Meet the Team

Dunia Marisol Estrada Padilla

Educational Program Administrator

Dunia was born in Choluteca, but at two years of age her parents moved her to Tegucigalpa. Studying at Francisco Martínez Maradiaga elementary school, she remembers her teacher with great affection, since she gave her classes from first to sixth grade, then she went to the institute Dr Jesús Aguilar Paz where she studied from seventh to ninth grade. In high school at the Republic Institute of France, she got a degree in hospitality and tourism.

​Finally, in 2013 Dunia entered the National Autonomous University of Honduras to study Education, working with children and adolescents in a range of experiences at non-profits, schools, and educational administration. In her last semester, a final requirement was to complete a professional internship, and she found Chispa Project and loved their mission.  She was a great intern, and fit right into her new position, and promptly took a full-time position after completing her internship.  She hopes to be very helpful and learn everything that is done here. One of her favorite books is The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas.

María José Panchamé

Educational Program Administrator

Since she was a child, María dreamed of being a teacher because loved school.  However, after studying in high school in Spain in  she realized that her country (Honduras) needs a lot of help in education. She went on to get her BA in Education. María joined Chispa Project because of the vital role it plays for all children.

María has worked as a university teacher, in projects aimed at educational and social areas. She has also participated in research for solutions to different problems in the country. She wants to learn about different realities that happen in her country. María likes to be very organized with her time, that´s why she´s not a fan of surprises. Her favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and “Honduras Al Ras del Suelo” (At ground level) by Alberto Arce.

Lidia Sánchez

Educational Program Administrator

Lidia was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She considers herself a lover of reading, especially of science fiction books. Her parents used to read books to her a lot as a kid. Since then, she´s been in love with the books. Lidia thinks that teaching young children to read helps them develop their language skills and it also helps them learn to listen well.

Lidia studied her bachelor´s degree in International Relations and hopes that this career will involve her more in social development. She feels so lucky to work for Chispa Project because she wants to see her country with more access to education. It´s difficult to select one book as her favorite but the Harry Potter saga by J.K. Rowling rank high as well as any book by C. S. Lewis.

​Antonio Rodríguez

Educational Program Administrator

Known best as “Ton,” our newest team member is a young lover of reading, and especially of history. He considers himself as a great dreamer, traveler and idealist, but he knows that idealism without action is utopia. One of his greatest dreams is to see his country (Honduras) as a country without poverty and with total access to education, key elements for development. This led him to want to work with Chispa Project.

In recent years, Ton has spent his free time as a volunteer in different organizations that work directly with communities throughout Honduras. Ton studied his bachelor’s degree in International Relations and hopes that this career will involve him more in social development. Being someone with access to reading makes him feel lucky, especially because it made it a lot easier to be a good student even though he gets distracted very easily. His favorite books are “The Little Prince” & “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” but he also can’t resist any of Dale Carnegie’s books.

Sara Brakhane

Executive Director

Throughout school (and college) Sara used to get in trouble for reading her novels under her desk while the teacher was talking.  But problem students always grow into the best teachers!  Sara has been working in education for 9 years both as a teacher and in student affairs departments at various universities.  She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Social Activism in Communication from Pacific Lutheran University.  She continued studying for her Master’s degree in Diversity in Higher Education from the University of Denver.

Sara first went to Honduras in 2011 to visit her best friend in Peace Corps and fell in love with the country.  Finally, she picked up and moved.  She first volunteered as a grade school teacher in a rural school, then taught a joint class of 5th and 6th grade at Marcala Bilingual School.  Chispa Project is a dream come true getting to share her love of reading with children across Honduras.  Narrowing down a favorite book is way too hard, but it’d have to fall somewhere between anything by Roald Dahl, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.

Laurie Mullinax

President, Board of Directors

Laurie is a retired special education teacher since 2019. She earned a B.S. in Elementary Education and Special Education from the University of Nebraska in 1984 and then a Masters degree in 1992. She also earned a Certificate in Elementary School Administration & Supervision from The Citadel in 2002. She has fostered over 15 youth since moving to South Carolina and adopted 2 boys in 2016. 

Laurie currently lives in Santee, SC with her husband, Alan, where she participates in Seacoast Church in Manning, SC.  She also enjoys her neighborhood book club, traveling, making jewelry, and antiquing.  Her most recent favorite books read are A Time for Mercy by John Grisham and Follow the River by James Alexander Thom.

Norris Burkes

Vice President, Board of Directors

Norris Burkes retired from the Air National Guard in 2015. Additionally, he has also served as chaplain in multiple civilian hospitals.  He’s perhaps best know for his nationally syndicated column that takes a spiritual, often comical – if not irreverent – look at everyday life. He began writing the column in 2001 and was quickly syndicated into nearly 35 papers. Those columns are the subject of his books  No Small MiraclesHero’s Highway and Thriving Beyond Surviving.

Norris has degrees from Baylor University, Golden Gate Seminary and Pacific University in Portland OR.  In recent years, Norris has run two marathons, taken up golf and loves international travel. He and his wife Becky have been married 38 years and are parents of  father of four grown children.  His favorite books is Gilead, a 2004 Pulitzer Prize novel written by Marilynne Robinson.

Vicki Iliff

Secretary, Board of Directors

Vicki, who lives in Central Florida, is a retired Special Educator with 40 years of experience in the classroom, administration, and teacher training. Since retirement, Vicki has been active in her church, and a local literacy program.  She and her husband of 44 years enjoy camping, hiking, and traveling. Vicki’s number one interest is her two grandsons, who she is always eager to visit. 

Vicki holds a Bachelor of Science in Special Education from Illinois State University, and a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Vicki is an avid reader, just having completed her local library’s challenge to read 50 books in 2021. Choosing a favorite book is impossible; it is usually the one she is currently reading, which at present is The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate.     

Katie Doyle

Treasurer, Board of Directors

Katie comes to the Board with 25 years experience in education as a librarian and journalism/English teacher.  She holds an MLS from Emporia State University and a BS from Sam Houston State University.  As a librarian, her focus on planning lessons with teachers that emphasized effective reading and research strategies earned her school’s library a state award of excellence for four years running.

Since retirement, she remains active in her church, her book club, her neighborhood association, and as a volunteer with Bienvenidos Food Bank.  A few of her favorite books are The Color of Water by James McBride and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

Cynthia Chasteen

Member, Board of Directors

Cynthia Chasteen is an instructional specialist for the Migrant English Language Learning Program (MELL) for the state of Missouri and an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the College of Education at both the University of Missouri in Columbia and St. Louis (UMSL). She lives in Columbia and provides support and resources to schools with English Learners in the Northeast and Central regions of the state. In her role as a professor, she teaches both physical and online TESOL courses for undergraduate and graduate students. Cynthia earned her PhD in Teaching & Learning Processes with an emphasis in TESOL from UMSL where she also obtained an M.Ed in Secondary Education/TESOL; she began her college experience with a B.A. in Journalism from Auburn University. She is also a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor for both children and adults.

“I am excited to be involved with Chispa! One of my fondest memories was the trophy I received in 1st grade for reading more than 100 books. I am eager to share my love for reading and give as many kids access to books as possible!” It is difficult to select one book as her favorite, but Ramesh Menon’s rendering of The Ramayana and Mahabharata rank high, as well as any book by Eric Carle. When she is not teaching or taking yoga, she enjoys lifting weights, spending time outdoors and traveling.