Our Team

Executive Committee

Rebecca Arnold

President
Rebecca is a global public health professional specializing in health communication and behavior change. She works for Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs and has a master of public health degree in community and behavioral health. This active Rotarian and her 9-year-old son have lived in Bangladesh since 2012. Rebecca is originally from Rock Island, Illinois – home of The Blues Brothers! She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar and has lived and worked in Tanzania, Indonesia, and Turkey.

Gina Gabel

Co-founder, Vice President
Gina received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from John Carroll University and master’s degree in special education (LD) from Michigan State University. She began her teaching career in Detroit’s inner city. Gina moved to Bangladesh in 2012. Little did she know that two months after her arrival, the baby stroller she had brought to cart her young children through Dhaka’s bumpy streets would be used to deliver Thrive’s first meal! These days Gina lives in Michigan. She consistently uses Thrive’s stories to get her daughters to eat their veggies.

Rich Watson

Treasurer
Rich was born in Oakland and lives there with Marilyn, his wife of 40+ years. He started working in the photographic sales industry early in his career, during which time he was lured into a visit to Asia and his life turned inside out. The rich and colorful and impoverished lives he encountered lead him to switch career paths and to take a Masters in International Finance so he could work with third world peoples. Serving as a Finance Officer for international non-profits offered him this opportunity, which lead to a job at the American International School Dhaka (AISD). As CFO for the school Rich learned of THRIVE and was able to assist them in the early stages of THRIVE’s formation. On returning to Oakland from AISD he continued working for those in need, serving as C.O.O. of Lava Mae, a local organization that provides mobile street-side showers for unhoused populations in California. It Is a privilege for Rich to reconnect with THRIVE, bringing his financial experience and his deep concerns for equity of life to the work of THRIVE.

Kanwal Bhagat

Secretary

Kanwal has an undergraduate degree in physics and a postgrad in computer science. She’s lived in Dhaka for the last 17 years with her husband and two teenaged boys. A wearer of many hats she’s worked in banking, as the registrar of American International School of Dhaka and, most recently, as an entrepreneur. Kanwal runs a wellness studio that incorporates her reiki and yoga training. She’s been supporting ABC School, a space for the underprivileged, for the last eight years and been a board member for the last three. Kanwal has always had a knack for getting people (and their money!) to support worthy causes. She’s honored to be part of the board and excited to take Thrive to another level.

Board

Arsalan Ali

Board Member

Arsalan is a Bangladeshi national. He attended Shrewsbury School in the UK followed by an undergraduate degree at University College London in construction management. Ali is the Bangladesh country manager of Swiss-based commodity trading firm ECOM Agroindustrial Corp Ltd., and since 2006 has overseen sales of raw cotton to Bangladesh. In 2010 Ali opened the Japanese fine-dining restaurant, Izumi, in Dhaka. Next, he and his friends and the Izumi team launched Holey Artisan Bakery and O Kitchen, both Dhaka-based eateries. Ali is a director of Bangladesh’s first and largest digital ad network, Green & Red Technologies Ltd. It serves over 5 million ads daily on local websites. An avid supporter of Arsenal F.C., Ali loves to golf and DJ in his spare time.

Priscilla Heffelfinger

Co-founder, CEO
Priscilla moved to Dhaka in 2012. Her A-ha! moment? It came unexpectedly when she and her friends felt genuine joy at seeing the impact made by giving a banana to a hungry child. Priscilla feels crazy lucky that Thrive took root; she can’t imagine a better way to spend her time than by helping Thrive thrive. Having worked in the development sector for more than 20 years, Priscilla is ready at the Thrive helm in Manila now. When not handing out bananas you’ll catch her hiking with her family of six (plus two big furry dogs). Make her day: Ask how you can join Thrive.

Sadia Moyeen

Board Member
Sadia was born and raised in India. She married a banker and moved about the Far East before coming back to Bangladesh.  Sadia operates a beauty business and has been writing a beauty-related column for Dhaka’s Daily Star newspaper for over a decade. Her family’s tea and garment businesses sponsor Operation Cleft (Australia) in Bangladesh. Along with a local charity, Jaago, they’ve created an online school at their tea garden in Sylhet for 300 students. Sadia’s family’s businesses also help Children of Hope, a Dhaka charity that gives free education to deserving students and free medical care to their families. Sadia hopes to use her talents at Thrive and reach out to society’s most vulnerable. “Life is a test for us all – we can fail, score average marks, do well or, if we are lucky, get a distinction!”

Amna Rahman

Board Member

Amna is a retired school teacher and has been living in Bangladesh for the past 33 years. She was born in India, a descendant from the ancient Rajput Suryavanshi warrior Bargujar clan. She loved her work with children and being a part of Thrive is a dream come true. There are hungry children in Bangladesh every where and working with Thrive gives her the satisfaction of knowing that she is doing something to give them a chance. It’s not only nourishment for the body but the hugs and smiles that are integral for the children to help them to break the cycle of poverty. She lives in Bangladesh with her husband Kamran and has two sons, Farhan, who is in Bangladesh, and Faraz, who is in the US.

Shannon Young

Board Member
Shannon is a population, health, and nutrition officer with the United States Agency for International Development. She has her master of public health in global health, specializing in program design and quantitative research methods. Shannon lived in Bangladesh from 2011-2014 with her husband and two daughters. She now lives in Tanzania (for the sole purpose of adding another time zone to Thrive board meetings. Just kidding.) Originally from New York, Shannon has also worked in Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, Namibia, and Myanmar. She’s passionate about good food – which causes her to be equally passionate about exercise!

Bangladesh Trust

Amna Rahman

Chair

Amna is a retired school teacher and has been living in Bangladesh for the past 33 years. She was born in India, a descendant from the ancient Rajput Suryavanshi warrior Bargujar clan. She loved her work with children and being a part of Thrive is a dream come true. There are hungry children in Bangladesh every where and working with Thrive gives her the satisfaction of knowing that she is doing something to give them a chance. It’s not only nourishment for the body but the hugs and smiles that are integral for the children to help them to break the cycle of poverty. She lives in Bangladesh with her husband Kamran and has two sons, Farhan, who is in Bangladesh, and Faraz, who is in the US.

Arsalan Ali

Vice Chair

Arsalan is a Bangladeshi national. He attended Shrewsbury School in the UK followed by an undergraduate degree at University College London in construction management. Ali is the Bangladesh country manager of Swiss-based commodity trading firm ECOM Agroindustrial Corp Ltd., and since 2006 has overseen sales of raw cotton to Bangladesh. In 2010 Ali opened the Japanese fine-dining restaurant, Izumi, in Dhaka. Next, he and his friends and the Izumi team launched Holey Artisan Bakery and O Kitchen, both Dhaka-based eateries. Ali is a director of Bangladesh’s first and largest digital ad network, Green & Red Technologies Ltd. It serves over 5 million ads daily on local websites. An avid supporter of Arsenal F.C., Ali loves to golf and DJ in his spare time.

Advisory Committee

Zulfikar Ali

Advisor
Zulfikar is a Bangladeshi national and a true entrepreneur at heart. He is the Managing Director of Ezzy Group, which is a group of companies spread across several industries. He is also the Honorary Consul of Guatemala in Bangladesh. Besides being an entrepreneurial spirit, he has always been passionate about giving back to the society and supporting everyone around him. For Zulfikar, joining Thrive is a means to direct this passion into creating the most positive impact possible. On a typical day, you will find Zulfikar at one of the three places: at work, at the gym, or at home with his family.

Amanda Barnes

Advisor

Amanda moved to Manila from Washington, DC in 2017. Being a dietitian with her masters in sustainable and resilient food systems, she is passionate about bringing healthy food to people who might not otherwise have access. When she first went to Smokey Mountain with Thrive she knew she couldn’t get enough. Helping to wash dirty hands and seeing how happy the kids were with a simple piece of fruit, it was easy to see the impact of Thrive’s work. Amanda works as a nutritionist, teaching people how to make healthy eating delicious and easy. She loves to cook for her family and friends. When she is not cooking she is traveling or hiking with her husband and two playful pups.

Rose Blanchard

Advisor
Rose is a public health professional specializing in water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion. She received her master of public health degree in environment and health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Earlier, she worked for USAID in the Bureau for Global Health and also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia, West Africa. While living in Bangladesh for two years, Rose worked for Population Services & Training Center (a local NGO) as a technical adviser for a project focusing on improving environmental health in poor urban communities. This Raleigh, North Carolina, native and her family have since left Bangladesh for Morocco. Rose is an outdoor enthusiast and loves exploring the wonders of the world with her husband and three children.

Cristina Imperial Carl

Advisor
Cristina Imperial Carl, graduated from Yale University and built a career in the hospitality industry. She is the CEO of Worldwide Internships Philippines. Her company specializes in creating life-changing experiences abroad for university students and young graduates through professional internships. The organization aims to give young professionals the tools and opportunities to get international experience, and a chance to live abroad.

She partners with purpose-driven organizations such as “Give Life” where she and her company offer assistance and provide scholarships to underprivileged students. She lends a lot of her time by helping students attain their goals of international travel and training, and by providing them career advice.

Louie Gabel

Advisor

Louie, a former federal prosecutor and experienced trial lawyer, is a partner at the international law firm Jones Day. Louie regularly counsels Fortune 500 companies and executives facing government investigations and high-stakes civil litigation. From 2012 to 2013, Louie served as the Resident Legal Advisor to the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh, where he trained lawyers, judges, and investigators on advance trial skills, anti-money laundering, and the detection and prosecution of terrorist financing. Louie graduated from John Carroll University and obtained his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. Today, Louie lives in Michigan with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys golf and basketball, and loves taking adventurous trips across the globe with his family.

Shelley King

Advisor
Shelley is a repeat entrepreneur, strategist and digital marketer experienced in Consumer Goods & Services. She’s spent her career developing products and customer experiences that drive revenue for Fortune 500 clients in the cannabis, retail, communications and media industries. From taking Bravo The Real Housewives on tour across the U.S. to developing employee experiences with McKinsey, Shelley is passionate about solving problems with talented teams. Shelley recently joined Accenture on the Products team in the Atlanta office.

Joe Labriola

Advisor

Joe was the Executive Director of Second Helpings Atlanta from May 2015 to July 2019. Second Helpings Atlanta is a non-profit food rescue organization whose mission is to reduce hunger and food waste in the metropolitan Atlanta area by rescuing surplus food and delivering it to those in need. Prior to joining Second Helpings Atlanta in May 2015, Joe was the Vice President of Product Marketing at PGi, the Chief Marketing Officer at Enterprise Information Management and spent 30 years at IBM before he retired in November 2010.

Debbie Pfeifer

Advisor
Debbie is a communications consultant with more than 25 years of experience helping companies with media relations, corporate positioning, and community relations. She began her career at a Los Angeles-based public relations agency, headed communications at companies including PowerBar and Wesabe, and served as a consultant for numerous start-ups and established corporations. She has volunteered and provided strategic counsel for nonprofits focused on literacy, gender equality, and education. She is a board member of the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado and Durango PlayFest. A recent Colorado transplant, Debbie and her husband enjoy hiking, paddle boarding, and trying to keep up with their twin boys on the ski slopes.

Archana S. Raj

Advisor

Although she grew up and completed her post graduate studies in Dress Designing in India, Archana has been living in Dhaka with her family for almost 30 years. She originally moved to Dhaka to work with a major apparel company before becoming a brand manager for several multinationals for few years. Eventually, she branched off as an entrepreneur in the same field. In 2017, she and her family moved to New Delhi, but she still goes back to her home in Bangladesh, where her business is located.

“Thrive is a perfect fit not just for my schedule but also in its founding, I can see exactly where my contributions go and the impact that they have. I love that it was founded by mothers who wanted to help children have access to nutrition everyday, and that doing something that’s so small for me can be so big for the kids on the receiving end. Having worked in Bangladesh’s primary industry for so many years I know just how impactful access to meals are for these children.”

Dana Zarzycki

Advisor
Dana graduated from James Madison College at Michigan State University. She has a background in non profit fundraising in the areas of politics, health research and education, and higher education. She spent nine years living in Australia and Brazil with her husband and son. While in Brazil, she volunteered in a orphanage close to her home, where she snuggled babies and worked with toddlers to develop fine motor skills. Today, she is a photographer living in Michigan.

Thrive Team

Priscilla Heffelfinger

Sharmin Akhi

Operations Manager

Adele Millard

Creative Director

Nasrin S. Maesha

Development Associate (BD)

Maesha is a graduate from Brac Business School. She has experience in the non-profit sector in the areas of education, training and women empowerment for over 3 years. She was born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh where she currently lives with her family of five (her parents and two other siblings). She writes for HiFi Public, a digital media platform for Bangladeshi millennials worldwide that talks about pop-culture, technology, innovation and lifestyle. Besides writing to express, she is passionate about books, music, painting and brush calligraphy. Growing up, she has always been passionate about helping people and working for a good cause. She’s honored to be on board with Thrive and very excited to take Thrive to another level.

Get in touch with Nasrin!

Dana Abueg

Designer

She is the co-founder of Vexter, a US-based boutique design agency, creating identities for startups and acting as an extension of existing organizations. She is skilled in leading and executing projects that include: UI/UX & web design, online ads, landing pages, email / mobile campaigns, and social media management. Dana’s work has reached markets in Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Africa. She has a great appreciation for practical and intuitive design applications. She graduated with a BFA in Interior Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Get in touch with Dana!

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ROTARY CLUB
DHAKA WEST

ZAMAN HOLDINGS