Who We Are

Officers & Directors

Paula Franklin

Executive Director

Paula Franklin has been working with Empowers Africa since 2015. Her previous work as an independent public relations consultant focused on tourism clients in Southern and Eastern Africa. 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 has traveled all over Sub-Saharan Africa including Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania. Her numerous trips to Africa have brought her to some of the most luxurious 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.

Since graduating from Howard University, Paula has worked exclusively in travel and has built an exceptional network of contacts in the travel industry, specifically in New York’s publishing world. Paula has worked with Asilia Africa, Deeper Africa, andBeyond, Micato, Babylonstoren, Cape Grace and the Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa. On behalf of her clients, Paula has secured feature articles in The New York Times, Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Departures, Afar, National Geographic Traveler, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and many others. She has also secured television spots on The Today Show, Live with Kelly and Michael, The Racheal Ray Show, No Reservations and Ellen.

Ally Lebron

Director of Operations

Ally joined Empowers Africa in 2016 with a background in primatology and wildlife conservation. She received her BA in Anthropology in 2012 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she cultivated interests in the humanities and natural sciences and gained her first experience in fieldwork during a semester abroad in Costa Rica. Ally later spent time living and working in the Democratic Republic of Congo while on assignment with a WWF project that focused on the conservation of wild bonobos. It was during this period that she gained a special appreciation for the benefits of community-supported conservation.

In 2015, Ally completed her MSc degree in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom. For her dissertation, she travelled to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda to explore the fragile relationship that exists between the Park and its surrounding communities, as well as local ideas and attitudes regarding mountain gorilla conservation efforts there.

Through her experiences with wildlife preservation stakeholders in East and Central Africa, Ally has become particularly invested in the geopolitical and conservation success of the region and looks forward to continuing this work with Empowers Africa. She currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for Cura Earth, a conservation non-profit also 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

Strategic Partnerships

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.

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 is primarily focused on 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 will begin graduate school in the fall 2018 to pursue a Master’s in Social Work with a focus on Latin American immigrants.

Kristen Venter

Communications Coordinator

Kristen joined Empowers Africa as a 2016 summer intern and will continue managing the organization’s social media in the Fall. Born and raised in South Africa, Kristen has always had a passion for wildlife conservation. She spent her childhood on a game farm in the Limpopo Province where she first witnessed the devastating effects of rhino poaching.

Kristen is entering her second year at the Marshall School of Business at USC in Los Angeles. She is in the Business and Cinematic Arts (BCA) program, pursuing a joint major that specializes in business in the entertainment industry. She is minoring in Media, Culture and Entertainment in the Annenberg School of Communication. Kristen also plays for the USC Women’s Tennis team.

Caitlin Venter

Communications Coordinator

Caitlin is a senior at New York University where she majors in Media, Culture, and Communication with a Minor in Documentary Film. As a South African living abroad, she hopes to pursue a career in Media and Film, specifically documentary, to get people thinking about and engaged in African stories ranging from conservation to human rights.

Board of Trustees

Krista Krieger

Chair of the Board

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. 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.

She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Kim Charlton

Vice Chair

Kim arrived in New York City from Seattle in 1977 after winning a beauty contest and quickly rose to supermodel status with numerous covers and prestigious advertising campaigns. In 1988 Kim retired from modeling to raise her two children, and subsequently found a second career selling residential real estate in Westchester County, NY. She received Diamond and Platinum Awards for top producing and was known especially for negotiating and selling luxury estates and equestrian properties.

Kim spent many of her childhood summers in Montana falling in love with nature and animals. She was a horse wrangler at a dude ranch when she was 17 and is an accomplished rider, owning horses until 2016. Her passion for animals is evident with her involvement with the SPCA of Westchester County, a no-kill animal shelter where she created the “Critter Credit”, a financial incentive to help people adopting pets with disadvantages. She and her husband are the honorees of their 2017 gala. Kim is also involved with GallopNYC, which provides therapeutic horsemanship to help riders in NYC with disabilities. Kim has joined with a number of well-known models in the “I Am Waters Foundation” which supplies water to homeless people and hurricane victims. After a recent trip to Africa, Kim was inspired to increase her philanthropic efforts on behalf of wildlife and joined the Board of Empowers Africa.

Kim resides in NYC and is active representing EA at events and loves to travel. She has a grown daughter and son, and a cute little dog.

Donna Corbat

Donna is a native of 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 Health.

Donna has Chaired events such as “Christopher Reeves Foundation”, “A Magical Evening”, the Annual New York City Gala held at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, supporting individuals and families suffering from paralysis, to the “Leading Ladies Luncheon” 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.

Most recently, Donna and a group of Producers took the New York Broadway hit, “Million Dollar Quartet” to the London stage.

Donna has many athletic interests and accomplishments which she enjoys and is proud of: The New York Marathon, the Brooklyn Half Marathon, the Caladonian Challenge (walking 54 miles in 24 hrs for Scottish Charity), Trekking/Hiking (Bhutan for 9 days), Heli Skiing, Fly-fishing and Photography.

Donna’s passions are 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 Foundations 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.

Ms. DeWoody’s board affiliations include the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Yorkers for Children, Inc., New York Children’s Foundation, Creative Time, Find Your Voice, Inc., the New School University, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Design Museum Holon Israel, Save A Child America Inc. and The Police Foundation. She serves on the Parsons Board of Governors of the New School University and is a Member of the Committee for the University Art Collection, and is on the Photography Steering Committee at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, Florida. 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, and the Library Association of MOMA.

Ms. DeWoody’s works include working in Africa as an Assistant Director of the TV series “Born Free” and as Production Assistant for the movie films “Annie Hall”, “The Front” and “Hair”. She also was co-producer of the musical production “Enter Juliet”. She also was the executive producer of the documentary “Who Gets To Call It Art”, directed by Peter Rosen, about Henry Geldzahler. She is also a contributing editor for the magazine “Hamptons Cottages and Gardens”.

Ms. DeWoody also 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.

Bonnie Pfeifer Evans

Bonnie’s background includes entrepreneur, fashion model and philanthropist, as well as an award-winning associate real estate broker for the Corcoran Real Estate Group.

Having traveled all over the world, including 19 countries in Africa for modeling, pleasure & philanthropy, Bonnie is anxious to help Empowers Africa further their important mission.

Born in Maryland, second of seven children, Bonnie was “discovered” in high school by the Washington Post and was a finalist in the nationally televised “Model of the Year” contest, which launched her modeling career. She has been photographed for virtually every magazine, both nation & international, featured in TV commercials & on catwalks for numerous designers including Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Armani, Chanel, Kenzo & Missoni.

One of the modeling industry’s first philanthropists, Bonnie was the Founding Director of the industry’s first non-profit organization, the “DISHES Project for Pediatric AIDS” (Determined Involved Super-rolemodels Helping to End Suffering). For ten years, she worked to generate funding and awareness for direct care, education and prevention for children and their families impacted by HIV/AIDS. She appeared on 24 television programs, 60 radio shows, and committed to dozens of national speaking engagements to generate support for her project, which was cited by the White House for its private sector philanthropic contributions. After hosting DISHES fund raising events across the U.S. and in Brazil, in 1998 DISHES merged with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the nation’s leading fund raising and grant writing industry-related AIDS organization. Bonnie launched their Children & Families Initiative, still a successful part of the Broadway Cares National Grants Program.

Bonnie has received dozens of awards for her both real estate and non-profit efforts. She has served on the Boards of numerous local, national & international non-profit organizations.

Bonnie resides in Manhattan where she continues to touch the lives of many, extending her helping hands and using her diverse and seasoned experience to help others reach their goals.

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 Glass

Patricia is a Senior Vice President in global wealth management at Morgan Stanley. 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 six times and is an Africa enthusiast. Patricia lives in NYC and has two adult sons.

Nina Griscom

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).

Aisha Haque

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.

Catherine Howell

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.

Mary Judelson

Mary grew up in Florida and majored in economics at Florida State University. After college, Mary began her career in politics, working as a constituent liaison in the United States Congress in Washington, DC. She then moved to New York City, and was an Advertising Manager in the men’s division at Polo Ralph Lauren, Inc. She has been involved with many philanthropic organizations including the junior committees of The Guggenheim Museum, Carnegie Hall and The Frick Collection. She has held various parent association positions at her children’s schools, and is an active fundraiser at those schools. Mary supported The Africa Foundation for several years and has visited Kenya and Tanzania. She resides in New York City with her husband and three children.

Jenny Kennedy

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.

Tara Liddle

Tara Liddle is an expert in pediatric physical therapy and is currently the Regional Director of Pediatric Physical Therapy at Motion PT Group. She is also the author of “Why Motor Skills Matter-Improve your Child’s Physical Development to Enhance Learning and Self-Esteem”, (McGraw Hill, 2004). Tara graduated from NYU with an MA in Developmental Disabilities and a BS in Physical Therapy. Tara is an active fundraiser for many charities close to her heart. Her newest is Empowers Africa, where she looks forward to advancing the mission. She also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Catholic Big Sisters & Big Brothers, which provides mentoring services, family counseling and skill learning programs for NYC’s youth. Tara is an avid outdoor athlete; a runner, cyclist and skier. She also loves traveling, cooking, and supporting the arts. Tara resides in NYC and Quiogue with her husband, Jeff Liddle, and two children, Alexa and Harry.

Suzanne Leydecker

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.

Delia von Neuschatz

Delia graduated with a B.A. from Columbia University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. After briefly practicing law in New York City, she worked in the fashion industry and then went into publishing. She is currently the Beauty and Features Editor at New York Social Diary and has been a contributor to several publications including Gotham Magazine. Delia’s life-long love of animals has led her to write extensively about animal welfare and wildlife conservation and to participate in several charitable endeavors. She has visited every animal shelter in Manhattan and has written articles about them. Delia is on the Advisory Council at Bideawee, one of the oldest animal adoption centers in New York.

Her advocacy for wildlife conservation began a few years ago. After meeting Mark Shand, the founder of Elephant Family, she joined the planning committee for the charity’s Big Egg Hunt sponsored by Faberge. As a committee member, she recruited various artists to design some of the 200+ giant eggs that were displayed around New York. She was thrilled when the eggs from two of the artists she had enlisted were selected for a special fund-raising auction at Sotheby’s, the highlight of which was an egg created by Jeff Koons. Delia has also been involved as a member of the planning committee for Tusk’s annual gala.

Delia has traveled to Africa on multiple occasions visiting projects such as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the most successful elephant orphanage in the world. Delia spent a part of her childhood in Morocco and currently lives in New York City with her husband and two cats.

Laura Nicklas

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.

Frances Schultz

Journalist, tastemaker, television personality, world traveler, hostess, cook, Southerner, Sunday painter, fledgling gardener and outdoors lover, Frances Schultz is an enthusiast on a variety of topics–decoration and design, food and entertaining, culture and style. She is author and co-author of several books, including A House in the South, and was for six years on-air host of the award-winning cable television show Southern Living Presents. A contributing editor to House Beautiful magazine and former editor-at-large for Veranda, she contributes also to the prestigious travel website Indagare and has written for numerous others, including Town & Country and the New York Social Diary. Frances has appeared on such programs as The Today Show, CNN’s Open House, The Christopher Lowell Show, The Nate Berkus Show and Turner South’s Home Plate. She also maintains a very active blog www.francesschultz.com. Civic-minded and community-involved, Frances serves on the boards of the Horticultural Society of New York, and the North Carolina Society of New York. Schultz is a former trustee of Africa Foundation(USA). Born and raised in the small town of Tarboro, North Carolina, Frances graduated from St. Mary’s School with honors and from the University of Virginia with distinction. She lives in Manhattan and East Hampton, with frequent visits to the Santa Ynez Valley of California. Frances has a real passion for Africa – she has traveled extensively in southern Africa, including pre and post-Apartheid South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

Julie Thompson

Julie attended Wittenberg University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Business Administration. During her college years, Julie was actively involved in her sorority, Kappa Delta, and following graduation, she volunteered on the Collegiate Advisory Board for her chapter, Alpha Nu, serving a term as board president. While working for Cardinal Health in Ohio, Julie met her husband, Jeff, whom lived in Georgia, and she continued her pharmaceutical career following her move to Georgia in 2002. Eventually, Julie retired from the pharmaceutical industry, taking advantage of the opportunities to travel. While in-between careers, she also volunteered for and participated in fundraising events for the Georgia chapter of the March of Dimes.

Born and raised in the Midwest U.S., Julie never imagined the travel she would experience later in life. For over a decade now, Julie has been traveling to and avidly photographing, along with her husband, Jeff, nearly every major Africa safari destination, (along with tigers, bears, whales and whatever else flies, floats and frolics in nature). Having amassed over 300 nights in the bush, she made the seemingly natural decision to shift her career and launched Eyes On You Safaris in 2015 to help others experience the awe of a customized African safari. For Julie, it’s deeply rewarding to witness the joy, enthusiasm and heartfelt emotions from those experiencing Africa for the first time and being an integral part of people’s lives being transformed by these experiences is one of her favorite parts. Julie believes in protecting tomorrow today, so that future generations have the ability to experience the splendors of Africa. Thus, Eyes On You made a significant contribution to the One Lake One Rhino project to relocate a rhino to the Okavango Delta region of Botswana and they routinely support wildlife and community conservations projects in Africa (and elsewhere) on an annual basis.

Eyes On You Safaris continues to grow and has expanded beyond Africa travel, now offering polar bear safaris where one can walk amongst the great ice bears, in addition to experiencing a variety of arctic wildlife.

Aside from her passion for Africa, safari travel, and photography, Julie is an avid skier, fitness enthusiast, yoga practitioner, and scuba diver. Julie resides in metro Atlanta with her husband, Jeff, and their beloved rescue dog, Pfeffer.

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.

Advisory Committee

Nicci Young Wiese


With over 20 years experience in luxury and responsible eco-tourism, Nicci is currently President of Young Safaris, focusing on authentic travel to Africa. Nicci grew up in South Africa and France and obtained a BA from Tufts University and a Masters from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy in Economic Development and International Environmental Policy. In 1992 she joined andBeyond (previously CCAfrica) to establish the Africa Foundation as its corporate social responsibility program and thereafter as an independent foundation which continues to serve as a model for conservation-based community development. As CCAfrica grew, Nicci joined the Corporate Development team managing new projects for conservation and lodge development. In 1998 Nicci established and managed the Getty Africa Trust working between South Africa and London. From 2002 through 2006, Nicci was Executive Director of The Explorers Club, a centennial international organization promoting scientific exploration and field research, headquartered in New York. Following years of informally advising on travel to Africa, Nicci formed Young Safaris in 2007. Nicci served for several years on the South Africa and UK boards for the Africa Foundation and more recently on the US advisory committee. She has worked with and/or visited most of the current projects that Empowers Africa is supporting. She is based in Connecticut with her husband Richard Wiese (producer and host of the TV series Born to Explore on ABC) and three children and remains passionate about the African continent, its people and the wilderness.

Nicole McLachlan

Social Media Advisor

Nicole’s background in psychology lead her to many roles in social services before settling on a career in finance. In her ten years of working with insurance and financial companies, she has consistently succeeded in sales and management, and has now recently become involved in the coaching of Investment Advisors.

Over the years, Nicole has volunteered with Kids Help Phone, the Humane Society, the Canadian Cancer Foundation, and many more.

Growing up in Canada, Nicole always knew she’d love Africa, and sure enough after volunteering for several months in South Africa and Namibia, she fell in love with it beyond even her imagination. Nicole is especially taken with Africa’s wildlife, and their plight against poaching, habitat encroachment, and unknowingly harmful Western tourist dollars.

Nicole has taken her passion for Africa’s wildlife home with her through the retelling of stories and sharing of photography, in an effort to raise funds for organizations that touched her heart. She hopes to become more involved in more fundraising, in an official capacity, in order to entrench herself more closely with conservation, hoping to one day reside in Africa.

Rachel Rebibo

Visuals and Photography

Rachel Rebibo was born and raised in the Washington DC area, picking up her first camera at 10 years old. She then attended the School of Visual Arts in New York, before moving to Paris. She loves working on location and utilizing the beauty of natural light, but can also be found shooting in the studio with a dedicated playlist to set the mood. In her personal time she is passionate about animals and wildlife conservation, and ​has traveled to Africa on numerous occasions to visit conservation projects and national parks.

Gabriella Gentil

Content Creator

Gabriella graduated from Georgetown University in 2012, where she studied English and History. After graduation, she spent 3 months at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center caring for orphaned animals including rhinos, cheetah, and honey badgers. Upon returning to New York, Gabriella spent a year in the NBC Universal Page Program, before choosing to pursue her passion- the African bushveld. Gabriella worked at Chitwa Chitwa and Simbambili Game Lodge in the Sabi Sands area of the Kruger National Park before moving to Tanzania to join &Beyond. After two amazing years in the bush, she decided to return home and join Empowers Africa as Communication Officer.

Gabriella has been with Empowers Africa since the beginning, assisting with administration duties when the organization first started. Upon moving to Africa, she continued her involvement by visiting and evaluating some of Empowers Africa’s grantees, predominantly the Inzalo Community Project, as well as fundraising for Wilderness Safaris’ Black Rhino Relocation Project.

Jeremy Murphy

Public Relations Advisor

Jeremy Murphy serves as Vice President of Communications for CBS, a job he has held since 2008. As part of this position he oversees the company’s glossy magazine, Watch!. He also helps handle media relations for CBS Corporation and its various divisions.

Murphy was part of the original team that conceived and launched Watch! magazine in 2005, and he has served as its editor in chief since. In this role he oversees all the magazine’s editorial content and operations, working daily with writers, editors and photographers in planning the bi-monthly publication. Since its founding he has recruited top talents like Joel Stein, Patrick Demarchelier and Russell James as contributors, and has directed and produced photo shoots around the world. Today, Watch has more than 200,000 readers and is distributed nationally through newsstand sales and subscriptions.

Murphy joined CBS in 2002, serving as Manager of Editorial Services and later as Director of Communications. In those roles he managed the editing and distribution of all internal and external communications, in addition to handling media relations for the company’s local TV and radio stations.

Before coming to CBS, Murphy worked as a reporter for Mediaweek magazine covering the local media industry. He got his start as a feature writer at the Bradenton Herald in Bradenton, Fla. and as a copy editor and feature writer for the Boca Raton News.

Murphy is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University, majoring in communications. He lives and works in New York City.

Michele Wood

Corporate Consultant

Michele started her career in the wine industry in British Columbia where she quickly advanced to oversee the British Columbia market for E&J Gallo Winery. During the tech boom her career took her in another direction and she helped start an email marketing company. After much success with building their client base and educating the Vancouver market about this new media she decided to start her own marketing and PR company. She successfully ran her company focusing on marketing and leasing of new residential developments until she moved to New York. Since then she has been actively involved with new construction, design and decorating of homes which has lead her to her present career as a Real Estate Salesperson for Corcoran. Michele’s unique eye for real estate and design coupled with her skills in sales positions her as a valuable asset to any client seeking to purchase real estate in New York.

For the last nine years she has Co-Chaired the Bergh Ball for the ASPCA and has been actively involved with animal welfare. Michele was a former Trustee of Africa Foundation (USA) and has traveled several times to South Africa visiting communities and helping to empower the people of Africa. She has co-hosted The Huggy Bear Pro-Am Celebrity Charity Tennis tournament in Southampton and served on the Auction committee for Southampton Hospital Summer benefit. Her passion lies in helping animals and children; those without a voice.

Mychelle Charters

Mychelle Charters is a licensed Clinical Social Worker in Los Angeles, CA, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals, couples, children and families. She is licensed through the Board of Behavioral Sciences in the State of California. She worked part time for LAUSD in the city of Watts. Currently she has a private practice in the Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica areas.

Mychelle’s career in psychotherapy has included working in various aspects of mental health: private practice, psychiatric hospitals, Schools, community agencies and Universities.

Mychelle has always been fascinated by the healing process from a holistic perspective. Her treatment plans involve mind, body and spirit. Having traveled the world with a voracious interest in other cultures and spirituality, Mychelle’s approach is unique and encompassing. Her work is a body of psychotherapeutic, practical and spiritual wisdom while incorporating the body, Central Nervous System and Neurobiology. This helps carve out a clear path into discovery and personal transformation.

She offers compassionate grief and loss counseling. Whether it be loss of a loved one or loss of trust, security and self-esteem stemming from earlier abuses and trauma, her approach helps clients feel relief and hope. With her help, many clients have received tremendous relief in managing panic, anxiety, depression as well as addictions.

She provides guidance through the feelings of feeling stuck and finding meaning and purpose for one’s life and spirituality.

Mychelle Charters graduated from New York University with a Masters in Clinical Social Work. Mychelle completed her Post Graduate work in Somatic Experience in which she is now a Practitioner as well as a Touch Practitioner. She is a graduate of the Pathwork. She is currently attending college to receive a Doctorate in Psychology (Psy D) with and emphasis in Marriage and Family therapy.

She has various training experiences including Attachment work, Neurobiology and trauma, Los Angeles Psychoanalytic institute, Core energetics, Barbara Brennan and the Pathwork. She is affiliated with the National Association of Social Workers, Cambridge Who’s Who, Los Angeles Committee for Foreign Relations, and The Foundation for Human Enrichment.

Mychelle has also been awarded the “Mayors Certificate of Appreciation” for outstanding efforts and accomplishments which have been of great benefit to the City of Los Angeles by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Mychelle also serves as a Media Consultant lending support, research and expertise of human psyche and behavior to various outlets of media and entertainment. Mychelle is also published in the Psychoanalytic Social Work Journal volume 10 #1 on “Shared Trauma, Group Reflections on 9/11”.

Suzanne Cross

Suzanne’s interest in Africa developed while on safari in 2002. She wanted to see the rural Zulu community and was introduced to the Mnqobokazi villages and Nkomo Primary School near the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa. A bond was quickly and easily formed with Mrs. Nomusa Zikhali, the Principal, that has bridged the distance between South Africa and San Francisco. Ms. Cross has since been an advocate of the school children and the educators in this community engaging the interest and resources of the Bay Area and beyond to support the needs of these 35,000 Zulu children in 42 schools by providing classrooms, technical training specialists, educational supplies, playground equipment, uniforms, solar study lights, educational field trips, and university bursaries to allow the Zulu children to reach their potential. She had returned to this community eight times, as well as traveling to Tanzania, Zambia, and Botswana. Suzanne has facilitated fiscal partnerships with Empowers Africa and One World Children’s Fund and remains committed to stay current with the Mnqobokazi community needs through regular communication with school principals and NGOs in this region. She is Producer/Co-Director in post-production on a feature documentary titled Under Four Trees to share the success story of the Nkomo Primary School with children and PBS audiences worldwide.

Ms. Cross is a consultant to the University of California, Office of the President, providing technical advisory to UCOP Chief Investment Officer, Endowment & Investment Accounting, Office of the General Counsel, and Institutional Advancement, relating to the planned giving programs for The Regents and the ten University campus locations. She formerly held several management positions at State Street Global Advisors including Vice President, Charitable Asset Management and Senior Tax Officer, Fiduciary and Charitable Tax Department, with over 25 years expertise in planned giving. She is currently on the nonprofit boards of Unite to Light, Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California, and Coro Center for Civic Leadership. She is on the Advisory Board of BNY Mellon client planned giving services.

She volunteers weekly at Argonne Elementary School in San Francisco, engaging over 150 4th and 5th grade students in an annual Read-a-Thon to share the Zulu culture and support the needs of the Zulu school children. Ms. Cross holds a BA in Mathematics from the University of Connecticut; lives in San Francisco and enjoys triathlon, snowboarding, and theater.

Simon Gluckman

Simon founded Intrepid Expeditions in 2011 and has been organizing custom safaris for nearly 20 years. Born in South Africa and raised in the States, he developed a passion for Africa as a child and was inspired to build a career enabling others to experience all the continent has to offer. Simon has traveled to nearly every country in East and Southern Africa, as well as Egypt and Ethipopia. His travels have afforded him incredible opportunities. Among them are: countless game drives throughout Africa; visits to villages from Cairo to Cape Town; tracking rhinos in Zimbabwe; fly-fishing for Tiger fish on the Zambezi; climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya; diving with Great White sharks; and trekking gorillas and chimpanzees. These experiences have given him great insight into the African ecotourism industry, in particular when and where to go. Recognizing that wildlife viewing can change dramatically throughout the course of a year, Simon works hard to select the right experience for an individual based on the season, as well as a host of other factors.

Shannon Hill

Shannon Hill began her public relations career in 1991 as an executive with Party Planners West—a major Los Angeles based event production company. With PPW, she was assigned to accounts including the NFL, Disney, A&M, BMG and MCA/Universal. In 1993, Hill begain working for the high-profile event group—Corporate Entertainment Services (now Merv Griffin Productions), where she served as Account Director for companies such as Calvin Klein, Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, MCA/Universal, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, APLA, Lexus and DirecTv. During these years, she forged invaluable working relationships in the Los Angeles community and developed a reputation as a respected creative events producer.

In 1994, Hill joined Giorgio Armani as a public relations executive. She was responsible for all West Coast event production, creative and promotional public relations strategies, national event concepts and coordination, interfacing with the press, and determining the brand’s involvement in charitable relations and celebrity services. During her four years with Giorgio Armani, she developed strong ties with the Hollywood community, including top agencies (CAA, ICM, William Morris and UTA), public relations firms (PMK, BWR, Bragman, Nyman, Cafarelli and Huvane Baum Halls) and management companies (Brillstein Grey, 3 Arts, Industry, and AMG), as well as stylists, press/editors and Hollywood executives.

Meehan formed her own company—Beyond PR—in September 1998. As a specialist agency, the firm catered to the PR and event production needs of some of Hollywood’s most high-profile brands including Chanel, Valentino, Motorola, Sergio Rossi, Tods, Escada, H. Stern, and Tommy Hilfiger, among many others. In 2004, she merged Beyond PR with Harrison & Shriftman PR and became Managing Director for the firm, responsible for overseeing the firm’s staff as well as clients including Nintendo, Blackberry, Coach, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Grey Goose Vodka, and Warner Brothers, Motorola among others.

Since 2007, Hill has been a freelance consultant for various businesses and charitable organizations including the Child Neurology Foundation, The Epilepsy Foundation, Aspen Aids Befit, The Dream Center, KCD Worldwide, Red Mountain Capital, and Ivory Capital. Hill is a passionate animal rescue advocate and works with such organizations as A Purposeful Rescue, The Bill Foundation, and the PURR Foundation—founded by Vanessa Getty—for which she produces the organization’s annual fundraiser that has raised over $1.2 million to date.

Dana Macy

Dana Macy resides in New Jersey and Wyoming and was raised in Mendham, NJ and Northern Wisconsin. Dana’s husband, Eric and her three children share her passion for Africa. Over the past two years they have traveled to Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia, Egypt, South Africa and Climbed Kilimanjaro. Dana recently visited Mozambique with Empowers Africa in addition to her heartfelt involvement with an orphanage in Uganda.

Dana is a graduate from Denison University where she continues on the Denison Alumni Recruit Team. After college, Dana worked for Senator Timothy Wirth (D-Colorado) in Washington, D.C., then F. Eberstadt Investment Banking NYC for 2 years in Institutional Equity Sales, then joining Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Investment Banking Firm as VP Institutional Equity Sales where she worked for 15 years.

Her athletic interests include being an avid hiker, heli-skiing, ice hockey, running the NY City Marathon, trekking in Bhutan, Photography and most recently, twelve months traveling around the world with her husband and three children.

Charlotte Mourlot

Charlotte is a creative teacher with over 15 years’ experience in international elementary school education and a mediator with the New York Peace Institute and on CTAUN – the committee for teaching and learning about the UN. She has been invited to speak at conferences about Promoting Peace through Education, and has a blog devoted to the cause – givemypeace.com. Charlotte currently teaches fourth grade at the United Nations International School and has previously taught first grade at Colegio Anglo Colombiano in Bogota, Colombia and at Lauriston Primary School, London UK. Charlotte received her BA from University of Leeds, Yorkshire, UK and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. Charlotte lives in New York City with her two sons and has traveled to Africa with the Africa Foundation.

Lyn Pedersen

Lyn received a B.A. in Sociology and Education from the University of Vermont and is currently working on her Masters in Social Work from Fordham University. Lyn’s professional background includes advertising sales, publishing and social work. She is a competitive equestrian and has won multiple championships at a national level. Pedersen has supported Africa Foundation for several years and was actively involved in helping raise awareness and funds for AF, particularly through the New York events and has taken her own groups to travel to the communities. Lyn is involved in several other philanthropic causes, including, Just World International which focuses on empowering children in 3rd world countries, such as, Honduras, Guatemala and Cambodia. She has traveled to Africa four times and is passionate about wildlife protection, human empowerment and land conservation.

Anne Wells

Anne Wells has been working in and out of Africa since she was 19 studying in Tanzania as a student of wildlife and human cultural management. A global social entrepreneur, Anne has been recognized for her work by being named a “Local Defender” by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. A seasoned marketing and communications professional, Wells has more than 20 years of experience working with corporations and not-for-profits. She is also a writer and editor, and she authored and published two non-fiction books that sold and distributed nearly 30,000 copies. Anne received her BA in Anthropology from Kenyon College in 1993 and was awarded the Margaret Mead Award, and she attended the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Anne spent extensive time in Tanzania between 1991 and 1994 and returned in 2008 to start the social enterprise Unite the World with Africa LLC, under which she runs the Unite Tours service safari program, the Ashe Collection global marketplace for African artistry, and the Unite for Africa youth group program in the United States.