Karen Spencer, Founder & CEO
Karen Spencer founded Whole Child International in 2004 when, as a single mother of two, she discovered an absence of services to address the social-emotional well-being of children living in orphanages. For the past 15 years, she has led an international team to improve systems of care, advocate and influence policy, and conduct related research. She has provided the vision and strategic direction for the organization’s growth, with a passion for systems change, sustainability, scalability, research, and third-party evaluation. The organization’s scope has expanded to reach an even broader group of vulnerable children, while retaining the original focus on emotional well-being. She is co-author of articles published in the peer-reviewed Infant Mental Health Journal and Perspectives in Infant Mental Health, contributing important insights and realistic solutions to the public debate. In 2010, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama came to Los Angeles, especially to lend his personal support to Whole Child. In 2015, she was elected an Ashoka Fellow for identifying and filling a gap in care for orphans and vulnerable children. In 2016, she was made a Fellow at the University of Northampton in the United Kingdom. In 2017, People Magazine named her one of “25 Women Changing the World.”
Pete La Raus, Chief Operations Officer
Pete La Raus has been overseas promoting and protecting children’s rights since 2004 in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Most recently, he served in Nepal as Save the Children’s Deputy Country Director for Operations, managing more than 600 staff and an annual budget of $80 million. Pete was Save the Children’s Country Director in Nicaragua and Colombia, and previously served as country director for the Peace Corps in Panama and Plan International in Indonesia. He worked in Sudan during the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, and also in Indonesia as Chief of Party during the tsunami response. Pete brings to Whole Child a wealth of experience in both a development and humanitarian context. He has programmatic and operational experience, having developed advocacy strategies and monitoring and evaluation plans, and implemented projects directly and through partners. Pete graduated from Bowdoin College with a double-major in Government and Spanish with a minor in Economics. He later graduated from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in 2004 with a Master’s in Public Administration with a focus on nonprofits. He is also the author of “Program Management in a Development Context.” He started his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia.
Gary Newton, Senior Director for Policy
Gary Newton is the Senior Director for Policy at Whole Child. In addition to his work with us, Gary serves on the Advisory Council for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, which supports a 160-member bipartisan caucus which focuses on law and policy to improve the lives of vulnerable children in the U.S. and globally. He is also on the board of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Alumni Association.
Gary has been part of the international development community for more than 35 years, 21 of them resident in six countries in Africa and Asia. Gary served as a Foreign Service Officer with USAID for 24 years (1987-2011) in a number of positions including as the U.S. Government Special Advisor for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Mission Director in Namibia, Associate Mission Director in Egypt, chief of the health office in Kenya and Malawi, and deputy director of the HIV/AIDS division in USAID/Washington.
Upon completion of his foreign service, Gary was the Senior Advisor for Public Investment in Children at Save the Children (2013-2014), and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service where he taught a course on vulnerable children (2015-2017). Prior to the Foreign Service, he worked in Bangladesh for four years on family planning and reproductive health programs, and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger. He has a bachelor’s degree from Colby College, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Smith College, and a Master’s in Public Health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
Katherine Neidorf, Director of Programs
Kate joined as the Director of Programs in April, 2019, with more than 15 years of experience working with children as an educator and clinical social worker. Previously Kate was based in Phnom Penh, as the Children in Adversity and Education Advisor for USAID where she managed the U.S. Mission’s child protection portfolio focusing on care reform and reducing violence against children. Kate managed the working relationships with Cambodian government officials, development partners, international agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Prior to working for the government, Kate was the Psychosocial Operations Manager at Hagar Cambodia overseeing clinical programing related to human trafficking and other human rights violations. She began her international career working in safe migration and trafficking prevention in Macedonia. Kate has worked in numerous school settings and non-profit organizations as an educator, program administrator, and clinical social worker in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the United States; focusing on child protection issues ranging from commercial sexual exploitation and safe migration to positive parenting and early childhood development.
Sonia Silva, Country Director, El Salvador
El Salvador Country Director Sonia Silva has more than 30 years of experience in international development and in the private sector. She has specialized in child rights and protection, childhood care and development, participatory community development, post-conflict social reintegration, emergency response/rehabilitation/reconstruction, education and training, governance, and organizational development. She has worked for numerous organizations working for vulnerable populations, especially children, including CARE, USAID, UNDP, and Save the Children. For Save the Children, she served in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, where she was Country Director for four years. Among her positions at CARE was as Special Advisor to CARE International’s Secretary General, in Geneva, Switzerland.
She received her BA at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas, studied at the Universidad Centro Americana in San Salvador, EI Salvador, and holds a Post-Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management from the Irish Management Institute.
Wendy McFarren, Chief of Party of the Protection and Quality of Care for Children Project
Wendy McFarren assumed the position of Chief of Party of the Protection and Quality of Care for Children Project in November 2018. Prior to her arrival, she worked in Bolivia as Country Director for Childfund International, as Executive Director for PROCOSI, a network of NGOs working for Health and Development in Bolivia, and as Director of Kusillo, an interactive children’s museum. She has master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell, both in city and regional planning. Over more than two decades since, her professional experience has provided knowledge in rights-based child protection, expertise in youth development, and significant experience in project management in international development.
Libby Coufal, Administrative Assistant
Libby joined Whole Child in 2017 as our Administrative Assistant. After receiving her Bachelor’s in Psychology and Education from UC Berkeley, she came to us with an understanding of and deep commitment to improving childcare standards. Libby is a native Californian who has previously worked in nonprofit administration in organizations that share a common thread of helping ensure that as many children as possible have access to the stable, healthy relationships they deserve.
The El Salvador Team
Tamara Bayres Mosher, Senior Technical Specialist — Protection
A key member of Whole Child’s initial intervention programs in Nicaragua, Tamara supervises our child protection teams in El Salvador, assisting technical leaders in the government and staff of childcare and child protection centers. She has graduate degrees from Universidad Tomas Ruiz in Nicaragua in psychology and in community development and management, and has participated in the Pikler Intensive Training III and advanced Pikler Training. She has more than 10 years of experience working with NGOs, and has worked extensively for the rights of at-risk children. She supported implementing protection policies for young children, adolescents, and people with disabilities throughout Nicaragua, and trained diverse audiences as part of Nicaragua’s post-revolution literacy effort. She also supported rural community planning with an emphasis on children’s rights and has taught university classes on child development.
Fatima Herrera, Senior Technical Specialist in Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD)
Fatima has dedicated most of her professional life to promoting a rights-based approach to the attention and care of children, mainly in early childhood. In addition, she has supported Latin-American initiatives on the promotion of language development and a taste for reading in children and adolescents. Fatima’s professional degree in comprehensive attention to early childhood has enabled her to be part of several NGOs for more than 13 years, at which she has designed and promoted quality program interventions for children. She has been part of important advocacy networks in El Salvador and also participated in the development of the National Policy for the Education and Comprehensive Development of Early Childhood in El Salvador and also in Bolivia. Fatima is a UN-certified humanitarian response professional, specialized in Education in Emergencies and in the Minimum Regulations for Child Protection during Emergencies. Fatima is a firm believer that quality comprehensive development during the first years of life ensures a happy adult life. She became part of the Whole Child International team in El Salvador in September 2018.
Mario Alvarado-Batres, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Manager
Mario joined Whole Child International in El Salvador in 2018 and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in management consultancy. He has more than 14 years’ experience in investigative/research work with government and non-government institutions. Added to that experience is the coordination of research studies, database management, drafting of reports, and Mario’s ability to incorporate innovations in research development. Working with and for children and adolescents is Mario’s motivation to be creative and work hard in search for solutions to current problems.
Karla Ortiz, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Coordinator
Karla has been with Whole Child International in El Salvador since 2014. She achieved her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA) in El Salvador. Karla is experienced in the management and application of child development evaluation tools, supervision of data collection field staff, leading teams, and fieldwork. She has worked in collaboration with other organizations that implement projects and programs focused on early childhood development. She provides substantial support in research and technical guidance for our organization. Karla is currently working on her master’s degree on social intervention at the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA) in El Salvador.
Norelis Monzano, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Coordinator
Norelis has been part of the Whole Child International team in El Salvador since October 2014. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA) in El Salvador. Norelis started her work at Whole Child International as part of the team of evaluators for the National Evaluation of the Quality of Care for Children in El Salvador (ENCCI for its acronym in Spanish). She is experienced in the application of child development evaluation tools in childcare centers, and continues to provide support in reviewing technical documents of our organization while collaborating with other local and international organizations dedicated to working with Salvadoran children.
Administration & Operations
Guillermo Ramos, Operations and Award Manager
Guillermo joined our team in El Salvador in mid-2018. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration at the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA) in El Salvador. He has worked in the areas of awards management, finance, and administration for more than seven years, in both the non-profit and private sectors. Guillermo manages the operations team to ensure timely support for achieving high-quality results in project implementation as well as an efficient management of the USAID award.
Ana Mancia, Financial Manager
Ana Mancia joined Whole Child International in El Salvador in late 2018. She has a master’s degree in business administration and has worked extensively on accounting and finance for USAID projects for more than twelve years.
Marina Sanabria, Office Manager
Marina has been with Whole Child International in El Salvador since 2015. With more than ten years of experience in organizational management, planning, and procurement, Marina also holds a bachelor’s degree in administrative systems and a post-graduate degree in audit of quality management. Marina’s extensive knowledge in administrative processes, logistics, document review and edits, and complex databases continues to be an important contribution in the administrative area of our organization.
Betsy Carías, Administrative Officer
Betsy has been a member of the Whole Child International team in El Salvador since December 2017. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social communications from the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA) in El Salvador. She is knowledgeable in human resources, public relations, strategic alliances, and social media, all of which she puts into practice in Whole Child’s communications and event planning efforts. Betsy is currently working towards her master’s degree in human resources and knowledge management at the Universidad Internacional Iberoamericana of Mexico and the European University of the Atlantic.
Pedro Castaneda, Logistics Officer
Pedro has more than eight years’ experience in logistics in the loans and collection area and is currently working on his bachelor’s degree in business management at the Universidad Evangélica de El Salvador. He started a new adventure in his life working for the children of Salvador, joining Whole Child International in November 2018. Applying his background and work experience, Pedro helps meet the organization’s objectives by providing safe, efficient, and swift logistical and transportation support.
Carlos Balmoris de Paz, Driver
Balmoris became a member of the Whole Child International team in El Salvador in late 2018. He has substantial experience as a driver for various non-government organizations in El Salvador. Balmoris holds our mission close to his heart and upholds the highest standards in child protection and development, is well-versed in Salvadoran nomenclature, and is always aware of his surroundings to provide the highest level of security to our staff.
Bethy Caballero, General Services
Bethy has been part of the Whole Child International team in El Salvador since 2014. She is in charge of keeping our offices clean and organized. She always wears a warm smile on her face and is always willing to support the team in every way she can.
Luis Guillermo Agreda, Receptionist/Doorman
Luis Guillermo, or “Memo” as he likes to be called, joined the Whole Child International team in El Salvador in 2018. Memo enthusiastically participates in and supports our work by providing a welcoming attitude to staff and everyone who visits our offices and also answering our office door politely but with safety in mind.