Our Team


Terri J. Marlett  |  Co-Founder, Executive Director

Terri Marlett founded NICA in 2006 to create job opportunities for adults and improve education for children in rural communities in Nicaragua.  By focusing on the youngest part of the population, NICA's cost-effective, sustainable and replicable program provides children with the tools they need to stop the cycle of dependence for future generations and leave poverty. NICA's programs provide children and adults with opportunity as opposed to hand outs and have demonstrated tangible results through significant improvement in the standard of living in the communities served. As founder and Executive Director of the organization, Terri leads an international team of directors, interns, and other staff to improve the quality of education being offered to children.  

Terri created and launched the Community Development Program in 2007, which creates opportunities for adults and high school aged students to earn construction materials, food, school uniforms or other necessities, giving children the best opportunity to attend school daily.  This program has resulted in over thirty newly constructed homes,  hundreds of repaired existing homes, increased community pride and higher attendance rates at local schools.  

NICA's programs are currently being brought to scale with the launch of its new Volunteer Program, which brings college and graduate students to rural areas to help NICA implement and create new programs. Terri is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, where NICA's 2012 Clinton Global Initiative Committment to Action was announced.  NICA committed to scale its programs using the Volunteer Program to other beach communities in rural Nicaragua over the next three years, positively impacting 10,000 lives. Terri graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles with a degree in English and then earned her law degree from the Southwestern University School of Law. 


Christopher A. Marlett  |  Co-Founder, Director

Christopher Marlett is CEO and Founder of MDB Capital Group LLC. His entire 26 year career has been focused on financing emerging growth companies in the public markets. During the last 15 years he transitioned to a core focus of financing companies that possess potentially disruptive technology. He has become a thought leader in the area of financing development stage companies in the public markets as a preferable alternative to traditional venture capital. Additionally he began studying the impact of intellectual property as a method of gaining and retaining market leadership. This led to the development of PatentVest, the first business intelligence database platform focused upon intellectual property.  

He has co-founded or launched four companies into the public markets from near inception that progressed to over $1B in market value. His exclusive focus today is on financing disruptive technology.  He also developed a process for creation an execution of a dominant IP position for the companies he finances as a method to gain market leadership. Mr. Marlett graduated from University of Southern California in 1986 with a B.S. in Business Administration.


Aaron A. Grunfeld  |  Director

Aaron is an attorney with the Los Angeles law firm of Aaron A. Grunfeld & Associates, where his law practice focuses on securities and corporate matters, including domestic and international transactions. As a counsel to companies and investment bankers since 1971, Aaron has been involved in more than 70 registered public offerings of securities, as well as numerous private placements and merger and reorganization transactions.  He has counseled clients on issues relating to enforcement and other regulatory concerns involving the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc., the California Department of Corporations and other state regulatory agencies.  

Aaron also serves on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Water District. The Metropolitan Water District is a consortium of 26 cities and water districts that provide drinking water to nearly 18 million people in Southern California.  Aaron received his law degree from Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow and Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Los Angeles and have two daughters and two sons.


Claudia P. Tinoco  |  Legal Representative, Director of Nicaragua Operations

Claudia Tinoco is a Country Director for NICA and Chief Operations Officer for Embassy Properties, S.A.  She graduated in 2004 from the National University of Engineering (UNI) in Managua, Nicaragua with an architecture degree. For five years after graduating from the UNI, she gained experience in the field of architectural construction and design with a firm in Managua. Claudia has always shown an interest in the field of architecture, because it allows her to develop her structural designs into a physical reality.  In 2010, she continued her education by obtaining a masters degree in the Social Impact of Community Territory Planning from the University of Central America in Managua.

In 2008 Claudia joined the NICA team to develop social infrastructure projects in the rural community of El Tránsito.  She focused on building a community based leadership team that could manage community development projects.  She traveled to the community four days a week to share her skills with the local people and assist in project execution to create better results. She is convinced that through community empowerment the standard of living will increase in El Tránsito and the goals and mission of NICA can be accomplished.

In addition to starting her work with NICA, Claudia started working for Embassy Properties, S.A in Managua, Nicaragua.  EMPROSA is a major supporter of NICA's work in Nicaragua, and they have expanded the IAP program to a barrio that neighbors the complex.  EMPROSA is based out of the original US Embassy property, which Chris Marlett acquired to develop an outsourcing complex.  Claudia designed and supervised the construction of five different buildings on the property to be used for outsourcing services.  She now manages the Emprosa Complex which is comprised of multiple buildings and nearly 2,000 employees. 

Claudia has over 10 years of experience and is committed to the Marlett's visions with both NICA and Emprosa S.A.  She shares their goals of developing a more prosperous Nicaragua through new job opportunities in the local economy and the creation of social labor in rural communities.


Jonathan Z. Butcher  |  Director of Community Programs

After receiving a BA in Organizational Psychology from Lee University, Jonathan joined a luxury hotel franchise in Indianapolis, IN. Another franchise recruited Jonathan and his career took off. Eventually landing a corporate position with a company in Los Angeles, CA, Jonathan moved throughout the Los Angeles region until he finally landed a District Manager's position in the company's corporate housing division. Several years later, Marriott International hired Jonathan to start a similar operation covering the Southern California territory.

Despite the relative success in the hospitality business, Jonathan desired to create more impact in the world and decided to return to school to pursue a Master's of Social Entrepreneurship at Pepperdine University. It was while Jonathan was working for Marriott and completing the Master's Degree that he met Terri and Chris Marlett. Jonathan had been working on a proposal in graduate school focused on sustainability in community development. Terri and Chris reviewed the proposal and decided to launch programs focused on a sustainable approach the summer of 2012. Jonathan is now the director of community projects in El Transito at NICA. Projects are primarily focused on education, commerce development, public health and environmental justice.


Carla Mora  |  Coordinator, Community Programs

Carla Mora was born in Granada to a family dedicated to working with communities in Nicaragua. Her mother a teacher and her father a founding member of the Policia Nacional de Nicaragua, Carla always felt the need to contribute to society by helping others in overcoming their difficulties and improving their lives. When she was 15 she participated in the literacy task for the Community Service Program in High School and made voluntary visits to elderly people living in the nursing home in the city of Granada. At the age of 19 she worked as an English teacher with kids where she learned the value of perseverance in education for children. She also collaborated in a rescued dog shelter created by one of her friends and worked as a journalist at a local cable channel in Nandaime. Carla received her BA in Philology and Communications from UNAN in Managua in 2012.

She joined the NICA team on November 2013 and supports the logistics of NICA by coordinating projects with the community, soliciting local support and teaching art programs to the local children.


Jaime Mercado  |  Community Development Program Supervisor, El Tránsito

Jaime lives in El Transito with her family.  She attends university in Managua on Saturdays, working towards a degree in Business Administration. She joined NICA's team because she wanted to help improve her community.  She has been with NICA for five years, and during that time, she has helped produce and account for positive results from the Individual Aid Program. She currently supervises the IAP program, which includes mobilizing and empowering nearly 160 community members. Additionally, with the launch of the Volunteer Program, Jaime will finally get the opportunity she has been waiting for to dig in deeper into her community and assist with volunteers projects.  She is excited for all the new volunteers coming to El Transito, and she says she can already see the positive impact.

Jaime will complete her degree in 2013, she hopes to use it to assist the in the progress and growth of the community. 


Claudia Aburto  |  School Food Program Supervisor, El Tránsito

Claudia came to NICA as a mother of three children attending schools in El Tránsito to ask for assistance.  She was a volunteer who cooked government supplied food for the children everyday.  She presented her case for all the parents of El Tránsito that more children would come to school if meals were served consistently.  The government food did not always arrive.  NICA agreed to help support the program, initially by just providing food when the government aid did not arrive.  Eventually, she convinced NICA to build a kitchen and bathrooms at the local school.  Next, she asked that NICA give her a budget of $600 per month to improve the government food.  Now, this single mom of three is employed full time by NICA and she single handedly runs the food program for two schools in town, providing meals to around 600 students daily. Claudia never finished high school.  Her dream is that each one of her kids does and that they all go to college.


Jorge Hernandez  |  Engineer

A true native of El Transito, Jorge grew up in the town and actually survived the tsumani that swept through the area in 1992. Jorge is NICA's "jack of all trades" as he is extremely talented with his hands. If there is a project in the town that needs the touch of a craftsman or someone who knows how to fix or built it, Jorge is the man. He has touched or led just about every major infrastructure project in the town inclusive of the community well, baseball stadium, El Transito Art Center and the reparations to the private and public schools.

Jorge is currently continuing his education at techincal school in Managua. He hopes to sharpen his skills with electricity and use the new skills to complete more jobs in the community.