Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

Leadership Team Toggle

Karen Larson

President & CEO

Karen joined Friendship Bridge in May 2009. Prior to her transition to international nonprofit work, she was the President and COO for Key Equipment Finance, Global Vendor Services, a division of KeyCorp where she had responsibility for the leasing business in 26 countries. In addition to KeyCorp, Karen spent 12 years with ATT Capital, the financing arm of AT&T, successfully building and managing numerous technology manufacturer private label customer finance programs. As an industry leader, Karen has been a frequent speaker and author on the subjects of global leasing, outsourced partnerships, women in leasing and leadership training. Karen received a BA in economics from the University of California, San Diego, and completed executive education programs at Duke University, the Fuqua School of Business and Case Western University.

Astrid Cardona de Paiz

Guatemala Country Director

Astrid Yerlin Cordona Morán de Paiz, a native of Guatemala has a strong finance background, including six years with KPMG and two years as a finance consultant with the World Bank. She was most recently an accountant for Pepsico Beverages C.A. before moving from Guatemala City to Panajachel, Sololá, to focus on helping rural Guatemalan women. Astrid graduated cum laude from the Universidad Francisco Marroquín located in Guatemala City. Astrid is a CPA and has her MBA from ESAB, La Escola Superior de Alta Gerencia.

Yanira Escobar

Director of Credit and Operations

Yanira has significant experience in portfolio management and recovery and operational credit processes in formal banks and MFIs in Guatemala and Central America. She also has experience in market research, customer segmentation including sales of services and financial products to micro, small and medium-sized clients. She has worked with credit and operations in Finca Guatemala and El Salvador, and supports Friendship Bridge in finding efficiencies, achieving consistent processes, facing a competitive and over-indebted market, and meeting clients’ credit needs in a timely manner.

Heidy Garrido

Director of People Services

Heidy has a long track record in people management, training, career development, defining and monitoring of key success indicators, and advisory of business women and entrepreneurs. She worked for 10 years as a leader and executive at the Guatemalan Managers’ Association (AGG in Spanish). Most recently, Heidy worked at Energuate as Manager of Social Management and Corporate Social Responsibility, monitoring and evaluating social and commercial projects, working on the recovery and sustainability of clients, leading the area of social intelligence for assertive decision making, supporting conflict resolution, and managing strategic allies.

Carlos Buitrago

Credit Manager

Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Carlos Jaime Buitrago Gonzalez has consulted for various microfinance institutions for more than 25 years throughout Latin America, including Brazil, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico. Carlos has extensive experience working in the areas of credit analysis, scorecards, employee time management and staff incentive programs.  He has also worked with a variety of loan models including group loans, solidarity group loans and individual credit programs. Prior to joining Friendship Bridge, Carlos worked with institutions such as Banco Solidario in Ecuador, Finamerica in Colombia, Crediamigo of Banco Nordeste in Brazil and Genesis Guatemala, among others. Carlos holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and a graduate degree in Education from Universidad Pedagógica Nacional de Colombia.

Victor Contreras

Human Resources Manager

A native of Guatemala, Victor has over seven years of experience managing human resources in various industries. Victor has worked with Friendship Bridge for two years, leading the human resources department and providing expertise in recruitment, selection, training and other human management processes. Victor has an MBA in Human Resources from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala.

Rebecca Cueto

Treasury Manager

Rebecca has two decades of hands-on experience in accounting and finance for small, private organizations, including nonprofits. Prior to joining Friendship Bridge, she worked primarily in the medical devices industry, serving as an original team member in seven startups. She helped achieve successful exits for the original shareholders in most of these startups and spring boarded three to industry leaders. Rebecca’s nonprofit work includes co-directing an organization that provided video-filmmaking education to high school students in and around Boulder, Colorado. Rebecca has a B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois.

Estela Jocón

Education Manager

Maria Estela Jocón González has a background in social work and managing projects related to development, human rights, and participative methodology. Estela has designed training programs for women and built capacities at national institutions about human rights based approaches. Estela is a Mayan woman and belongs to the Kaq’chikel and Poqomam groups. In her role as Friendship Bridge’s Education Manager Estela coordinates the nonformal education program and defines education strategies by each loan cycle. The goal of this program is to give clients the tools, knowledge and abilities to pursue life changes through newfound empowerment.

Brandi Mason

Vice President, Global Communications & Partnerships

Brandi was most recently the Director of Development for the Boulder County AIDS Project. Prior to this role, she served as the volunteer coordinator for Deutsche Bank’s Social Investment Funds Group, in addition to holding her full-time position on the Securitization Team of the Loan Exposure Management Group at DB in New York City.  Her volunteer position with DB secured her a role on the Board of Directors of the Microfinance Club of New York where she served as Events Co-Chair.  In this role, she organized monthly events and panels on microfinance.  In addition, Brandi served as a consultant through DB for two months at an MFI in western India called Mann Deshi Bank.  Brandi has fundraised in paid and volunteer positions for multiple organizations including The New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.  She has studied abroad in Northern India, China, the UK and Italy, in addition to volunteering at an AIDS Outreach Center and Orphanage in Tanzania. Brandi is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and holds a B.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University. Brandi lives in the foothills of Boulder, Colorado with her husband, daughter and dog, Bubs.

Francisco Meletz

Regional Operations Manager

Francisco is from Sololá, Guatemala and has been working with Friendship Bridge for ten years. As Regional Operations Manger he oversees the Friendship Bridge agencies in Mazatenango, Quiché, Chimaltenango, and Huehuetenango. In his ten years of employment with Friendship Bridge, Francisco has held seven different positions, which has allowed him to know all of the various processes at Friendship Bridge. In his current role, he maintains consistency in applications of operational processes and revises and proposes more efficient methods of bringing high quality services to Friendship Bridge clients.

Marco Monroy

Agriculture Project Manager

Marco Monroy brings over 20 years of experience, including an extensive background working with agrobusiness, rural value chains, and social entrepreneurship programs. He has worked with international investment funds and development agencies, as well as MFIs, NGOs, and small micro-entrepreneur growers. His experience in the agriculture sector includes access to financing and markets, productivity and sustainability, and access to international investment funds. Marco’s experience with market access has helped smallholder growers expand within competitive markets through technical training and introduction of high value produce. Marco has a degree in mechanical and industrial engineering from Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala.

Caitlin Scott

Social Performance Manager

Caitlin is responsible for Social Performance Management (SPM) at Friendship Bridge. She works with leadership to develop a strategy to keep Friendship Bridge at the cutting edge of industry advances and trends, standards, and certifications.  In addition, she created and leads a team that is responsible for monitoring and evaluation activities within the organization.  Caitlin joined Friendship Bridge in 2000, when she began volunteering and interning for the organization, and she became an employee in 2009. Prior to becoming Social Performance Manager, Caitlin served in many positions in Friendship Bridge including Program and Project Manager, Development Associate, and Office Administrator. Caitlin holds a Master’s degree in international development, with a concentration in microfinance, from the Josef Korbel School for International Studies at the University of Denver. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Colorado at Denver with a degree in international affairs with a minor in Spanish. Caitlin is trained as an advanced user for the Progress out of Poverty Index® by the Grameen Foundation, was the first external Certified Trainer for the PPI®.

Greg Stone

Health Program Manager

Greg began with Friendship Bridge in July 2016. He has spent over 10 years working for a variety of nonprofit organizations with a focus on health and livelihoods development. Prior to joining Friendship Bridge, Greg worked with the Louisiana Public Health Institute in the US as an analyst and project leader where he demonstrated success designing, optimizing, and informing innovative health projects with data about populations, markets, and operations. Greg also held various posts with ACTED, the American Refugee Committee and Mercy Corps in Iraq, South Sudan, and Liberia where he built the capacity of local teams working to improve the health of all beneficiaries. He received a Master’s degree in International Development and a PhD in International Health and Development from Tulane University.