Volunteers For Peace, Burlington Vermont

Meg (bottom left) with a group of international leaders exploring ancient pyramids in Mexico.

Megan Polyte – Executive Director

Meg had her first taste of international travel when she was selected as an International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) representative from Vermont in 1988 and was sent for 10 months to Taiwan where she lived and worked with local farmers. Since 1989, Meg has been actively involved with VFP including organizing and assisting with international workcamps in Vermont and around the USA as US Program Coordinator (1999-2000); placing thousands of volunteers oversees as Outgoing Placement Coordinator (1989-1993); as Co-Director (1990-1993) organizing and facilitating programs in the former Soviet Union, as well as living there for almost 5 years; and as a member of the Board of Directors since 2001. She is an active participant in many local non-profit and social service organizations, a regular host of international visitors and often presents cultural information at schools and fairs. She has a B.S. in Management and Leadership with a Russian minor (1995) and a M.S. in Education (2010) from St. Michael’s College and extensive board and non-profit experience. She has two daughters who sometimes travel with her. Email Meg.

Click here to read an interview with Meg on about her job and travels.

Volunteers For Peace, Burlington Vermont

Elizabeth with her host family in Kenya.

Elizabeth Ryder – International Placement Coordinator

Elizabeth is originally from Littleton, Colorado but currently resides in Burlington, Vermont. She is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a major in Environmental Studies and a minor in International Development. She has accumulated over two years of life abroad and has been on three separate solo backpacking trips through Europe, South East Asia, and most recently Eastern Africa.

Elizabeth joined VFP in the Spring of 2014 and spent the following summer volunteering in Kenya. It is her knowledge and passion for international travel and volunteer work that brought her to VFP. When she is not working or traveling, her free time is spent exploring the endless outdoor opportunities in both Colorado and Vermont. Email Elizabeth.

Board of Directors

Scott Simpson, LICSW: President

Scott holds a BS in Social Work from the University of Vermont and a MSW from Smith College School for Social Work. Scott participated in short-term voluntary service projects in England and the Slovak Republic. He organized two projects in Burlington, Vermont as part of a year long community organizing internship with the University of Vermont, Burlington’s Mayor’s Youth Office, and the Burlington Peace and Justice Center. Scott has served as medium term volunteer organizing service projects for church youth in Biloxi, Mississippi. Scott volunteers with and coordinating legislative advocacy efforts with other volunteers. He currently has a private counseling practice in Burlington, Vermont.

Jamena on a workcamp in Mongolia in 2011.

Jamena Grant, Secretary

Jamena was born and raised in Northern New Jersey. She is a freelance architectural assistant with Brinkman Architecture in Montclair, New Jersey and pursuing a BS in architecture with a minor in carpentry and mill work. She speaks beginner Spanish and is currently learning French. She has been a board member since 2013. Jamena participated in a voluntary service project in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia and was a co-leader for an international camp in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jamena has also traveled to Russia and Jamaica, and plans to travel all over the world using her skills to help others.

Volunteers For Peace Burlington Vermont

Matt (front right) with his 2010 group of volunteers from France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, and South Korea.

Matt Messier, Treasurer

Matt is a teacher of English and history at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Burlington, VT. He also teaches courses in history at two local colleges.  Matt serves on the board of Peace Brigades International and has volunteered on behalf of several local agencies.  In May 2009, Matt received his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Vermont.

Paula Cantor

Paula graduated from Clark University with a BA in psychology and from UMass, Boston with a Masters in Education. She currently lives in Boston where she teaches fourth grade in the Boston Public Schools. She first participated in workcamps in Europe in 1988. Since then she has volunteered in Turkey and Ghana and has led and organized workcamps in Honduras, Philadelphia and many in Boston. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras from 1993-95. She has traveled extensively in the US, Europe, Egypt, Israel, Central and South America and West Africa. Paula has been a VFP Board member since 1991.

Volunteers For Peace Burlington Vermont

Judy at an orphanage in Vietnam in 1998.

Judy Cohen

Judy Cohen has a BA from Adelphi University and is a Certified Guidance Counselor. She has been on the board of VFP since 1982. She is always connected with the helping and healing professions, first as a NYC Social Worker, then an Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor, and most recently as a Special Education Counselor. She was the advisor to the Human Rights Club at the high school where she worked. Judy feels it is important for everyone to learn about diversity, tolerance, and justice. She therefore facilitates 2 workcamps for VFP every year in her community and has, in the past, helped with workcamps in Cambodia. She lives in South Berwick, ME with her husband, Scot Weinstein, a musician and educator, who also puts energy into VFP. Judy has traveled extensively within the United States and to Russia, Germany, France, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, and many Caribbean islands. She is now retired.

Peter Coldwell, Founder

Peter holds a B.A. from The American University and graduate credits from Assumption College and Castleton State College. He speaks conversational German, Russian and dabbles in Spanish. Peter has traveled, lived and/or worked in some sixty countries. Peter did his first workcamps in Czechoslovakia and Hungary in 1968. He has practiced Yoga for over 35 years and has taught Yoga classes in Vermont. He’s a “jack of all trades” skilled in carpentry, electrical, plumbing and mechanical work. He and his soul mate, Penny, built their own home in Mt. Holly, Vermont.

Volunteers For Peace

Cara in Haiti in 2013.

Cara Connors

Cara holds a BA in Geography and Political Science from Hunter College, and an MA in Sustainable International Development from the Heller School for Social Policy & Management. She lived in Nairobi, Kenya for a year to conduct her MA field research on the uses of Multi Arts and Theatre with various disadvantaged youth populations. Six years ago she moved back to New York City as a NYC Teaching Fellow, and earned her MS in Education. She has worked at CMSP 327 in the South Bronx the whole time, and truly enjoys being part of an exemplary learning community. Currently, she is at Bank Street College of Education as a Wallace Fellow for an Ed.M. in Educational Leadership. Cara has done VFP work camps in Kenya and Botswana, and has traveled to Indonesia, Australia, and numerous European, African, Latin American and Caribbean countries. Cara has been deeply involved with the Haiti Clean Water project since 2011, which has included co-writing a comprehensive training manual, conducting 7 week-long trainings, and leading the first VFP Clean Water work camp. She lives in Washington Heights, Manhattan.

Gretchen Craig

Gretchen is a lifelong social justice advocate who feels that volunteering and promoting intercultural exchange are excellent ways to make the world a more peaceful, just place. She has participated in four VFP projects, and volunteered with numerous grassroots organizations domestically and internationally. Gretchen has a BA in Gender Studies and an MA in International Affairs, and has worked with various organizations promoting gender justice, community development and human rights. She is happiest when exploring new places, contributing to good work, going on long walks, singing and dancing, spending time with her loved ones or learning new languages.

Charles Rudd Mackenzie

Rudd is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Vermont Law School. He has been a VFP board member since 1991. He has served the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the Dobbs Ferry Conservation Advisory Commission, the Indian Point Project, and New York Public Interest Research Group. He also serves on the Boards of Gitt-Moul Historic Properties, Navigators USA and the Saint Nicholas Society of New York. Rudd has traveled throughout Europe, taken part in two workcamps in Poland in 1991, and led a workcamp at the URI’s Environmental Resource Center in 1993. He was raised in Germany and Ardsley Park, New York, and speaks fluent German.

Volunteers For Peace Burlington Vermont

Volunteers from Tom’s Peace Camp ~ 2009

Tom Sherman

Tom is the former Executive Director of the New Hampshire affiliate of the American Diabetes Association. Tom has professional skills in fundraising and grant writing, and is also experienced in public relations and advocacy work, having served as the Project Director for Southwestern Community Services in Keene, NH and Assistant Director of Catholic Relief Services in Beirut, Lebanon and Hodeidah,Yemen. Tom has helped to organized about 15 workcamps in the Newport and Concord, New Hampshire area and is a founding member of Volunteers for Peace. He is a grandfather of five children and lives in Goshen,NH. Tom has taught Yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Kung in southern New Hampshire for the past 22 years and is director of the Bija Ananda Yoga Teacher Training Program .