The AKI Team
(We are volunteers; we have no paid board or staff members)
AKI Board of Directors
Karen Menczer, Founder & Director
After living and working overseas since 1991, Karen started Animal-Kind International in 2007 to help animal welfare organizations that she worked with in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe.
Karen has worked in international biodiversity conservation since 1991, and for over 40 years, has been active in animal welfare in the US and overseas. Since 1997, Karen has lived in Uganda, Botswana, Jamaica, Ghana, Namibia, and Cayman Islands (and in Ecuador in the 1980s), and over her career, she has worked in over 50 countries.
She is a contributor to and editor of the Africa chapter of the book, Long Distance Transport and Welfare of Farm Animals and with Aluizah Abdul-Yakeen, wrote The Bat Watcher for the book, The Unlikely Burden and Other Stories (published by World Society for the Protection & Care of Animals).
Along with AKI, Karen still works in the biodiversity conservation field, and wherever she goes, she meets local animal welfare advocates. She now lives in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, US with her husband and AKI Board member, Ron Stryker, 3 dogs, Lizzie, Sammie, and Jakie, and 2 rescue donkeys, Sara and Bogie.
Betsie Van Dyke, Board Member & Secretary
Betsie has a degree in Library Science and has worked in library systems in the US states of Maryland, Georgia, New Mexico, and Alaska, including as an Assistant Director for the Albuquerque/Bernalillo Library System in New Mexico.
Betsie was the Chair for the Intellectual Freedom and Legislation Committee for the New Mexico Library Association and an Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Directors for the Municipal League of New Mexico as President of the Librarians sub-section. Betsie has extensive experience managing grants in literacy and summer reading activities. She has overseen all phases of grant-making programs, from review of applications to disbursement and oversight of funds.
Betsie is an animal welfare advocate, and also a literacy advocate. She brings to AKI her expertise in business development and information management, and of course, her love of animals. She lives in Delaware, US. Her dog Stella (pictured above with Betsie) recently passed away.
Karen Rae, Board Member
Karen recently returned to the US after living in Kathmandu, Nepal with her husband (Phil Broughton), 2 dogs and 1 cat-all rescues. Briefly they shared their home with a bull-calf who, like many sacred cattle in a Hindu country, wandered the streets of Kathmandu in search of food and water and was injured in a car accident. She volunteered for several years with the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre when the founder Jan Salter was alive.
A Brit by birth, Karen worked as a corporate lawyer in Los Angeles, before beginning a peripatetic life with her husband who ran various agriculture and micro finance projects funded by USAID. With their two daughters, Hannah and Rebecca, Karen volunteered at local animal shelters in countries in Asia, Africa, and Central America, helping with spay and neuter clinics, humane awareness, and fund raising events. Karen is now adjusting to life in their North Carolina home where she hopes to realize her dream of running a small vegetable farm populated with many rescue farm animals!
Dipesh Pabari, Board Member
Dipesh is the General Manager for Rift Valley Adventures. Prior to this, Dipesh was the General Manager for Camps International's Africa office.
Previously, he worked as an independent writer and consultant providing training, facilitation, technical assistance, and research in the areas of ICT, Media Campaigns, Fundraising, Strategic Communications, Education, and Event Management. And prior to that, Dipesh worked at World Society for the Protection of Animals-Africa.
Dipesh holds an MA in Social Anthropology (School of Oriental and African Studies) and has published widely on various topics. In 2006, Dipesh edited a short story anthology on animal welfare for children (The Unlikely Burden and Other Stories) that was translated into Kiswahili and was also accepted as a recommended reading book for Primary Schools in South Africa.
He sat on the Editorial Board for Awaaz (a journal for South Asians in Diaspora) and Wajibu (a journal of Ethical and Social Concern). He lives in Kenya with his wife, Elodie, daughter, and dog.
Barbara Abolafia, Board Member
Barbara is an Adjunct Professor of English at Bergen Community College. She has an MA in English Education and a BA in English. For over 18 years, she worked in sales and marketing at major publishing houses such as HarperCollins and Random House.
She has previously been a board member of the Hillsdale Free Public Library in New Jersey, and currently tutors reading and writing and helps with college essays. She lives in New Jersey, US with her husband, Glenn. Their beloved dog, Sheldon, recently passed away.
Jean Merriman, Board Member
Jean resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, US, where she has been active in animal welfare for over 40 years. Her area of interest is community animal welfare—working with low income and disadvantaged people to help them take better care of their pets, and to help them access low cost spay/neuter surgeries.
Jean is adept at bringing people together to solve problems: she is quick to boil issues down, and identify practical solutions—even before a problem actually materializes. Jean lives with several dogs, most of whom were fosters who never left.
Ron Stryker, Board Member & Treasurer
Ron is a retired Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development, where his areas of expertise were agriculture and conservation. He lived and worked overseas for 32 years. Ron lived in India, Indonesia, Morocco, Barbados, Honduras, Austria, Uganda, Jamaica, Botswana, and Ghana, and has worked in over 50 countries.
Ron now grows grapes, berries, and other fruit and vegetables on his small farm in New Mexico, plays blues and jazz on the keyboard, and is the strategic thinker behind AKI.
Founding Member David Pluth Memorial Page
On May 22, Animal-Kind International lost a board member and a wonderful friend, David Pluth. David was so much more than that though.
There were many sides to David—film maker, environmental consultant, agriculture and trade specialist, extreme climber, husky raiser and sledder, business owner, connoisseur of wines. See our AKI memorial to David.
AKI Technical Advisory Group
We put together this group of international animal welfare experts to coordinate on who is doing what in animal welfare, mainly in Africa and Latin America/Caribbean; gaps in funding, gaps in recognition; trends that we should be aware of; and for information sharing in general, including when we visit organizations. The TAG helps us make sure that we continue to put your donations toward the most critical needs, where they can do the most good, fund the best organizations, including those with the greatest potential, and it will help make sure you always get the information--that all donors should have--about how your donations are put to work.
Alicia Falsetto’s career started in Liberia, West Africa teaching elementary school with the Peace Corps. Upon her return to the U.S., she joined Cisco Systems as its thirteenth employee. Alicia has a wealth of experience in philanthropy serving as Director of the Cisco Systems founders’ charity, the Leonard X. Bosack & Bette M. Kruger Charitable Foundation, for more than ten years. Her role included the management of multiple projects in the areas of animal welfare and wildlife protection. One of the many projects involved the collaboration of several non-governmental organizations and INTERPOL. This collaboration led to the ongoing anti-poaching operation of elephants and rhinos in many African countries. Alicia served on the Animal Grantmakers Board of Directors from 2008-2011 and currently is cofounder of Highway Safety Stewards; a community organization that facilitates change to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions on California highways.
Sarah Carr is CEO of Naturewatch Foundation. Under her direction, the charity undertakes a wide range of campaigns and projects to improve the lives of animals, both in the UK and abroad. The charity also coordinates the World Animal Day initiative and grant, working with 94 Ambassadors working in 77 countries, all encouraging participation in celebrating World Animal Day, and this number continues to grow. Since joining Naturewatch Foundation in 2018, Sarah has managed and led many of the charity’s campaigns helping to bring about positive change for animals. Sarah is a campaigner and has also worked on issues around environmental sustainability and affordable housing. In her free time. Sarah organises a busy family diary and shares her home with a very affectionate black rescue cat and bouncy rescue dog.
Luis Carlos Sarmiento was born in Bogota, Colombia and has been involved in animal protection activities in Latin America for more than 25 years. He has worked and supported different organizations both at international and national levels. Luis' areas of expertise, amongst others, include disaster management, dog and cat population control, animals in entertainment, lobbying before the United Nations, and NGO management.
Luis founded ALA - Animals Latin America - Project, and through it, looks for funding for projects in the region and also provides counseling to local organizations.
Currently, in partnership with PAE (Animal Protection Ecuador) and funded by international organization WTG, Luis is developing a strategy to include animals in Ecuador's disaster management national policy. He also leads the campaign against Live Exports in Latin America, lead by Animals International. Luis lives with three cats and two dogs, all of them rescued or adopted from different shelters. His dog Dona was rescued from strong floods in the North of Colombia some years ago, after being spotted on the roof of an abandoned house whose owners were obliged to flee.
Based in the UK, Alex Mayers has a background in working animal welfare, education and sustainable development.
Most recently the Head of Global Programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary, he is well linked with the global animal sector and worked with over 30 animal welfare groups across Africa to support their projects, evaluate and build their capacity, and review funding proposals.
A major advocate for animal welfare, he initiated and led The Donkey Sanctuary's global campaign to tackle the horrific donkey skin trade and significantly disrupted the trade in dozens of countries.
Before donkeys stole his heart, Alex was an organisational development advisor in the conflict-prone Southern Philippines, led education and community developmentprojects in UK, Kenya and South Africa, and managed the largest ever externally funded British Council project which focused on teacher development in 600 schools in Borneo. He now lives in the stunning Devon coast with his partner Lucy and slightly potty cocker spaniel, Walter.
Janet Thomas, Founder & CEO, Animal Aid Abroad (Australia)
After living and working in many countries for many years, nothing prepared Janet for what she was to witness on the streets of Alexandria, Egypt. The lives of both working animals and street dogs was in short, horrendous and very cruel. She decided after her teaching contract ended, to return to her home country, Australia to set up a charity called Animal Aid Abroad. Her goal was to raise enough funds to set up 24-hour clinic to treat sick or injured street and working animals in Alexandria. 13 years later, her charity has grown to support 14 different animal welfare projects across 9 countries in some of the poorest and most challenging regions in the world. Her charity, is dedicated to improving the treatment and conditions of working animals such as horses, mules, donkeys, camels & bullocks in developing countries.
Last year (2020) Janet, with her dog Jack and supported by her partner, Martin, walked from Melbourne to Perth, covering over 4100 km to raise awareness and funds for her charity. Currently, Janet lives in the south west of Western Australia with her partner Martin and her beloved rescue dog, Jack.
Now based in New Zealand, Chris was a UK saddler and harness maker from Shropshire UK. In about 2000 he, almost ‘accidentally’, did a training trip for one of the leading UK horse welfare charities. This trip changed his life entirely, and within the space of just a few years he and his family had to make the choice between full time overseas work, or his shop and workshop. The overseas work took priority and in 2008 he joined The Donkey Sanctuary as their ‘overseas harness officer’. That role has continued in many forms, and to varying degrees up until the present time.
Chris believes in using what people have to hand to try and build better harness, it is not perfect, but small changes that improve animal welfare and lead to a better life for animal and owner, he believes, leads to more new ideas acceptance by the millions of equine dependent people around the world.
Changing harness is easy, convincing people to want to change, that is hard. He remembers a conversation with his then line manager who kept referring to his unofficial international team of harness ‘makers’. His comment, “I am not training harness ‘makers’, I am training harness ‘salespeople’, people to sell the idea of good harness to people who do not believe they need it”.
Chris believes “that if we could get modern leaders in developing countries to realise that draft animal power is worth investing in. Spend money on simple lightweight implements, train owners to care for and work their animals with respect, we could change the world, keep it green and secure a good income for all. Chris is also a realist, it won’t happen, but that does not give us the excuse to stop trying.
Karen Menczer, Founder and Director of Animal-Kind International, is also a member of the Technical Advisory Group.
AKI's Website Guru
Deborah Newman, Petite Taway: AKI Web Designer
Deborah Newman has been working with AKI for over 15 years as their web designer on multiple projects. Her daughter is an animal lover and is also an animal rights advocate.
Petite Taway is a full service web design and online marketing company with clients across the United States and beyond. Deborah Newman loves working with creative small businesses and nonprofits and loves her job and her mission to make each of her clients successful on the world wide web. Visit her website here.