Meet Via's Staff

Elisa Sabatini

Elisa became President of Via International in 1998, when it was still called Los Ninos. In 2005, she oversaw both the formation of Los Ninos de Baja California, an independent Mexican non-profit, and the transition of the U.S. organization to Via International. She continues to serve as President of both entities.

Elisa brings years of experience working throughout Latin America with an expertise in micro-finance and community development. She continues to oversee the expansion of our educational travel program, now partnering with over 60 universities and high schools nationwide, with the end goal of making Via International a self-sustaining community development organization. Most recently, she has worked to develop Corporate Social Responsibility programming providing relevant volunteer opportunities for local businesses.

John Fanestil
Executive Director

A native of San Diego, John Fanestil is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and the Claremont School of Theology. In 2017, he earned the Ph.D. in History from the University of Southern California, specializing in the history of early America.

John has worked for decades in movements for social justice, beginning with his work in the Central American peace movement. From 2007 to 2014, he was Executive Director of the San Diego Foundation for Change, the local chapter of a national philanthropic network called The Funding Exchange. Since 2006, John has convened the Friends of Friendship Park, a coalition of local stakeholders advocating for public access to the historic meeting place overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the border between San Diego and Tijuana. Since 2011, he has worked with friends from Tijuana to convene El Faro: The Border Church, a weekly celebration of communion at Friendship Park. He has spoken to hundreds of groups and dozens of media outlets from around the world about the history of Friendship Park and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

Rigo Reyes
Director of Community Development

As Community Development Director, Rigo Reyes develops and coordinates community engagement and leadership training for residents in marginal areas of San Diego and Tijuana and manages our Border Immersion program for students visiting San Diego. He is a long-time social justice advocate whose work is rooted in early childhood experiences growing up on the U.S.-Mexico border, attending United Farm Workers of America rallies and listening to Cesar Chavez while playing marbles. When he was 12-years-old he rode his bike 17 miles each way from his San Ysidro neighborhood to San Diego’s Logan Heights to witness the land take-over of Chicano Park, and has been a strong community empowerment advocate ever since. Reyes has been a member of the Chicano Park Steering Committee for nearly four decades, has been lowriding since the mid-1970s, and is a founding member of the Amigos Car Club.

Gladys Esponda
Executive Assistant

Gladys serves as the Executive Assistant for Via International’s staff. She is a non-profit advocate, with over 15 years of experience supporting multiple organizations addressing the most pressing issues facing our communities. She has learned that in order to help others and improve their quality of life, we must engage in our community, build strong alliances, and work in collaboration and partnership. Gladys loves dogs, music and tennis.

Gabriel Reed
Director of Education

Gabriel serves as the Director of Education and Voluntourism working to expand Via International’s university partnerships by fostering increased education and community engagement through our Volunteer Travel Programs. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory from the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. Gabriel’s experience includes working as an international educator with a background in non-profit management, community activism, and a continuing creative practice as a professional artist.

Joanna SalazarHarris
Director of Resource Development 

Joanna joined the Via family in May 2013 as our Resource Development Director. Joanna holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from UCSD and has worked in cross-border collaboration and infrastructure planning for 20 years. Joanna is passionate about empowering individuals to be their own best advocate and believes that civic engagement is key to a thriving community. She is an avid gardener, urban bee-keeper and mom of two young boys. Joanna is the main contact for foundations, corporations and individual donors and leads our Bee-hive Build program in the San Diego area.

Aida Amador
Communications Coordinator

Aida is the storyteller at Via International, creating a better understanding of the community impact of Via’s programs through videos, photos, and written compilations. She studied Communication at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California and serves as the liaison between Via International and their partner in Tijuana México Los Niños de Baja California A.C. for press and media events. She loves to travel, dance, and is the proud mother of a baby boy.

Angela Leal
Community Engagement Coordinator
Angela is a Community and Economic Development Americorps VISTA member, in partnership with the Mulvaney Center at the University of San DIego. During her time at Via International, she hopes to develop monthly events for community members to gather and for them to build a stronger relationship with Via. Angela was born and raised in Stockton, California. In this agricultural county, she started working at a young age alongside her family on her grandpa’s small farm. These early experiences shaped her ideologies and work ethic. In 2014 she moved to San Diego to attend the University of San Diego, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Philosophy. Her time at USD sparked in her an interest in Social Justice and Human Rights, that she hopes will lead to a career. Read Angela's Interview!