Our Team

There are many people who volunteer and contribute to the Lotus Educational Fund  program…

Honorary Advisor

With an International career developing new rice varieties Dr Phoudalay is well         respected as an agricultural researcher and advisor with global agricultural experts. After graduating from the National University with a degree in Agriculture she studied her M.Sc and PhD in Kiev. Returning to Laos she worked  on developing new rice varieties that supported the livelihood of  smallholder farmers. Dr Phoudalay established Thasano Station (a Rice and  Seed Multiplication Research Centre) where she conducts training sessions  for farmers. She is a very respected member of the Lao Women’s Union. In 2008, she was a founding member and advisor for the Lotus Educational Fund Ltd. From selecting the first intake of Lotus girls to opening Thasano station for Lotus workshops Dr Phoudalay is a valuable role model for all Lao women and girls.

Program Coordinator - Laos
Miss Phetsavanh SOMSIVILAY

Miss Phetsavanh Somsivilay is an academic staff at General Affairs and Cooperation Office, Savannakhet University (SKU). She has worked as an international coordinator and teaches English classes. Prior to joining the university, Phetsavanh taught private Lao language classes to foreigners and worked as a translator at Ethnic Trade Company. As a voluntee Country Coordinator with the Lotus Educational Fund, which fights human trafficking and empowers young women through educational opportunities, she oversees the program’s legal requirements and provides career counselling and academic support for girls. Phetsavanh is a graduate of Champasak University, where she studied English, and the Rovira i Virgili University in Spain, where she obtained her master’s degree in English as a second language. Ms. Phetsavanh is strongly interested in collaborating with other institutions to establish the cooperation in educational sustainable development.

Program Coordinator – Australia
Cathrine HART

Cathy trained as a speech language therapist, maintaining a private practice for many years and now actively volunteering her skills in local schools.  It was no surprise that Cathy was keen to help establish Lotus in 2008.  She had strong family ties to Laos with her late uncle Dr. John Schiller being the Australian Government advisor on rice farming to Laos for many years. These connections proved vital  in helping us establish within the correct cultural context. Currently based in Australia, Cathy oversees the legal operations of   Lotus. Cathy is currently working on the establishment of the Lotus scholarship progam for both academic and vocational pathways .

Program Coordinator – Thailand

Dianne has a background in Sociology, Education and Linguistics. She is      currently working as an English teacher at an international school in Bangkok.   Throughout her career she has always maintained her passion for volunteerism especially organizations dedicated  to the education and health of women and children. In 2008, with a group of friends she co- founded  and established the Lotus Educational Fund Ltd as a registered charity in Australia.  Dianne coordinates our biennial workshops. The focus of the workshops is to provide awareness on safe migration, career counselling and female health and hygiene.

Student Sponsorship Coordinator

Helen trained as a nurse and later decided to retrain as a teacher specialising in EY education. After many years teaching in Australia, she joined the international circuit, teaching in Japan, Thailand, Laos and currently Vienna. It was during her five year term in Laos that Helen became actively involved with the Lotus Educational Fund Ltd helping to establish our in-country operation. She selected, mentored and empowered local personnel so that our programmes are sustainable and always operate in a culturally sustainable manner. Helen is an avid cyclist and she rode from Vientiane to Phuket raising sufficient funds to educate 40 young girls through their elementary education. She manages our donor program and has successfully obtained sponsorship for all 40 elementary students.

Logistics Coordinator- Laos

Vanvisa (Ms Da) is a trained teacher who now runs her own preschool in Vientiane. She has been involved with the  Lotus Educational Fund Ltd since 2012.  We greatly value her expertise and enthusiastic approach to supporting the girls on the Lotus program. Ms Da liaisons with the school community on issues that impact the girls education while also coordinating the purchase of all the uniforms, school supplies, fee payments and she delivers all the supplies in person with her family. Her calm manner and system thinking strengthened our partnerships across local and national levels.

Education Advisors

Julia started her career as a classroom teacher in the USA and has since worked in international schools as an elementary teacher, a curriculum coordinator and working as a school principal in Italy, Bangladesh, England and Singapore.  She has also spent time volunteering as a director in a local school in Nepal. She serves as a team member in schools  for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and for IB/PYP authorizations in international schools. At the moment, she is a trustee for an international school in London and works in a local primary school with children on building social-emotional capacities as a wellbeing practitioner. Service has been an central component in both her personal and professional life.  She is enthusiastically supporting a rural school in Cambodia with curriculum, strategic planning and teaching and learning strategies, and in giving educational and life skills’ opportunities for girls in Laos via the Lotus Foundation.

Dr. Lester Burgess

Professor Lester Burgess AM is one of Australia’s most distinguished Plant Pathologists. He is a former Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Sydney and has held adjunct professorships at the University of Pennsylvania and Kansas state University in the USA.  Professor Burgess is a recipient of the Crawford Foundation’s highest award – The Crawford Medal – for his contribution to agricultural development in South East Asia and in 2003 the Government of Vietnam awarded him a national medal for Contributions to Rural development. The Australasian Plant Pathology Society created him a Fellow in 1999 and have named the annual “Lester Burgess Awards” in his honour. On Australia Day, 2019 he was appointed as a Member of The Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to international agricultural research in the areas of plant pathology and biosecurity.

Dr. Tamara JACKSON

With  a background in agriculture Tamara has undertaken applied research  in the context of agriculture and food security both in Australia and overseas. She has postgraduate qualifications in  applied  hydrology and research management. Her PhD research explored water use efficiency, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission relationships for different irrigation systems. In 2009 Tamara was awarded the NPSI/IAL Travel Fellowship, which allowed her to visit Turkey, Israel, the UK and the USA to discuss current research on energy and water trade-offs in agriculture. Tamara is a consultant on the Lotus scholarship programme, developing the selection criteria and  her young family personally funding the  Lotus agricultural scholarship at the University of Savannakhet, Lao PDR. She is committed to supporting the role of  women in  agriculture and bringing change to the lives of women living in rural  poverty.


As Deputy Head of International Relations Division at Savannakhet University. Lanta believes in the importance of education in empowering girls to achieve a brighter future Growing up, she experienced similar problems to many girls in rural areas, in which many parents did not want their daughters to pursue education opportunities. Instead, they preferred their daughters to stay home and earn immediate income. Lanta is a highly respected role model for the Lotus girls as she has studied at the post-graduate level in Japan, Australia and this year she is moving to complete her PHD in Prague. Fortunately, Lotus will be retaining the expertise of Lanta as she moves from her role of Program Coordinator to a member of our international Educational Advisory Team. Lotus is very appreciative of the role that Lanta has played in driving our mission and vision within the local community.


Medical Advisors

Denise studied medicine at the University of NSW before returning to her home town of Newcastle to work in local hospitals and general practice. Recognising a need for a female gynaecologist in the area, Denise then undertook specialist training in obstetrics and gynaecology. Before moving to private practice, Denise spent 12 months in Darwin working in indigenous health, including developing the initial stages of the specialist gynaecology clinics now serving remote communities in the Northern Territory. With the establishment of obstetric services at Newcastle Private Hospital, Denise offers the option of a female fertility specialist and obstetrician in the region. She provides patients with continuing care from conception through pregnancy to the delivery of their baby.

IT Advisor
Chris Chapman

Chris runs a Newcastle based web design and digital product agency called Clickk. Clickk has been apart of the team to assist with the website, social media and any IT support that is needed. 
Like Lotus Educational Fund, Clickk aims to drive change through positive relationships. Chris and his team use technology (including websites and custom software) to help empower and enrich the lives of the Lotus girls.