Meet the Team
JULIA KURNIA, Director
Julia's work to link entrepreneurs in developing countries with international peer-to-peer lending markets began in Senegal, where she co-founded the world's first microfinance institution built on capital raised from individuals over the internet. She subsequently served for four years with the United States African Development Foundation, a federal government agency in Washington, DC, where she worked to develop and manage a portfolio of approximately $10 million worth of grants to small businesses in West Africa. These experiences laid the groundwork in 2009.
Julia holds a master's degree in International Economics from the George Washington University. She is proficient in multiple languages, including French, German, Indonesian, Japanese and Spanish. Julia lives with her husband and son in northern Virginia. When not working with us, Julia enjoys practicing Indonesian martial arts.
JONAS DE TAEYE, Web Developer
Jonas lives in Ghent, Belgium. He holds a master's degree in Mathematics from the University of Ghent. Somewhat by chance, he ended up as the webmaster for the student mathematics club, and has since developed a passion for web development. After university, he divided his time between professional work and self-study. Jonas became involved with Zidisha as an open-source contributor, and is now leading the Zidisha web development project. He enjoys playing music, jazz, cinema, reading and mountain biking. He's hooked on healthy food and prefers bicycles and public transport.
MIEN DE GRAEVE, Burkina Faso Client Relationship Manager View Weblog
Mien was born in Durban, South Africa but she grew up in Belgium. She is no stranger to micro-enterprise, having spent four months in Burundi during 2011 helping a group of women launch a successful restaurant. She has contributed in positions of public service for the City of Gent and in community and youth organizations in Belgium. She joined Zidisha as the first Burkina Faso Client Relationship Manager and she hopes to learn a lot about both microfinance and business strategies in Burkina Faso. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, cooking and tasting cuisine from all over the world. Her bicycle is an inseparable friend: she cycled through several countries in Europe and Africa, including Burkina Faso.
ROBERTA ZENERE, Ghana Country Expansion Coordinator
Roberta is from Padua, Italy. Her interest for microfinance has emerged when starting to collaborate in a microcredit project run by an Italian association. Last year, she also spent two months in Ghana researching models for linking indigenous financial intermediaries (Susu Collectors) with the formal banking system. She thinks that microfinance has initiated a cultural revolution that brings the person to the core of the development process and she is strongly interested in ventures that introduce innovation in the delivery of microfinance services, as Zidisha is doing. Roberta has recently obtained a master's degree in Economics and Management for Nonprofit Organizations from the University of Bologna (Italy) and she is willing to further her education in the field of Development Finance. Roberta is now living in Ghana and was very happy to assist Zidisha in expanding its lending service in that country for the benefit of Ghanaian entrepreneurs.
ERIN EAGAN, Senegal Client Relationship Manager
Erin is an undergraduate student at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. She studies Economics and French, and plans to work with micro-financing and educational development after graduation. Erin first found Zidisha in 2011 after searching for equitable economic interest groups. She is currently in Senegal, volunteering with Zidisha and volunteering teaching English. She will returning to Michigan for the spring quarter of studies. Erin plans to return to Senegal for research on her senior thesis, and looks forward to volunteering with Zidisha throughout her undergrad and after. Erin's favorite hobbies in Senegal include learning Wolof, doing yoga on her terrace, and making meals for her family.
MIRIAM FROST, Senegal Client Relationship Manager
Miriam is a recent graduate of the University of Rochester where she studied International Relations and French. She studied abroad in Senegal in 2012 and serendipitously finds herself back in Dakar to work and try out life as an expat. She has international and cross-cultural experience from her travels throughout West Africa as well as her previous work with refugees. Miriam is excited to join the Zidisha team and contribute to sustainable local development. In her free time she tutors English, works to assist stray dogs and cats, and is attempting to try every beignet lady in Dakar.
ANALIN SATURRIA, Country Liaison Manager
Analin was born and raised in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Her upbringing included extended traveling through rural Dominican Republic, which made her aware of the greater economic and social challenges the poor experience. This knowledge, and her experiences volunteering and working for a microfinance organization, helped her to choose international development as a lifelong career. Her work in the nonprofit sector has taken her around the Dominican Republic and southeast Haiti. A strong microfinance supporter, Analin is hoping to learn more about borrowers' business activities in other countries and help Zidisha build a strong community of lenders that remain engaged and enthusiastic. She obtained a law degree from Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, and a Master of Laws in Sustainable International Development from the University of Washington. She is proficient in Spanish, English and French. She currently resides in Shanghai, China with her husband. In her free time, Analin enjoys cooking, traveling, watching sports and reading.
MICHAELA LADSTAETTER, Accountant
Michaela is located in the North of Italy. She holds degrees in business management and in political economy at the University of Innsbruck (Austria) and works as an Italian certified auditor and tax consultant. She speaks German, Italian and English. She arrived to Zidisha as a lender and soon felt that she would like to contribute more to the growth of this innovative model.
VINCENT CASANOVA, Francophone Country Liaison Intern
I am located in the South of France. I have a master's degree in Management and about three years of experience in financial auditing and controlling. These experiences brought me to various parts of our planet including Belgium, Spain, the United States, the UK, and France.
I am very interested in the P2P lending mechanism at Zidisha. I want to learn more - and a lot - so that I will be able to help our clients and communities through the lending process. I would like to have a chance to see positive feedback from our clients, I believe it is very rewarding to see and know what positive changes could be implemented in the communities in Senegal.
RACHEL JEANTY, Francophone Country Liaison Intern
Rachel was born and currently lives in New York. She holds a master's degree in Education and a bachelor's in Political Science with a minor in Sociocultural Anthropology. Since transitioning from a teaching career, she has explored opportunities to incorporate her previous work experiences and academic work with her bilingual skills while devoting time to worthwhile volunteer efforts such as language translation, interpreting and now, microfinance.
MBEMBA OUSMANE KAMARA, Francophone Country Liaison Intern
I reside in UK and live in London with my wife and twin children aged five. I am originally from Guinea where I held Tourism and Hotel Management certificates. I worked as an intern in Novotel and Hotel de L’unite Conakry.
I am currently an undergraduate student, studying International Business and French. I have 10 years' experience in working with ethnic minority communities in the UK, especially working with young people in a football development project.
Having been raised in Guinea in a hard-working local cloth-dyeing entrepreneur family and community, as a child, I helped my parents in doing this production before and after school. Some stages of the production process are physically demanding as there was not any technology involved. This experience made me aware of the greater economic and social challenges facing these hardworking entrepreneurs.
My experience as an immigrant has provided me with an opportunity to explore a variety of business models from around the world. During my eleven years living in Europe, I have experienced the relatively well-governed and organized private and public sectors in Europe in stark contrast to the poor governance, hardship and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Such realities have driven me to seek a knowledge and understanding of the dynamics behind international business and global economics. My keen interest in International Project Management and International Capital Market Law & Financial Services and also my great desire to help my community back home have pushed me to work as an intern at Zidisha. I would like to learn more about the microfinance business model which will probably help me to assist the entrepreneurs in Guinea in the near future and also apply my business skills and knowledge to help entrepreneurs in Guinea grow their businesses.
PAIGE KLUNK, Francophone Country Liaison Intern
Paige is from Hanover, Pennsylvania, and is a graduate of Gettysburg College with a double major in Music and Africana Studies. Paige first travelled to Senegal to 2010, where she first became acquainted with the local arts, culture, and languages. With an interest in West African music, Paige plays the balafon (West African xylophone) and follows the local hip-hop scene. Renewing her interest in development and humanitarian efforts, Paige will be pursuing a master's degree in International Development Studies at Ohio University. She is greatly excited to pursue work at Zidisha to compliment her studies as well as travel abroad to aid and recruit new clientele in Senegal.
CLAIRE MCLELAND, Francophone Country Liaison Intern
Claire McLeland is from northern Virginia and recently graduated from Principia College in Illinois with a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology and minors in French and music. While at university, Claire had the opportunity to have dinner, along with other students and faculty, with Muhammad Yunus who was visiting to give a talk. That evening, along with her experiences traveling to France, Brazil, and the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean, sparked an interest in microfinance that led to Claire's involvement with Zidisha, where she is thrilled to be putting her language skills to good use as a Francophone Country Liaison Intern. In her free time, Claire loves to read, spend time outdoors, play guitar, piano, and sing!
RIO DJIWANDANA, Indonesia Country Liaison Intern
Rio Djiwandana is a sophomore at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service majoring in International Political Economy, with minors in Entrepreneurship and International Development. Originally from Surabaya, Indonesia, Rio resides with his family in sunny Los Angeles, California, when he is not attending school in Washington, DC. Rio is very passionate about poverty alleviation, and he strongly believes in the power of microfinance to lift people out of poverty and ensure that everyone, especially struggling entrepreneurs and small businesses with limited resources, can receive access to high-quality financial services. In his free time, Rio enjoys exploring the outdoors, trying exotic new foods, and watching "American Horror Story."
BAYLE CONRAD, Kenya Country Liaison Intern
Bayle is a recent MPH graduate in Global Health from Emory University. She has worked abroad in Uganda and Kenya, where she discovered a passion for community development and empowerment. She has previously worked with several organizations focusing on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa in various capacities. Her interest in microfinance comes from a desire to work with organizations which pursue alternatives to traditional international aid.
ALISSA JORDAN, Kenya Country Liaison Intern
Alissa is from Minnesota, currently living in Minneapolis after two years of being in Southern California. She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and is passionate about nonprofit work, specifically in international aid. An active volunteer for humanitarian organizations such as Feed My Starving Children and the American Refugee Committee, Alissa is always looking for new ways to use her skills and resources to support international development. With family from Kenya, Alissa looks forward to soon traveling to East Africa. Alissa is a runner, writer, an avid bookworm, consumer of coffee and lover of new cultural experiences.
GAYATRI MEHTA, Kenya Country Liaison Intern
Gayatri was born in Singapore but grew up in San Francisco, California. She recently graduated from University of California, San Diego with a B.A. in Economics and minor in International Relations. Her academic experience and work with non-profit organizations in India has grounded her focus towards international economic development. Her passion to effectively alleviate global poverty through sustainable economics is what motivates her to work alongside organizations like Zidisha. She greatly enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures and people and her favorite passtimes include yoga, hiking, and eating Ethiopian food.
CHRISTIAN OLEG ZEBALLOS, Kenya Country Liaison Intern
Christian is a graduate from the University of Edinburgh, where he earned his bachelor's degree in International Business and Russian Language. As a student, Christian developed a strong interest in the role of the private sector in development and wrote a dissertation that focused on facilitating the implementation of business practices that create value for businesses and the communities in which they operate. He was drawn to Zidisha due to the organization's ability to alleviate poverty through business mechanisms and entrepreneurship. Christian grew up in Bolivia and currently resides in Maryland. He speaks English, Spanish, and Russian.
LINET OGOTI, Kenya Country Liaison Intern
Linet was born in Kenya and spent most of her life in Nairobi. She now lives in the United States. She is a recent graduate of Smith College with a bachelor's degree in economics. Her recent exposure to the abundant resources and opportunities available to all segments of society in the US has sparked her interest in the potential of finance as a tool of development in Africa. In her words: "I am captivated by Zidisha's work and its commitment to alleviating poverty in the developing world. The opportunities Zidisha provides offer hope to economically marginalized small business owners in countries like Kenya and throughout the world. I am enjoying my current work with Zidisha." In her free time Linet enjoys reading, listening to music, and learning about different cultures.
CHLOE SMILEY, Kenya Country Liaison Intern
Chloe Smiley is an undergraduate student at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, currently studying Entrepreneurship and Economics. She first became invested in non-profit work through a partnership with Harvest Bridge, an organization engaging in micro-missions and relief work in Southeast Asia. This has allowed her to travel to India to continue work on a poverty alleviation handbook that focused on sustainable practices and practical mindset changes. Working to find long-term poverty solutions spurred on her interest in microfinance and she has been pursuing opportunities to learn and participate more in microfinance ever since. One such opportunity has been co-founding Kin Threads, a clothing non-profit, that funnels profits to microloans and connects the end user with the benefitting entrepreneur. Chloe became interested in Zidisha because of their dedication to using microfinance as an avenue to assist other entrepreneurs. She enjoys mountain biking, running, reading, and baking.
HRIDAY (DAY) THAKKAR, Kenya Country Liaison Intern
I was raised in the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore, and moved to the United States two years ago to pursue my undergraduate studies in economics. Having seen the poverty and hunger in India, especially in the villages while accompanying my father on his Biodiesel projects, and wanting to do my bit to uplift their lives, I have a grown a passion towards economic development. I first fell in love with the concept of microfinance after getting involved with the Microcredit Club at my college and my trip to Malawi, Africa the following summer (2012) allowed me to witness first hand the impact it is having on its borrowers. I am thrilled to be a part of Zidisha because it's an innovative model that challenges the conventional method of providing access to credit via Microfinance Institutions and it's an opportunity for me to continue making a difference in the lives of underprivileged families in developing countries. I recently graduated with an associates degree in economics from Foothill College, California and am currently taking a gap year to gain hands-on experience in international development and entrepreneurship. Subsequently, I want to transfer to Georgetown University to pursue a bachelor's degree in International Economics and a Master's degree in a related field. I aspire to be a social entrepreneur upon completing my studies and later on work in the government on economic policies.
KEVIN ZEIGLER, Kenya Country Liaison Intern
Kevin Zeigler grew up in a small town outside Richmond, Virginia. After graduating from James Madison University with an undergraduate degree in Accounting and Computer Information Systems, he began working for a global accounting firm and obtained his Certified Public Accountant license. His interest in poverty alleviation began in college after helping to start an organization dedicated to supporting education and community infrastructure based programs in a community outside León, Nicaragua. After working for two and a half years in IT Risk Advisory services in Richmond and New York City, he decided to leave his job to pursue opportunities with innovative organizations on the forefront of poverty alleviation and social enterprise. Kevin is excited about the opportunity to work with Zidisha and hopes to bring his business driven background to the table while learning more about microfinance and P2P lending.
ASHLEE BEAZLEY, Communications Associate
Ashlee is from Auckland, New Zealand. Currently enrolled at the University of Auckland, she is studying a conjoint degree in Arts (majoring in history) and Law. After visiting Vietnam on a high school history trip, Ashlee realised the vast social, financial and educational challenges those in poverty face; this inspired her to search for a means by which to help change this. Microfinance proved to be the answer, and Ashlee is now also Project Leader of the Zidisha Initiative, part of the Auckland Microfinance Initiative, where she is working to further promote microfinance and Zidisha on campus. When not working or studying, Ashlee enjoys baking, cooking, travelling, practicing yoga and reading.
TIMOTHY TSAI, Communications Associate
Tim is a senior at Georgetown University majoring in philosophy and economics and minoring in English. Originally from the California Bay Area, he first became interested in microfinance after spending a summer teaching English in a rural Chinese village. He was referred to Zidisha by his good friend and former intern Alex Villec and is excited to begin working with the team. In his free time, Tim enjoys reading literature, listening to and blogging about music, and continuing the eternal pursuit to find the perfect bowl of Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
KARA KAMINSKI, Program Analyst
Kara is an individual dedicated to tackling the world's poverty barriers one project at a time through efficient, impact driven methods. She has spent her career analyzing the multifaceted aspects of development ranging from biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History, to religious environmentalism at the Earth Institute, to food insecurity at Seva Mandir. She is eager to use her knowledge of econometric methods and household survey analysis to help Zidisha learn more about its borrower base while uncovering the impact of Zidisha's innovative peer-to-peer methods. She has a master of science degree in economics from Suffolk University and a bachelor's degree in political science from Boston College. Kara is always looking for her next travel opportunity and spends her free time learning Hindi.
DENISE OWEN, Translation Team Coordinator
Denise Owen teaches elementary and middle school music at an international Christian school in Tokyo, Japan. She is a graduate of Oberlin College, where she lived in French House and German House, and Regent College, where she majored in Old Testament and Hebrew. Now she uses Japanese and English on a daily basis, but linguistics and translation continue to be her hobby. She is happy to be able to put her French to use to help alleviate poverty through Zidisha.
KIRSTEN SHUTE, Translation Team Coordinator
Kirsten Shute works as a tutor and writer. Her interest in education and poverty reduction led her to volunteer with the literacy group Frontier College during her student years and to join Zidisha as a lender in 2012. She is happy to assist the volunteer translation team. She lives in Montreal, Canada, and speaks English, French, and just enough Italian to order gelato.
Volunteer Mentors are borrowers or residents of borrowers' communities, who volunteer their time to assist new members to interact with our website. If you reside in a country where has a lending program and are interested in becoming a volunteer mentor, please send us an email
VIRTUAL VOLUNTEER TEAM
Virtual Volunteers work with our staff to review borrower applications, translate loan profiles and comments, and answer member questions. Check out our Intern / Volunteer page to learn more about our Virtual Volunteering program.
Emilie Morissette Grègoire
TRANSLATION VOLUNTEER TEAM
Translation Volunteers translate borrower profiles and comments from local languages into English, and translate lender comments into local languages. Their work makes communication between members of different linguistic backgrounds possible.
Ignatius Darren Gozali
Margareth Gita D
RONALD CHENG, Trustee
Ronnie Cheng is a founder of CodeDoor, a marketplace for freelance programmers that have contributed to open source. Prior to that, he worked at Facebook and Samasource, a social enterprise that connects people living in poverty with life-changing work opportunities via the Internet. He is a graduate of Columbia University, where he majored in Computer Science and minored in Economics. Ronnie is excited about our mission, because if he doesn't want to pay 30% interest, then the developing world should be able to get a much better rate. You can contact Ronnie at email@example.com.
JOHN FAY, Trustee
John has been involved with development and microfinance in Africa since 2004, when he began developing the predecessor organization which became The SEM Fund in 2006, cofounded by Nan Guslander and Julia Kurnia. John serves as the SEM 501(c)(3) chairman of the board, and is the co-founder and Director of Shared Value Africa Zambia. John is based in Lusaka, Zambia. Previously John has worked for Cigna Healthcare, investment bank FBR and the Emerging Markets Group, and was a professional lacrosse player for six years. He graduated with a BA in History from Duke University, received an MBA from Cornell University's Johnson School and a PhD from the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business. John can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DIANNE SCENT, Trustee
Dianne is a freelance editor in Eastern Tennessee, where she loves the mountains of her new home. Her 20-year career in publishing includes work as a legal and academic editor for Wiley, Cambridge University Press, and Transaction Publishers, as well as for the Christian publisher Zondervan. She is a graduate of Hanover College with a BA in English. Dianne's involvement in microfinancing stems from the call of Micah 6:8 on her life: "And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Her inspirations include Mother Teresa and Shane Claiborne. You can reach Dianne at email@example.com.
WHITNEY HOLMES, Attorney
A partner with Morrison & Foerster, Whitney Holmes has extensive experience counseling clients, including boards of directors, special committees and audit committees, in corporate governance and compliance matters, compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, federal and state securities laws and stock exchange rules. Mr. Holmes was recently recognized as a top attorney for mergers and acquisitions in Colorado Super Lawyers and Super Lawyers Ð Corporate Counsel Edition. From 2002-2005, Mr. Holmes served as Chair of the Securities Law Subsection of the Colorado Bar Association's Business Law Counsel. He was selected by Colorado in-house counsel for inclusion in the 2008 Corporate Counsel Black Book in several areas, including Corporate Finance, Securities and Mergers and Acquisitions. Mr. Holmes was selected as one of the top 10 business newsmakers in Banking and Finance in the 2006 Power Book published by the Denver Business Journal.