OUR MISSION

The China Folk House Retreat (CFHR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering cultural and educational exchanges between the U.S. and China, and to providing a site for spiritual reflection, experiential education, and environmental sustainability programs for students of all ages across the greater Washington, DC area.  CFHR will serve as an experiential, interactive museum showcasing the diverse folk cultures, vernacular architecture, agriculture, handicrafts, and folklife of northwest Yunnan. 

 

The China Folk House Retreat  preserves a farm house from the village of Cizhong that would have been inundated by a dam on the headwaters of the Mekong River, by documenting the house and its landscape, disassembling and moving the physical structures, and then reassembling the homestead along the Shenandoah River at the Friends Wilderness Center in Jefferson County, West Virginia

 

The project’s research goal is to understand the house as a text of its place, as a location of skill and craftsmanship, and as a tool of agricultural production, connected to its fields, orchards, and pasture. We believe that rebuilding the house at the site along the Shenandoah River is ideal for this project of cultural translation, because the similarities of landscape and folkways will make the China Folk House Retreat a center for cross-cultural programs in experiential education, folklife studies, and environmental sustainability.

 

WHO WE ARE

Dr. John Flower
Dr.  Pamela Leonard

Dr. John Flower (Director, Sidwell Friends School Chinese Studies Program, Ph.D. University of Virginia) and Dr. Pamela Leonard (Ph.D. University of Cambridge), the founders of CFHR, have worked in partnership with the Linden Centre on the China Fieldwork Semester, an innovative experiential education program based in Xizhou, since 2014.  The CFHR project is an extension of the China Fieldwork Semester program that will “bring China to the students” just as the semester program brings students to China.  We hope that the project to rebuild the China Folk House will create a cultural bridge connecting the communities of greater Washington DC, Jefferson County, and northwest Yunnan.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CFHR Board
 
Capricia Marshall, Board Chair
John Flower, Vice Chair
Dahlia Neiss, Vice Chair
Grace Riley-Adams, Secretary
Alison Steinbach, Director
Pascale Bronder, Director 
Caroline Pelton, Director
Janie Song, Director
L. Michael Cantor,  Director 
Liz Barratt-Brown, Director
Ginger Huang Dietrich, Director 
Jin Wang, Director 
Pam Leonard, CEO

 

Capricia Marshall, Board Chair

Capricia Marshall is president of Global Engagement Strategies, LLC, which advises international, public, and private clients on issues relating to the nexus of business and cultural diplomacy. Ms. Marshall served as White House social secretary in the Clinton Administration from 1997-2001 and United States chief of protocol in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013. In her posts, she enhanced traditional protocol methods with new tools to build relationships between dignitaries and industry leaders world-wide. In 2013, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the Secretary of State and the Order of the Cross of Isabel La Católica from the Ambassador of Spain. She is a member of the Council of American Ambassadors and is currently Ambassador-in-Residence at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC.  She recently launched her book Protocol, The Power of Diplomacy and How to Make it Work for You and has been named to ELLE magazine's annual “Washington Power List,” as one of DC’s most influential women. 

 

John Flower, Vice Chair
John Flower is Director of the Sidwell Friends School Chinese Studies Program, a former associate professor of East Asian History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and fellow at the East Asia Center at the University of Virginia. His scholarship includes publications on local history and folklife in China and Tibet.  At Sidwell Friends, Flower teaches courses on China and East Asian History, and he leads the “China Fieldwork” summer and semester experiential learning programs in Yunnan. Since 2017, he has worked on rebuilding the “China Folk House Retreat,” to serve as a site for experiential learning, environmental sustainability and people-to-people cultural exchanges focusing on traditional agriculture, folkways and craft.

 

Dahlia Neiss, -Vice Chair

Dahlia Neiss came to Washington D.C. on an academic scholarship to attend George Washington University Law School.  After graduating she clerked for a Federal Judge on the Court of Federal Claims.  In 1998, she was recruited to work for The United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  Dahlia served in various areas at USAID, including the general counsel’s office, the office of reproductive health, and oversaw multiple grants and contracts involving infrastructure redevelopment throughout the world.  Currently, she volunteers for HIAS as a pro-bono Attorney for Asylum seekers. After leaving USAID in 2006 she continued to work in foreign development, including in Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa.  Dahlia founded CultureShock, an NGO that works toward cultural exchange between children in developing countries and children in the United States, and that has expanded its programing to include work within the U.S. in communities that are hardest hit by income disparity. In addition to being president of the CultureShock Board and founder of a cooperative providing early introduction to foreign languages to young children, Dahlia also serves on the Board of The Anthony Bowen YMCA in Washington, D.C, and on the Artistic Director’s Circle for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company Board. Dahlia is the proud mother of three bright and creative girls: August and Indiana are graduates of Sidwell Friends School and Severine is a current ninth grader at SFS.  

 

Alison Steinbach, DiIrector

Alison Steinbach has long been interested in China and was part of the group that helped document and deconstruct the farmhouse from Cizhong in the summer of 2017. Prior to that, she spent a semester after high school as a teaching assistant with the China Fieldwork Semester in Yunnan. She has also attended an immersive Chinese language study abroad program in Harbin and served as a program assistant for the US-Asia Institute in Washington, DC. Alison graduated from Sidwell Friends in 2014 and from Harvard College in 2019, with a major in Social Studies (focusing on modern China), a minor in English and a language citation in Mandarin. Since mid-2019, she has worked as a reporter for The Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix.

 

Pascale Bronder, Director

Pascale Bronder is an alumna of the first China Fieldwork Semester program in 2014 and a graduate of Sidwell Friends School (2015) and Yale University (2019).  She has a strong commitment to environmental work and international engagement, and is currently working in renewable energy project finance for the Dutch bank ING. From Yunnan to Harbin, Pascale has long appreciated the diversity and adventure to be found in China. Pascale blended her love of Mandarin and sustainability by writing on the pollution mitigants in Lake Erhai while on CFS and a critical analysis of Chinese government environmental policy during an immersive Chinese language study abroad program during university. While her undergraduate degree focused on Environmental Science and Energy Studies, and her professional focus is now on the Americas, Pascale looks for opportunities to engage with issues intertwining China and the environment, such as attending webinars on the sourcing of polysilicon in solar panels from China. Pascale can be found splitting her time across Seattle, WA and New York City.

 

Caroline Pelton, Director

Caroline Pelton is the current clerk of the Friends Wilderness Center Board.  An active member of Goose Creek Friends Meeting in Lincoln, VA, she serves on its Unity with Nature Committee, Ministry and Worship Committee, and both scholarship committees.   A retired high school English teacher, Caroline began teaching in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone in the early sixties.  Upon her return to the States, she taught for many years in DC Public Schools:  Cardozo, Western, and Ellington School of the Arts.  Her final eleven years of teaching were in Loudoun County Schools. Ms Pelton's late husband, Rodney Pelton, was one of the volunteers from Friends Meeting of Washington, who built the tree house at the Friends Wilderness Meditation Center during the summers of 1975 and 1976. In the late 80s and early 90s, Caroline joined him in the group holding programs there. 

 

Janie Song, Director

Janie Song is a Sidwell parent, strong record of fundraising and event planning. She Served on The University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Women's Board and Pilot Light Chefs Development Board. Co-chaired several gala fundraisers for various not-for-profit organizations. She has experience in journalism, media relations and a theme park development start-up. 

 

Grace Riley-Adams, Director

Grace Riley-Adams is Executive Director of The Asia Group Foundation, a corporate foundation focused on supporting high-impact nonprofits across the U.S. and Indo-Pacific. She also serves as a Senior Associate at The Asia Group, a strategic advisory firm that provides cross-cutting business advisory solutions to the world’s leading companies, investors, and organizations with interests in the Indo-Pacific. Grace leads the firm’s philanthropic initiatives, external events, communications and public relations efforts, and values and culture program. She holds a degree in Sociology from Franklin & Marshall College.


L. Michael Cantor: Director

Michael Cantor is an investor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who over the past 30 years has successfully managed a broad range of international renewable energy, technology, marine transportation, and real estate investment activities on behalf of the Washington, D.C.-based Equator Capital Group. M.B.A. – University of Chicago Graduate School of Business; Graduate Fellowship – El Colégio de México; Graduate coursework, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS); B.A. – University of Pennsylvania.

 

Ginger Huang Dietrich, Director

Ginger Huang Dietrich has a diverse background with work in the private and non-profit sectors. Ms. Dietrich has consulted on the Chinese wine market, and advised many projects in the areas of brand marketing and communications. She has held the position of Director of Brand Marketing for The Motley Fool. She was the co-founder of Parents of Asian Students (PAS) at Sidwell Friends School and has co-chaired several events including the Sidwell Friends School Auction, The Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker Tea Party, and The Children’s Festival for Imagination Stage, and recently served on the host committee for the Chinese American Museum DC’s 2021 Gala - all benefitting student scholarships and/or educational programs. She recently completed her 9-year term on the Board of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, achieving U.S. and Chinese approval for the first-ever Thomas Jefferson exhibit in China through the U.S. Department of State’s People-to-People Exchange (PPE) program. Ginger served as President of The Women’s Committee of The Washington Ballet for two years. She is a Vice-President of the Board of Trustees for Imagination Stage. She serves on the Fine Arts Committee for the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms. She is a Board member of the Washington Figure Skating Club, having launched a quarterly community newsletter for over 1,300 members. She also serves on the Board of the Dietrich American Foundation, working on grant making, the publication of a book, and museum exhibitions. 

 

Ms. Dietrich graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a concentration from the Wharton School of Business, and then received her MBA from the Yale School of Management. Ginger and her husband Richard have two daughters, Olivia and Gardiner, who both attend Sidwell Friends School. Olivia is in the 9th grade and Gardiner is in the 6th grade.

 

Liz Barratt-Brown, Director 

Liz Barrett-Brown is a Senior Advisor to the International Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  She started her career with NRDC in 1981 and is currently working to protect Canadian forests and advance Indigenous rights. She was central to the launch and multi-year campaign against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which sparked a national debate about investment in large scale fossil fuel projects. 

 

Ms. Barratt-Brown began her work on Canadian-U.S. environmental issues in the 1980s when she worked to stem acid rain in Canada and the eastern U.S. In the 90s, she led a successful effort to stop clear-cut logging of some of the last temperate rainforests. In the 2000s, she worked to protect forest areas threatened by massive hydropower development. All of her work has been done working closely with Indigenous leaders and Canadian environmental groups.

 

Ms. Barratt-Brown has also worked on treaties addressing climate change, biodiversity, and ozone depletion and as a legislative assistant to US Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, helping to pass the nation’s first community right-to-know act on toxic chemicals - the Toxic Release Inventory. The TRI has made information about thousands of chemicals available to local communities, first responders, and the health profession. Liz is a graduate of Brown University and Yale Law School. 

 

Jin Wang, Director

Mr. Wang Jin has worked at EJF Capital since April 2013 and is responsible for its Asia business and strategy. He is currently a partner and member of the Executive Committee at the firm. Prior to EJF, he worked as Managing Director at CSOP Asset Management in Hong Kong, overseeing its global business development. Mr. Wang also worked at the World Bank and Rock Creek Group as a senior investment professional from 2002 to 2010. Mr. Wang earned his MBA in Finance from the George Washington University and is a CFA charterholder.  He has passed the CPA exam in both China and the United States. Mr. Wang is fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.  Jin’s son Eric is a rising senior and his daughter Vivian is a rising 10thgrader at Sidwell Friends School.

 

Pam Leonard, CEO

Pam has a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Cambridge where her thesis focused on ecological aspects of historical change in a Sichuan village. During her fieldwork, in the early 1990s, she was attached to the Sichuan Bureau of Animal Husbandry studying livestock development projects.  After completing her PhD, She was adjunct professor of Anthropology at UNC Charlotte and also ran an organic farm with chickens, cows, and dairy goats.  Pam helped create the China Fieldwork Program in Yunnan for Sidwell Friends School where she taught the course on Landscape Ecology.  As CEO of the China Folk House Retreat, Pam’s responsibilities include a range of logistical responsibilities from building permits, insurance work, fundraising, camp preparations, to finances.