Meet Our Board
Sharon Hart has over two decades in sales, business development and entrepreneurship and she has been a Certified Professional Coach for over a decade. Sharon helps her clients break through blocks and limiting beliefs and claim the life they really want to live. Her daughter is a 2019 Youth Vision Trip alum and she has been a member of the board since 2019.
Jessie and Rhett Mclaughlin – Rhett is a writer and producer, known for (among other things) being part of the hit YouTube duo Rhett and Link. Jessie and her son Locke are 2017 Youth Vision Trip alum and have been actively involved and supporting RUFC since.
Jane Schmitz holds a PhD in public health from the prestigious Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and is currently an adjunct professor of global health at Occidental University. Jane is active in numerous philanthropies dedicated to improving health and opportunities for youth in Los Angeles and worldwide.
Simone St. Claire holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of Southern California and is currently a consultant at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. She is an alum of our 2017, 2018, and 2019 Soccer and Health Camps and has been instrumental in sustaining and building our organization.
Tumuhimbise Peninah is our Uganda Country Coordinator. Based at Youth Rising International, she is responsible for designing, coordinating, managing, implementing and monitoring RUFC activities throughout Uganda. This includes planning and coordination of School Clubs, Annual Soccer and Health Camp, Splash safe Camps, Youth Vision Trips, and Student Sponsorship. Peninah is a biochemistry graduate from Makerere University and has been a volunteer with Ray United for the past three years. Peninah was College President during her time at Makerere University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration. In her free time she is either reading or swimming.
Yesigomwe Kennedy is a graduate of Environmental Health Sciences from the prestigious School of Public Health, Makerere University. He’s been doing public health work for the last 5 years with experience in WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), HIV/AIDS, malaria, child and maternal Health, nutrition and adolescent health related programs. He has also been trained in the Grassroots Soccer curriculum. Kennedy is passionate about software development (including building this site) and hopes to use technology to improve public health in Uganda and beyond .Kennedy is also a successful comedian and entertainer and keeps the whole team laughing!
Wagwa Abdul is our transportation and logistics manager, ensuring that our team always arrives on time and safe to all our programs. Abdul has been a member of the RUFC team since its inception in 2014. He has also stepped in to serve a guardian to multiple RUFC sponsored students in need. Learn more about Abdul by watching his ‘I am Ray United’ video.
Nsubuga Allan is a Community Psychologist who designs and implements Behaviour Change Interventions for at risk populations serving the LGBTQI Rights Movement in Uganda as Development Officer at Rights Evidence and Action/Sexual Minorities Uganda. He is a member of the 8th Young Leaders Forum at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung advocating for social justice and good governance in Uganda. Allan presented the interests of youth to increasingly voice their rights and access friendly reproductive health services as President of the Youth Advisory Committee and Member of the National Steering Committee at the Uganda Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance 2017/2018. He is a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur award winner 2018, and previously a collaborative MTV Staying Alive award winner 2016 who designed an HIV Prevention program for 24 districts in Central Uganda. Allan is a self- proclaimed Feminist who is pursuing his passion for gender equality and equity to ensure that all people regardless of gender or sex are able to thrive with equal opportunities
Balinda Emmanuel is a third year student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Sciences awaiting graduation in 2021. He is a devoted leader. He is a former Guild representative Councillor at MakSPH and also former Vice President Makerere University Environmental Health students Association. In these positions he organized medical camps in Mitooma, Kisoro, Napak and at Ntare School in Western Uganda. He is also involved in the Ugandan National Youth Politics structures inspired by his leadership skills gained over the years working in Makerere University. He has been volunteering with Ray United FC since 2018. He believes in team work and being self- motivated to achieve ones goals and objectives. He like traveling, sports, especially soccer, listening to music, and meeting new people.
Cecilia is an environmental health scientist and research associate at Makerere University School of Public Health. She references a saying by Hoarse “There is too high for the daring mortals, we storm Heaven in our folly”. when stressing her belief that when it comes to disease prevention in our communities, there nothing high to bring about that cause.
Katya Besch is a Program Development Coordinator for RUFC. She first started working with RUFC on the 2021 RUMPS Workshop as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award Project, and hopes to join RUFC in Uganda in future workshops. Katya is a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician and will graduate from Amherst College in 2025. She is a dedicated rower, soccer goalkeeper, and singer. In her free time Katya loves to read, bake, and make her family and friends groan with her puns and jokes.
Valeria Flores-Cadena is currently a sophomore at USC majoring in International Relations and the Global Economy and minoring in Global Health. She was first introduced to Ray United while taking an Introduction to Global Health class that was taught by Dr. Wipfli and became officially involved in January 2021. From her experience with Ray United she hopes to take away better skills in collaboration and teamwork, as well as greater understanding of how to create effective and sustainable methods of health interventions on a community-scale basis.
Nicole Malik is currently studying global health at the University of Southern California. She first became involved with Ray United during the summer of 2019, when she volunteered as a health educator at our Soccer and Health Camp in Lira, Uganda. Since the beginning of 2020, Nicole has been working remotely to keep our social media pages up-to-date and assist with the organization of programming. She hopes to return to Uganda when travel is back to normal and engage in more public health work on the ground. In her free time, Nicole likes to cook, play tennis, and watch Spanish drama series.
Sarah Philips is a USC ’24 student majoring in Global Health on the premed track. She became involved in Ray United in January 2021 after taking a course on Global Health taught by Dr. Wipfli. Sarah first learned about epidemiology from attending a summer camp and loved it, and is very excited to help other kids learn about the field of epidemiology as part of the Youth Public Health Ambassadors program.
Kayla Samimi is a current junior at USC, majoring in Global Health on the pre medical track. In her free time, Kayla enjoys running and going to the beach. Kayla has worked with multiple global NGOs such as Children of War Foundation and Afghan Literacy Foundation which focus on improving healthcare access and education in other parts of the world. She was inspired to study global health when her family chose to host a 6 year old boy named Abdul, who traveled from Afghanistan to Los Angeles for long term surgical treatment. She began interning with Ray United FC with the start of 2021 and is currently working on developing curriculum for the YPHA program. Following her undergraduate education, Kayla plans to go to medical school and continue to work with the global health community.
Ray Wipfli is co-founder of RUFC and continues to serve as a main visionary and fundraiser for the organization. When Ray is not going to school or working on RUFC, he likes to sing and play the guitar and piano. He is also an elite spring board and platform diver, having competed multiple years in the US Junior National Diving Championships. Learn more about Ray’s journey to Uganda and his inspiration to start RUFC in OUR STORY and watch his ‘I am Ray United‘ video to get to know him better!
Heather Wipfli, better known as Mama Ray, is an associate professor of global health at the University of Southern California and co-founder of RUFC. She ensures that we are using effective, evidence-based and ethical approaches in supporting our community partners. When she’s not hard at work, she enjoys traveling and hanging our with her kids. Watch her ‘I am Ray United’ video to hear more about her approach.
Ralph Wipfli, or ‘Papa Ray’, is RUFC’s finance manager. He is also a popular figure at camps where he is often found chanting along with the youth and dancing on the party bus. Check out his reflection following the 2019 Soccer and Health camp in his ‘I am Ray United‘ video.
Ian Wipfli has been involved with Ray United since its inception, participating in an early partnership building trip in 2015 and our 2018 camp. In 2019, Ian launched a campaign to add drowning prevention to RUFC programming. He now directs the splash ball instruction as part of our Splash Safe Camps. Ian loves to play water polo and aims to become a professional life guard in the future.
Ana Wipfli has been involved with Ray United since attending the 2018 camp. In 2019 she led the development of RUFC’s first dance video. In her free time Ana loves to dance and make Tik Toks.
Drew Schwenk – Drew, USC ’20, is a 2019 Soccer and Health Camp alum and served as data analysis and reporting intern in 2020.
Tori Leone – Tori, USC ’21, served as a program planning and evaluation intern in 2020.
Simran Kohli – Simran, USC ’22, served as a co-research intern in 2020.
Zainab Hasan – Zainab, USC ’22, served as a co-research intern in 2020.
Linda Cavanaugh – Linda, USC ’22 served as a curriculum development intern in 2020.