A graduate of UC Berkeley and former professional football player, Aaron met Leandra while serving the Peace Corps in Zambia in 2009. They were travelling together in 2011 when the need for IIM International became apparent. It was also during this trip that the relationship between the two transitioned from friend/co-worker to romantic. After their wedding in 2013, Aaron joined the board and took charge of fundraising on the west coast. 

Upon moving to Zambia, Aaron was the impromptu foreman of construction at the Student Life Center. Now that the couple has returned to the US, Aaron has taken back up the roll of lead fundraiser and handles most of the marketing for IIM International. ​


Leandra chairs a board of diverse supporters who work to support the efforts of IIM International from Florida, USA. At the same time, another board has been formed on the ground in Chalata, Zambia consisting of community leaders, teachers, and trusted advisers who are able to coordinate the daily operations with our staff and follow the budget set out from America.

​"After graduating from the University of Florida with a Bachelor's in wildlife conservation, I decided to join the Peace Corps and use my education to help others.  In 2009 I was sent to a rural village in Zambia where I quickly fell in love with the country, culture and most importantly, the people.   

On a return trip in 2011, I was heart-broken when I learned that several of my students were unable to attend secondary school despite performing well on national qualifying exams.  Primary education is free in Zambia, but secondary school is relatively expensive.  Parents often struggle to be able to send even one student to secondary school, but orphans and the extreme poor have no hope of ever continuing their education beyond primary school.  I was inspired to create IIM International and allow these students to continue their education."

President and Founder

Leandra Merz

IIM International

Aaron Merz

ImitiIkula eMpanga

- a Bemba proverb meaning "small trees grow to become the forest"

Zambians use this proverb to emphasize the importance of educating

​the nation's youth as they are the leaders of tomorrow.