Our Team

Our team in the U.S. is 100% volunteer, and we have long-term relationships with our dedicated partners in Nepal.

How We Began

The original seeds of Changing Lives Nepal were sown in 1999 when Deana began her work as Peace Corps Volunteer and helped to start a grassroots nonprofit in Nepal that began growing tea to help farmers earn their way out of poverty. This non-profit has grown into a long-term partner of Changing Lives Nepal today.

When Deana began guiding treks in Nepal in 2005, she helped connect her first trekking groups to social projects where they could give back after their adventures. Many people who traveled with Deana were moved by Nepal’s warm and welcoming people and the hardship of their local living conditions. Over the years, travelers and adventurers have  generously given and helped to build the foundation of Changing Lives Nepal.

After decades of leading local community service efforts in the US, Nancy began international travels that opened her heart to work more globally. In 2008, Nancy brought her husband and children on a journey to Everest Base Camp with Deana as their guide. Nancy and Deana discovered they shared a deep desire to support the people of Nepal, so they joined together to establish Changing Lives Nepal and have been making a difference with targeted grants and personal involvement ever since.

Our Team

Deana Zabaldo

Founder & Executive Director

Marin County, California

Deana Zabaldo has 23 years of hands-on experience in the Himalayas and a passion for its culture and peoples. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sankhuwasabha District of Nepal, she learned about the complexities of international development, regional politics, caste hierarchy, women’s roles, economic disparity, and indigenous heritage—all while hiking through the world’s most spectacular mountains. This experience continued to inspire her as she became an award-winning professional trekking guide in Nepal and Bhutan and a catalyst for sustainable development in the remote Himalayas. Deana has shaped programs, advised local innovators, raised funds, and built powerful, productive relationships for CLN both at home and in Nepal. She has an abiding dedication to make a positive impact in the world.

In the U.S., Deana works as a Somatic Coach, inspiring people to connect with their full mind-body intelligence and live happier, more balanced lives. Her work in embodied awareness arises from a 30-year practice of yoga and meditation and a professional background that includes launching international exchange programs, teaching behavioral psychology, and conducting education and training at Lucent Technologies, Stanford University and Bank of the West. Deana loves hiking, running, road trips, alpine lakes and exploring at home and around the world.

Nancy Porten

Founder & Director

Incline Village, Nevada

Nancy has a love of outdoor adventures and a heart always open to those in need. Trekking to Everest Base Camp had been a lifelong aspiration.  In 2008, she brought her husband Steve and their three children on a magical, life-changing adventure through Nepal to the base of Mount Everest where Deana was their guide. Nancy’s journey opened a new path for her to make a meaningful contribution to people whose profound need she had witnessed firsthand. She invested in ethically-sourced Nepali art and jewelry and created a network of stores from Nantucket to Lake Tahoe selling these products. Her efforts generated a steady income flow that helped launch CLN as an independent, flexible funder with a self-sustaining revenue stream.  She continues to raise funds, work with retail outlets, and collaborate on CLN’s diverse grants and projects.

Nancy’s draw to the mountains began with family camping escapes from Los Angeles to the Sierras when she was a child. After bringing her professional skills in marketing and sales from tech industry to two successful start-ups with her husband Steve (Porten Homes and Buildtopia), she followed her love of nature from Washington DC back to the Sierras. Nancy and Steve moved their three school-aged children to a new life in Lake Tahoe, where they have lived since 2004. The importance of family and giving back are still paramount in Nancy’s life. She contributes to her local community through teaching yoga and fitness classes and by choreographing dance performances for the local public schools. Nancy hikes, bikes, snowshoes, skis, and continues to bring her family along on these adventures!

Nancy Porten

Founder & Director

Incline Village, Nevada

Nancy has a love of outdoor adventures and a heart always open to those in need. Trekking to Everest Base Camp had been a lifelong aspiration.  In 2008, she brought her husband Steve and their three children on a magical, life-changing adventure through Nepal to the base of Mount Everest where Deana was their guide. Nancy’s journey opened a new path for her to make a meaningful contribution to people whose profound need she had witnessed firsthand. She invested in ethically-sourced Nepali art and jewelry and created a network of stores from Nantucket to Lake Tahoe selling these products. Her efforts generated a steady income flow that helped launch CLN as an independent, flexible funder with a self-sustaining revenue stream.  She continues to raise funds, work with retail outlets, and collaborate on CLN’s diverse grants and projects.

Nancy’s draw to the mountains began with family camping escapes from Los Angeles to the Sierras when she was a child. After bringing her professional skills in marketing and sales from tech industry to two successful start-ups with her husband Steve (Porten Homes and Buildtopia), she followed her love of nature from Washington DC back to the Sierras. Nancy and Steve moved their three school-aged children to a new life in Lake Tahoe, where they have lived since 2004. The importance of family and giving back are still paramount in Nancy’s life. She contributes to her local community through teaching yoga and fitness classes and by choreographing dance performances for the local public schools. Nancy hikes, bikes, snowshoes, skis, and continues to bring her family along on these adventures!

Parshu Dahal

Founder and Director, Society Development Center

Kathmandu & Sankhuwasabha District, Nepal

Parshu Dahal is an innovative thinker with a profound commitment to creating greater equity and economic independence in rural Nepal. Parshu’s talents include sourcing new technical agricultural knowledge, establishing trust with farmers and diverse communities, and negotiating Nepal’s complex bureaucracy to effectively garner local and national government funds. He has met with Ministers of Parliament, Maoist leaders, “untouchable” castes, mayors, bankers, farmers, schoolchildren, and INGO Country Directors…and manages to build rapport with them all.

Parshu met Deana in 1999, when she arrived to teach and train teachers as a Peace Corps Volunteer at the remote university campus where Parshu was an instructor. They began by teaching together and writing grants to develop the college campus with new classrooms and a library. Clearly aligned in their vision to help the people of Nepal, Parshu and Deana worked together to create a local team and establish Society Development Center (SODEC) in 2001 with a focus on poverty alleviation. Deana has advised and supported SODEC since her time in the Peace Corps, and the founding of CLN created a more formal partnership.

The first generation of his family to go to school, Parshu earned dual graduate degrees in English and Rural Development and was a widely-respected university teacher for 18 years while also conducting field research projects for INGO’s such as DFID and GTZ. He has also directed SODEC programs for 21 years and continues this work today. Parshu’s father had successfully experimented with cash crops, which inspired Parshu to develop new organic cash crop industries as a path out of poverty for rural families. Parshu has read literature from Walt Whitman to Anton Chekov and tells dry jokes where you need to listen closely for the laughing point. Parshu and his wife have one college-age son, who finally taught his dad to ride a motorcycle.

Neel Shahi

Founder and Director, TEAM Nepal

Kathmandu & Sindhupalchowk District

Neel Shahi is a successful, self-made businessman who has never forgotten his roots. At 13, he ran away from his rural village to the capital city after the death of his father. With only change in his pockets and a desire to help support his family, Neel worked his way from hawking tiny statues on the street corners to building a successful Buddhist art business in the heart of Thamel, the tourist quarter of Kathmandu, with his partner Sunil Rajkarnikar. Neel went on to organize a group of Thamel businessmen from his home region to donate regularly and support the school in their village area. Neel has spent half his life supporting Terse Primary and Secondary School and is President of the school managing committee. He also built a village home for his widowed mother before he built a home for his own family in Kathmandu.

Deana first met Neel at his shop where he taught her all about thangkas (hand-painted Buddhist artwork) while she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1999. Neel and Deana forged a friendship which became the foundation of their CLN partnership. She later brought her trekking groups for tea and thangkas when guiding her clients through the streets of Thamel, and they helped to support the village school and the start of the Children’s Home.

In 2009, Neel founded TEAM Nepal (Together Everyone Achieves More) and formed an official partnership with CLN. For over 20 years, he has worked with abundant energy and endless optimism to promote education and children’s well-being across the entire district where he grew up. Neel and his wife are proud of their three sons and were delighted with the birth of their first grandchild in 2021! Neel also cares for the Children’s Home kids as his own and happily spends much of his free time in the mountain village.

Neel Shahi

Founder and Director, TEAM Nepal

Kathmandu & Sindhupalchowk District

Neel Shahi is a successful, self-made businessman who has never forgotten his roots. At 13, he ran away from his rural village to the capital city after the death of his father. With only change in his pockets and a desire to help support his family, Neel worked his way from hawking tiny statues on the street corners to building a successful Buddhist art business in the heart of Thamel, the tourist quarter of Kathmandu, with his partner Sunil Rajkarnikar. Neel went on to organize a group of Thamel businessmen from his home region to donate regularly and support the school in their village area. Neel has spent half his life supporting Terse Primary and Secondary School and is President of the school managing committee. He also built a village home for his widowed mother before he built a home for his own family in Kathmandu.

Deana first met Neel at his shop where he taught her all about thangkas (hand-painted Buddhist artwork) while she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1999. Neel and Deana forged a friendship which became the foundation of their CLN partnership. She later brought her trekking groups for tea and thangkas when guiding her clients through the streets of Thamel, and they helped to support the village school and the start of the Children’s Home.

In 2009, Neel founded TEAM Nepal (Together Everyone Achieves More) and formed an official partnership with CLN. For over 20 years, he has worked with abundant energy and endless optimism to promote education and children’s well-being across the entire district where he grew up. Neel and his wife are proud of their three sons and were delighted with the birth of their first grandchild in 2021! Neel also cares for the Children’s Home kids as his own and happily spends much of his free time in the mountain village.

Bill Winfield

Advisor 

Moab, Utah

Bill Winfield believes in giving back to others and has always felt called to help those in need. Supporting CLN since 2017, Bill deepened his commitment through broader fundraising for CLN and regular visits to Nepal where he has forged a bond with the children at our home in Talamarang, visited local schools, expanded our nascent coffee industry, and visited regional farmers. Having run successful construction companies for over 30 years in Nevada and Utah, Bill has also brought hands-on help to our programs. He has installed water storage tanks, developed a spring for garden use, aided in general building and facilities repairs, and taught our staff to use a rototiller. Through his work and enthusiasm, Bill has inspired friends and family to also become involved with CLN from sewing handmade quilts to fundraising through sales of Nepali jewelry. Bill regularly hikes to the top of mesas and peaks throughout nearby states and explores the backroads on his Endura motorcycle. 

Jen Dudley

Technology and Administration

Castle Rock, Colorado

Jen Dudley is a savvy and organized woman with a heart of gold and a grounded presence. Jen’s plans to get married at Everest Base Camp were derailed by the devastating earthquakes of 2015, but she stayed calm. A week later, as their trekking group waited to evacuate from the Khumbu region, Jen and Erik tied the knot at a picturesque Buddhist temple on the side of a cliff, in a ceremony arranged by Deana as their guide. Jen felt a deep desire to give back in Nepal, and she has supported CLN since 2015 by building HTML newsletters, tracking donations and grants, maintaining the website, and keeping everything highly organized. Jen is a professional technology consultant with a history of success in business development and talent acquisition. She is passionate about animal advocacy and is a veteran of the National Guard. Jen and Erik are raising a family that includes two beautiful young children (a son and a daughter), Jen’s two teenage girls, two dogs, and a cat.

Jen Dudley

Technology and Administration

Castle Rock, Colorado

Jen Dudley is a savvy and organized woman with a heart of gold and a grounded presence. Jen’s plans to get married at Everest Base Camp were derailed by the devastating earthquakes of 2015, but she stayed calm. A week later, as their trekking group waited to evacuate from the Khumbu region, Jen and Erik tied the knot at a picturesque Buddhist temple on the side of a cliff, in a ceremony arranged by Deana as their guide. Jen felt a deep desire to give back in Nepal, and she has supported CLN since 2015 by building HTML newsletters, tracking donations and grants, maintaining the website, and keeping everything highly organized. Jen is a professional technology consultant with a history of success in business development and talent acquisition. She is passionate about animal advocacy and is a veteran of the National Guard. Jen and Erik are raising a family that includes two beautiful young children (a son and a daughter), Jen’s two teenage girls, two dogs, and a cat.

Chiara Solitario

Communications

Global Nomad

Chiara Solitario is a passionate advocate for women and children with an adventurous spirit. Chiara first found out about CLN through one of our advisors, Bill Winfield. While working in Rwanda to promote gender equity, Chiara had an American intern, Bill’s nephew, who shared tales of motorcycle escapades and his work for our Nepal children’s home with his Uncle Bill. When Chiara later moved to Moab, Utah, she connected directly with Bill and was moved by his stories of Nepal. Inspired by CLN’s mission, Chiara has assisted with grant communications, website content, background research, and social media communications. She is an avid hiker, rock climber, and ice climber. Chiara alternates her time between the east and west coasts and is an avid traveler. She looks forward to visiting Nepal in the future.

You’ve Met Our Team, Now Learn More About Our Approach

Design: Misha Gehring

Photos: Deana Zabaldo

Changing Lives Nepal © 2022