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. After spending months with Yuwa’s young female coaches in Dharavi slum in Mumbai, she moved to Yuwa’s base in rural Jharkhand. Rose coordinated Yuwa’s education program for two years before founding Yuwa School in 2015. Today she acts as school Principal and part-time Ultimate Frisbee coach.

Niharika Baxla

Program Director

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

Football Program Coordinator

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. At Yuwa, Kalawati manages the inventory and accounting for football equipment, coaches practices for youth teams, and leads life-skills workshops for girls. In 2016, Kalawati completed a UNOSDP Leadership Training in Tampa, Florida.

Amit Sharma Kumar’

Football Program Coordinator

Amit Sharma has come up through Yuwa’s football program, and started leading practices in 2012 at age sixteen. He is our first young coach to take the All-India Football Federation ‘D’ license coaching course, which he passed at the top of his class. He consistently scores ‘outstanding’, Yuwa’s top level, in his practice coaching assessments. Currently, he coordinates Yuwa’s low-cost health insurance program in addition to coaching, assessing other coaches, and leading weekly coaches’ meetings.

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

Haasini Sai Sri Gurram

Math Teacher

Hailing from Visakhapatnam, Haasini graduated in BA economics from Lady Shri Ram College for Woman and is a Teach for India Alumna. Prior to Yuwa, she worked with Avasara Academy as a teacher. In her spare time, she paints, blogs, does gardening, and choreographs dance routines. Haasini is driven to work with schools that work towards girls’ education and hopes to start a school for girls in the future near her hometown. She also enjoys reading books on Feminism and Women empowerment.

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.

Sharmistha Das

Head Teacher (Secondary) and Social Science Teacher

Sharmistha teaches geography, civics, and history to standards 5 – 9. She graduated with a BTech (Electronic and Communication Engineering) from JIS College of Engineering, Kalyani, before deciding to change course and try her hand at education. Sharmistha is also the resident art and craft teacher at Yuwa School, and has unofficially taken on the role of lead choreographer for teacher dances performed at the bi-annual Talent Shows.

Harsha Bhamidipati

Math & Science Teacher

Harsha teaches Math and Science classes in the middle and high school. Originally from Bangalore, Harsha has a BA in Science from University of South Australia and a B.Tech from NIT Surathkal. A football and Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast, Harsha often attends evening Yuwa practices and organizes extra frisbee games on Saturdays. He also acts as one of the Student Council Teacher Liaisons.

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.

Varun Naik

Middle School Teacher

Varun hails from Bangalore and teachers Science and Math to standards 5 and 6, as well as Environmental Studies to standard 11. Varun has a Masters in Peace Education from the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica, as well as a Civil Engineering Degree from Sir M. Visvesvaraya Institute of Technology in Bangalore. In addition to teaching academic classes, Varun also conducts life-skills workshops for the boys who play in Yuwa’s football program and acts as one of the Student Council Teacher Liaisons.

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 1-2 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.

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.

Parita Patel

Board member

A Mumbai-based freelance writer and former editor of Femina India, Parita has volunteered annually with Yuwa since 2014.

Shefali Chaturvedi

Board Member

Shefali has 27 years of professional experience with Confederation of Indian Industry; as Head of multiple Programs, including Convener of Industry led Foundations, Councils, Committees, Programs in the areas of CSR, HIV/ AIDS, Women Empowerment, Empowerment of People with Disability, Industry- Civil society Interface, Bio- diversity conservation. She has served as Founding Executive Director- Society of Indian Defense Manufacturers (SIDM), Founder CEO – CII Foundation, Director – CII’s Young Indians, CEO – Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC).

Board of Directors (USA)

Missy Franklin

Board member

Based in Colorado, Missy is a 5-time Olympic gold medal swimmer — a living legend at just 25 years old. Missy first met the Yuwa team in 2019, when she presented the Laureus Sport for Good Award to Yuwa in Monaco.

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.

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