US Staff Members

Discover the talented staff and committed board members of Kupenda US division.

Cynthia Bauer, MS

Cynthia Bauer, MS

US Executive Director and Co-Founder

Cynthia’s work as a wildlife biologist brought her to Kenya, where she was inspired to start Kupenda.

    US Executive Director and Co-Founder

    Cynthia’s work as a wildlife biologist brought her to Kenya, where she was inspired to start Kupenda. She was particularly motivated to do something to help children with disabilities after discovering that she might have been killed if she had been born in Kenya because she was born without her left hand. Cynthia has over 10 years of experience as a wildlife biologist with multiple nonprofit and government agencies, which provides her with an understanding of the biology related to many disabilities and the skills to manage this growing organization. She has also taught biology classes for over a decade, which gives her insight into education systems similar to those in which Kupenda works and helps her present difficult concepts to groups we work with in Kenya and the U.S. Cynthia has a Master’s degree in Biology and Ecology and a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Conservation.

    Cynthia is responsible for overseeing Kupenda’s administration, programs and strategic planning. Her other key duties include fundraising, marketing, and community outreach. She reports directly to the Board of Directors. Through her speeches, writing, and networking, Cynthia advocates for children with disabilities in Kenya, Tanzania, and the

    U.S. Cynthia also encourages others with disabilities to meet their God-given potential by sharing the message of God’s inclusive love and by playing her guitar to demonstrate what is possible when opportunities are available to everyone.

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    Jessica Charles, MPH

    Jessica Charles, MPH

    Director of Development

    Jessica Charles is as a global health professional with 15+ years of experience as a project manager, educator, grant writer, communications specialist and fundraiser.

      Development Director

      Jessica Charles is as a global health professional with over 15 years of experience as a project manager, teacher trainer, and communications specialist. She lived in China and Botswana for three years managing health and education projects and has supported field teams in more than 20 developing nations implementing USAID, CDC, PEPFAR and privately-funded projects. Jessica holds a Master’s degree in Public Health and a Bachelor’s degree in Writing.

      As Kupenda’s Development Director, Jessica is responsible for increasing operational efficiency, program monitoring, and evaluation, engaging new donors, developing and implementing strategic fundraising plans, and expanding the organization’s capacity.

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      Sandra Bauer, MA

      Sandra Bauer, MA

      Child Sponsorship Coordinator

      Sandra has three decades of teaching experience, 20 years of which she spent working with gifted children in need of specialized education.

        Child Sponsorship Coordinator

        Sandra has three decades of teaching experience, 20 years of which she spent working with gifted children in need of specialized education. She also has two years of experience working for a tax preparation company and is the mother of Cynthia, Kupenda’s founder, which helps her relate to the parents of children with disabilities with whom we work. Sandra manages Kupenda’s child sponsorship program and is responsible for the organization’s financial recording and reporting. She holds a Master’s degree in Gifted Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Primary School Education.

        Sandra’s understanding of education, child development, financing, and bookkeeping making her uniquely qualified for Kupenda’s bookkeeper and child sponsorship coordinator positions. Her success in these roles is also driven her deep compassion for children in need of specialized assistance.

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        Nancy Pagels

        Nancy Pagels

        Administrative Assistant and Bookkeeper

        Nancy has over 4 decades of experience managing office operations including 10+ years in financial recording and reporting.

          Administrative Assistant and Bookkeeper

          Nancy has over 4 decades of experience managing office operations including 10+ years in financial recording and reporting. Prior to joining Kupenda, Nancy worked for an international nonprofit organization where she planned global conferences and prepared all logistics and financial materials for biannual board of director meetings.

          Nancy also implemented, maintained and improved the association management software database, developed corporate policies and procedures, administered employee benefits, and managed the organization’s membership services. This knowledge makes Nancy uniquely qualified to support the Kupenda staff in all areas of administration and finance.

          As a grateful grandmother of two healthy girls, Nancy is also passionate about contributing to Kupenda’s mission and supporting opportunities to improve the welfare of children with disabilities around the world.

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          US Board Members

          Lauren Boswell Blair

          Lauren Boswell Blair

          Chair

          Lauren has experience writing policy for various government agencies and authored the novel about Kupenda, “An Unlikely Gift.”

            Chair

            Lauren is an experienced writer who earned with an honors degree in English and has gone on to write policy for various government agencies and contracting companies. She also wrote An Unlikely Gift, a book about Kupenda’s founding and growth.  Lauren has always had a heart for children with physical struggles because she underwent numerous surgeries as a child. Her compassion for people who struggle energizes her to get involved with Kupenda. In addition to working with Kupenda in Kenya on multiple occasions, Lauren has hosted a variety of awareness and fundraising events. Without her fundraising efforts in the early stages, Kupenda would not be where it is today.  Her love of the children she met in Kenya is evident in her devoted leadership of Kupenda’s board of directors!

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            Cynthia Bauer

            Cynthia Bauer

            Board Member

            As Kupenda’s executive director and founder, Cynthia provides the board with updates on both the U.S. and Kenyan operations in addition to financial reports.

              Board Member

              As the executive director and founder of the organization, Cynthia continues to hold a position on the board. She provides the board with updates on both the U.S. and Kenyan operations in addition to financial reports. Cynthia facilitates the board’s strategic planning, decision making, evaluation and fundraising efforts. Read Cynthia’s full biography here.

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              Jeff Gentry

              Jeff Gentry

              Vice Chair

              Jeff holds a Master of Divinity degree and currently serves as the Director of Youth Services at Community Relations for Triangle.

                Vice Chair

                Jeff holds a Master of Divinity degree and currently serves as the Director of Youth Services at Community Relations for Triangle, an organization that helps people with disabilities and their families live more independent, dignified lives in their local communities. Jeff is also proud to be a part of the leadership of IMPACT: Ability, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-supported initiative that empowers organizations and individuals with disabilities to prevent abuse. Jeff has served with and been shaped by the work of L’Arche Toronto and related leaders in the field of disability care, including Henri Nouwen and Jean Vanier. Jeff’s passion for people with disabilities began when he was in the fourth grade and continues to drive his work as a Kupenda supporter and an invaluable leader in this field!

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                David McKay

                David McKay

                Board Member

                David McKay is a retired partner at Ropes and Gray law firm and a founding member of the MS Cure Foundation.

                  Board Member

                  David McKay is a retired partner at Ropes and Gray law firm and a founding member of the MS Cure Foundation. He is also a member of the Vestry and Finance Committee at Christ Church Episcopal, the Zoning Board of Appeals for the town of Wenham, Massachusetts and the Boston Bar Journal where he also serves on the Board of Editors. David received an award for Banking and Finance Law from  The Best Lawyers in America. He earned a JD from Boston College Law School, an MAT from Brown University and a BA from Hamilton College. David also can relate to our beneficiaries since he has lived with Muscular Dystrophy for more than 20 years and uses a walker to help him with mobility challenges.

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                  Patricia Prasada-Rao

                  Patricia Prasada-Rao

                  Secretary/Treasurer

                  Patty holds degrees in Psychology/Pre-Med and Public Health and has worked with several non-profits.

                    Secretary/Treasurer

                    Patty holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Pre-Med and a Master’s degree in Public Health. She has worked with several non-profits over the past 20 years, both in the U.S. and abroad, in multiple roles. In addition to her public health and research background, Patty has worked in corporate marketing, psychiatric program management, and as an area director for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. She has served on 11 different boards and actively volunteers within her community and abroad. Near and dear to her heart is her family’s work with the Chadalawada School (Pure Religion in Action [PRIA] Ministries) in India. Her experience in community and international development, as well as faith-based leadership, is a valuable resource for Kupenda!

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                    Hillary Pember

                    Hillary Pember

                    Board Member

                    After spending close to 20 years in management consulting Hillary embarked on the far more challenging full-time occupation of raising her three children.

                      Board Member

                      After spending close to 20 years in management consulting (with a focus on market research and financial analysis) Hillary embarked on the far more challenging full-time occupation of raising her three children. Balancing her time between various volunteering activities as well as a freelance writing career, she also served on several boards and committees for nonprofit organizations in the education sector. In each of these roles, Hillary played a central role in furthering the success of the institutions financially and advancing their overall mission goals. By far, Hillary credits her role as a mother as her most important undertaking. Having two of her children diagnosed with learning disabilities (which she prefers to be called learning differences) she is passionate about reeducating people on the potential gifts a “disability” can unveil. She is a great supporter of all that Kupenda stands for and has achieved!

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                      Isaac Olatunde

                      Isaac Olatunde

                      Board Member

                      Isaac holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and has 20 years of experience working in a variety of roles connected to this field.

                        Board Member

                        Isaac has worked for several nonprofit organizations and is currently a clinician for people with behavioral health issues. Issac is from Nigeria, has lived in the Middle East, and has extensive experience working overseas. Growing up in Nigeria, he witnessed the abuse of people with disabilities due to similar belief systems we encounter in Kenya. As our only U.S. board member who is not an American, Issac can see western cultural influences in our decision-making and, in bringing these to our attention, helps to reduce bias and expand Kupenda’s cross-cultural sensitivities. Isaac’s compassion for people with disabilities and his unique international experiences are invaluable to our work!

                        As a Board member, Issac attends all of Kupenda’s board meetings and important related meetings. He is also an active participant in the Board’s strategic planning, decision making, evaluation and fundraising efforts. Issac provides counsel to the executive director and her team as requested and according to his areas of expertise.

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                        Brian Lowery

                        Brian Lowery

                        Board Member

                        Over the last 18 years, Brian has ministered in churches in western Illinois, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and on the west coast of Florida.

                          Board Member

                          Over the last 18 years, Brian has ministered in churches in western Illinois, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and on the west coast of Florida – and planted a church on the west side of Indianapolis. In addition to local ministry, he also served for three-and-a-half years as the managing editor of PreachingToday.com, a ministry resources branch of Christianity Today International. He holds an undergraduate degree in preaching from Lincoln Christian College, and a Master of Divinity (emphasis in New Testament) from Lincoln Christian Seminary. He, his wife, Sarah, and their daughter, Eden, live in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

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                          Kenya Staff Members

                          Kupenda’s name in Kenya is “Kuhenza for the Children’s Foundation.” Kuhenza has a Kenyan board of directors that oversees and supports the organization’s staff and operations. Kupenda and Kuhenza work side-by-side in all strategic planning and program implementation tasks, including the hire and training of the following qualified professionals who lead the organization’s field work.

                          Leonard Mbonani

                          Leonard Mbonani

                          Kenya Executive Director and Co-Founder

                          Leonard has over 40 years of experience working in disability programs as a special needs assessment officer.

                            KENYA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER

                            Leonard has over 40 years of experience working in disability programs as a special needs assessment officer for the government, a disability researcher for an internationally-funded nonprofit organization, and an educator at special schools and units throughout Kilifi County. His compassion for people with disabilities began within his own family, when interacting with several relatives who were deaf and unable to communicate due to lack of sign language training. The abuse he saw these family members face drove him to pursue a career in disability care and advocacy. Today, Leonard says the children he serves continue to inspire him to keep working on their behalf. As the organization’s Executive Director, Leonard is responsible for Kuhenza’s strategic planning, local fundraising, reporting, partnership collaboration, event planning, child monitoring, family counseling, and program development and implementation. Leonard holds certificates Secondary Education and Primary School Management and Diplomas in Special Education and Learning Difficulties. He has participated in disability care training programs in the U.S., Denmark and Kenya and has led workshops and participated in health conferences in Tanzania, Nigeria and various regions of Kenya.

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                            Martha Karo

                            Martha Karo

                            Project Director

                            Martha has 30 years of experience as a teacher for students who are deaf. Until 2017, she was also the head teacher at Gede Special School, the first school supported by Kupenda.

                              Project Director

                              Martha has over 30 years of experience as a teacher for students who are deaf. Until 2017, she was also the head teacher at the Gede Special School, the first special needs school supported by Kupenda. Martha’s work and experience helps Kupenda stay connected to the local education system. Her devotion to children with disabilities is demonstrated by the endless hours she works with the Kuhenza team. As Project Director, Martha co-manages the organization’s Advocacy, Education and Medical activities alongside the Executive Director. She also manages the organization’s Child Sponsorship Program.

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                              James Katana

                              James Katana

                              Bookkeeper and Resource Center Manager

                              James holds a diploma in accounting and a certificate in computer applications from Mombasa Polytechnic University.

                                Bookkeeper and Resource Center Manager

                                James holds a diploma in accounting and a certificate in computer applications from Mombasa Polytechnic University. Before joining Kuhenza, James worked for over three years as a bookkeeper for the Marafa Community Development Programme, managing records for both World Vision and the local government. As Kuhenza’s bookkeeper, James is now responsible for recording Kuhenza’s income and expenses, collecting receipts, developing financial reports and preparing for Kenyan government audits. He also oversees the purchase, cataloging and inventory of all materials in Kuhenza’s Resources Center.

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                                Joseph Kibokoni

                                Joseph Kibokoni

                                Project Officer

                                Joseph Kibokoni is an experienced secondary school educator and has earned diplomas in information technology and Business English.

                                  Project Officer

                                  Joseph Kibokoni is an experienced secondary school educator and has earned diplomas in information technology and Business English. Joseph also has certificates in peer guidance and counseling and computer repair and maintenance. In his work with Kupenda he assists our Kenyan team with program implementation, reporting, and disability advocacy training. Joseph is passionate about serving persons with disabilities and enjoys the time he spends interacting with Kuhenza’s child beneficiaries and their parents. Joseph is currently completing a bachelor degree in business and information technology at Mount Kenya University in Malindi.

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                                  Kalu Charo

                                  Kalu Charo

                                  Driver

                                  Kalu is a licensed, professional driver with experience transporting staff and clients and maintaining vehicles. He has strong friendships with many of the children in our programs.

                                    Driver

                                    Kalu is a licensed, professional driver with experience transporting staff and clients and maintaining vehicles for numerous Kenyan nonprofits, schools, and farms. Prior to his driving career, Kalu worked as a mason contractor in the private sector. In recent years, Kalu has developed a passion for disability work; when not driving for Kuhenza, he often volunteers at the local special needs school. He enjoys helping the house parents there and spending time with the children, who are very fond of him.

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                                    Loice Maluki

                                    Loice Maluki

                                    Project Officer

                                    Loice volunteered with Kuhenza while conducting her master’s research on disabilities and the church.

                                      Project Officer

                                      Loice volunteered with Kuhenza while conducting her master’s research on disabilities and the church. After completing her course work, Loice returned to Kuhenza and was hired as a project officer. In this role, Loice collects information for the child sponsorship program, assesses and monitors children with disabilities, connects children with special needs schools and hospitals, works with pastors, facilities advocacy workshops, and assists the Kenya director, as needed. Loice has always had a heart for people impacted by disabilities and believes the church is key to improving the culture around children with disabilities in Kenya. Loice holds certificates in Primary Education, Secondary Education, Computer Maintenance, and Computer Software. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion and a Masters degree in Religious Studies.

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                                      Kenya Board Members

                                      Kupenda’s name in Kenya is “Kuhenza for the Children’s Foundation.” Kuhenza has a Kenyan board of directors that oversees and supports the organization’s staff and operations.

                                      Reverend Robert Mangi

                                      Reverend Robert Mangi

                                      Chair

                                      Reverend Robert Mangi has been a pastor for over 30 years leading congregations at eight different Anglican churches.

                                        Chair

                                        Reverend Robert Mangi has been a pastor for over 30 years leading congregations at eight different Anglican churches in Kilifi County. He currently serves as the Archdeacon for the Anglican Church of Kenya in the Malindi Diocese. His church was the first one Kupenda worked with to include children with disabilities early in the organization’s development. The programs at this church serve as a model to other churches seeking to be more inclusive. Reverend Mangi’s work and experience helps Kupenda connect to other pastors in Kilfi County.

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                                        Linnet Mkutano

                                        Linnet Mkutano

                                        Board Member

                                        Linnet developed epilepsy at the age of 26 and by 27 was unable to walk to talk due to the paralysis caused by her seizures.

                                          Board Member

                                          Linnet developed epilepsy at the age of 26 and by 27 was unable to walk to talk due to the paralysis caused by her seizures. She was bedridden until the age of 35, when she finally received medicine to manage her seizures and began working with a physical therapist to improve her mobility. After ten years of medication and PT, Linnet finally began to walk again and now is able to walk independently using a cane. Her journey through disability inspired her to join the Kuhenza Board and found the Matunda Disabled Women’s Group, which has 15 members who have been meeting together for 10 years. She also acts as a role model and counselor for people with disabilities and advocates for the rights of people with disabilities through speeches at rallies, ceremonies and chief meetings throughout her county. Linnet has a certificates in Rights of the Girl Child and Counseling for Stroke Victims. She also has a Certificate in Early Childhood Education from the Kilifi District Education Center

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                                          Norbert Deche

                                          Norbert Deche

                                          Vice Chair

                                          Norbert spent his career working as a legal advisor and traveling extensively in his position with Kenya’s immigration department.

                                            Vice Chair

                                            Norbert was drawn to the work of Kuhenza because he has a daughter with a disability who is still under his care, even though she is over 30 years old. Although now retired, Norbert spent his career working as a legal advisor and traveling extensively in his position with Kenya’s immigration department. Norbert is a trusted advisor to the Kenya director. In 2014, Norbert’s flexibility and finances also allowed him to accompany the Kenya director to visit the work of Kupenda in the U.S.

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                                            Cynthia Bauer

                                            Cynthia Bauer

                                            Board Member

                                            Cynthia, Kupenda’s founder and Executive Director, also serves on Kuhenza’s Board. She provides updates on Kupenda’s U.S. operations and supports strategic planning.

                                              Cynthia, the Kupenda founder and executive director, is also a board member for Kuhenza. Read Cynthia’s full biography .
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                                              Susanne King

                                              Susanne King

                                              Board Member

                                              Susanne King has more than 30 years of experience working as a social pedagogue (a teacher and social worker) in Denmark, Tanzania, Zambia, and Kenya.

                                                Board Member

                                                Susanne King has more than 30 years of experience working as a social pedagogue (a teacher and social worker) in Denmark, Tanzania, Zambia, and Kenya. She served both the Danish Council and Danish Refugee Aid as a family counselor and worked as a development professional and nutrition group coordinator in Zambia. Susanne also served as headmistress at the Nordic School in Dar es Salaam and as Deputy Head of a Nature at a kindergarten in Denmark. She has experience working with teenage mothers, families with alcohol issues, and young adults with special needs and has earned diplomas in adult education and business administration.

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                                                Gabriel Mwanengo

                                                Gabriel Mwanengo

                                                Treasurer

                                                For 20 years, Gabriel has been a teacher for children who are deaf. He was also the head of a special unit at the Gede Special School for children who are deaf.

                                                  Treasurer

                                                  Gabriel has over 20 years of experience working as a teacher for children who are deaf. He was also the head of a special unit at the Gede Special School for children who are deaf or have physical disabilities. His extensive experience and attention to detail make him a strong Board Treasurer and great asset to the Kuhenza team.

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                                                  Julius Kalu

                                                  Julius Kalu

                                                  Board Member

                                                  Julius Robert Katoi Kalu has been the Bishop of Kenya’s Mombasa Diocese Anglican Church since 1994. He is also has teaching and nonprofit management experience.

                                                  Board Member

                                                  Julius Robert Katoi Kalu has been the Bishop of Kenya’s Mombasa Diocese Anglican Church since 1994. In addition to providing spiritual guidance and counsel to the Kupenda/Kuhenza teams, Bishop Kalu has extensive teaching and nonprofit management experience. He has served as an executive member of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, a council member of the Technical University of Mombasa, Executive Chairman of the Shanzu Teachers’ Training College, Executive Chairman of Godoma Secondary School, a council member of the Coastal Interfaith Council of Cerics, a board member of the Mama Nguni Girls High School, Executive Chairman of Kilifi County Leaders Association. He has also been in charge of relief food distribution in Ghanzi, Malindi, Taba Delta, and the Galole Constituency for more than 10 years. Bishop Kalu has earned multiple diplomas in education and theology from Kenyan training institutions and a master’s degree in theology from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has also completed vocational training programs in advanced adult education, ecumenics, and AIDS awareness in both Kenya in the United States. Bishop Kalu is fluent in Kiswahili, English, Kigiriama and Hebrew.

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                                                  Mohammed Mgaza

                                                  Mohammed Mgaza

                                                  Board Member

                                                  Mohammed is a special needs teacher, head teacher at Kakuyuni Primary School’s Mental Health Unit and the Assistant Coordinator of Malindi’s Special Olympics.

                                                    Board Member

                                                    Mohammed has been a special needs education teacher and the head of the Kakuyuni Primary School Mental Health Unit since 2003. He also serves as the treasurer of the Special Schools Sports Association of Kenya (SSSAK) in Malindi Sub County and is the Assistant Coordinator of the Special Olympics in Malindi Sub County. Mohammed holds a certificate in primary teacher education from Kilima Mbogo Teachers Training College, a diploma in special needs education from the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) and a degree in special needs education from Kenya Methodist University (KEMU).

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                                                    Leonard Mbonani

                                                    Leonard Mbonani

                                                    Secretary

                                                    In his role as board secretary, Leonard is responsible for ensuring that accurate and sufficient documentation exists to meet the Board’s legal requirements.

                                                      Secretary

                                                      In Kenyan nonprofit organizations, the executive director typically holds the role of secretary. In his role as board secretary, Leonard is responsible for ensuring that accurate and sufficient documentation exists to meet the Board’s legal requirements. In order to fulfill these responsibilities, Leonard records minutes of meetings, ensures their accuracy and availability, proposes policies and practices, submits various reports to the board, and maintains membership records.  Read Leonard’s full biography here.

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                                                      Jacob Mwagandi

                                                      Jacob Mwagandi

                                                      Board Member

                                                      Jacob has been a primary school teacher for nearly 40 years and a pastor since 2012. He also served as the head teacher at Magarine Primary School since 1995.

                                                        Board Member

                                                        Jacob has been a primary school teacher for nearly 40 years and a pastor since 2012. He has also served as the head teacher at Magarine Primary School since 1995. Very early in his career Jacob met Kuhenza’s founder and director, Leonard Mbonani. Leonard and Jacob were teaching together and began to fundraise to pay the school fees of high-performing, impoverished children in their classes. Over the years, Jacob developed a deep passion for vulnerable children, particularly those with disabilities, and agreed to join the Kuhenza Board as an advocate for these young people. Although he will retire soon from teaching, Jacob wants to continue supporting these children through Kuhenza and a farming project he has started to provide nutritional support to special education schools and units in Kilifi. Jacob holds certificates in Primary Education and Theology, as well as a diploma in Education Management.

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