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John Worcester

Executive Director

John has served as Executive Director since June 2022. He has helped Africa Bridge in various capacities since 2014, including supporting human resources, management, and as wingman accompanying his wife on many trips to Tanzania when she was Africa Bridge’s Program Director.

John’s purpose since he retired in 2013 from Evraz North America (after 40 years in human resources) is to help kids, and Africa Bridge has been an important avenue for him to do that. He has now been to Tanzania 12 times to see and assist Africa Bridge’s incredibly hard-working staff in Tukuyu, most recently in November of 2022. Each time he visits Tanzania, the best part for him is spending time with the villagers, especially the kids. 

John also supports Nuevas Sonrisas, a Portland-based NGO that provides preventive dental services to kids in a remote part of Guatemala. He helps the dentists on annual trips and serves as an advisor to the organization’s board. 

John holds a BA in Rhetoric from the University of California and has been married for 50 years to Ellen, who was Africa Bridge’s Program Director from 2013 – 2017. John and Ellen have two daughters—Shelley, who lives in Beaverton and Jenny, who lives in Chicago—and an honorary grandson, Roan, who’s 11 and lives in Portland.

Reola Phelps

Board Chair, Director of Development

Reola was a founding member of the Africa Bridge Board of Trustees and served on the board from 2001 – 2015. She returned in 2022 to put her experience in organizational development into practice as Africa Bridge’s Board Chair and Director of Development.

Reola is the President and Founder of Headwaters Leadership Group, a consulting firm specializing in designing and leading large-scale projects and initiatives and inspiring leaders and teams to create and implement desired futures. Her passion is helping to create organizations that truly achieve their vision and mission. She has lived and worked in many countries in Africa where she ran major organizational effectiveness projects for World Vision, a nonprofit relief and development organization. Reola led initiatives in Uganda, Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mali, Mauritania, Tanzania, and Kenya.  These projects included major reviews of the functioning of the organization, followed by various interventions to improve organizational effectiveness.

Reola holds degrees in English, Music, and Education from Brigham Young University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Colorado.

When not working, she enjoys spending time in the outdoors in Colorado, biking, hiking, skiing, playing golf, and with her husband, children, and grandchildren. 

Sharon Brabenac

Marketing & Communications

Sharon Brabenac consults for Africa Bridge in Marketing and Communications. Her passion is advocating for causes that fundamentally change people’s lives, and it is well reflected in her work. Sharon credits her affinity for Africa to an assignment in third grade, when she wrote a paper on Sudan.

In addition to her work with Africa Bridge, Sharon’s consulting business focusses on fundraising, community outreach, proposal and grant writing, strategic planning, training, and marketing. Her clients have included Quilts for Empowerment, YMCA of Columbia Willamette, Nursingale, and others. Prior to establishing her consultancy, Sharon was the Regional Major Gifts Officer for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Director of Major Gifts and Director of Resources Development (Child Care Division) for the YMCA of Columbia Willamette, Development Director for the YWCA of Greater Portland, and Director of Development at Self-Enhancement, Inc.

Sharon holds a BS and an MBA from Portland State University. She is an adjunct faculty member in the School of Business, teaching Business Communications Using Technology since 2019. Sharon serves on the board of the Lake Oswego Women’s Coalition and has served as President and on the advisory board for the YWCA of Greater Portland. She has also created a nonprofit called Access to Opportunity to raise funds for students in Belize.  Sharon enjoys gardening, traveling (especially international bike tours, such as those she has taken in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland), and she has been an avid stamp collector since she was a child. As a teenager, Sharon put together a large display of elephant stamps from around the world that were on exhibition at the Portland Zoo for 15 years and used to help build awareness and raise funds for the Elephants Lands at the zoo. 

Barry Childs

Founder, Board Member Emeritus

Barry is the founder of Africa Bridge. He grew up in Tanzania and was raised in a world that no longer exists. Over more than seven decades, Barry’s life journey has taken him from Tanzania to South Africa, the UK, Germany, Chicago, Oregon and Fairport, NY. Along the way, he worked as a farmer and a multifunctional executive at Exxon and Abbott Laboratories.

In 1998, Barry returned to Tanzania for the first time in 35 years. During this trip, he realized how fortunate he was to be born into a family with the resources to feed, educate, and expose him to opportunities that his village friends could not even conceive of. Within 18 months, he had retired early in order to level the playing field for vulnerable children in Africa. Barry’s mission is to engage leaders in transforming the lives of vulnerable village children. In 2000, he founded Africa Bridge. Growing up in rural Tanzania with a father who was an agricultural adviser prepared Barry for this work as did life experiences such as working in different cultures and corporate experiences in multiple functions, including team building and Total Quality Management.