Officers & Directors

Paula Franklin

Executive Director

Paula Franklin has been working with Empowers Africa since 2015 when she was brought in to set up Empowers Africa’s now robust fiscal sponsorship program. She has served as Executive Director since 2018. Her passion for the continent began on her first trip to Phinda Private Game Reserve in 2007 when she joined a rhino-darting expedition that was part of andBeyond’s Black Rhino Project. She subsequently secured a Conde Nast World Savers Award for that project on behalf of andBeyond.

Paula’s background is in tourism focusing on the intersection of luxury and conservation. Paula has traveled extensively in sub-Saharan Africa to Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. Her numerous trips to Africa have brought her to some of the most remote camps and lodges, as well as to dedicated philanthropic projects such as lodge-funded schools, community gardens, women’s business collectives and animal conservation initiatives.

Paula is a graduate of Howard University and currently lives in the New York City area with her husband and two daughters.

Ally Lebron

Grants Program Manager

Ally joined Empowers Africa in 2016 with a background in primatology and wildlife conservation. She holds a master’s degree in primate conservation from Oxford Brookes University and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UNC Chapel Hill. Ally previously worked on the development of a bonobo ecotourism project with the World Wildlife Fund in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has conducted research into people-primate interactions between mountain gorillas and local communities in Uganda as well as great ape behavioral research with the Smithsonian.

Ally is particularly interested in the role of community agency in species conservation. She represented Empowers Africa at the XXVII Congress of the International Primatological Society at the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya where she presented on human-wildlife issues. She currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for Cura Earth, a conservation non-profit based in New York.

Liz Kelly

Treasurer & Secretary

Graduate of Princeton University, cum laude, and of Harvard University School of Business Administration. Liz spent her career in financial services in New York City before moving to Florida to be a full-time mother. She spent over 15 years in Investment Banking at such firms as Salomon Brothers, Scully Brothers & Foss, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers. She retired in 2004 from Bear Stearns Merchant Banking (now Irving Place Capital) as Managing Director, Deal Sourcing. Liz has traveled to Kenya and Tanzania and is an Africa enthusiast. She is a former Advisory Committee member of Africa Foundation (USA).

Martha McGuinness

Marketing Director

Martha is graduate of Barnard College/Columbia University. Upon graduation, she began a career in journalism serving as Assistant Fashion Editor at The New York Times followed by positions at Seventeen Magazine, Marie Claire and Town & Country. Her career then took her in front of the camera where she served as a fashion/lifestyle correspondent for MSNBC, NBC News New York and CBS This Morning. She left publishing to take a position as Director of P.R. for Victoria’s Secret. After several years in media, Martha left to start Martha McGuinness Tennis, a line of luxury women’s tennis apparel. Martha has been active in a variety of charitable organizations. She consulted for the Wildlife Conservation Society on numerous projects and served as Co-President of the New York City Junior Council of Save the Children. She has traveled to Haiti several times volunteering at the Children’s Nutrition Center for Hôpital Sacré Coeur. Martha has traveled extensively throughout Ethiopia and Tanzania and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in the fall of 2016.

Sharon Shemtov

Special Projects

Sharon received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Arizona. She has worked in the fashion industry for the last 15+ years and has been involved in various local non-profit organizations including Save the Children, Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels. Most recently, Sharon traveled to Israel to volunteer with Greenpeace, an experience which reaffirmed her commitment to making a positive difference in the world. She is most passionate about efforts to protect wildlife and harbors a particular interest in the plight of rhinos and elephants. Sharon looks forward to working with Empowers Africa to achieve wildlife conservation and human empowerment goals.

Katie Jacholke

Content Strategist

Born and raised in Scotland, Katie’s first taste of Africa was a family safari to Kenya in 2009. She then spent some time teaching English at a school for girls in western Kenya, before returning to the UK to study for a BA in African History and Politics. In 2011, she moved to Zambia and spent 5 years working as a camp manager in remote bush camps in the beautiful South Luangwa National Park. Africa has truly captured her heart and she now lives in Cape Town, working in Brand and Marketing for various travel companies and safari operators and exploring the remotest corners of the continent when she can.

Torrie Lebron

Program Assistant

Torrie graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2016 with a double major in History and Latin American Studies. She studied abroad in Chile and led service trips to Nicaragua throughout her undergraduate career. After graduation, she lived in Colombia and later Honduras for two years teaching English.

Although her background has been primarily focused on human empowerment in Latin America, Torrie has always been passionate about wildlife conservation. She was able to observe elephants in their natural habitat during a trip to South Africa in 2015 – an experience she will never forget.

Torrie is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at Columbia University with a focus on Latin American immigrants.