Meet the Yuwa Team

Our team of directors, teachers, coaches and staff is diverse, dedicated and united.


Franz Gastler

Administrative Director & co-founder

Franz grew up in Edina, Minnesota, and has been living in India since 2007 and is based in a tribal village in Jharkhand. He has a BA and MA in International Political Economy from the University Professors Program at Boston University and holds certificates in negotiation and mediation from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Before co-founding Yuwa, his various jobs included ski & snowboard instructing, interning at the Ministry of Finance in Colombia, and working as a consultant at the Confederation of Indian Industry and with a local NGO in Jharkhand.  See Wikipedia’s page on Franz here and TEDx speech here.

Rose Thomson Gastler

Education Director & Yuwa School Co-founder

Originally from Missouri (USA), Rose joined Yuwa in 2012 while studying the use of sports to empower disadvantaged girls, with support from a Walker Fellowship from Hendrix College. She moved to Yuwa’s base in rural Jharkhand in 2013, and coordinated Yuwa’s education program for two years before founding Yuwa School in 2015. After acting as Yuwa School’s Principal for 7 years, she shifted her role to “Education Director” and assists with strategic decisions related to the school, fundraising, monitoring & evaluation, partnership building, and human resources.

Niharika Baxla

Child Development Officer & Senior Staff Member

Niharika (‘Neha’) hails from Jharkhand and completed a masters degree in computer applications from Birla Institute of Technology before deciding to work with kids instead of computers (mostly). She builds and maintains positive, meaningful relationships with players, coaches, parents, and community leaders. She conducts weekly life-skills workshops with girls’ teams, coaches and youth leaders. She’s always switched on with a big smile and keen interest in any issues the girls can throw at her.

Kalawati Kumari

Administrative Support

One the the first girls to join a Yuwa football team in 2009, Kalawati’s leadership, wit, and dedication have inspired dozens of girls in her villages to take control of their own lives. Kalawati is currently studying commerce at a local college in Ranchi; in the future, she would like to work for a bank. In 2016, Kalawati completed a UNOSDP Leadership Training in Tampa, Florida. At Yuwa, Kalawati assists part-time  with a number of administrative and logistical matters.

Punam Kumari

Football Program Coordinator

Punam has been a Yuwa football player since childhood, joining her first team in 2009. A fierce competitor, Punam played on the Yuwa team that competed at the Donosti Cup and placed Bronze in the Vitoria-Gasteiz Cup in Spain in 2013, as well as the USA Cup in 2014. She’s completed an All-India Football Federation ‘D’ license coaching course, and is currently pursuing a degree in Sociology from Ranchi University.

Paras Kumar

Football Program Coordinator

Paras Kumar has come up through Yuwa’s football program, and started leading practices in 2012 at age sixteen. An outstanding athlete and a compassionate leader, Paras acts as a role model for the other young boys in Yuwa. He consistently scores ‘outstanding’, Yuwa’s top level, in his practice coaching assessments. Currently, Paras designs fun and age-appropriate session plans for the coaches to lead each week, assesses and mentors other coaches, and leads weekly coaches’ meetings

Sheena Chacko


Originally from Kerala, Sheena was born and brought up in the Capital of India, New Delhi. She graduated in Science with a Master’s in Business Administration. Prior to Yuwa, she was part of the United Nations, working for the International Labor Organizations on KOICA project at Andhra Pradesh, Odisha empowering the MSMEs sectors. Sheena has more than eleven years’ experience with the Diplomatic Community in Delhi, handling India office for Government of Alberta, Ontario based out of High Commission of Canada. Sheena likes reading books and sketching during her free time… however, these days she likes to create books and activities for her toddler’s home-schooling during her free time.

Chaitali Mandal

Middle School Teacher

Chaitali teaches English and Social Science to standards 5, 6, and 7. Chaitali is a Teach for India alumna, during which she taught in an all-boys school in a slum area for two years. She is from a small town in Jharkhand has a Masters in Law; her interest in education and in improving the conditions of girls in her home state inspired her to join Yuwa School in 2019. Since joining Yuwa, Chaitali has especially enjoyed sharing her passion for the Harry Potter series with her students.

Ashish Kumar

Hindi Teacher

Ashish teachers Hindi to standards 5 – 10, and also provides remedial reading tutoring to students with learning challenges. He has a B.Ed from Allahabad University and a BA in Political Science from Vinova Bhave University. Ashish is popular among the students for his unfailingly positive attitude, his craft and paper art extracurricular classes, and his spontaneous dance moves during school assemblies.

Namrata Pandit

Science Teacher & Head Teacher (Secondary)

Namrata is a self-professed lover of Science, and enjoys bringing her subject to life by designing hands-on activities for her students inside Yuwa’s Science lab (which she personally resurrected after the pandemic!) and outside in nature. A native of Durgapur, Namrata received her Masters in Life Sciences from Central University of Jharkhand. She was a Research Intern at IIT Roorkee and Correspondent for Youth Ki Awaaz before joining Yuwa School full-time in 2021. She advocates for climate change, and public health through art. Her work has been featured in UNESCO Exhibition and Science Gallery International Symposium. Namrata also acts as a Teacher Liaison for the Yuwa Student Council.

Seema Toppo

Primary Teacher

Seema is an assistant teacher in the youngest class at Yuwa School. She was one of the first girls to join Yuwa football in 2009. Since then, Seema has participated in a US State Department Exchange program in Washington DC, graduated from 12th standard, and is attending a college in Ranchi. She enjoys working at Yuwa School because it’s given her the chance to improve her own English, learn from the other teachers, and work with cute kids.

Pinki Rawat

Head Teacher (Primary)

Pinki is a Ranchi native and teaches Standards Five students in all content areas. After studying commerce, Pinky pursued her childhood dream to become a teacher. She received her teacher training from Adhyayan Academy (Mumbai) and spent 8 years as a teacher and as a principal. Pinky enjoys writing poetry which has been published in various newspapers. Pinky is inspired by women’s issues and hopes that through teaching, her students will have opportunities for personal and academic growth that many women, like herself, in this area did not have.

Laura Anderson

Distance Learning Consultant & Academic Counselor

After spending 2 years teaching high school English at Yuwa School, Laura is now acting as a Distance Learning Consultant to help Yuwa teachers keep students learning during the pandemic. Originally from Oregon, Laura has 19 years of teaching experience, a Masters in Humanities from Salve Regina University, and a BA from San Diego University. She also provides mentorship and academic counseling to senior students throughout the college application process.

‘Pappu’ Hassan

Head Driver

From the nearby village of Irba, Pappu has been working with Yuwa since 2013. Originally an auto-rickshaw driver, Pappu has mastered the art of driving a school bus on the unpredictable roads of Jharkhand. Unfailingly punctual, you could set your watch by the time Pappu leaves for morning football practices… even when they start at 4 am! Pappu’s constant vigilance over the students’ and players’ well-being keeps Yuwa’s daily activities safe for even the youngest children. Pappu is the proud father of two young daughters.

Soma Cyriac

Physics Volunteer Teacher

Soma teaches Physics and mentors students at Yuwa since June 2021. She has an MPhil in Theoretical Physics and over two decades of teaching, mentoring and administrative experience in universities across India. Soma is a trained classical Kathak dancer, enjoys writing and painting, and is passionate about sports, having competed in athletics and basketball through her school and university years.

Sruthi Dharuman

Life-Skills Program Officer & Science Teacher

Sruthi graduated from KCT, Coimbatore, with a Bachelor of Technology in Fashion (B.Tech, F.T). A native of Kotagiri, Nilgiris, she grew up witnessing stark inequities in her surroundings since childhood.  She is a Teach For India(TFI) Fellowship alumna who served in Hyderabad,  and has years of experience fostering and empowering meaningful student leadership.

Vivek Nath

Mathematics Teacher

Vivek teaches Mathematics to Secondary and Higher Secondary grades. After completing his Bachelor’s in Physics, he decided to venture into the teaching field. He worked as a teacher in Ranchi for 3 years after which he joined Teach for India. During the fellowship, he taught grades 9 and 10 as a Math and Science fellow in a low-income private school in Ahmedabad. He loves running and swimming and is deeply passionate about healthy living and spirituality.

Anima Swansi

Primary Teacher

A Ranchi native, Anima has a Masters degree in English Literature and an MSc in Counseling Psychology from MLCU Shillong. At Yuwa School, Anima teaches our youngest students (standard four) in all subjects. Whenever possible, the students love to hear Anima play her guitar and sing–it is always an exciting day when Anima brings in her guitar! In her free time, Anima is usually busy taking care of her young daughter.

Vimal Kumar

Football Program Coordinator

A Yuwa football player since 2013, Vimal learned to be a coach and now a football program coordinator through Yuwa’s coaching development program.  Vimal’s patience, dedication, commitment to gender equality, and concern for every player make him every Yuwa player’s bhaiya (brother). Vimal has a Bachelors degree in Physical Education and aspires to be a professional football coach in the future.

Isha Sharma

Secondary Social Science Teacher

Isha studied studied Economics at Karim City College in Jamshedpur, and has been passionate about teaching from a very young age. In fact, she’s been tutoring her peers and younger students since she was only fourteen years old! Having seen the inequality in education imparted at schools, she wanted to make an impact in the lives of the underprivileged children to make a difference in their lives. Naturally an introvert, Isha enjoys cooking, books, poetry, music and movies.

Payton Souders

Education Volunteer - Secondary English Lit & Composition

Payton Souders is an alumna from the University of Virginia, majoring in Global Development Studies and Social Entrepreneurship. A young professional passionate about female empowerment, education, and cross-cultural understanding, Payton has been working in the NGO space for almost a decade. At Yuwa, Payton is an Education Volunteer specializing in Secondary English Literature and Composition. 

Board of Directors (India)

Alka Tiwari

Board Member

Originally from Ranchi, Alka is Founder and Executive Director of Talent Rewired, a corporate consultancy focused on soft skill training. Alka has been a Yuwa volunteer since 2014 and has enabled Yuwa’s association with the IIM Women’s Alumni Network.

Abhilash Tomy

Board member

Commander Abhilash Tomy, KC, NM is a retired Indian Navy officer, naval aviator and yachtsman. In 2013, he became the first Indian to complete a solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the world under sail. He also competed in the 2018 and 2023 Golden Globe Races. Abhi spoke at the same 2013 TEDx event in Mumbai with Franz and 13-year-old Kusum, and has been an avid supporter of Yuwa ever since.

Sita Kumari

Board member

Sita is one of Yuwa’s oldest alumni — a football player, workshop leader, and honorary Yuwa School student. Sita has a Masters in Chemistry from Ranchi Women’s College, and is a recent  Public Health graduate from Asian University for Women in Bangladesh, where she studied on a full merit scholarship. Sita is an unrelenting advocate for women’s rights, a powerful public speaker, and an outstanding representative of Yuwa alumni.

Board of Directors (USA)

Greg Deming

Board member

Greg facilitates Yuwa’s day to day U.S. operations and fundraising initiatives. Outside of Yuwa, he is a trader for Simplex Investments in Chicago, a proprietary electronic trading company specializing in equities and derivatives. Greg graduated from Indiana University with a BS in Economics and Finance.

Simran Bedi Singh


Simran is based in the Seattle area and is the Head of Clinical Operations at CTI BioPharma. Simran first got in touch with Yuwa in 2013, when her two daughters became digital pen pals with the Yuwa girls.

Varsha Bhatia

Board member

Based in Minneapolis, Varsha is a Secondary Math Educator. Varsha and her husband Shiv also helped to host the Yuwa team that competed in the USA Cup in 2014, and in 2019 they organized a fundraiser that brought in $75,000 for the construction of Yuwa School’s future campus.

About Yuwa

Yuwa, which means "youth" in Hindi, works specifically with girls from impoverished families in rural Jharkhand, India—a place where girls are at risk of child marriage and human trafficking. It is a program that uses team sports and education to build character, confidence, and courage. It is a place where girls who don't yet know their worth can meet to compete, achieve goals, and create brighter futures. Yuwa prepares girls to break the cycle of poverty—permanently.

Keep Reading

Yuwa was founded in 2009 when American Franz Gastler moved to Jharkhand from Delhi, where he had been working as a business consultant, and witnessed the striking disparity between the lives of girls and boys. He began to help girls challenge this inequality through team sport and education.

What started with one team quickly grew to several hundred girls. Today, more than 300 girls play each day on Yuwa's teams, making it one of the largest girls’ soccer programs in India, with 90 percent of teams coached by young women. Teams play on unused agricultural fields and any flattened piece of ground they can find.

In 2015 Rose Thomson (now Rose Gastler) founded Yuwa School, a premier school to give girls the tools they need to become empowered citizens, discover their own identity, and prepare for admission to universities in India and abroad. Girls age 6 to 18 in Yuwa School are taught in English, learn from world-class educators from India and abroad, and are supported by a long list of dedicated volunteers.

What sets Yuwa apart? Girls in Yuwa gain the tools and support they need to truly take control of their own lives in the face of extreme adversity. We teach life and leadership skills, and then provide the opportunities to earn scholarships, respect, and income as coaches and mentors. Today, more than 30 girls in Yuwa have spoken at universities, TEDx events, and other conferences across India and around the world. Yuwa girls are inspiring girls in their communities, throughout India, and across the globe to know their own worth.

These girls know their worth.
Be a part of their story.


Do something unexpected to become a part of the girls’ story.


Pledge your birthday

Change lives when you celebrate your birthday.


Skip your latte

For just $60 month, you can change a life.

Give monthly