Rob Tizard

Board Chair

Robert Tizard was born in Canada and grew up in Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M university in 1994 after studying geography and wildlife management. Within weeks of graduation he moved to Laos where he lived for over 10 years. During this period he has worked on birds, bats, tigers, elephants, ecotourism, and protected areas and community land and natural resource issues. He has worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society on-and-off in Lao PDR, North Korea, and Myanmar as well as establishing the World Wildlife Fund’s office in Lao PDR and running the award winning Nam Ha Ecotourism project for UNESCO. He joined the board of VFI soon after the organization was formed and has been an active member ever since. Much of his early work on community land and natural resources in Salavan Province was a precursor to VFI’s successful Rights-LINK project. In 2006 Rob moved to Myanmar where he currently works as the Technical Advisor to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Myanmar Program. Much of his work continues to revolve around land and natural resources issues with local communities, especially with marginalized forest communities, and increasingly with ethnic armies such as the Kachin and Karen as they work to end years of conflict.

Rick Reece

Executive Director

As the Executive Director of Village Focus International, Rick Reece is an ex-Officio (non voting) member of VFI’s Board of Directors. Rick works full time in Laos and Cambodia to be close VFI’s work in the field; an usual situation for most international NGOs. Rick is the joint Founder of VFI, and has presided over VFI’s growth from a tiny organization with few staff and limited resources to a dynamic organization that has a significant national development presence in both Laos and Cambodia.

Rick – pictured here with his wife Nalin Meckdala - they have two children (Alan, 17 and Anna, 6) and is an active member of the expatriate community in Laos. He serves on the Vientiane International School (VIS) School Board (5 years and counting) and plays basketball and golf whenever the opportunity allows.

Rick has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy, Planning and Management from the University of Oregon, a Master’s Degree in Asian Studies from the University of Michigan, and a B.A in Developmental Psychology from Hope College in Michigan, USA.

Jeffrey Phillips


Jeffrey Phillips is a Hong Kong-based Resident Program Officer for the International Republican Institute (IRI), an American nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting democracy and governance (DG) worldwide. In this capacity, Jeffrey works on IRI’s programs in China, Laos and elsewhere in Asia that focus on four thematic areas: civil society strengthening; rights awareness and education; governance and participation; and public policy influence. Jeffrey has developed expertise providing strategic consulting and delivering training programs to local partners on subjects such as monitoring and evaluation, proposal writing, financial management, grants management and report writing. Previously, for more than three years Jeffrey worked as a Program Officer in IRI’s Washington, DC headquarters, overseeing multiple grants and leading various aspects of grant management and DG programming.

Prior to his tenure at IRI, Jeffrey worked as a legislative aide in Washington, DC to Congressman (now Senator) Mark Kirk from Jeffrey’s home state of Illinois. He assisted Congressman Kirk in developing and implementing a legislative agenda that focused both on international issues such as human rights and trade, as well as improved local governance.

Jeffrey earned an MA in International Relations and Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Jeffrey joined the VFI board in 2013 as its newest member. He brings expertise in development and governance work in Southeast Asia as well as experience in grants management and oversight.

Keith McDade


Keith McDade, Ph.D. is currently an Assistant Professor of Sustainability Studies at Lenoir-Rhyne University Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville; a coordinator of the MS in Sustainability Studies program; and a Co-Director of the Reese Institute for Conservation of Natural Resources in North Carolina. He received his Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environment from the University of Michigan, specializing in Sustainability Behavior, Education and Communication. He has an MS in Environmental Studies and a Masters degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He has worked internationally in The Gambia, West Africa, the Federated States of Micronesia and as an advisor with VFI in Laos. While working with VFI, he recognized the organization’s remarkable ability to build capacity at the local level in ways that address upstream, downstream and direct causes and consequences of development challenges related to land, livelihood, health, justice and opportunity in Laos and Cambodia. Keith lives in Asheville, NC (USA), working with students, colleagues and various communities to make the world a more sustainable place by enhancing the potential for people and all life forms to flourish on this planet for as long as possible.