Denise Raquel Dunning, PhD, MPA, MA
Founder and Executive Director

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
-- Nelson Mandela


Dr. Denise Raquel Dunning is a powerful advocate for girls and women. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Rise Up, which advances health, education, and equity globally. Since the organization’s founding in 2009, Rise Up’s global network of 500+ leaders has improved health, education, and rights for 7 million girls, youth, and women, and advocated for over 100 laws and policies impacting 115 million people. Rise Up’s work in 15 countries integrates advocacy, innovative programming, and strategic partnerships with the United Nations and the White House.
[Read more…]


Josie Ramos, MA
Director of Programs

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.”
--Maya Angelou


Born and brought up in Pasadena, California, Josie was educated at Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Cruz. She holds Bachelor’s in English and Spanish with honors, and a Master’s in Literature. Josie began her career in public health as a volunteer [Read more…]


Lorena Gomez-Barris, MNA
Director of Operations

“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”
--Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist”


With more than 20 years of dynamic experience in the nonprofit sector, Lorena Gomez-Barris serves as Director of Operations for Rise Up. Lorena helps set and realize the strategic direction of the organization by putting into motion efficient and effective financial and administrative systems. Lorena has holds a Master’s in Nonprofit Management form the University of San Francisco and a degree in Business Administration and Environmental Studies from Sacramento State University. Lorena was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to California with her family when she was young. Because she was far away from most of her family, Lorena grew up in California understanding the importance of connecting to home through food, film, and art. Passionate about storytelling through video, Lorena has brought this lens to Rise Up in the form of digital stories, a global video contest, and the award-winning documentary film PODER. Lorena works to ensure the stories of Rise Up’s fellows and program participants are told authentically and distributed widely. Her passion for travel and learning languages has followed her since she was in high school. She has since lived in several countries including England, France, and Chile, and speaks French and Spanish. Her goal is to swim in every river she encounters.


Nicole Lordi
Program Administrator

“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right.”
--Jane Goodall


A graduate of Rutgers University, Nicole holds a Bachelor’s in History and Art History. A strong believer in experiential learning, Nicole joined the Public Health Institute over 20 years ago and has worked in a variety of roles, including program operations, financial [Read more…]


​Claudia Romeu, MPH
Program Coordinator

“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
--Mary Oliver


Claudia holds Bachelor’s in Social Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Master’s in Public Health in maternal and child health from the University of California at Berkeley. Before starting her graduate studies, the native Puerto Rican spent [Read more…]


Sarah C
Executive Coordinator

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”
--Eleanor Roosevelt


As Executive Coordinator for Rise Up, Sarah is responsible for organizational logistics while assisting Denise Dunning, Rise Up’s Executive Director. Sarah has an extensive background in arts and administration, and joined the team in June 2015 to further Rise Up’s efforts [Read more…]


Juana Salazar
Program Assistant

“Be Brave. Take Risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”
--Paulo Coelho


As the Program Assistant, Juana is responsible for Rise Up’s administrative functions. She has over 10 years of organizational and community outreach experience, including work as a bilingual counselor in public health, specifically serving parents whose babies were [Read more…]


Chantal Hildebrand, MPH, MPC
Program Coordinator

“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
--Audre Lorde


Chantal holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Vassar College and Master’s degrees in Public Health and City Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Passionate about gender equity, public health and advocacy, Chantal served as a Peace Corps volunteer [Read more…]


Laila Mehta
Program Manager, Collective Impact Partners

“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
-- Audre Lorde


For over 20 years Laila has worked at the intersections of human rights, social justice and development, both globally and locally. In the US, she has primarily focused on immigrant rights, racial justice, and women of color-led groups. In Cambodia, India, Timor Leste, and Nepal she worked with [Read more…]


Kaitlin Chandler
Development Manager

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
--Howard Thurman


Kaitlin has over 8 years of experience working in the non-profit sector and brings her fundraising knowledge to Rise Up from her previous roles as a fundraising consultant in Australia and a development associate at Save the Bay in Oakland. [Read more…]


Patzia Martinez
Program Associate

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning”.
--Gloria Steinem


Patzia joins Rise Up as a Program Associate, and in her role she coordinates the logistic and administrative needs of our programs, and provides general support and assistance to our fellows and subgrantees. Before joining PHI Patzia was a grants associate at [Read more…]


Grace Kaimila-Kanjo – Rise Up Consultant
Africa Regional Senior Advisor

"Far and away, the best prize that life offers is to work hard at work worth doing.”
--Eleanor Roosevelt


Grace has over 25 years of technical work experience in international development program management, covering a wide range of fields, from education to media and public relations to gender, youth, and HIV/AIDS. She has worked with Rise Up’s programs [Read more…]


Patricia Chimzinga Nyirenda
ENGAGE Project Coordinator, Malawi

Patricia is a Rise Up consultant serving as the Project Coordinator for the Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equality (ENGAGE) project in Malawi. As the Project Coordinator, Patricia is the focal point for Rise Up’s ENGAGE activities in Malawi and the main contact [Read more…]


Aniekanabasi Andinyanga
Nigeria Administrative Consultant

Aniekanabasi (Aniekan) Andinyanga is Rise Up’s Nigeria Administrative Support Consultant based in Abuja. Aniekan holds a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Nutrition and Food Science. She has worked with the World Health [Read more…]


Theresa Kaka Effa – Champions for Change Consultant
Nigeria Country Representative

Theresa Kaka Effa is the Nigeria Country Representative for Champions for Change, based in Abuja. An RMNCH advocacy expert, Effa has led the formation and strengthening of several national and state level civil society networks. She has also participated in successful RMNCH policy [Read more…]


Aisha Wreh-yonnoh Cooper Bruce – Let Girls Lead Consultant
Liberia Country Representative

Aisha became a Let Girls Lead Fellow in 2010 and has been the Country Representative for Liberia since 2011. As the Country Coordinator, Aisha serves as the LGL focal point for the 24 Fellows and the grantee organizations in Liberia. Aisha is also the Director of Social [Read more…]


Mr. Albert Obbuyi – Champions for Change Consultant
Kenya Country Coordinator

Mr. Albert Obbuyi is the Kenya Country Coordinator for Champions for Change. He is a health and development expert with more than 20 years of experience at the national and international levels designing and implementing health and development programmes, with a focus [Read more…]


Fabiola Rivera Rojas
Mexico Country Consultant

"Find your vocation and work from the heart, it’s the only way your heartbeats will be heard throughout the world.”


Fabiola has a Law Degree from the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, with graduate studies in Criminal Policy. She also has pursued studies in criminal law, gender, and human rights. She has experience as a University Professor [Read more…]


Claudia Vanessa Siliezar Turicios – Let Girls Lead Consultant
Honduras Country Representative

Vanessa joined Let Girls Lead as the Honduras Country Representative in 2009. In her role, Vanessa serves as the focal point for the 19 LGL Fellows in Honduras and provides technical assistance to LGL’s grantee organizations in the country. [Read more…]


Emerita Valdez – Let Girls Lead Consultant
Honduras Country Coordinator

“May you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law.”
--Immanuel Kant


Emérita Valdez has a degree in Management and Social Development, with a postgraduate degree in “Prevention of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking” from the Institute of Judicial Studies of Nicaragua and the Supreme Court of Honduras. [Read more…]


Maria Veronica Buch Siquinajay – Let Girls Lead Consultant
Guatemala Country Representative

Veronica joined Let Girls Lead in 2009 in the first cohort of Fellows from Guatemala. She became the Country Representative for Guatemala in 2013. As the LGL Country Coordinator, Veronica maintains the LGL network in Guatemala with the 39 Fellows [Read more…]


Juany Garcia – Let Girls Lead Consultant
Guatemala Country Coordinator

"My work with children and youth is my contribution to the transformation of my country and represents my passion for equal opportunities" - Juany Garcia


Juany is a Psychologist with a degree from Rafael Landivar University in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. She spent her childhood in a village in western Guatemala with her parents and three sisters, in a very patriarchal and macho culture, hence her interest [Read more…]


Nikita Wadhwa
Collective Impact Partners Program Coordinator, India

Nikita Wadhwa holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Lady Shriram College, Delhi University & a master’s degree in social work, specializing in women-centered practice from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

She believes that investment in women’s lives has the potential to transform developing countries, break cycles of oppression & end poverty and is motivated when she sees women take charge to improve their own lives & their communities.

Her experience involves design and implementation of programs with women, adolescent girls and youth around a gamut of issues including ending gender disparity, ending gender-based violence and active citizenship. Her most recent project – supervising volunteers in rural Rajasthan helped make inroads into remote areas and took a step in creating sustainable development solutions for the communities there.