Our Team

“The kids love all the volunteers that come. My favorite part was earning their trust and being a friend, not just an authority figure.”

“Behind every single kid there is a tough background, but every day, they were full of beautiful smiles. Those smiles meant everything to me! As well as teaching them many things, they taught me even more. I love those little people!”

“Serving with these children was one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences of my life. They come from so little and yet are filled with so much joy. They will always have a place in my heart.”

“These kids love to learn. So many of them have big dreams and aspirations. Building a free school for them, emphasizing education and individual empowerment, is what NAFE US is all about.”

I needed this. I needed these kids. They helped me, they picked me up and gave me perspective. They redirected my misplaced hope.

To see a real need, and then act, is a beautiful opportunity. The children are kind, wild, accepting and hungry for growth. NAFE will do great things!

These kids are fun, loving, and straight-up adorable. They love to learn, and I love helping them to have a better future. They can melt your heart, as long as the sun doesn’t melt you first.

They deserve a chance for a great education to grow and develop to their highest potential to not only expand their knowledge of the world, but to also make their unique contribution to it.

Team Bios

Maria Simpson

Maria Simpson

Founder and Executive Director

Maria has worked with youth for 20 years in supervisory, therapeutic and academic settings.  She has had the pleasure of teaching youth from four-years-old through high school.  Maria loves watching them learn, through experience, who they are and just how much they are capable of.

She lives in Washington, Utah with her family and enjoys hiking, camping, travelling, reading and good food.

Contact Maria at rise.up@nafe-us.org or by calling 410-845-1993.

“Man is not fully conditioned or determined but rather determines himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them.  In other words, man is ultimately self-determining.  Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.” — Viktor E. Frankl


Aroa Sancho Guirao

Aroa Sancho Guirao

Director of Education, from Barcelona, Spain

Aroa has been working with kids her whole life, most of the time in projects involving sports and languages. She is a teacher and believes that significant learning happens when students feel motivated, ask questions, find answers, cooperate with others and use their heart. She has traveled all over the world; she has not just visited various continents and cultures, she has cooperated and worked with children while learning of their people and culture.
Aroa lives in Barcelona and is teaching 4th grade in a primary school. She loves sports, especially gymnastics, painting and travelling.
“Small changes make big impacts”.


Pedro Melgarejo

Pedro Melgarejo

Owner of Facilitours/Tour Coordinator

Pedro is from Huaraz, Peru and has five grown children. He currently lives in Lima with his lovely wife Yoly. They work together to operate Faciltours. Pedro has consistently gone above and beyond to meet the needs of his clients and develops tours which are “off the tourist map.” He creatively caters to the personalities of his clients, finding interesting and unique activities for them. We consider Pedro and Yoly to be part of the NAFE US family.

Kate Thorp-Hickner

Kate Thorp-Hickner

Director of Development

Kate comes to NAFE-US with an extensive background in marketing, project management and experiential education.  

Kate has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration and Management and ran a successful NFP in Michigan for several years. Kate met the Executive Director of NAFE-US 20+ years ago while they were both working in Wilderness Therapy in Utah. When Maria approached Kate about becoming a part of the NAFE-US team, Kate quickly realized that this was a calling she could not ignore. Kate’s passion for education, children, and social justice are deeply ingrained, as they are in the values of NAFE-US.  Of utmost import to Kate, is the ability to aid children in the United States and around the world in receiving the education they deserve, thus building self-esteem and self-worth.  She believes it is paramount that ALL children be afforded the opportunities that education, self-sustainability and a holistic self-worth can bring.  

Kate lives in Michigan with her most amazing daughter Finn, her delightful husband Andrew, her 2 dogs, Lilly and Tessa, a very disagreeable cat named Pyewacket and the most amazing gift of all four of her parents.

Kate can be reached at development@nafe-us.org or 248 804 7360

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai

Andrew Humiston

Andrew Humiston

Tour Director/Senior Volunteer Coordinator

Andrew is studying biology and Spanish in preparation for medical school. He served as the first volunteer coordinator for NAFE US in Huanchaco, Peru.

He enjoys learning and is always game for an adventure. Andrew enjoys sports and outdoor activities, including mountain biking and surfing.

Contact Andrew at andrew.humiston@yahoo.com.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Peggy Strickling

Peggy Strickling

HR Manager

Peggy earned a BS in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management. She has traveled and studied nonprofits in Europe and completed an internship and training in Volunteer Management. As a mother of five and grandmother of two, she always had a keen interest in innovative education as a foundation for success in life.

In her spare time she loves to read, practice yoga, study Hebrew and spirituality, explore the wonders of the natural world, herbs and oils, hiking and living in the beautiful and magical Pacific Northwest in the US.

Contact Peggy at volunteer@nafe-us.org.

“Free a child’s potential and you transform him into the world.” — Maria Montessori

Mari Hobson

Mari Hobson

Mari Hobson served as Executive Director of The Miss Iron County Pageant within the Miss Utah/Miss America system for six years. She built and operated the non-profit organization “Fight Like a Girl”, which has grown to a nationally recognized foundation. She has extensive experience in event planning and recently received the Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award for her work with this non-profit organization which benefits pediatric patients and their families.

Mari and her husband reside in Cedar City, UT with their six kids. Mari loves music and sang professionally for 10 years. Be it educational opportunities or battling illnesses, Mari enjoys helping others find their own voice and inner strength.

“Go out, find somewhere that needs you, and get to work.”