Country Directors

Joseph Elotu
Country Director | Uganda

God has blessed me with a beautiful and wonderful wife, Anne Grace, and our marriage is blessed with six wonderful children. My work for God includes serving on the Leadership Team in my local church in Soroti, where I have participated in spearheading church development and coordinating both local and international missions. The region I come from was affected by insurgency that lasted for more than 20 years, during which time many people lost their lives, property, and were physically abused. It is also one of the poorest regions in Uganda, with many orphaned children and child-headed households who cannot afford education, food, medical, and other physical needs. I have always had a passion for the disadvantaged, especially children and youth. My wife and I regularly open our doors and commit resources to youth ministry and supporting vulnerable children. We believe that for the Uganda of tomorrow to become better, our country needs a new generation of leaders that fear God, love justice, and are committed to change. The arrival of Children’s HopeChest to the eastern region in Uganda was timely, and I consider my involvement a golden opportunity for me to fulfill my calling “to give hope to those in need, positively influence those around me and leave every situation better than I found it.” I want to thank everybody who has responded to the cause of the suffering children all over the world. Thank you for being a big part of what God is doing in the lives of people in Uganda!

Matt Gerber
Country Director | Swaziland

I was born in South Africa and grew up in a small town in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. After finishing high school, I went to college and became a CPA. My father and I had a successful business together, but then I felt God calling me into ministry. Since then, I have been involved in many ministries, including a large youth ministry in South Africa (where I met my wife, Kriek), and Dr. Bruce Wilkinson’s Beat the Drum project in Swaziland. After working with Adventures in Missions in the U.S. for a year, God was calling my family to move to Swaziland to work in partnership with Children’s HopeChest. Currently, Kriek and I oversee all the CarePoints throughout Swaziland that feed and disciple thousands of children daily. We believe in a holistic approach with a strong focus on sustainability. Our dream is to see our country “heal itself from within” so that Africa can provide for the needs of its own people.

Dagnachew Kaleab
Interim Country Director | Ethiopia

Katya Celenina
Country Director | Russia

God has blessed me with many opportunities while championing the cause of orphans for more than 20 years. My expertise is in older orphan care and social adaptation in Russia. As a founding member of Nadezhda Fund in Russia, I currently serve as chairman on the board of directors. After earning a master’s in education from Moscow State Linguistic University, I was invited by Buckner International Children’s Services to study foster care and take on a three-year internship in the Management and Administration of Family Settings for Orphans in the U.S. I translated, adjusted, and adapted the materials and experiences from my studies to Russian realities. My initial efforts grew into today’s programs for older orphans. I am honored to speak throughout Russia and Eastern Europe on family-based intervention programs for older orphans. I received my doctorate from St. Petersburg State University in post-institutional adaptation of Russian orphans. I am grateful to bring my extensive education and experiences to my position with Children’s HopeChest.

Carolina Cardona
Country Director | Guatemala

I grew up in a small village in the beautiful country of Guatemala. We only had running water for two hours a day. We didn’t have any restaurants, washing machines were considered a luxury, and bicycles were our main form of transportation. I clearly remember as I was growing up, that God was giving me big dreams. I was determined to study hard so I could help my parents have a better life. Although, I had big dreams that I wanted to achieve, I had never imagined that God was going to give me the honor of attending a Christian university in the U.S. for my college education. While I grew up with a lot economical limitations, God took me to a country with a lot of people willing to help those who have limitations. I have no doubt that God allowed me to experience both ends to be a bridge between those who need help and those whom God wants to use to help. When I graduated, I knew that God had called me to serve others, and I returned to my beautiful country. There was no question of what my mission was to be. I had to serve the poor in my country. I am so blessed for the opportunity God has given me to join the Children’s HopeChest Guatemala Team. This is the place where He is moving to transform the lives of the children. It is an honor beyond definition to serve others every day here.

Serghei Mihailov
Country Director | Moldova

I was born in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. When Moldova proclaimed its independence and the Soviet Union collapsed, my family felt the repercussions firsthand. Both of my parents lost their jobs and my parents divorced under the financial and personal pressures of navigating life in post-Soviet Moldova. Living with my aunt, I discovered the miracle of God’s unconditional love and the Christian faith. While attending College of Theology and Education, I was invited by Vladimir Ubeivolc (president and co-founder of Beginning of Life) to volunteer at Beginning of Life, a Moldova-based nonprofit that partners with HopeChest. For me, this ministry made it possible to give a chance to individuals to get out of deep poverty and lack of opportunities, and to be set free; the same chance that was given to me in the past. I completed my master’s and grew from being a volunteer to the Executive Director of Beginning of Life. The more I continue to serve, the more deeply I realize that God is powerful and faithful in His mission.