Board of Trustees
Chair of the Board & Executive Director
Krista received her undergraduate degree in business administration from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and qualified as a Certified Public Accountant when she moved to New York City in 1993. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and two children and is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Empowers Africa. She has made over 7 short documentaries over the last several years, some winning awards at various film festivals. She is a former Senior Tax Manager for Ernst & Young LLP, former Chair of the Board of Trustees of Africa Foundation (USA), former trustee of Africa Foundation (SA) and the African Wildlife Foundation. Krista has traveled extensively throughout Africa and was honored with The African Diaspora Award for “The Friend of Africa” by Applause Africa magazine on December 8th, 2012. Krista was honored at the Voss Foundation’s Third Annual Women Helping Women event in the Hamptons on August 7th, 2017.
Kim arrived in New York City from the Pacific Northwest in 1977 after winning a beauty contest and quickly rose to supermodel status with numerous covers and prestigious advertising campaigns over a 12 year period. She grew up riding horses and having lots of fuzzy pets which began her activism for rescuing and helping all animals including wildlife from a very young age. In the 90’s she moved up to Westchester where she raised her two children and had a 20 year career in real estate specializing in selling Equestrian properties for which she received top awards.
Her passion for animals continued with the SPCA of Westchester, a no-kill animal shelter where she established the “Critter Credit”, a financial incentive to help encourage adoptions of senior dogs or those with medical or behavioral issues. She became involved with other non for profits and organization’s all related to either helping animals or with animals that help kids and people that are less privileged mentally or physically to flourish. Kim has participated in fundraising events with other well-known models for the “I Am Waters Foundation”, which supplies water to homeless people and hurricane victims. She is also a member of The Explorers Club in New York City, which is an American-based international multidisciplinary professional society with the goal of promoting scientific exploration and field study. The club was founded in NYC in 1904, and has served as a meeting point for explorers and scientists worldwide.
Kim is proud to be active representing Empowers Africa and being a voice for the voiceless. We must all work together in the never-ending battle to preserve wildlife, habitats and their and our environments which is of course crucial for all our children now and future generations to come on our planet.
Donna is from Smyrna, Georgia and attended Georgia Southern and Georgia State Universities. After starting a family and moving to New Jersey, she became involved in a number of causes, charities and interests that have remained special to her: children, theatre and healthcare. Donna has chaired philanthropic events ranging from the Christopher Reeves Foundation’s “A Magical Evening”, the Annual New York City Gala at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel to support individuals and families suffering from paralysis, to the “Leading Ladies Luncheon”, a fundraiser supporting New Jersey’s Community Theatre and the Paper Mill Play House. Her passion for children drew her to Empowers Africa, which has taken her from Tanzania to Namibia, supporting schools, orphanages and clean water sources for communities. Donna’s primary passion is her family: her husband Michael; their son Brian, who lives and works in Hong Kong; and their daughter Allison, who attends university in Scotland.
Beth Rudin DeWoody
Beth Rudin DeWoody, is President of The Rudin Family Foundation and Executive Vice President of Rudin Management Company. Ms. DeWoody studied at the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in anthropology and film studies, and completed her studies at the New School for Social Research in New York City where she received her B.A. in Liberal Arts. Her professional affiliations include charter member of New York Women Executives in Real Estate. Ms. DeWoody is Chairman of the Arts and Culture Committee of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY); is on the Council of Conservators of the New York Public Library; as well as the Library Association of MOMA. Ms. DeWoody also serves on multiple boards for art and philanthropic organizations. She has curated twelve shows for several different art galleries through the United States. She resides in New York City and has one son, Carlton, and one daughter, Kyle.
Krysten is the Founder and Director of Maasai Honey an NGO in Tanzania. Maasai Honey teaches marginalized Maasai women in Ololosokwan, Tanzania the practice of beekeeping as a source of income as well as serving as a collective for those in the community. Krysten has been involved in Tanzania since 2008, travelling there three times a year. She is committed to the conservation of African bees, wildlife and uplifting communities in need. Krysten lives in Old Greenwich, CT with her husband and their 3 children. She is also passionate about conservation in her hometown, serving on the advisory council of Greenwich Point Conservancy.
Allison Freeland is the Advisory Board Liaison for the University of Miami’s Master of Real Estate Development + Urbanism program. She is responsible for all Advisory Board events as well as student placement for the MREDU program. Prior to joining UM, Allison was a partner with a private equity firm and a senior vice president with several investment banks including Bank of America, Banque Paribas and Chemical Bank. She is also part owner of Absolutely Needlepoint, a retail needlepoint store in Miami. Her philanthropic endeavors include leadership positions with Beaux Arts of the Lowe Art Museum, Breakthrough Miami, Deer Valley Club, Gift of Adoption, Gulliver Schools, Junior League of Miami, Ransom Everglades School and St. Thomas Episcopal Church and School. She is an avid triathlete, hiker, skier, reader, needlepointer and bridge player and has earned the rank of ACBL Gold Lifemaster. Allison graduated from Vanderbilt University with a MBA in Finance, SMU Cox School of Business with a BBA in Accounting and Choate Rosemary Hall. Allison has traveled to Africa two times and is extremely passionate about wildlife conservation and human empowerment issues impacting the continent. She resides in Miami, Florida with her husband and two children.
Lisa Christiansen Gentil
Lisa Christiansen Gentil is an avid Africa enthusiast. Born and raised in Greenwich, CT, she graduated from Georgetown University and pursued a 17-year career in international banking until she and her husband moved to Brazil with their two young children. Since her return to the U.S. almost 15 years ago, Lisa has been involved on the boards of both privately-owned and non-profit companies and organizations. Most recently, she has served on the Board of Regents of Georgetown University and was the co-founder of the Georgetown Scholarship Program. She is mostly involved in philanthropic efforts which support scholarships or preserve nature. Lisa, her husband, Fernando, and their children, Fernando, Jr (26) and Gabriella (22), have travelled extensively in Africa. Lisa has visited Tanzania, Kenya, and Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.
Patricia is a Senior Vice President in wealth management at a leading global investment bank. She specializes in customized wealth management, lending, and trust & estate planning for high net worth individuals, families, family offices, and foundations. Patricia has a BA in International Relations from Brown University, an MBA in Finance from The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania, and an MA in International Studies from the School of Arts & Sciences, also at Penn. She recently completed her MA in Classical Art and Archaeological Studies at Yale University. Patricia is an Associate Fellow of Davenport College at Yale. Prior to working in wealth management, Patricia was an investment banker for eight years in both Derivatives and International Investment Banking at Credit Suisse (London), UBS, and Société Générale. She was a member of the Women’s Bond Club of New York and is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Patricia has been involved in the Parents Advisory Board at Northfield Mount Hermon School, the Brown Club of New York, Friends of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she completed the “Non Profit Boards” course taught by the New York Junior League while a long standing member there. Patricia is a former Advisory Committee member of The Africa Foundation. She’s traveled to Africa numerous times and is an Africa enthusiast. Patricia lives in NYC and has two adult sons.
Aisha Haque is a Managing Director of Neuberger Berman. She joined the firm in 2004. B.A. in International Relations and French Literature from Stanford University, graduating with Distinction. Aisha is a member of the Institutional Sales Group focusing on Corporate Pensions, Endowments and Foundations located in the Midwest. Previously, Aisha was head of the Capital Advisory Group in the Private Investment Management Division at Lehman Brothers. Capital Advisory Group leveraged Lehman Brothers’ expertise to deliver customized asset management solutions to the firm’s clients. Prior to joining Lehman, Aisha was a director in Investment Banking at Merrill Lynch with a wide range of responsibilities during her 13 year tenure including Real Estate Investment Banking, Debt Capital Markets, Technology Investment Banking and Media Investment Banking. Aisha is a former Advisory Committee member of Africa Foundation (USA). Aisha has traveled to Africa three times. She resides in New York City with her husband and three children.
Jenny Kennedy attended Columbia University and has been a Ford Model for over 20 years. She is a former trustee of Africa Foundation (USA) and is involved in a variety of other charitable endeavors, the Museum of the City of New York, NY Botanical Gardens, School of American Ballet, the Brain Trauma Foundation and UNICEF. She is an avid hiker, skier and cyclist. Her interest in conservation drives her interest in partnering with rural communities in Africa. Jenny is a frequent traveler to Africa and resides in Miami with her husband and three children.
Suzanne Leydecker received her undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a BA in Environmental Design and Planning. She also received a Master in Marriage and Family Counseling from The California Institute of Integral Studies. She currently resides in Aspen for the last 13 years after living in NYC for 10. During her time in NYC she spent seven years volunteering as one of the heads of the New York Junior League. Since moving to Aspen Suzanne has participated on numerous boards benefiting the community of Aspen and beyond. She has three grown children who are currently attending college and boarding schools. She has travelled extensively and has been to Africa three times over the last year with members of the Africa Foundation and is currently looking for some kind of employment that will help make a difference in the world.
Mary MacElree has a huge passion for Africa, animals, wildlife protection and human empowerment. Mary has traveled to Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana; and as a former competitive equestrian, her love of animals runs deep. Mary runs a successful boutique, full-service interior design firm capable of undertaking all planning and design services related to new construction, renovation, relocation or expansion projects. Art and design have always been a passion for Mary who attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, and received her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from Drexel University. She is a supporter of the ballet and arts in Philadelphia where she lives with her partner.
Director, Partnerships & Programs
Martha graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University with a BA in English. She began a career in journalism first as a Fashion Editor at The New York Times followed by positions at Seventeen Magazine, Marie Claire and Town & Country. She left print journalism to pursue a career in television where she was a freelance fashion and lifestyle correspondent for WNBC News New York and WCBS News This Morning. She left television to accept the position of Director of PR for Victoria’s Secret. After four years at Victoria’s Secret, Martha pursued her own design business creating a line of women’s tennis apparel. Martha is a frequent traveler to Africa and is a passionate advocate and supporter of animal and wildlife conservation and human empowerment initiatives. She continues to freelance write for various lifestyle publications.
Laura Nicklas received her undergraduate degree in Fine Art from New York University followed by an Associates degree in Interior Design from New York School of Interior Design. She worked in the field of commercial interiors in San Francisco until relocating back to the East Coast to complete a Masters Degree from Nova Southeastern University in Marriage and Family Therapy. She currently practices interior design part time and lives with her husband in New York City. Her involvement with various local non-profit organizations include the Happy Hearts Foundation, ACE (Association of Community Employment Programs), Angel Foundation and Meals on Wheels. Having been on several trips to various parts of Africa she is inspired to be involved with various causes in the region especially ones focused on children and empowerment of families.
Zita de Zagon
Zita de Zagon is a graduate of Skidmore College with A Bachelor of Arts degree. She is currently a managing director in sales at Performance Trust (a Chicago based fixed income firm ). Prior to joining Performance Trust, Zita started her 20+ year career at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, followed by RBS and Knight Capital. Her passion for traveling as well as wildlife drew her to Africa for the first time in 2009. She has since been back every year and visited South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Uganda. She is a former Advisory Committee member of the Africa Foundation (USA) and a current board member of The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp. Zita is originally from Belgium and currently resides in Greenwich CT.
Catherine resides in Dallas, Texas and after a career in banking and real estate development, now represents tenants in commercial lease transactions. She has Masters of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University with a concentration in Economics. She holds a Texas Real Estate Broker’s License and is on the Advisory Council for the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas. She actively supports the SPCA of Texas, The Nature Conservancy, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dallas Symphony. As an avid underwater photographer, and general nature enthusiast, she and dedicated to finding ways to protect the planet.
Trustee in Memoriam
Nina Griscom grew up in Manhattan and attended Miss Porter’s and Barnard College before embarking on a modeling and acting career. Nina became a fixture on the city’s benefit and gala circuit supporting many philanthropic causes including sitting on the board of The New York City Ballet. Over the past two decades, Nina has also been involved in broadcasting—she co-hosted a show on the Food Network entitled Dining Around with food critic Alan Richman during the 1990s. She then turned her attention to retail and maintained an eponymous storefront on 70th and Lexington that specialized in home décor. She maintains an active blog: ninagriscom.com. Nina resides on the Upper East Side and recently traveled with Africa Foundation to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia. She is a former Advisory Committee member of Africa Foundation (USA).