Our Mission

The Global Conservation Corps is a non-profit organization bridging the gap between communities and wildlife.

Martin's Legacy

Martin (far right) was born in apartheid South Africa where he had no opportunities, no rights, and no future. He grew up in a rural part of the Underberg in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Martin’s father passed away when he was young, so as the oldest of his siblings, he needed to provide for his family. Martin became a soldier. He went and enlisted-it’s one of the few things a black male could do during that time. He joined the 111th Battalion, where he fought for a country that didn’t even recognize him as a complete citizen.

When Martin came out of the military, he took his skills and started training rangers. He got involved with the people on the ground, because he truly believed that the future of Africa’s wildlife belonged to the local people. He sensed that there had to be ownership and direct benefit for the people living in close proximity to wildlife.

In 2014, Martin tragically passed away. That was the impetus for starting the Global Conservation Crops. Our mission statement is conserving wildlife through the education, development, and training of people. Poaching is not a wildlife issue-it’s a human issue. It’s a symptom of a much bigger human condition that we find ourselves in.

Our Team

Founder / Executive Director

Matt Lindenberg

Expertise: Conservationist, public speaker and documentarian
Currently working on: Bringing on four high schools into the Future Rangers Program and completing RHINO MAN.
Favorite animal: Rhinos (of course!)

Matt grew up next to the Kruger Park, South Africa, experiencing the wonders of African wildlife with his parents, who loved the great outdoors. At the age of 11, life abruptly took him to the United States and down a completely different path. He excelled in sports, especially snowboarding and tennis. Right after receiving a collegiate scholarship offer, an injury dashed his pro tennis hopes. He moved on to pursue a career as a combat fighter pilot, only to discover that he was color blind – that career didn’t quite take off. Dejected, Matt returned to South Africa for a holiday to see his mum and got reacquainted with his passion for wildlife.

After reuniting with the African bush, Matt enrolled at the Southern African Wildlife College, where he studied and subsequently worked for six years. During this time, Matt was mentored by an extraordinary man; Martin Mthembu, one of the finest ranger trainers the continent of Africa has ever known. Martin preached that the future of conservation relied on ownership and inclusion of the people living next to wildlife. After Martin passed away in a tragic car accident, Matt knew that he had to continue Martin’s legacy and founded GCC to continue his important work.

Click below to read Matt's story!

Program Director

Kate Vannelli

Expertise: Conservationist and National Geographic Explorer
Currently working on: Testing the new GCC App as it is rolled out to partner schools working with the Future Rangers program
Favorite animal: Cheetah

When Kate was a young girl she was passionate about watching nature programs on television. Big cats were her thing, especially the cheetahs. When she was around five years of age she took out her scissors and cut out pictures of cheetahs in their natural habitat from her National Geographic magazines. When her mother asked her about the project, the young Kate replied that if only people could see how beautiful these creatures were, they wouldn’t kill them. Such wise words from a young child and the beginning of an idea that would evolve into a life mission.

Today, as GCC’s Program Director for the Future Rangers Conservation Education Program, Kate is dedicated to creating a world where people and wildlife can coexist in a mutually beneficial relationship. One of her recent achievements is the development of an app to monitor and evaluate the Future Rangers education program, helping record students’ progress for future employment, but also to compile data on participant attitudes and behavior change over the long term.

Not only a conservation scientist, Kate also continues to express herself through art and photography, using her work to engage people with conservation and inspire change through different mediums.

Click below to read Kate's story!

Board of Directors

Michele Sofisti

Expertise: Geologist, business leader, and consultant
Currently working on: Connecting people and building partnerships between GCC and the private sector
Favorite animal: My border collie called Neve, and the elephant

Michele has had an illustrious career in the private sector, holding CEO positions for luxury brands such as Girard-Perregaux, Gucci Group Watches & Jewelry, Omega and more. Looking at his resume, you would be forgiven for thinking that he had studied business studies or economics, but he is actually a professional geologist by training.

Even though Michele’s career path took him away from geology, his love for the Earth and nature has never left him. He is now combining both his expertise in business leadership with his passion for protecting the environment by connecting people from both worlds. He believes that the private sector needs to step up to the challenge and is working hard to start conversations with global companies. To date, he has brought Garmont, Swiza, and Tissot on board as GCC partners.

Click below to read Michele's story!

Lefa Malapane

Facilitator

Promise Mkhantshwa

Facilitator

Rebekah Wortman

Digital Manager

Sophie Furley

Chief Editor

Josh Lumsden

Board President

Bea Asuncion

Marketing Associate

Advisor to the Board

Robert Ludke

Expertise: Advising policymakers and multinational companies on sustainability and environment, social and governance practices, author
Currently working on: Creating “Ecosystem Entrepreneurship” a 2-week curriculum in the Future Rangers program
Favorite animal: Jaguar – and I have been up close and personal with one!

Robert has over 20 years of professional experience in advising policymakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as guiding multinational companies. He provides counsel on a wide range of topics including sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and environmental, social and governance strategies in the retail, oil and gas, transportation, and finance industries. He has worked as a professor at the United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, teaching courses such as U.S. History, the U.S. Congress and American Foreign Policy.

Robert is the author of the book Transformative Markets that analyses the role of markets in fostering a more sustainable and prosperous society. Transformative Markets will soon to be available for sale on the GCC website, with all profits going to the GCC Ecosystem Entrepreneurship curriculum - a learning track to be integrated into GCC’s Future Rangers Program to educate students on the connection between ecosystem health and sustainable economic development in local communities.

He heard about GCC through his friend and colleague Lee Godown and joined the team as an advisor to the board in 2019. He is currently working to expand the network of GCC supporters, developing the Ecosystem Entrepreneurship curriculum and is putting together a trip of experts to South Africa in October to help teach the course.

Click below to read Bob's story!

Board of Directors

Lee Godown

Expertise: Providing guidance to governments and the private sector on how best to interact with each other
Currently working on: Using his deep business and government connections worldwide to open new doors
Favorite animal: Sea Otter (…and his two golden retrievers)

Lee is a public policy executive with deep roots in Washington and other world capitals. He has a record of progressive leadership for companies facing change, opportunity, and crisis. A strategist and tactician with an appreciation for business performance, Lee has a reputation for ingenuity, diplomacy and the ability to navigate complexity. He has guided global companies through high-stakes transactions as well as legislative and regulatory inquiries.

After four decades of working as a lobbyist and congressional staffer, he founded Alpex International, a global consultancy focused on assisting corporate, governmental and non-profit clients in their interactions with governments around the world. He joined GCC in 2019 and enjoys the two-pronged approach of protecting wildlife and education. Education is definitely a family affair with his mother and two sisters being teachers. He has also taught at several American universities and is currently an adjunct professor at George Mason University.

Anton Mzimba

Technical Advisor

Board Treasurer

Justin Walker

Expertise: Film-making and business management with a specialty in non-profit
GCC Position: Board Treasurer and COO
Currently working on: The Future Rangers program and making sure it is compliant from a data and privacy standpoint
Favorite animal: Bobwhite quail

The best time to catch Justin is early in the morning as he typically gets up at 4 am to start work on GCC business. He keeps the books, does payroll, compliance, contracts, and communications, to name just a few of his many activities within the organization.

Like many of his GCC teammates, he wears several hats and is also COO for a video production company called Friendly Human, which brought GCC and Justin together the documentary Rhino Man, and he also runs his own non-profit.

He loves nothing more than using his business knowledge to make the world a better place, creating efficient processes in every area of the GCC organization. He recently revamped GCC’s communications process with a new system to better share all the organization’s news, so stay tuned for that!

He speaks English and Spanish, loves traveling with his family, building things, and tinkering around with car engines, which perhaps explains his love for making things work smoothly!

Click below to read Justin's Full Story!

John Jurko

Creative Director