About the event

Many people enter the development sector to be involved in meaningful, purpose-driven work. Often, working for mission-driven development organizations also involves operating in highly challenging contexts, frequent and unpredictable travel, overseas postings, and, particularly in humanitarian settings, exposure to violence or the aftermath of disasters.

For World Mental Health Day, Devex sits down with Dr. Kavita Avula, KonTerra’s Lead Consulting Psychologist, to discuss the impact of mental health challenges on the sector’s professionals, and how organizations can better support employees.

We'll be discussing:

  • Why professionals in the development and humanitarian sectors are at risk for work-related mental health issues.
  • How employers can ensure their organizations have the services and resources they need to provide adequate staff care
  • How to identify when an employee or colleague might be struggling with more than routine work stress — from anxiety to coping with traumatic incidents.
  • What individuals can do to look out for their well-being while in high stress environments.
Can't make it?
Register anyway and we'll send you a recorded version of the session

The Speakers


Emma Smith

Careers Reporter
Emma Smith is a Senior Careers Reporter at Devex, based in Barcelona. She focuses on bringing the latest career and hiring trends, tips, and insights to our global development community. Emma has a background in journalism and, in addition to writing for news publications, has worked with organizations focusing on child rights and women’s rights in sustainable development.

Dr. Kavita Avula, Psy.D.

Lead Consulting Psychologist
The KonTerra Group
Dr. Kavita Avula is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in international and cross-cultural psychology, trauma and resilience, crisis and critical incident response and group dynamics. Dr. Avula serves as the Lead Consulting Psychologist for The KonTerra Group and a consulting psychologist to The World Bank Group’s Personal & Work Stress Counseling Unit where she provides organizational consultation and staff care programming to humanitarian aid organizations on promoting emotional health and well-being. With experience in Afghanistan, Kenya, Ukraine, Uganda, Tanzania, Palestine, the Philippines, Peru, Mexico, and India, Dr. Avula provides psychological support and consultation to individuals and groups living or working in high stress environments. Dr. Avula is on the faculty of the Washington School of Psychiatry National Group Psychotherapy Institute where she is on the large group team.  She has presented on cultural competence, racial identity, the impact of microaggressions, and has participated in numerous educational play readings with the Red Well Theater Group. Finally, Dr. Avula is an educator and speaks on topics including cultivating organizational resilience, critical incident response, death notification, sexual harassment, bystander intervention, and creating flourishing communities.

Priyanka Rao

FHI Ventures
Priyanka Rao is the Principal of FHI Ventures, and leads the overall design, execution and management of the entity. Priyanka is also the Associate Director for Strategic Innovation responsible for leading organization-wide efforts that strengthen the innovation culture and architecture at FHI360 in close coordination with Operations and Enterprise Services. At FHI 360, she has also managed corporate strategic planning and supported executive and senior leadership in identifying opportunities for alternative business models and guided the development and execution of long-term strategies. Priyanka has an undergraduate degree in international studies from Michigan State University, holds a master’s degree in international affairs with an emphasis on economic development, global health and management from The New School University and completion of graduate coursework in philanthropy, public policy and nonprofit management from the University of Chicago.

Alex Evangelides

Senior Investment Manager
FINCA Ventures
Alex is a Senior Investment Manager with FINCA Ventures, an impact investing initiative by global microfinance pioneer FINCA International. FINCA Ventures provides patient capital and pre- and post-investment support to early-stage social enterprises across sub-Saharan Africa. In his role, Alex helps lead all aspects of the investment process, from pipeline development, to due diligence, to portfolio support. Prior to FINCA Ventures, Alex spent time at Fenix International, Dalberg Capital, and Deloitte Strategy Consulting. He completed his BA in Mathematics at Carleton College, and his MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Sandra Jennifer "Sandy" Cheeks

From the Surface
And both of these, if one would tell the truth, were foreordained unto the holy place, where greatest Peter’s follower hath his seat. While on this quest, for which thou giv’st him praise, he heard the things which of his victory the causes were, and of the Papal Robe. The Chosen Vessel went there afterward, to bring thence confirmation in the faith, through which one enters on salvation’s path. But why should I go there, or who concedes it? I ’m not Aeneas, nor yet Paul am I; me worthy of this, nor I nor others deem. If, therefore, I consent to come, I fear lest foolish be my coming; thou art wise, and canst much better judge than I can talk.”
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