Fostering Resilience Initiative

Our interdisciplinary team works to ensure positive outcomes for children and youth facing adversity. By measuring and addressing risks and assets at the child-level, as well as within homes, schools, and communities, we promote a holistic approach to child and youth development. Our goal is to create environments that not only fulfill children’s and youth’s basic needs, but also promote nurturing relationships, socio-emotional skills, and civic engagement.

We work with non-governmental organizations, policy makers, communities and other stakeholders in seven countries: Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Kenya, Tanzania, and Peru. Our initiative focuses on three key areas:

  1. Learning and Development - Improving learning and development of children and youth, both at school and outside of school.
  2. Risk Measurement - Developing, validating and piloting measurement tools to assess risks, assets, and outcomes across several countries.
  3. Global Network for Resilience - Building a global network of actors who foster systemic resilience.

Read our 2019 Year in Review


For more information, contact us at and follow us on social media:

Meet the Team

Neil Boothby

Dr. Neil Boothby |

Founding Director

Dr. Neil Boothby is the founding Director of the Fostering Resilience Initiative. He is an internationally recognized expert and advocate for children affected by war and displacement. As a senior representative of UNICEF, UNHCR and Save the Children, he has worked for more than 20 years with children in crises in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. He is the former director of the Program on Forced Migration and Health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and his research focuses on the psychosocial consequences of organized violence on children. He is also the recipient of several awards for his fieldwork, including the Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award, for his work with child soldiers, the Mickey Leyland Award, for his work on behalf of uprooted people, the United Nation's Golden Achievement Award, for excellence in social sector activities, and Duke University's Humanitarian Service Award.

Nikhit Dsa Pic 4

Dr. Nikhit D'Sa |

Senior Associate Director of Research, Evaluation, and Learning

Dr. Nikhit D’Sa is a developmental psychologist with a decade of experience as an education technical advisor and applied researcher in low-resource, crisis, and conflict settings. He has expertise developing and managing cross-sectoral learning frameworks, leading impact evaluations, conducting qualitative and mixed-methods studies, designing and validating assessment tools, and working with practitioners to make evidence-based changes to interventions. Dr. D’Sa has worked as a trainer, counselor, and consultant on child and youth development projects around the world with multiple international and civil society organizations. Before joining the University of Notre Dame, Dr. D’Sa served as the Director of Research, Evaluation, and Learning at Save the Children. In this role, he helped establish and grow the Education in Emergencies research team, while also designing and validating the International Social and Emotional Learning Assessment (ISELA) and the Holistic Assessment of Learning and Development Outcomes (HALDO). Dr. D’Sa holds a Master of Education in International Education Policy and a Doctor of Education in Human Development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Hannah Chandler

Hannah Chandler |

Research Associate

Hannah Chandler serves as a Research Associate for the Fostering Resilience Initiative. She supports research development and project coordination for five country projects. Hannah’s interest is in improving health and development outcomes for vulnerable populations, particularly children. Most recently, Hannah worked in Amman Jordan with the Syrian Refugee Initiative studying the impact of family separation on Syrian refugees. She has previously supported the efforts of the Access Campaign at Médicines Sans Frontières (MSF) in vaccines advocacy, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in preparedness for biological threats. She holds a Master of Public Health from Columbia University and a B.S. in Biology from Azusa Pacific University.

Wendy Smith

Wendy Smith

Senior Research Associate

Wendy Smith is an academic-practitioner with twenty years of experience working as an educator, advisor, and researcher in low-resource, crisis, and conflict countries. Smith has expertise in refugee and conflict education issues and has led mixed-methods studies, designed research instruments, and advised international organizations on conflict education programming. She is currently the Director of Education ​​​​​​Programs for Worldreader, a non-profit focused on leveraging digital content and technology for improved education outcomes. Smith is a Senior Research Associate at the Fostering Resilience Initiative at the University of Notre Dame facilitating research in Colombia and Peru on social-emotional learning and institutional resilience of schools in post-conflict countries. Smith holds a Master of Education in International Education Development from Teachers’ College Columbia University.

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Jean Cyril Pressoir 

Project Coordinator, Haiti

Born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Cyril studied sociology and anthropology in France and Canada before moving back to Haiti to work as a journalist for many years. He also founded Tour Haiti — a socially responsible tourism operator — in 2005. Cyril has a skill for languages and expert know-how in the seamless management of Haitian intricacies. His collaborations with projects over the years have allowed  development organizations to obtain a more organic, complex and exhaustive understanding of the terrain and, more importantly, of the populations they wish to serve. He has been living in Cap-Haitien since 2016, where he and his wife raise their baby girl. Cyril is a firm believer that education is the main vector of sustainable development. He enjoys hiking through the Northern hills of Haiti, deepening his passion for its mountainous landscapes and the vibrant communities that inhabit them.


Samuel Mukundi 

Senior Program Consultant, Kenya Projects

Sam Mukundi is a development consultant with expertise in youth and related issues. He is a strategy expert in program design and management with experience as a trainer and qualitative researcher. He is the Director of Logos Consult, a local consultancy focused on strategic management, capacity building and youth mentorship. He has degrees in Education, Philosophy and a MBA in Strategic Management. Sam has played a foundational role in the establishment and management of the Juhudi Initiative. Presently he serves as a Senior Program Advisor with the Initiative.


Mary Wangui

Youth Mentorship and Sports Coordinator, Kenya Projects

Mary Wangui is a community youth leader who is recognized within the community as youth advocate, mentor and youth project coordinator. Previously, Mary worked to strengthen rural youth develop in enterprise program with Technoserve as the youth facilitator and coordinator. She has also served with Go Green Ambassador as the C.E.O in mentorship and environmental program to help youth realize their potentials as well as becoming environmental ambassadors in their small ways. She was nominated as the youth representative in NG-CDF where she advocated for young people inclusivity in development projects within the constituency. Currently, Mary works with the Juhudi Initiative as the Youth Mentorship and Sports Coordinator.

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Patricia Cabrerizo |

Research Associate, Latin American Projects

Patricia Cabrerizo is a psychologist (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú) with a MA in International Development: Public Policy and Management (University of Manchester, UK). She has over over 12 years of experience working in research, evaluation, monitoring and project management for public and private organizations, and 5 years of experience as a teacher at the Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (Lima, Perú). Her experience in research is centered in education and forced migration in Perú. Additionally, Patricia has over 4 years of experience as a clown and since 2017 has spent her extra hours serving as a hospital clown. 


Sonia Urquidi |

Research Associate

Sonia graduated in 2019 with a concentration in sustainable development from the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, where she also received her bachelor’s degree in economics and music in 2017. During her master’s, she spent a year consulting for a Chilean non governmental organization, Enseña Chile, to strengthen feedback loops between teachers, students, and school administrators in under resourced schools. Following her time at FRI, she will continue this research with the support of the Fulbright Association in March 2020. In addition to her interest in inequality, transgenerational poverty, and education, Sonia has studied the implications of climate change on Andean communities, conducted music therapy sessions with people with disabilities in Bolivia, and is in the process of co-editing a book on climate change and the global commons. 

Maria Avila

Maria Fernanda

Research Associate, Latin American Projects 

Maria Fernanda is a Colombian political scientist and economist. Her areas of interest are economic and political development and K-12 education. She has over four years of professional experience and has done consultancy projects in Colombia, the United States, Brazil, and Laos. She holds a Master of Public Administration from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) of Columbia University. Here, she completed a double specialization in management and gender policy. Currently, she is training to run her first 10K!

Jessica Zhang

Jessica Zhang |

Graduate Research Associate

Jessica Zhang, MPH/MPA candidate, is a research assistant with the Fostering Resilience Initiative. Jessica is passionate about supporting healthy child and youth development in contexts of adversity, conflict, and poverty, as a matter of social justice and health equity. Jessica aims to work towards this goal through improving psychosocial/mental health programs and youth policy. Prior to her work with Fostering Resilience, she worked in a range of related roles, including: case management with survivors of torture, spearheading a family wellness center at Boys & Girls Club of Newark, supporting education policy and youth development initiatives, and research and evaluation for NYC’s mobile mental health demonstration project.

Anna Hart

Anna Hart |

Digital Communications Associate

Anna Hart graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2017 where she studied English and Visual Communication Design. Before joining Fostering Resilience, she served as a high school English teacher in Oakland, CA while earning her Master of Education from the University of Notre Dame’s ACE (Alliance for Catholic Education) program. During her fellowship with ACE, she studied the impact of technology on the moral development of youth in schools and best practices surrounding literacy development for English language learners. She is passionate about using engaging communication to bring awareness to the multidimensional needs of children and youth in our society.

Recent Publications

Catch-Up EducationCatch-up Education Summary

Fri LearningassessmentandinclusivityCommunity Asset Mapping for Rural Youth in Kenya 

Fri Learningassessmentandinclusivity Learning Assessment and Inclusivity 

Fri AdversityandresilienceAdversity and Resilience

Fri Educationincrisis Education in Crisis

Fri AddressinglocalrealitiesAddressing Local Realities 

Fri AdolescentsinadversityAdolescents in Adversity 

Fri UnleashingyouthopportunitiesUnleashing Youth Opportunities