The Worldreader team consists of dedicated staff, volunteers and management all working tirelessly to help readers build a better world. We’re also supported by a great board.
As our organization grows, we seek new reading aficionados to join us.

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members

David Risher - CEO and Co-Founder

David Risher is the CEO and co-founder of Worldreader. After a career as a general manager at Microsoft and an early stage executive at Amazon, David recognized early on how e-readers and digital books could give kids in under-served parts of the world better access to the life-changing experience of reading. Since co-founding Worldreader in 2010, David and the Worldreader team have expanded the organization to have impact in more than 46 countries, delivering high-quality books in 52 languages to over 13 million children. Together, they’ve demonstrated how digital technology–combined with high-quality books, smart programming, strong partnerships–can accelerate reading around the globe and unlock the potential of the world’s next scientists, teachers, innovators, and explorers.

David has degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Business School is a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Awardee, a Draper Richards Kaplan social entrepreneur, an invited member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and a Microsoft Alumni Foundation Integral Fellow. He has two daughters and lives in San Francisco, California, with his wife– author Jennifer Risher.

Read David’s full bio here.
Twitter: @davidrisherWR

Colin McElwee - Co-founder and Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships

As co-founder of Worldreader, Colin focuses on developing and growing key partnerships, putting to good use his for-profit and non-profit experience across the globe.

Most recently, Colin was the first director of marketing at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, where he helped establish the school’s reputation as a world-class business education provider. Prior to that, he started his career as an economist for several Brussels-based lobbies to the European Commission, and later worked in global marketing in the consumer goods sector for Scottish & Newcastle PLC.

He has two young daughters and like them is an avid reader of books (now there’s a surprise!). Colin has a degree in economics from the University of Manchester and an MBA from ESADE Business School. He has previously acted as an invited member of the Global Agenda Council on Africa of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and in 2016 Colin was recognized as one of the Social Entrepreneurs of the Year by the Schwab Foundation of the WEF.

His take on reading:

“The images created by the written word make an indelible mark on the mind.”

What got him reading:

Rumplestilskin

Twitter: @ColinMcElwee

Shannon Atkinson - Chief Financial Officer

Prior to joining Worldreader, Shannon was CFO at Raising A Reader, a national US program for young readers and their families. Before that she spent 17 years as CFO at SETI Institute, a non-profit scientific organization studying all aspects of life in the universe. In both of these roles Shannon, with the help of stellar teammates, lead all business aspects of the organizations such as strategy, finance, grant administration, HR, Board relations, and compliance.
Shannon believes that administration and business services are the behind-the-scenes “heart” of any organization and that one of the main goals of these functions is to improve effectiveness and efficiency of our daily work. Her professional mission statement is to provide impeccable administrative support and valuable strategic insight to guarantee the success of the organization and the cause it is dedicated to serve.

Currently reading:

“Masterminds and Wingman” by Rosalind Wiseman, which is one woman’s take on the social structure among boys.

Rebecca Chandler Leege - Chief Impact Officer

With over 20 years of leadership experience, Rebecca recently led World Vision’s engagement in “All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development,” a global initiative of USAID, World Vision, and the Australian Government, that seeks, tests and disseminates innovative education technology solutions to address child illiteracy. Previously at World Vision, she was Director for Child Development/Protection.

Rebecca also worked with World Relief, initially in Rwanda as their Director of Programs before relocating to their headquarters in the United States as Director of Global Program Operations. She has lived and worked throughout Africa and Asia for over 15 years. Chandler Leege also spent six years in the private sector in international human resources consulting with Fortune 500 companies.

Rebecca holds a Master of Science in Multinational Commerce from Boston University.

Favorite book: West with the Night by Beryl Markham

Favorite quote: Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.” – Kofi Annan

Bhanu Potta - Executive Product Leader and Regional Leader APAC

Bhanu is passionate about building and growing purposeful products, businesses, and organizations which enhance human potential. At Worldreader, Bhanu provides strategic direction & leadership for the global portfolio of digital reading products and leads the buildup of Worldreader’s mission in India and APAC region.

Before Worldreader, in a corporate product leadership career spanning 23 years, Bhanu set up and grew multi-million-dollar social investments & education, wellbeing and livelihoods product programs for Microsoft, Nokia, Perot Systems, Informatics Group and NIIT. As the senior advisor for social investments to Worldwide Education Group at Microsoft and as the global product leader for mobile learning services at Nokia, Bhanu led some of the world’s largest mobile-based learning services which collectively reached over 250 million beneficiaries in global south markets. As the founding partner at Zinger Labs (a boutique advisory firm), Bhanu also advises boards, CXO teams, investors & startup founders on building successful product businesses and impact-focused organizations.

Bhanu is a certified board director and sits on various boards and investment committees. He is a sought after counsel, mentor & professor of practice on product leadership & strategy, ICT for development, and social investments.

Twitter: @bhanupotta

Deborah Backus - Senior Director, Global Impact

Deborah supports the execution of our global impact strategy with a focus on building Worldreader’s digital services and global collaborations and partnerships that enhance our reach. Her nearly 20-year career has focused on facilitating organizational adaptability; to overcome challenges, address complex societal problems, and increase organizational capacity for creating impact. She recently supported special projects, in the context of COVID and a global volunteer evacuation, for the US Peace Corps. Prior to that, she spent five years with the ed-tech innovation fund, the All Children Reading Grand Challenge. She has spent a number of years leading policy and government reform initiatives in the Middle East and has worked with refugee communities in Thailand, Cambodia, and the US for both the United Nations and NGOs.

Deborah holds a Master of Social Work focused on social-economic development and management from Washington University in St. Louis.
Currently reading: The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Mark Frantz - Business Development Manager

Mark brings over ten years of experience in development, fundraising and partnerships for varied non-profit organizations in fields that range from community services to global development and higher education.

Mark holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Barcelona and has several postgraduate studies in non-profit and strategic partnerships management, marketing and social finance.

Authors that have profoundly shaped Mark are:

Susan George, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano and Naomi Klein.

Veronica Gutierrez - Director, Global Human Resources

Veronica brings over 15 years of HR experience to the company including building culture, working with the team strategically and implementing the HR infrastructure for several start-up companies. She has been a vital part in successfully growing small companies to mid-size. Her passion and expertise to enhance the employee experience is her first priority and believes HR is the pulse of an organization.

Veronica holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Business with a concentration in Human Resources Management from University of Phoenix. She is also certified as a Professional Human Resources (PHR). Veronica is also an active member of the organization of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Her current read: The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah.

Flavia Moroso - Director, Technology

Flavia and her team develop and manage the software and technology we need to process, maintain, and analyze the books that make up Worldreader’s collection. She is an avid reader and software developed and has worked on several projects during her professional life: from gov web applications and big real-estate tailored products to small start-ups.

Flavia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from the UNCPA (Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina). She also holds a post-graduate degree in Agile Methodologies for Software Development at La Salle University (Barcelona).

“When I read Lobsang Rampa’s “The third eye”, it made me realize that books can make you travel, and live and have amazing experiences without leaving your room. Knowing that is gold when you are a little girl who has to ask permission to do almost everything. Reading is freedom!”

Joan Mwachi-Amolo - Regional Director, East Africa

Joan Mwachi-Amolo manages the Worldreader portfolio in Kenya and greater East Africa. She is responsible for the strategic objectives and policies in the country office. Joan is an experienced educator, having started her career in the classroom setting and progressing on to designing and implementing training programs and capacity-building initiatives around non-formal school systems in impoverished communities. She has expertise in designing programs and tools for start-up organizations. Prior to joining Worldreader, Joan was the Regional Support Manager, Operations, at Bridge International Academies, a Nairobi-based organization that builds a network of ultra-low-cost private primary schools.

Joan received a Bachelor of Education degree and a Master in Education Administration degree, both from Kenyatta University.

She is inspired by the book “An Enemy Called Average” by John L Mason, which motivates her to do more than average in every aspect of her life.

Ethel Sakitey - Regional Director, West Africa

Ethel oversees the Worldreader portfolio of programs in Ghana and West Africa. She leads strategic planning, program expansion, and facilitates business development and partnerships within the region. Ethel has over fourteen years of program management experience within the development, public health, and education sectors. She was previously a Country Director and a Program Officer for Right to Play’s West and Francophone Africa (WAFA) Regional Office in Ghana.

Ethel holds a Master of Philosophy Degree in Public Health from the University of Ghana, Legon and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work and Sociology from the same University.

Her favorite book is “Attitude is Everything” by Keith Harrell.

Sara Sinaiko - Director, Major Gifts

Sara brings to Worldreader extensive philanthropic and financial experience in the non-profit, corporate, and international sectors. Most recently, Sara led the development efforts for the Fair Food Program, a social justice organization that organized to create the “gold standard” for the Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) model of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

In previous roles, Sara served as CEO of Gilda’s Club Madison Wisconsin and Executive Director of the Pierce Family Foundation, both start-up nonprofits. In addition, during her time at the University of Wisconsin Foundation, she cultivated and managed a portfolio of legacy/planned gifts on a national level. Prior to these philanthropic leadership positions, Sara worked in investment banking at a major-bracket Wall Street firm. Her passion for social good began early in her career, as Sara specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of children with learning disabilities as an registered occupational therapist (OTR) at Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California.

Sara holds a BS and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and an Advanced Diploma in Marketing from the Institut Supérieur de Marketing du Luxe, Paris, France.

A book that Sara recommends is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Wendy Smith - Director, Education

Wendy comes with over 15 years of experience working on education and child protection programs in development and conflict and affected countries. Wendy has worked for many international organizations (CARE, SCF, NRC, IRC, World Vision) strengthening early childhood and basic education programming.

Wendy currently sits on the INEE Steering Committee and hopes to help us support pre and life-long reading in both low-resource and fragile contexts. She holds dual French/American nationality and attended Colombia University Teachers’ College for her graduate studies.

As a mother of three, her favorite books are children’s books! “It is the only thing I have time to read anymore. My favorite children’s author at present is Kate DiCamillo. Anything she writes is gobbled up by me and my kids.”

Kristen Walter - Director, U.S. Programs

Kristen has more than twenty years of educational experience and was most recently the Director of Education and Partnerships for Reading In Motion and before that the Teaching and Learning Manager for Crayola Education. She also worked for over 15 years as a certified art and music instructor in North Carolina.

Kristen helped her school become a national Title I school, P21 Exemplar School, a finalist award in the Intel Schools of Distinction Math and Science Award and win the National School Change Award. She has been recognized as a Yale Distinguished Music Educator and both Kristen and her fifth-grade students were invited by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to showcase an economics and game design project at the first annual White House Arts Integration Fair.

Kristen lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two sons. Her favorite magical story to read (and re-read), especially on family car trips, is The Underneath by Kathi Appelt.

Mike Wilson - Director, Product

Mike is responsible for developing and continuously improving Worldreader’s suite of mobile applications designed to drive literacy and education outcomes among pre-readers and lifelong readers. His previous work experience includes leading the development of Kinect Sports Rivals for Xbox at Microsoft and most recently leading the development of Despicable Me: Minion Rush.

Mike is a Business Studies graduate from the Nottingham Business School.

In his own words:

“Books have always captured my imagination and given me the knowledge, desire, and courage to meet any challenge head-on. I look forward to bringing these same experiences to people all over the world.”

Heidi Williams - Director, Accounting and Administration

Working within the Finance Team, Heidi oversees US accounting and audit and global cash management. She also has responsibility for global administration, working behind the scenes to ensure that we’re efficient and effective and implementing processes that govern our general business operations. Having also served as our first Director of Finance and Human Resources, Heidi has been involved with the development of all aspects of our infrastructure from the earliest stages.

Prior to joining Worldreader as one of our very first volunteers, she worked in financial
services and business management but attributes her keen organizational skill to the time she spent away from the workforce raising, and reading to, her two children. Heidi holds a BA in English Language and Composition from the University of Utah.

Books she has enjoyed re-reading with her teenagers:

Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, The Life of Pi.

Melanie Wise - Senior Director, Global Marketing and Communications

Based in San Francisco, Melanie oversees global marketing and communications. She brings a passion for education and 20 years of social sector experience to the role. Previous roles include serving as the strategic communications director for the East Africa Preterm Birth Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and chief communications officer for Breakthrough Collaborative. For more than a decade, Melanie ran her own communications consulting firm, WiseExposition, where she worked with clients across sectors including nonprofit, government, and tech.

As a veteran educator and senior lecturer emerita at San Francisco State University (SFSU), Melanie has developed and taught a variety of communications courses to college students and professionals both at SFSU and UC Berkeley Extension. Melanie holds an MA in English literature with a certificate in teaching writing from San Francisco State University and a BFA in visual arts from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCUarts).

Elizabeth Wood - Senior Director, Digital Publishing and Innovation

Elizabeth leads the global content team to develop and grow strategic partnerships with publishers. Her efforts ensure that the Worldreader library is full of high-quality, locally relevant, and engaging content for our readers. She connects with our local and international publishers in order to enhance our contribution to the local publishing ecosystem and increase our overall impact.

Between 2017 and 2019 Elizabeth was a Senior Business Development Manager for Amazon’s books department in London while serving as a Trustee on Worldreader’s UK board. Prior to that, Elizabeth worked for Worldreader during our very early days, laying down the groundwork for some of our biggest accomplishments over the years: she drove our initial work with publishers, acquired our first pieces of content, built the publishing team from scratch and was the brains behind creating Worldreader for mobile phones. Elizabeth received her MBA from INSEAD and resides in London with her family.