who we are
Local staff & board
Kristen has served as the Executive Director of Friends of Ruwenzori since October 2017. Marrying a passion for social empowerment and advocacy with a penchant for organizational growth, Kristen has grown a varied and thriving career in the world of non-profit management spanning over three decades. Her lifelong commitment to advocating for and empowering underserved communities of all stripes has seen her work with communities including US Veterans, families living under the poverty line and at-risk youth.
Her passion for East Africa began as a high-schooler when she was able to travel to Kenya with her family. Stating “East Africa gets into your soul” she is thrilled to engage this passion through supporting the work of empowering Ugandans in this rural community.
Under the constant supervision of two exceptionally-friendly dogs, two strong-willed kittens (and an only mildly-interested turtle) Kristen lives in Novato, California with two of her three sons while the oldest is off on his own after graduating from University of Oregon.
Kristen holds both a Bachelor of Science degree and a teaching credential from Wheaton College in Illinois, and a Master of Science from San Diego State University in Marriage and Family Counseling. She is currently working on a Masters of Theology and Social Justice at Northeastern Seminary.
Anne teaches elementary school in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Teaching follows a 25 year career as an estate planning attorney in San Francisco. Anne accompanied Founder Karen Gleason to Uganda in 2017 and was impressed by the amazing personal connections of the KIDA staff to the community they serve. She was especially moved by the work to serve orphans and vulnerable children allowing them to continue their schooling.
Anne is actively involved in outreach to marginalized communities in Oakland and other justice actions through her faith community. Anne loves to travel, read and spend time with her cat Lentil.
founder & board member
Karen Gleason, along with her husband Gil, founded Friends of Ruwenzori, as Karen’s retirement project in 2004. She was motivated to form a nonprofit after visits to Western Uganda in 2001 and 2003 and meeting KIDA’s directors Rev. Ezra Musobozi and his wife Marjorie. They had a dream of a world without HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty in the Ruwenzori foothills. Ezra and Marjorie were actively counseling victims of HIV infection and taking care of orphans left behind. Their tireless work inspired Karen who wanted to help.
For 40 years Karen had worked in clinical laboratories in the California Bay Area as a clinical laboratory scientist and microbiologist. Post retirement, Karen was happy to become the volunteer executive director of Friends of Ruwenzori Foundation until 2017 and currently serves on the board.
Karen was married to musician and professional violinist Gil Gleason for 54 years until he passed on January 28, 2021. They have 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren. In addition they “adopted” Moses Magezi, a former Ugandan orphan, by supporting him through medical school and residency. Moses is currently Dr. Moses Magezi, a surgeon in Kampala, Uganda. Karen met Gil in college while playing her violin, and for years played orchestral music with the Oakland Community Orchestra, founded and conducted by Gil Gleason until 2014.
I practiced civil litigation for 37 years at the US Department of Justice, a private law firm, and finally in the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Law Department. I learned about Friends of Ruwenzori through another non-profit in which I was active that provided women’s health services in developing nations. I was attracted to Friends of Ruwenzori because I was impressed by the founder’s sincerity, dedication and practical approach, and the concrete way this non-profit was improving the lives of local people.
Having retired some years ago, I spend much of my time volunteering in leadership roles for the League of Women Voters of Oakland. I am an avid day hiker and enjoy chatty book clubs, traveling to unfamiliar places with my husband and writing about our experiences, yoga, cooking (but not baking), and the company of friends and family. A fun fact is that, despite my general indifference to cars, I am in love with my Honda plug in hybrid.
I am a retired nurse midwife who delivered over 5100 babies in my 25 years working for Kaiser Permanente in Walnut Creek, CA. I visited the KIDA hospital in 2018 and was amazed at the life changing work accomplished by the staff. So many lives were enhanced with such a relatively small investment by us. It made me want to come home and work as hard as I could for the Friends of Ruwenzori. On the flight home, I wrote a fundraising letter and raised enough money to complete KIDA’s dream of completing a children’s ward for the hospital. With $17,000, the project was completed and now there is a fully running 16 bed children’s ward. Within a year I was asked to join the Board and have since been working to raise more funds for the support of both the hospital and KIDA’s educational projects.
Barry has enjoyed a long academic career in Computer Science. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at San Francisco State University (SFSU). He started several university departments including in Armenia (American University of Armenia) and Kenya (Edgerton University). In addition to his career at SFSU he has served on the faculty at University of Maryland, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and University of Nairobi. He has contributed to the World Bank African Virtual University project with the goal of starting universities at numerous locations in Africa. His current focus is developing e-health projects. In this regard, he has worked with clinics and hospitals in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania,
Comoros, Bolivia, and Dominica. He serves as advisor to the Children’s Hospital of LosAngeles/Armenian Eye Care Project, assisting with the introduction of health informatics to Armenia.
Dave’s career has spanned the public and private sectors and has largely focused on the intersection of business, technology, job creation, and poverty alleviation. Most recently he was the Senior Director, Strategy and Impact at TechSoup Global responsible for managing the team that manages their corporate partnerships. David also consults to organizations leveraging market-based approaches to addressing poverty and teaches in the UNC Online MBA program on entrepreneurship, social innovation and business responsibility in developing economies. Dave has worked on 6 continents for clients including the Acumen Fund, Adobe Systems, BP, UNDP in Colombia, Fundes, Gates Foundation, Intel, Mercy Corps, Microsoft, NESsT, Palm, Reuters, Save the Children, Qualcomm, P&G, UNDP, VitalWave, and World Vision.
Previously Dave was the Senior Advisor to Mercy Corps’ Social Innovation team, and also held senior management roles at Adobe Systems where he led Adobe’s entry into China. He has also launched profitable businesses in India and Guatemala to serve low income customers in the health and agricultural markets. David has post-graduate training at Stanford University, holds a MPIA from the University of California, San Diego and a B.A. in Economics from the State University of New York. He is also a regular contributor to the Stanford Social Innovations Review.
Jim Hasler, Retired Marketing Executive, Consumer Packaged Goods Industry – For me, what is really unique about Friends of Ruwenzori, is that not only do I help make people’s lives healthier and better, but I also feel a very personal connection to the community being served and know how my gifts are being used.
Since retiring, my life has been very rewarding, providing volunteer support to two other non-profit organizations in addition to Friends of Ruwenzori.
I also enjoy singing regularly with three choirs/choruses – which is something I had never done before age 50.
Michelle is a Managing Partner at Pollak & Pollak Wealth Management located in Orinda, California.
She was attracted to Friends of Ruwenzori because it supports the worthy causes of providing medical education and basic healthcare to an underserved area. She believes all humans deserve this regardless of location.
In her off hours, her time is well spent with family, and watching her young sons grow up. She hopes to travel back to Africa with them to show them the kind and beautiful people and culture.
In her “free” time Michelle volunteers and supports other worthy causes such as Lamorinda Moms, as well as local and out of state food banks, and international group homes.
I am a structural engineer with over 30 years of experience, who since 2005 has lent my expertise to non-profit organizations involved in facilitating disaster resilient housing in emerging countries.
I was first introduced to the Friends of Ruwenzori by a presentation given by Karen Gleason in 2013 at my church St. John’s, the same church that Karen and her husband Gil attend. With my experience working with non-profits in emerging countries, I was drawn to get involved with supporting the Friends of Ruwenzori’s efforts to support KIDA. My first role was as an auction runner at the Green and Yellow Festival.
I am still working for the non-profit organizations in addition to serving on the Friends of Ruwenzori Board and working my day job as an engineering supervisor at Berkeley Lab. I enjoy travelling, walking, writing, watching association football matches, and spoiling my niece and nephew as much as I can.