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Our Team

Kaylene Alvarez, Founder & CEO of Athena Global

Kaylene is a development finance specialist with over 25 years’ experience in both the private and public sectors in impact investing, access to finance, SME/Entrepreneurial financing, gender lens investing (GLI) and risk management. Over the course of her career, she has worked in grass roots level organization in community development and microfinance, as well as on Wall Street in Mergers & Acquisitions for financial services companies in emerging markets, and for International Finance Corporation (IFC). She launched Athena Global to help bridge the gap for providing impact and blended finance capital to grow sustainable businesses in emerging markets, with a focus on SME, gender-lens and tech-enhanced financial services businesses.

Kaylene believes passionately about using finance as a tool for social good. She is on the impact investing committees for Convergence Design Funding Window (Asia), The Denver Foundation, Gary Community Foundation (Denver) and Indonesia Women’s Empowerment Fund (IWEF). She also mentors a variety of SME businesses. Kaylene finished her MBA from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) and Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is a returned US Peace Corps Volunteer, an avid reader, novice Vipassana meditation practitioner and textile aficionado.

Danielle Givens, Head of Operations

Danielle Givens has more than 15 years working in the international non-profit sector focused on building gender equity within integrated development programs. She started her career with the US Peace Corps serving in Romanian and has spent most of her career working closely with communities at the end of the road in various countries in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. She is skilled in participatory approaches to programming that incorporates sustainability models and outcome oriented M&E within partner organizations. She places a strong emphasis on valuing women, not counting them and applies this methodology to organizations to help shift their focus from women’s empower to gender equity. Danielle has managed programs in over 15 countries covering a variety of integrated programming, from health and malaria to livelihoods and gender based violence.

Danielle is dedicated to empowering women through the language of finance. Most recently Danielle has focused on the intersection of philanthropy and finance, working to empower local women owned small businesses to have a firm understanding and grasp of their businesses; from finance and accounting to marketing and sales. She works through a profit first model, which helps small business owners take control of their spending and prioritize positive profits and sustainable growth. Danielle has a Master’s in International Development and speaks Spanish, Romania and working Portuguese. She lives in Todos Santos,Mexico with her family.

 

Ramona Ridolfi, Gender Specialist

Ramona has 11 years of experience in international development promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in a range of development areas including agriculture and nutrition, economic empowerment, public health, and vocational skills. She has worked on programs funded by USAID, BMGF, DFID, Global Affairs Canada, and private foundations including Mondelez and Unilever. Prior to joining Athena, Ramona was Regional Gender Advisor for Asia-Pacific with Helen Keller International (HKI) based in Cambodia, supporting programs across Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia and leading gender integration within policies and operations globally. Ramona introduced a global gender policy which was endorsed by the HKI Board of Directors in 2018.

Before Cambodia, she worked with HKI in Bangladesh, where she developed and implemented the Nurturing Connections© gender transformative approach for women’s empowerment that received regional and international attention, including integration into a DFID-funded GBP 48M SUCHANA project. In Bangladesh Ramona also co-founded the (I)NGOs Gender Working Group, a network of local and international organizations collaborating on gender-focused initiatives in the country. Ramona’s experience in promoting gender integration and women’s empowerment also includes research and advocacy assignments in Australia and Pakistan with UN Women, and implementation and advisory support to development programs in multiple countries across West Africa, South and South East Asia. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Monash University, Melbourne (Australia), and a BA in Political Science from Universita’ degli Studi di Milano (Italy).

Hama Makino, Gender & Inclusive Business, Impact Investing & Emerging Markets Specialist

Hama is a business professional with over 20 years of experience in the financial services sector. She has focused the last 12+ years exclusively on helping solve financial inclusion challenges in 20+ emerging market countries across Latin America and the Caribbean,Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe/Central Asia. Through this work, she has dedicated her efforts to grow and support women entrepreneurs and other underserved populations. Over the years, she has specialized in various themes like Gender Lens Investing and Gender Inclusive Finance, Risk Management, Renewable Energy, Digital Finance, and Affordable Housing Finance. Additionally, she possesses extensive experience in client relationship management across various types of clients (donors, institutional investors, financial institutions, etc.), project management, managing teams, proposal writing, fundraising, and delivering strategic and operational programs. Hama received her BA from New York University in Art History and Spanish, and her Master’s in Economic Political Development from Columbia University. She is an avid learner of languages and speaks English, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. She is also polishing her rusty Italian while miserably failing at learning Dutch. Since 2019 she has lived in Amsterdam, Netherlands with her cat and husband. She moonlights as a life and professional coach, practices meditation and yoga, and takes lots of tea breaks.

Alvaro Espitia, Data & Business Model Specialist

Alvaro is a data & business model specialist  with over 6 years’ experience in the private and public sectors in investment banking, market research and data management.  He has worked in trade and regional integration at the World Bank, as well as part of the founding team of KIDU, a Polymath Ventures company, leading the market analysis and financial analysis for the rollout of a USD $550K company focused on serving working mothers in Latin America.

 

Jose Luis Martinez Gomez, SME Specialist

Jose Luis is an entrepreneur in the storage services sector; providing consulting and advisory services in the expansion and

development of businesses and products for SMEs. He worked for more than 10 years in the financial sector (as a stock broker) in product areas for SMEs; generating new products and services, seeking business opportunities, participating in projects for clients of the SME segment and strategic planning.

 

Katherine Baez, Financial Inclusion & Risk Specialist

Katherine Baez is an experienced consultant in risk management and risk quantification, financial modeling, market research and business development with more than 15 years of professional experience focused mainly on finance, investment, insurance, and pensions.

Katherine is also an international consultant on financial inclusion and social protection, participating in projects mainly in LAC for multinational companies and institutions such as the World Bank and the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF). Katherine is an economist with a Master of Actuarial Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an MBA from Barna Management School.

 

Robert Hurst, Communications & Storytelling Advisor

For the past 27 years, Robert has worked as a writer; having authored over 12 bicycling-related books and edited several more, including, but not limited to, Road Biking Colorado (2015) Family Biking: The Parent’s Guide to Safe Cycling (2015), The Art of Cycling, 2nd edition (2014), Best Bike Rides Denver and Boulder (2013), The Bicycle Commuter’s Handbook (2013), The Art of Mountain Biking (2011), The Cyclist’s Manifesto (2010), The Bicycle Commuter’s Pocket Guide (2009), and The Art of Cycling (2007). He has also published multiple articles about Colorado history and authored the book Hiking Through History Colorado (2016). From 1999-2001, Robert designed, published and edited Trails Magazine and Puckhead Magazine, which built a strong readership and following. 

Most recently Robert has been primarily working with small to mid-sized non-profit organizations, from national monument caretaker organizations to soccer clubs, writing grant proposals and researching fundraising opportunities, securing over 90% of grants submitted. Prior to his writing career Robert spent 10 plus years as a professional bike messenger in Denver; he has cycled more than 180,000 miles and 18,000 hours in heavy traffic. Robert holds a BA from University of Colorado, Boulder in Philosophy and US History. He lives in Denver with his wife Christie, a middle-school science teacher, and daughter Beatrice.