Our Team

Our Team

Robert & Elizabeth Vanman

Called to Give

Robert Vanman, the Chairman and primary funder of Amazi Water, tells us why he and his wife Elizabeth decided to make a large scale clean water project their core mission.

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As a successful technology entrepreneur and a passionate Christ-follower, I have a deep desire to be a great steward of the resources that God has entrusted to me. To do this, I believe we must find ways to make the most significant social and eternal impact possible from our finite resources.

Bringing clean water to areas that do not have it transforms those communities and fundamentally changes the lives of those who live there. Communities without safe drinking water can have child mortality rates above 20%, ongoing health problems, reduced productivity and stressed family dynamics. Education is hampered because the children are often responsible for collecting water from distant sources.

Providing these communities with a freshwater well that supplies reliable water year-round can reduce the child mortality rates to single digits, greatly improve overall health and free up time, which increases productivity and learning.

Clean water is the foundational building block that helps communities rise above abject poverty. Until access to clean water is addressed, nothing else can be effective.

Densely-populated Burundi is sometimes called “The Forgotten Country .” Years of civil war have decimated infrastructure and the economy, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. A large percentage of the population lacks access to clean water even though there is extensive underground water. This makes water wells particularly cost-effective when measured by “cost per person served.”

After learning that the major international water charities were not working in Burundi as there were no effective in-country water partners, we decided to create Burundi’s first and only in-country, dedicated water organization – now called Amazi Water.

We have purchased our own drilling rigs, hired GIS engineers, hydrogeologists, construction teams, community workers, extensive staff, and have made it our mission to bring clean water to the entire country. Today Amazi Water is the de facto, in-country water partner for many other organizations, including UNICEF and World Vision.

When I added everything up – the critical need, the cost-effectiveness, and the massive impact of these water projects – I concluded that building water wells in Burundi, Africa has the most social and eternal impact I can make with my resources.

That is why I’m all in.

      John & Caelene Peake

      Called to Go

      John and Caelene Peake currently live in Burundi and have devoted their lives to bringing clean, safe water to the people of Burundi.

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      John, who is from Texas, married South African Caelene in Cape Town in 2004. A growing number of connections and conversations about Burundi inspired the family to visit. During one of their first trips to the tiny, landlocked African country, they realized there was a serious lack of access to clean water. They felt called to take action and started a small water project in 2015.

      By 2016, the family had decided to move to Burundi. They completed a valuable missionary training course at Missions Resource Network and moved to Burundi for a long-term mission in August 2017.

      As committed Christians, the Peakes recognize the hand of God in their daily lives and experience His grace and guidance in this challenging endeavor. Their dream is not only that everyone in Burundi has access to safe water; serving the Body of Christ and spreading the Gospel is as important. This is achieved by working with churches, encouraging church leaders, preaching, and distributing Bibles in Kirundi, the local language.

      For the three Peake children, life can be challenging as well as fun. They get to experience new languages and cultures and, when the Peakes are not working or studying, they are usually active – hiking, biking, swimming, or dancing in their living room.

          The Board

          The Board

          Robert Vanman

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          Jeff Blackard

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          John Peake

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          Nathan Sheets

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          Emily Sarmiento


          Robert Vanman – Chairman


          Robert Vanman is an outspoken Christian and serial entrepreneur who has consistently incorporated kingdom work into his business career.

          His business career has included building 4 companies with 3 successful exits, the last of which was selling WatchGuard, Inc. (a law enforcement camera manufacturer he founded) to Motorola Solutions in 2019. Over the years he was responsible for the development of dozens of sophisticated products, and he has been awarded 25 U.S. Patents.

          Robert is now focused on the mission of Amazi Water and is using his resources and his business expertise to help build an organization designed to accomplish an ambitious mission in the most efficient and impactful way.

          Jeff Blackard


          Jeffory Blackard, CEO of Blackard Companies, is a distinguished figure in real estate, known for founding NeoRetroism. With over four decades in the industry, his innovative concept of NeoRetroism creates sustainable, village-type communities, merging traditional aesthetics with modern conveniences and environmental practices. This approach, emphasizing historical charm and sustainable, financially viable development, has reshaped real estate.

          Mr. Blackard’s commitment to the environment is evident in leading Zero Global Waste, a clean energy recycling initiative. His significant contributions to sustainable real estate development earned him the National Wetland Conservation Award from the US Department of the Interior.

          In the philanthropic realm, Mr. Blackard founded Amazon Outreach, delivering medical aid to Amazonian tribes, notably with the Linda Esperança. His extensive partnerships in over 50 countries highlight his dedication to global humanitarian efforts. A Northwestern University alumnus and former Big 10 athlete, Mr. Blackard’s multifaceted leadership in real estate and philanthropy has marked him as a person of integrity and influence, with a profound impact in various sectors and communities worldwide.

          John Peake


          John Peake is husband to Caelene Peake and their three children: Judah, Levi and Victoria.

          John grew up in Texas, in the DFW area. He worked for 15 years in business management and project management, mainly at Starbucks Coffee.

          During those years, John gained a Bachelors in Finance and went on to earn a Master’s in Business Administration.

          John founded the NGO, Amazi Water, in Burundi in 2015. He and his family have been living in Burundi since 2017 and plan to remain there for many years to come.

          John is passionate about large-scale project management in the Developing World. He has the patience and skill to navigate the complexities of the project and loves to see people connected, equipped and uplifted.

          John’s ultimate form of relaxation is on the front porch with a steaming cup of coffee and a copy of The Economist. John is a faithful follower of Christ.

          Caelene Peake

          Caelene Peake grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. After High School, she went on to study for a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Social Work. The practical nature of the degree led her straight into the field, where she began her long career of service to vulnerable populations, with a particular interest in community development.

          Caelene’s work in Texas was in Refugee Resettlement, where she was responsible for the Burundian population entering Texas through the UNHCR program. This work with Burundians began in 2004 and amazingly led to a life in Burundi itself!

          Caelene adores her 3 children, is an outdoor fanatic and is passionate about healthy relationships in every area of life. Caelene is a faithful follower of Christ.

          Nathan Sheets


          Nathan Sheets is the founder and chief steward of Nature Nate’s Honey Co., the #1 branded and fastest-growing honey company in the U.S. Nathan got the nickname “Nature Nate” in college because he was a nature lover and outdoorsman. After graduating from college and owning his own ad agency, Nathan began serving in the ministry. He has journeyed on 100+ mission trips all over the world with the goal of helping others. He was also one of the driving forces behind the global “I Am Second” media campaign that highlights stories of hundreds of lives transformed through the grace of Jesus Christ. In 2010, he decided to make honey his full-time endeavor, and life has never been sweeter. As Nate likes to say, “The Lord has blessed us so we can be a blessing to others.”

          John Peake 

          John grew up in the United Sates, in Texas. Over his 10+ years working for Starbucks Coffee, he gained valuable experience in people management, project management and handling large budgets.

          After completing his Finance Degree followed by an internationally focused MBA from The University of Texas in Arlington, he grew extremely interested in Burundi. The Lord made the way for John and his family to relocate to Burundi for the long-term and establish Amazi Water as the only clean water project in the country.

          John believes that all Christians are called to serve the Lord, no matter they are, but he is especially grateful to be in Burundi. In this challenging environment, he has come to know God more fully.

          Michelle Oney

          For more than 30 years, Michelle Oney has served non-profits as a development,
          marketing, and communications leader. As a lead strategist with a heart to improve the
          lives of people both spiritually and physically, her work has increased revenue and focused plans to successfully market, brand, and grow non-profit organizations.
          Before joining Amazi Water, she served as the Executive Vice President for Advancement at Unto, the humanitarian ministry of Cru. Michelle can also be credited with leadership contributions to Josh McDowell Ministry and several universities, including The George Washington University and Florida International University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University.

          She holds a Master of Arts degree from The George Washington University in Higher
          Education Administration and a bachelor’s degree in English from Berea College. Her
          roots are in the hills of Kentucky, but she has enjoyed living in Washington, DC, Miami, several cities in Venezuela, and Mexico. She now calls Weatherford, Texas home and enjoys spending time with her adult son, daughter, and son-in-law.

          Michelle’s dedication to the Great Commission and Great Commandment drives her passion to serve the Lord and makes her position at Amazi Water an honor and a privilege.

          Jake Kidane 

          Jake joined Amazi Water in 2021. Before coming to Amazi Water, he was the Program Director for Compassion International, Africa Region.

          Jake has many years of experience working in the developing world, overseeing multiple projects in different countries simultaneously. Jake’s strong relational skills and calmness under pressure make him a gift to the Operations department.

          “Working at Amazi Water is an amazing opportunity to serve Burundi by overcoming barriers through faith, collaboration, and strategy”

          Shaun O’Donnell

          During his 27 year career in the international humanitarian response; in over 20 countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Shaun has held various roles in leadership and program management.

          Shaun joined the Amazi Water team in August of 2021, after having worked for two significant organizations in Burundi, Terre des Hommes, and the International Rescue Committee.

          After starting at Amazi Water, Shaun was immediately struck by the high level of dedication and impressive drive to fulfill the mission. This remains a keen source of motivation for him as he heads up the Operations Support department.

          Jacob McKee 

          Jacob is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in the state of Texas.

          He has been with Amazi Water since 2018 and has 10+ years of nonprofit accounting experience. He has made multiple trips to Burundi to work with the team and see firsthand the work Amazi Water is doing.

          With each trip his love and passion for Burundi grows! When not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife Jill and their two kids, Emmaline and Wilson.

          Maria Epifanis 

          Maria has been with Amazi Water since June 2019, heading up the HR department.

          Passionate about people management, Maria has been working in Human Resources for almost 15 years. Always seeking to boost employee satisfaction, engage in career development, and conduct HR strategic planning, in order to help the organization reach its goals.

          She thoroughly enjoys working in an environment with cultural diversity, and is grateful to be part of the team!

          Jonny Harris 

          Jonny is a Chartered Civil Engineer and Chartered Water and Environmental Manager with over 20 years of experience in the African water sectors. Jonny gained his degree at Warwick University and specialized at Cranfield postgraduate and research University, both in the UK.

          Motivated by a passion to change the landscape of water and sanitation services in less developed nations, Jonny established Isidima Design and Development in 2014. Isidima is an innovative engineering consultancy dedicated to the research, design and implementation of effective sanitation and water treatment systems that seek to restore dignity to people.
          Jonny is also the designer of the Arumloo toilet that flushes on 2 litres of water, providing equal access to hygienic flush toilets.

          Jonny started at Amazi Water in 2017 and now leads the engineering team to ensure that Amazi Water implements effective water systems that can be easily maintained to provide a secure potable water supply for the people of Burundi.

          Bob Thorp 

          Bob and his wife Becky grew up in Latin America as missionary children. They met in Peru where Bob was Country Director of Food for the Hungry, and Becky was teaching health promoters in the Amazon Jungle.

          They have 3 children – Heather, Nathan, and Kaitlin. They are blessed with 9 grandchildren! Bob has worked in Thailand, Somalia, Peru, and Argentina with Food for the Hungry and also as Baptist Missionaries.

          In 2004, Bob joined Compassion International, where he oversaw various programs, such as the HIV-Aids response, WASH, Disaster Relief and Vocational Training.

          Living Water International recruited him in 2011 where he held positions as Senior Director of Technical Training and Equipment, as well as Senior Vice President of Operations.  Bob’s passion is developing people.  He has a master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture.

          His greatest joys are time with family, traveling, and gardening.  Bob is a hands on, field guy with a warm smile and a can-do attitude!

          The Senior Leadership Team

          Bob Thorp


          John Peake


          Howard Rich

          Director of Finance

          Michelle Oney

          Senior Director Marketing & Development

          Jake Kidane

          Country Director

          Shaun O’Donnell

          Director of Operations Support

          Jonny Harris

          Engineering Manager

          Join Our Team


          Are you looking for an exciting challenge in the heart of Africa, working with a dynamic team?

          Amazi Water is looking for smart, energetic and professional people to help us fulfill our mission.