International Directors

Mr. Dinesh Shrestha — Co-founder and Director of Field Operations

Dinesh's history with Room to Read began in 1998 when he first met and collaborated with John Wood to launch what was then known as Books for Nepal. At the time, Dinesh was working as chief of operations for the German Technical Corporation's Rural Development Program and later held a position with the World Health Organization — all the while volunteering with Room to Read. In 2001, Dinesh became Room to Read's first official full-time country director in Nepal, where he led activities for eight years and ultimately established Room to Read as an influential non-governmental organization dedicated to improving education for children in Nepal. In 2008, Dinesh transitioned to the role of regional human resources and administration director for Asia and recently took over the new position of director of field operations.


Ms. Rakhi Sarkar — Country Director, Bangladesh

Rakhi comes to Room to Read with over 20 years of experience in the development sector and vast experience in executing country and regional strategies. Rakhi has worked in a wide variety of sectors including: education, health, HIV & AIDS, disability, youth, gender, and volunteering. Prior to joining Room to Read, Rakhi worked for Voluntary Services Organization (VSO), the world's leading organization in offering volunteers the chance to work abroad to fight poverty in developing countries. She started working with VSO in India as a Program Officer and has represented VSO as Country Director since 2005 in various countries including Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Rakhi holds post graduate degrees in Rural Development from Xavier Institute of Social Services in Ranchi and in Human Resource Development from Birla Institute of Liberal Arts and management sciences in Kolkata.

Mr. Kall Kann — Country Director, Cambodia

Kall comes to Room to Read with over 14 years of experience in the international development sector, including over four years working specifically in educational development in Cambodia. Prior to becoming Room to Read's country director in Cambodia, Kall held senior management positions in many international organizations, utilizing his expertise in developing strategic partnerships and project planning and management. Most recently, Kall worked as the policy, planning and reporting director for Save the Children in Norway. Prior to that, he served for five years as managing director for Trans-Cultural Psychosocial Organization. Kall holds a master's degree in business management from Norton University in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Mr. Sourav Banerjee — Country Director, India

Sourav Banerjee has over fifteen years of experience in the elementary education sector, working for government, non-government and donor organizations. Before Room to Read, Sourav worked with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where he led conceptualizing, designing, managing and monitoring of education and skill development program activities. Sourav has been closely associated with the planning, implementation and monitoring of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), India’s flagship program for universal elementary education and the largest education reform program in the world. Sourav has participated in various program Review Missions as a Government of India and a World Bank nominee. He is currently a member of the Government of India Advisory Group on early grade literacy and CARE India’s Technical Core Group on early reading. By training, Sourav is an architect and practiced architecture before moving into the education sector.

Ms. Norkham Souphanouvong — Country Director, Laos

Norkham joined Room to Read in 2013 with over 20 years of experience in the development sector and more than thirteen years focusing on education development in Laos, Mongolia and East-Timor. Previously, she managed a wide range of educational development programs for organizations, such as UNICEF and Save the Children UK. Her expertise includes creating child-friendly schools, establishing education equivalency, curriculum development, inclusive education programs, early childhood education, school-based life skills training and coordinating education clusters in emergency situations. While serving as a policy specialist for basic education and gender equality at UNICEF Laos, Norkham supported the Ministry of Education in developing key policies, strategy and legislation related to education. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from the National University of Singapore and a bachelor’s degree in education from the National University of Laos.

Mr. Udaya Manandhar — Country Director, Nepal

Udaya Manandhar brings 30 years of education and child-focused development work experience to his role at Room to Read. Udaya brings a unique blend of technical and management expertise in education and child protection. He has a master’s degree in Political Science from Tribhuvan University, and has completed additional professional studies at the University of Massachusetts and University of Philadelphia. His professional career has included the Nepal Ministry of Education and several international NGO’s in Deputy and Acting Country Director capacities as well as serving as Regional Program Manager of Literacy-South Asia for Room to Read. Udaya was recently elected to the Steering Committee of the Nepal Association of International NGOs.

Ms. Shevanthi Jayasuriya — Country Director, Sri Lanka  

Shevanthi joined Room to Read in May 2013. She brings with her twenty years of diverse experience in both the corporate and private sectors.  Previously, she was the Chief of Party for USAID’s Accelerated Skills Acquisition Programme, where she managed and implemented programs in the war-affected North, Central and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. Her experience includes program design, resource mobilisation, donor relations, monitoring and evaluation, administration, budget management and leadership of large-scale development programmes. Additionally, she brings unique experience from the private sector in management, restructuring, sales and marketing—delivering results with a strong focus on transparency and accountability.  She served as head of communications for the Peace Secretariat, Sri Lanka and contributed to the peace process at a crucial stage in Sri Lanka’s history. She holds an MBA in business administration from the University of Hull, United Kingdom. 

Mr. Tien Phong Le — Country Director, Vietnam

Phong has worked for a number of large organizations in Vietnam and has also been a consultant for donor institutions such as GTZ, UNIDO, FAO, AUSAID, and the World Bank. For the past three years, he has been the Southern Regional Manager for ActionAid/Vietnam which has been implementing a well-regarded education program throughout the country. Phong has a master’s degree in natural resource management, with a specialization in sustainable development, from the International Institute of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation in the Netherlands.

Ms. Christie Scott — Associate Director, Asia

Christie is a seasoned professional with over 25 years in international development. Christie worked for the International Youth Foundation from 2011 – 2015 as a Regional Director, initially for the Middle East and then for the Eurasia region covering South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, China, and Russia. Christie directed workforce development and civic engagement programs. Prior to her work with International Youth Foundation, she worked with Save the Children serving as Associate Director of Emergency Operations and Associate Director Operations for the Middle East and Eurasia. Christie has also served as Director of Emergency Response and Child Protection as well as a Specialist on Microenterprise Development for ChildFund. Among other relevant experience, she has served in senior staff roles within the Peace Corps in Central Asia, served as the Field Coordinator, Afghanistan for the International Rescue Committee, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. She has provided technical and programmatic support in over 20 countries throughout her career. Christie holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in International Business and Finance from the American University.


Dr. Philip Christensen  Country Director, South Africa

Dr. Philip Christensen has lived and worked in Africa since 1980, focusing on the design of learning systems that improve lives. While on this continent he has inaugurated a pioneering online education company in South Africa, managed six multi-million-dollar, donor-funded educational development projects covering 15 countries, and consulted on a variety of international development initiatives. His most recent assignments include serving as Regional Project Director for Farmer Voice Radio, a six-year adult-education initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, followed by proposal development work for literacy and girls’ education in Northern Nigeria and Haiti. Phil holds both South African and U.S. citizenship. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology from Harvard University and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts.

Mr. Peter Mwakabwale — Country Director, Tanzania

Peter comes to Room to Read with over 25 years of experience in the development sectors. Experienced in managing USAID funded projects, he served as Chief of Party for the USAID funded Program in Tanzania and Country Director for Tanzania with Heifer International. Prior, he managed Oxfam International’s Economic Justice portfolio that continues to empower communities in Tanzania to organize and work with local government, ensuring better social services, gender equity and accountability practices, he is also the National HIV and AIDS facilitator. His experience includes working with the government of Tanzania for 10 years as a Community Development Officer and managing government funding-including Scottish government funded projects, DFID education projects and girl child inclusion in education project funded by SIDA. He brings substantial management and leadership experience both from government and non-governmental organizations, facilitation skills and organizational development. Peter holds an International Master of Science in Social Work from Gothenburg University, Sweden.

Mr. Russel Mushanga — Country Director, Zambia

Russel brings over 20 years of experience in both the for profit and nonprofit sectors. He is currently serving as the Rwanda Country Director for Food for the Hungry Incorporation (FHI). Prior to moving to Rwanda in 2009 to serve as Senior Expatriate Advisor to SNV Netherlands Development Organization, Russell was the founding Executive Director of a Zambian based international agri-business focused on capacity building. Russel has led large, diverse teams and worked with a number of major donor institutions like DFID, CIDA, USAID and SIDA. He brings significant leadership and development sector experience to the role and will serve a 2-year contract while we continue to support our current programs and pursue funding opportunities for our Accelerator efforts in Zambia.

Mr. Geoffrey Odaga — Associate Director, Africa

A national from Uganda, Geoffrey’s experience in international development spans 20 years across Africa, Asia and Latin America. He joined RtR from the Civil Society Education Fund, where he served as its Global Coordinator from 2006-2012; overseeing a World Bank supported Civil Society Education Programme, funded by 17 bilateral donors and operational in 56 Developing Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Prior to this, he served in senior management positions with 5 major INGOs overseeing programmes in Africa. With a strong commitment to education as a human right, Geoffrey has accomplished several international assignments and has extensive international management experience. He holds a degree in Development Studies, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work and Social Administration and an advanced training in NGO Management attained from Denmark.


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