About

Welcome to PA Rhino Conservation Advocates • PARCA

Our Mission

PA Rhino Conservation Advocates (PARCA), Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to fund the relocation and protection of wild rhinos, fund the care of young rhinos orphaned by poaching, and raise public awareness about their plight.

Our Vision

We envision a world where the rhinoceros lives free from the threat of extinction in natural habitats that are preserved forever.

Our History

PA Rhino Conservation Advocates (PARCA) was created by health care professionals who work together in the Philadelphia/PA area. Our co-founders came together after one of them went to Namibia and came home driven to make a difference that would positively impact our natural world.

In October 2015, we had the great fortune to meet Dereck and Beverly Joubert and ask them how we could help their conservation efforts.

The Jouberts are National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, filmmakers, photographers, and conservationists from Botswana. They were just starting their joint effort, Rhinos Without Borders, and suggested we help save rhinos.

While PARCA primarily focuses on the rhinoceros, we are dedicated to helping preserve the larger ecosystem in which they live.

© Philynn Hepschmidt
© Philynn Hepschmidt

Our Board

Heather-Smith-PARCA

Heather Smith
Founder

Heather has worked in healthcare for 33 years at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. While Heather always knew she wanted to be a nurse, rhino conservation came more unexpectedly. After winning an auction for a safari in Namibia, Heather knew she wanted to help preserve what she had seen and done there. Once it was suggested to our team that rhinos needed to be saved, Heather was all in and is driven to make a difference for these animals. Heather is one of the founders of PARCA and continues to serve on the board. One of the unintended consequences of this work is the impact it has had on people – both here in the U.S. and in Africa. Heather had no idea the friendships that would be forged, the impacts on the communities in Africa because of the jobs created related to these animals (whether the safari industry or protecting them), or the opportunities to travel and have life-changing experiences that would be created. Heather goes to Africa every chance she gets (and loves putting together the trips PARCA arranges every year) because it is the most special place on earth to her and she believes everyone should have the chance to experience it.

Philynn Hepschmidt
President

Philynn has worked in healthcare for over 20 years and currently works at Penn Medicine as the Vice President of Patient Access. She is also serving as the President of PARCA’s board. Philynn has always had a soft spot for animals, welcoming many rescued dogs into her home for the past two decades, and donating to a number of local nonprofits. It was on a trip to Botswana in 2016, where her love for African wildlife blossomed and inspired her to get involved in animal conservation. It was there she learned about the fundamental connection between the land, the animals and the people to preserve. As a result of this life changing trip, saving Rhino’s, and positively impacting people who live among and protect these animals, has become her passion outside of work. Philynn is proud of what PARCA has accomplished over the past several years, extremely grateful for its supporters, and hopeful that if PARCA can continue to support its mission, it will help to save not only the animals, but the magical landscapes for generations to come.

Deborah Rose
Vice President

Deborah Rose is the Vice President of PARCA Inc.’s board. She is employed by the University of Pennsylvania Health System where she is the Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Surgery. In 2015 Deborah had the opportunity to meet Derek and Beverly Joubert when they gave a leadership lecture at Penn, describing their efforts to fight rhino poaching in Africa. That lecture sparked Deborah’s interest in conservation efforts. After her first trip to Africa, Deborah decided it was time to become actively involved in PARCA, Inc. which was cofounded by colleagues at Penn. Deborah is passionate about the impact PARCA has made in wildlife and habitat protection and community support.

Steven Smith
Treasurer

Steve is coming up on four decades in health care at Penn Medicine in a variety of roles with one goal – make a positive impact on patients, families and communities. While the plight of the animals themselves was enough to draw him to the conservation effort, positively impacting the communities and people who depend on and protect those animals is a natural extension of his life’s work. Steve is proud to have served on the PARCA board since its inception and humbled by a community of supporters that have enabled PARCA to grow and fulfill its mission.

Kathryn Gray DeAngelis

Kathryn Gray DeAngelis
Secretary

Katie lives in Philadelphia, PA and is very active in animal rescue. She participates in Trap Neuter Release with cats in her neighborhood and supports local animal shelters. Katie has been a part of PARCA since its inception. Her love of animals has encouraged her advocacy for rhino safety. Every trip and experience re-energizes her need and passion to help in the conservation world. When Katie is not working on saving animals, she is working on saving people. She is employed at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania—where she is the Director of Perfusion. She spends her days in cardiac surgery, operating the heart lung bypass machine.

Jeff Steen

Jeff works for both a major pharmaceutical company and serves as a Deputy State Game Warden.As a small child, you would find Jeff glued to the television every Sunday evening watching The Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Marlon Perkins was Jeff’s first introduction into the wonders of African wildlife and where he first learned about what would soon become his favorite animal, the endangered rhino. Jeff’s affection for all wildlife would lead him to become an award-winning Game Warden for the Pennsylvania Game Commission with a goal of protecting all North American wildlife. Jeff never lost his passion for African wildlife and is always searching for more ways he can help curb the destruction of all wildlife, especially the rhino he so adores. His search eventually led him to PARCA where he currently sits as a member of the Board of Directors. Jeff aspires to bring public awareness to PARCA’s efforts to supply African rangers with desperately needed equipment and help stop the decimation of Africa’s once abundant wildlife.

Andrew Wegoye

A Ugandan, born and raised, Andrew is a staunch public health enthusiast and conservation supporter. One of ten children, he learned early on the importance of community and how every individual can make a difference, and he continues to practice those lessons learned to this day. Andrew is also a Co-Founder of Hornbill Treks & Safaris, which specializes in safaris across East Africa that support conservation initiatives and give back to local communities. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children and regularly travels between the U.S. and East Africa.