, Bob Smith, married and lived in Los Altos until Bob chose to attend UCD grad school. They have made Davis area their home since 1975. Toni decided to change careers in 1979 and attended nursing school at Sacramento State. As a nurse she liked the independence of home health nursing. Once her daughter started school, Toni became a school nurse at the DJUSD retiring in 2010.
Toni has been on the board of the Davis Unit Salvation Army for 35 years. She has chaired the committee for the past 10 years. Toni and Bob have been members of the Otwetiri Project since its inception 10 years ago. Toni is a member of the Citizens Who Care Board. Toni is a regular at the fitness club; enjoys cooking, reading, hiking and participating in University Farm Circle programs. Toni believes in the mission of the OtwetiriProject and has enjoyed accomplishing the goals of the village of Otwetiri with the building the elementary school, introducing computers into the school and the current public latrine project.
Leaders in Ghana