About Us

Who we are

Mental Health International is a project of the Center for Health and Human Development. CHHD was set up in 2006 as an umbrella organization to provide funding and capacity building support to innovative, effective programs of health and human development, primarily in low and middle income countries.

“To strengthen the family movement for global mental health, the women’s global empowerment movement and the international nonprofit sector with research and evaluation support, organizational capacity development, strategic planning and fiscal management.”
-CHHD’s MHI Mission


Our Board members bring a wealth of international program development, management, fundraising, best practice, evaluation and research knowledge to the organizations we serve. Currently, board members are involved in projects of global mental health, global health, HIV-AIDS, educational innovation linking learning and research, women’s empowerment, and more.

The programs CHHD currently supports include:

  • Mental Health International (MHI)
  • La Linea Scholarship Fund (El Salvador)


CHHD-MHI functions as a capacity building organization. In this aspect we collaborate and communicate with small grassroots organizations, organizations who best know the needs of their specific communities, and try to help them grow and expand their capabilities. We do this by providing and helping implement best practice methods to growing nonprofit organizations.

By consulting with us, organizations cut their growth time and increase their capacity for work, therefore providing a better benefits for beneficiaries in a shorter amount of time.

CHHD-MHI also tries to increase the view of the organizations with whom we partner with. We do this by providing a larger audience for these organizations and also presenting grant proposals on their behalf. Partnering allows these organizations to solely focus on programs and their effectiveness while we take on some responsibility with funding and awareness campaigns.


We at CHHD-MHI know the importance of collaboration and human rights in the field of mental health. With this in mind we coordinate with other organizations, academics, and government parties to ensure that our partners are growing and networking in order to produce the most good.

We strive to include rights awareness as part of our best practice methods for growing these nonprofits. We have helped coordinate and convene meetings from leadership conferences to mental rights marches with collaborators and our partners.


One of the issues we face at CHHD-MHI comes down to the core of the work we do. As a capacity building organization we don’t directly produce programs, instead we provide the professional knowledge, funding, and resources to expand successful programs.

Because of this it is difficult to apply for large forms of funding, even though the funds would directly help expand grassroots nonprofits. We rely on donors to make this distinction and help us continue the work we do. CHHD-MHI is also a global organization, because of this there are many logistical concerns associated with the nature of our work. We strive and overcome by being culturally sensitive and relying on our partners to help with certain logistics on the ground floor.

Board and staff


Samuel V. Nickels, Ph.D

Director and Board Member, Center for Health and Human Development
Partner, Association for Training and Research in Mental Health, El Salvador
Research Affiliate, Department of Graduate Psychology, James Madison University

Sam has 30 years of experience in nonprofit services, management and fundraising. He has led cultural diversity workshops, developed start-up nonprofits, and organized grassroots community groups. He is CHHD’s lead for the Mental Health International project, which has focused for 14 years on global mental health issues in Central American countries.




Cynthia A. Hunter, MSW

Director, Field Program, Department of Social Work James Madison University

Cindy has worked in West Africa (Peace Corps) and El Salvador (Mennonite Central Committee), has led numerous university study abroad programs, and is co-editor of a best selling social work field book, “Social Work Field Directors: Foundations for Excellence.” She won the 2014 Virginia State Social Work Educator of the Year award.




Anita Vernakar Shankar, Ph.D

Division of Community Health and Health Systems, Dept. of International Health Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health

Anita has specialized in program evaluation and research related to HIV-AIDS and other international programs. Her current passion is women’s empowerment programs in Southern Asia and Africa, and she is lead author on papers related to one of the first RCT studies on women´s empowerment. Her list of publications and consulting work is extensive.




Anuraj H. Shankar, D.Sc.

Senior Research Scientist, Department of Nutrition, Harvard TH Chan School of Public HealthAnuraj has a long career aimed at integrating basic science, public health, and human development. He served on the faculty of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, worked with Helen Keller International as Regional Advisor-Asia/Pacific and Director of Biomedical Sciences and Programmatic Research in Indonesia, and served as Coordinator of Surveillance, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Department of Making Pregnancy Safer at WHO/Geneva. He has conducted large scale field research and advised on program activities in multiple countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and is widely published in scientific journals on immunology, infectious disease, nutrition, and maternal and infant health.