A Message from Our New Executive Director

Dear Friends and Colleagues of GPFD,

As I step into my role as Executive Director of Global Partners for Development, I am filled with immense gratitude and excitement. Your support and dedication to our mission have been truly inspiring, and I am honored to continue our journey together.

A bit about my background: I am a first-generation Filipino American. My grandfather’s service in the US Navy brought my father to America, and my maternal grandparents, who were dentists at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, earned a Special Immigrant Visa after 25 years of service, bringing my mother to San Francisco. Growing up, I lived in various places, including Spain, Holland, Germany, England, and New Mexico, due to my father’s 24 years of service in the Air Force, before eventually settling in Northern California for college.

I made my life goals at eight years old: to be a working actor, get married to a supportive partner, have two children before I turned 30, and earn a master’s degree. By the age of 35, I had achieved these goals. My journey has been diverse and fulfilling. From being a runway model in my late teens, working in various financial sectors, hosting live events across the Bay Area, and being a working commercial actor for over 13 years to starting my career with GPFD in 2021. I earned my MBA in Marketing and International Management and Leadership at Holy Names University. Each experience has shaped me and led me to this moment, ready to lead the organization into an exciting future.

Our commitment to sustainable development and community-led initiatives remains stronger than ever. The Homa Bay Blueprint is a testament to our dedication, aiming to restore and preserve the ecosystem around Lake Victoria while empowering local communities to lead the charge.

One of our most significant achievements has been completing our largest-scale water project in Turkana County, Kenya. In an area where other large INGOs have struggled, we succeeded. When we first approached the communities, we were met with resistance due to unfulfilled promises of clean drinking water for over a decade. The landscape is dotted with capped boreholes and half-finished projects. However, we completed the project within four months by working closely with the community, local government, Kenyan engineers, and contractors. Today, thousands of people, including a primary school, have free access to clean water. The school is now planting trees and growing a garden to provide nutritious food for the children. We never gave up on them, just as we have worked across the region for decades. We’ve gained their trust now that they see GPFD will walk the talk.

I am deeply passionate about capacity-building and ensuring our initiatives are driven by local talent. Our Fellowship Program is expanding, and I am dedicated to nurturing relationships with local universities to provide students with practical experience and employment opportunities that align with their passions and benefit their communities. This approach not only enhances our effectiveness but also strengthens the fabric of our organization.

Our focus on women and girls is unwavering. For the first time in our history, all senior leadership positions, both in East Africa and the US, are held by women, underscoring our belief in the transformative power of female leadership. By supporting women, we improve lives and foster sustainable development. Through our Grassroots Fund, we support women’s groups in very rural areas of East Africa that have never had access to funding. Our Director of Programs, Dora Okeyo, leads this initiative with remarkable dedication. She visits villages, meeting women where they are—on their farms, tailoring school uniforms, or in their market shops. Dora approaches them with kindness and humility, understanding that they know best what they need to succeed. With Dora’s belief in them and support from GPFD, these groups have shown remarkable progress. They recommend other groups who are also driving progress and positive change within their communities.

The disrict coming to greet us at the Ormanie school

In my role, I leverage my marketing background and storytelling through a visual lens, honed during my career in entertainment, to amplify the voices and highlight the incredible stories of the people and the work on the ground. My business acumen helps open doors, make introductions, and secure a seat at the table for my team on the ground and local experts from our partner network at the highest levels. I aim to ensure that those directly affected by decisions on global development in the region have their voices and perspectives at the forefront.

I am committed to ensuring that GPFD remains human-centered in every aspect. Our team’s health and family well-being come first, as I believe this is crucial for our collective success. For our work on the ground, we begin all conversations with open ears, hearts, and minds, ensuring their needs and voices are at the forefront.

Establishing strong bonds between our dedicated supporters and the communities they empower is a priority for me. I am deeply grateful for the generational relationships I have inherited from the leaders before me, from Peter Verbiscar-Brown all the way to Daniel Casanova. Each of them has maintained our close partnerships, and every partner on the ground has expressed that GPFD is different from any other INGO they’ve encountered because we TRULY partner with communities rather than engaging in transactional relationships.

I want to thank our steadfast donors who have welcomed our East African partners into their own homes just as they have welcomed us over the decades. These enduring partnerships have established trust in the region because we have never wavered in our commitments. I envision a future where these relationships foster genuine cross-cultural exchanges, enriching both sides and deepening our impact. I have personally experienced the power of these connections, having hosted East African colleagues in my home and shared our cultures with each other. This is the essence of true partnership, where both sides learn and grow together.

Thank you for your continued support and trust. Together, we will build on our successes and reach new heights, creating a brighter future for all.

With warmest regards,

Ria Pullin


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