Lauren Yanks is the founder and executive director of the Blue Butterfly Foundation. A professor and writer, Lauren was always interested in the issue of children's rights and first traveled to Nepal in 2008 to write about young girls trafficked into sex slavery. She ran creative writing and drama programs with girls rescued from life-threatening situations. Lauren fell in love with Nepal and its people and travelled there twice a year to help support, educate, empower, and inspire vulnerable populations. She has since opened a variety of schools for impoverished children, including the first school with a trauma-centered curriculum for trafficked girls. She also started Samriddhi college, a college emphasizing critical thinking and the humanities. Additionally, she runs numerous workshops to help uplift and empower those in need, including workshops in language skills, public speaking, teacher training, citizen reporting, creative arts, human rights, and more. Lauren has a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University and a Master's in Fine Arts in Writing from New York University.
Lauren and her husband, Jim Damon, started the Blue Butterfly Foundation in April 2015 to honor the beloved memory of Zoe Damon. Zoe was studying environmental sustainability in Costa Rica in 2011 when she passed away in a vehicle accident. Always eager to volunteer, Zoe had planned to accompany Lauren on her next trip to Nepal. Jim and Lauren honor Zoe's life with every child they love and inspire.
Deepak Chaudhari was born in a remote village of Western Nepal. His parents were born slaves, working the land night and day. Deepak's father led the fight to free his people and due to his strong leadership, he was murdered when Deepak was only 2 years old. Deepak followed in his father's brave footsteps and was elected president of 30,000 community youth, leading to threats on his own life. Deepak was forced to escape to the US. Currently, he is pursuing a Master's in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management from New York University. He works with the Blue Butterfly Foundation as the Director of Outreach and Marketing.
Solomon Mengesha has a Master's in Public Administration and was a fellow in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. He also has his Master's in Religion from Yale Divinity School. Currently, he is a business consultant and conducts research on the material culture of the Ethiopian community. He helps the Blue Butterfly Foundation in their outreach, strategic planning, and marketing.
Joanna Norko earned her Master's in Public Administration from Seton Hall University. Joanna joined the Blue Butterfly Foundation team as an intern in January 2021 and instantly became a part of the Blue Butterfly family. She coordinates marketing, brand awareness, advocacy, and fundraising and runs all aspects of our Fashion Co-Operative, Didi Bahini (Big Sister, Little Sister), in the US. Our fashion merchandise is made by vulnerable girls and women in Nepal and sold throughout the world.
Sangeeta Nepali was born in a Nepalese village outside of Kathmandu, Nepal, and is an advocate for girls and women. As a brilliant speaker and a creative spirit, Sangeeta helps to communicate the challenges of girls and women in the developing world. Having experienced firsthand the problem of gender inequities, she seeks to continue her education and to empower females around the world.
Douglas McDonnell is an organizational management expert and helps the Blue Butterfly Foundation with its strategic planning, leadership development, team development, and executive coaching. He helps manage day-to-day tasks and crafts overall goals and vision.
Shirley is a scientist, writer, mother of three, a breast cancer survivor, an excellent listener, and a perpetual optimist. She has an MA in Chemical Physics from Columbia University, a PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Physical Chemistry from Wesleyan University and Postdoctoral studies in Macromolecular Structure Simulation. With her positive, can-do attitude and, Shirley helps the Blue Butterfly Foundation in all aspects of its mission, from marketing to fundraising to mentoring.
With degrees in both psychology and social work, Rekha Bennett has worked in the mental healthcare field for over 30 years. Originally from Bangladesh, Rekha is familiar with the particular challenges of girls and women from South Asia. With her particular care and expertise, Rekha helps the Blue Butterfly Foundation offer the best therapeutic services for those in need.
Srijan Maskey is a Computer Information Specialist and works for Steward Healthcare in Boston. Srijan has worked in Information Technology at True IT LLC and Doosan Bobcat Company. Kind and hardworking, Srijan is always willing to lend a hand. A graduate of the University of Minnesota at Moorhead, Srijan has been indispensable as our computer expert, helping us with all our technology needs and in all areas of our work.
Ranjan Maskey is a Research Assistant in Flow Cytometry at Boston Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School and helps the Blue Butterfly Foundation to teach, mentor and guide our children emotionally and academically, always offering sage advice and a loving hand.
Rachel is a student at Marist College majoring in psychology and elementary/special education. She has had many jobs working with kids and is currently employed at Alternatives for Children, a preschool for children with special needs. Rachel is a strong advocate for social justice, particularly for feminist issues. She loves being a part of the Blue Butterfly family and has helped start a Blue Butterfly Foundation club at Marist, enabling numerous students to help and get involved. She can't wait for all that's to come.
Anusha Vaidyanathan is a student at Marist College in New York, majoring in fashion merchandising. An international student, Anusha was born and raised in Mumbai, India. Along with other student leaders, she has started the Blue Butterfly Foundation Club at Marist College. Anusha says, "Coming from a city where I see poverty every day, it feels great to do something that helps children in need. Furthermore, I am glad I can provide those who wish to come to the US to study with an understanding perspective."
Hannah Harmelin is a multifaceted professional. She is a social media expert with proficiency in the creation and management of marketing strategies and digital content design. With experience in the commercial utilization of multiple social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. Hannah has built successful social marketing strategies that increase brand awareness, promote customer engagement and ultimately drive digital traffic and conversions. With a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the Pennsylvania State University, she is also an educator and has been working with the Blue Butterfly Foundation for 10 years. She currently helps the Blue Butterfly Foundation with all aspects of their marketing, outreach, as well as helping design their educational curriculum and other programs.
Dan Getman is a graduate of Yale Law School and has practiced labor law on behalf of employees for decades, handling individual, collective action, and class action litigation, as well as negotiation, arbitration, and mediation. Dan also worked as a senior attorney with Farmworker Legal Services of NY, a non-profit organization providing legal assistance to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. With a generous heart always ready to help those in need, Dan advises Blue Butterfly Foundation in legal issues, marketing, fundraising, and more.
Siddhartha Maharjan is a senior at Stony Brook University working on completing his Biology B.S. degree with a minor in Health, Medicine and Society, with plans of attending medical school. He was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, and moved to the U.S. at a very young age. He helps us with our website and media and many other things. Sid writes: "I am very passionate to work with The Blue Butterfly Organization, to help further our goals by highlighting the unheard stories of those affected."
Clinton Bennett teaches at the State university of New York at New Paltz. He received his PhD in 1990 from Birmingham University, UK, in Islamic Studies. He has serviced as the director of interfaith relations for the British Council of Churches, Senior Lecturer and Assistant Chaplain at Westminster College, Oxford and Associate Professor of Religion at Baylor University, Texas. He has written numerous books that examine relationships between faiths. Clinton helps the Blue Butterfly Foundation in its mission to help educate and uplift the most vulnerable among us.
Sophia Harmelin currently studies law at Temple Law School. She has been volunteering for the Blue Butterfly Foundation for over 10 years. Sophia graduated with honors from the University of Florida with a major in Political Science and a minor in Women Studies. She helps Blue Butterfly Foundation to raise awareness and advocate on behalf of victims of trafficking and other vulnerable populations. The legal expertise she is gaining will enable her to help thousands of girls and women throughout their lives.
As a professional vocalist, Sabrina recorded and performed with the Detroit Symphony, Cincinnati Pops & Russian Chamber Choir of NY, NY Philharmonic and currently is an artist in residence with the Kachanov Singers at the Roerich Museum in Manhattan's Upper West Side. She is a graduate of Indiana University - Bloomington, where she studied voice and dance ethnology. Sabrina Ferguson is a certified Music Together teacher and First Steps in Music for Preschool & Beyond as well as The World Music Drumming curriculum. It is her mission to bring the joy & fun back into music making so ALL children can actualize their musical potential. Sabrina's creativity and talent is a wonderful addition to the Blue Butterfly Foundation family.
Khagendra Maskey is originally from a small village in Eastern Nepal. He dropped out of school to work in South Korea to earn money for his family. He and his wife opened a store in Kathmandu and ran it for 22 years in order to provide their two sons with a good education. With a warm, kind spirit, Khagendra helps the Blue Butterfly Foundation with its operations on the ground, helping to do whatever needs to be done.
Sarah is a university student interested in the Communications and Writing fields. She seeks to help those who need it and provide a safe place for everyone. She helps the Blue Butterfly Foundation with social media, writing, and other marketing needs.talent is a wonderful addition to the Blue Butterfly Foundation family.
Delaney Blizman studies Criminal Justice and Psychology. She is very passionate about social and criminal justice and hopes to have the opportunity to work with young women and children specifically regarding issues of human trafficking and special victims. She looks forward to working with The Blue Butterfly family and helping spread its important message through social media.