Meet the Team

Meet some of the amazing people who keep us moving forward

Duncan Ward

Founder, CEO

Our founder is a real-life Peter Pan. He’s an eternal kid at heart and an avid seeker of adventure. To the best of our knowledge he doesn’t fight with pirates and he hasn’t yet learned to fly. Born and raised in South Africa, Duncan is Nelson Mandela’s number one fan and believes that ‘education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world’. For Duncan, every classroom we create is hope for positive change. It’s hard to keep track of all the hats Duncan has worn in his life, but to name a few: he was a sweeper of London Bridge Station, a Zoolander impersonator during his time as a male model and he also spent 17 years working as a Network Engineer and Management Consultant. Now, he is our inspirational leader, husband to Nicola, father to Aura and believer in all things being possible. Duncan was the recipient of the Australian Talent Unleashed Impact award from Sir Richard Branson in 2013 and also a 40under40 award winner in 2016 for his work with Classroom of Hope.

Nicola Courtin

Co-Founder & Creative Director

Once upon a time, Nicola lived in the land of Toronto, Canada. She must have been pretty busy over there because she managed to complete degrees in English, Socio-Cultural Anthropology and New-Media Journalism. As our Creative Director, Nicola uses her magical ability for storytelling to connect our donors with their positive impact. She feels blessed to have received valuable education throughout her life and believes that with the right mix of passion and imagination we can create a world where all children have access to quality education. Nicola is a spirited yogi and is fuelled by the energy of her daily practice. She is a lover of travel, an addict of dark chocolate and an enthusiast of astrology. It must have been written in the stars that Nicola would meet our founder when they were backpacking through Laos so they could live (and work) together happily every after.

Janica Torres


Janica is a seasoned finance professional who is experienced working across multiple international jurisdictions. She has served as the principal financial officer for a complex Australian local government, representing one of the largest local government geographic areas in Australia and handling several million dollars of project finance at a time. She has also served as the corporate accountant for a property investment fund in the Philippines, responsible for all aspects of corporate governance and compliance in addition to the financial administration of an SEC-registered corporation. Janica’s areas of expertise include Corporate Planning and Remuneration Modelling. Janica believes that the best way for us to grow is through education. The growth we experience through education is limitless, overflowing and affects every aspect of your being.

Kit Panyawatcharakun

Digital Media Strategist

Kit comes from a large Thai family with big hearts but little fortune. Thanks to her hard-working parents, her life dramatically changed and she was given the opportunity to have an international school education and live in many developing countries in her formative years. Even in her shifting and changing environments, Kit never forgot her roots and has always felt compelled to do what she can with what she has to help those less fortunate. With her Diploma in Visual Arts and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies, Kit has been able to give back by combining her passion for creativity and international relations. Kit believes that we can all give back, even in our differences in nationality, wealth, age, gender, or religious and cultural belief. We all deserve to live fulfilling lives in inclusive societies that foster sustainable futures.

Kristina Buckingham

Digital Media Strategist

Above all else, Kristina values compassion, connection, experiences, and, you guessed it… positivity! Originally from Utah (United States), Kristina was brought up in a family that put a strong emphasis on education and on giving back. After earning university degrees in International Development, Spanish, and Sustainability, Kristina has explored many different careers and paths, but through them all, she’s worked to find ways to make a positive impact on the world. Kristina’s craving for travel, adventure, and exploration has led her to take every opportunity to work and live abroad — a winding path that eventually led her to Indonesia and to Classroom of Hope! Kristina believes that education and opportunity go hand-in-hand, and is happy to be able to use her passion for communication and connection to expand the opportunities we can offer to future generations.

Damon Carter

Creative & Director, Function Creative

When we asked Damon to be our volunteer web designer, we knew we were asking a lot. Luckily for us he felt attached to our cause. See, both Damon’s parents are teachers and Damon grew up truly understanding that education is the ultimate tool that gives people choice in life. Whether he feels it’s his Karmic duty, or if it’s just because he’s an all-round nice guy, Damon happily provides us with pro-bono pixels. With a wealth of experience, Damon founded his own graphic design company, Function Creative, in 2012. When he’s detached from his computer Damon spends time with his beautiful wife, daughter and new born baby boy, or he can be found sketching in Perth’s cultural precinct, should you need him.

Lisa Mulvaney

Financial Officer

Lisa has been our Financial Officer since June 2020. She is a degree qualified accountant, studying both a CPA and a Masters in Business Administration specializing in Social Impact with UNSW. Lisa loves innovation and technology and she feels most at home when she is helping not for profits with continuous process improvements. Lisa believes that education is the foundation of a successful society and this is why she joined the Classroom of Hope team. Lisa wants more children to have access to education. When Lisa isn’t working, studying, moving (she’s lived in 3 states in the past 5 years!), or sorting out our financials, she loves to play netball with her two teenage daughters.

Manuel Gussmann

Field Photographer and Videographer

Manuel (Manu), was a project manager in corporate events who then went on to became a social worker before eventually deciding to become a nomadic photographer. His goal with his photographic work is to contribute to causes that have a positive impact on society. Everything Manu has learned along his journey has always been accomplished with the help of others. He considers all the allies he has met along the way to be a part of his “team of growth”. Manu believes every child should have access to such a team and that is why he is happy to help causes like Classroom of Hope to spread our message and do our work.

Simon Elwell

Field Photographer

The Kiwi is a flightless bird, but this particular one has managed to visit over 26 countries around the world. Raised in New Zealand, Simon has nested in London, Bangkok and now roosts in Amsterdam. His background in management and sales training occupies a big chunk of his hard-drive, but his heart and soul are filled with photography and creative energy. Simon contributes his stunning photography to Classroom of Hope with a wish to ignite the hearts of those that see his images. His photographs share a story of the endless potential that exists in every child, especially when they have access to a good education. Simon has an unmatched enthusiasm for life and a completely contagious energy. We wish Simon could hang out with us all the time, but he’s understandably living a life of bike rides and picnics in Europe with his beautiful wife and daughter.

Tracy Ward


It’s been said that Tracy’s laugh can be heard from Perth, Australia all the way to her homeland of Cape Town, South Africa. This is a woman with one big personality and an even bigger heart. If you’re having a bad day, just hang out with Tracy; her positive vibes are totally contagious (once she’s had her morning coffee). Passionate about bringing joy into people’s lives, Tracy loves that we bring laughter and fun to children through giving them a school and playground. Some more quick facts: Tracy is our founder’s sister and Classroom of Hope’s co-founder, and she makes the most unbelievable homemade fudge (if you ask her really nicely she just might make it for you).

Geoff Bartlett

Field Photographer

Geoff is one of those rare and fortunate polymaths. Really, this guy knows a lot about a whole lot of stuff. His wide range of expertise is one of the many reasons he is not only one of our field photographers but has also helped Classroom of Hope immensely with our IT. Geoff brings two decades of IT experience, phenomenal photography skills and a passion for positive change to Classroom of Hope. Driven by a desire for a just world, Geoff believes education is a right that all children should have equal opportunity to access. When he’s not helping us save the world, Geoff spends his time testing out photographic concepts on his family, riding his motorbike, swimming, practicing yoga and discussing economics with his wife. Interesting fact: Geoff’s been slapped on the back by a gorilla in a Rwandan jungle. Don’t believe us? See for yourself

Andrea Wieser

International Programs Manager

Andrea has been calling South East Asia home for the last 18 years. Originally born and grown in the Swiss mountains, the narrow mountain valley and its skiing slopes soon became too small for her. At the first opportunity, she moved overseas and spent the next 18 years in the Wealth Management Industry in Singapore. In her twenties, she used the long weekends and holidays to backpack through SEA and discover the “off the beaten track destinations” while later with her husband and two kids, they spent most of their travel time in Sri Lanka. Different cultures have always fascinated Andrea and wherever she travelled, most of the time she also had donations in her luggage, just waiting to find suitable beneficiaries. Health issues in 2016 brought Andrea on the path of Yoga & meditation and today she is a yoga teacher and a health and wellness advocate. Andrea believes that education is a birthright. Every child in this world should have access to education. It is essential for the development of their social skills, academics, integration and security.

Ray Gauci

IT Project Manager

Ray began using technology when he was a kid and his dad brought a computer home for the weekend. His dad used to code adventure games for him to play, which was the start of Ray’s interest in gaming and a good story. He also enjoyed watching and playing sports, especially footy and cricket. Today, Ray is a passionate gardener and his garden has nearly all Australian native plants and is home to several native animals. Over the last few years, he has also been learning to aquascape and keep tropical fish which he describes as a slow and steady but rewarding pastime. Ray enjoys watching plants grow and observing the fish interact with the environment. Einstein said “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”, this is a quote that resonates with Ray. For Ray, education is about obtaining knowledge and learning from anyone, all the time. He draws inspiration from his team at Classroom of Hope and other not-for-profits. Reading stories from people like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, and organisations like NASA and Wikipedia is how he learns and improves his knowledge. When we are educated, Ray beliefs, our opinions are formed, better choices are made, options are improved and people prosper.