President & Founder
Francis Phiri was born and raised in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia in Africa. At the age of 12, he became ill with malaria and it caused his hearing to slowly deteriorate, becoming Deaf at age 18.
After his parents died he lived with an aunt who also died when he was in 10th grade, leaving him homeless. He went to the Association of Sign Language Interpreters of Zambia (ASLIZ) to do volunteer work and that is where h met Madam Maria Milila of the International Labor Organization who supported him in high school. It was there he met Frank Lester, an American teacher who is also deaf and was in Africa working as a Peace Corps volunteer. Francis graduated high school in Zambia in November 2008, and in August 2009, Lester made good on his promise to bring Francis to the United states on a student visa.
Francis studied at Rochester Institute of Technology then returned to Ohlone College to complete his degree in Deaf Studies and Liberal Arts. He is excited to continue his studies in Education at San Francisco State University.
Francis has taught at a private San Francisco international language school, ABC Languages, presents as a motivational speaker for community organizations, workshops, and charter school conferences. He is an organizer for the monthly Deaf Night Out and ASL Meet-up in San Francisco.
Francis' goal is to inspire others to follow their dreams and be successful, with patience, flexibility and motivation. He now shares his passion by teaching others the value of education, the importance of communication, and the power of human connections.
The support Francis received during his childhood in Zambia has motivated him to create this non-profit organization, Give Back to the Community in Zambia (GBCZ).
Board of Advisors
Committed to Deaf Education!
Allen W. Neece III
Allen W. Neece III currently works as a Deaf education specialist at Peace Corps where he advises how to increase the placement of Deaf/disabled applicants and provides technical advice to posts on disability-related programming. He is a four-year Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. All of his assignments pertained to deaf-related issues, ranging from education reforms to capacity building for Deaf associations. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, he was a high school teacher in Los Angeles.
Rachel Meyer is the co-founder and co-owner of ABC Languages, foreign language schools located in San Francisco and New York City, with satellite operations in Silicon Valley, Westchester (NY) and New Jersey. She has developed language programs for top companies and institutions, including Columbia University, ABC News, Sony, and Genentech. She is passionate about supporting innovative ways to promote language learning for adults, children and institutions.
Bernie Rhinerson is a public education advocate who currently serves as an elected Board Trustee for the San Diego Community College District which serves more that 100,000 students in San Diego, CA. His career includes service as Chief of Staff for the San Diego Unifed School District and more than 30 years as a marketing communications professional. Bernie also volunteers with other community organizations focused on the educational needs of children living in poverty.
Dana Rhinerson is a Special Education Educator in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Dana has passion for Deaf Education and is currently studying for her Deaf and Hard of Hearing teaching Credential at Cal State Northridge. She is an advocate for the use of Bilingual Bimodal education for Deaf students. She has traveled extensively in South America and was a volunteer teacher at a Deaf school in Bolivia.
Stephanie Rey, was born and raised from deaf parents in France and is active with Child Of Deaf Adults (CODA). Stephanie led engineering teams globally for 15 years for Unilever where she developed global sustainability programs with environmental & social initiatives to make a difference for millions of people around the world. Stephanie is now applying her global business and empowerment expertise experience to help deaf families and communities around the world.
Photographer and Video editor
Justin Bench is the founder of the Upside Reports and an activist for social justice and environmental sustainability. He began his career working for economic inclusion with low income communities, which inspired him to use his camera to raise the level of consciousness on global issues. You can find Justin producing Upside Reports world-wide, creating media for conscious businesses, as well as teaching AcroYoga at the Athletic Playground in Emeryville, CA.