Advisory Board

Karim Ajania, Founder of Smart Libraries

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Karim is the Founder of Pencils for Africa and African Peace Journal.

He is a former school principal of a Massachusetts state charter middle school. Karim was born and schooled in Kenya and holds advanced degrees from MIT and from Harvard University.

To read an interview with Karim for the African Peace Journal click here.

The prototype “smart library” in Kibera, Kenya that Karim would like to be pioneer as part of the Smart Library network franchise will be called Shirin’s Library in honor of his grandmother, Shirin.

To read Karim’s illustrated story about a child in Kibera click here.

Muyambi Muyambi, Advisory Board Member of Smart Libraries

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Muyambi is currently an MBA student at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

He worked as an engineer for almost four years at Clark Construction in the Civil division.

His first project was the $1.2B Dulles Corridor Metrorail project (Silver line), which Clark bid for and won in 2013. Muyambi is passionate about the role of infrastructure in development and was part of the team at Capital Rail Constructors building the Silver Line in Virginia. 

In addition, Muyambi was a partnership and branding advisor at The Pearl Dream Inc. – a startup aiming to become Africa’s Disney by connecting African writers and storytellers to a global audience. He also received a personal congratulatory letter from President Obama in 2012 when he graduated from college.

Muyambi was a 2013 National Geographic Travelers of the Year and recipient of the esteemed Burma International award at Bucknell University among other awards.

A native of Uganda, he holds a dual degree in Civil Engineering (B.S.E.) and Economics (B.A.) from Bucknell University. Before Bucknell, he attended the last two years of high school in Norway at the Red Cross Nordic United World College. 

On Saturday mornings, you will find Muyambi on a road bike.

He has been lucky to cycle across both the USA and Uganda.

Brandon Rowell, Advisory Board Member of Smart Libraries

Brandon Rowell is currently part of the business operations team at Propel(x), a San Francisco based angel investing/venture capital firm.

His responsibilities include prospective investor on boarding, assisting with startup deal management and representing the firm at industry startup events. Propel(x) holds  portfolio companies in fields of science and technology that provide truly breakthrough innovation.

Brandon is enrolled at Santa Clara University, where he is a undergraduate student in the Leavey School of Business. In addition to working towards his degree, he has also worked for POPVOX, a political science and civic engagement platform that meshes real time legislative data and delivers it to individuals, legislators, organizations and corporations.

Brandon also serves as Vice President of Professional Development for the Santa Clara chapter of Delta Sigma Pi, a National business fraternity.

He is also a ceramic artist and the founder of Brandon Rowell Studios – an online marketplace for his ceramic artwork.

Leslie Kennedy, Advisory Board Member of Smart Libraries

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I’ve attached a photo of me and a boy from the orphanage that I’m involved with in Cambodia. The art piece he is holding was done by him and given as a gift to me and to Saint Hilary School to thank us for the donations we brought with us (library books, school supplies and a fleet of bikes for the kids). He is a really cool kid and has sent other pieces to me via Marin County travelers that have also stopped by the orphanage over the years since we were there.    — Leslie Kennedy

Leslie Kennedy is a brand strategy consultant with an extensive background in advertising, marketing and consumer research. She has provided guidance to many global brands including Microsoft, The Wall Street Journal and Tim Hortons. Prior to being an independent consultant, Leslie was Planning Director at Goodby Silverstein and Partners and Mullen Advertising.

She has an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth College and enjoys mentoring students as an advisor at The Miami Ad School San Francisco.

Her involvement in Pencils for Africa started with her children, as she is the proud mother of Colin (CEO of Scramble for Africa) and Carly (CEO of Portfolio PFA).

As Leslie’s husband, Min, is a first generation immigrant from Korea, the family has always placed high priority on global travel and perspective. Their service work began many years ago during a trip to Cambodia where they were fortunate to meet a volunteer from Friends of the Orphan Children Organization (FOCO) in Siem Reap.

They immediately fell in love with the 55 children within the orphanage and have continued to support them, through the generosity of the St. Hilary School community, with clothing, school supplies and contributions for a much needed water filtration system.

She feels incredibly fortunate that both she and her children have the opportunity to be involved with the PFA community and looks forward to the exciting projects ahead.

Yema Khalif, Advisory Board Member of Smart Libraries

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Yema Khalif, the founder and CEO of YEMA, grew up in the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya.

He knows what it is like to live without clean running water, good schools and job opportunities, much less TV or online shopping. Born in a family of 8, his parents could barely afford school fees, so Yema had to drop out of high school two times even though he was getting good grades.

“I thank my mom for forcing me back to school because I had given up,” he recalls. “She was able to pay for me to finish school by selling off my dad’s cool stereo and gas cooker.”

Through a scholarship from Road to Freedom (RFS), an organization that empowers and educates children living in extreme poverty, Yema came to the US to study Communications and Media at Dominican University of California, where he recently graduated summa cum laude with an MBA.

Knowing what a difference his family and the scholarship made in his life, Yema’s mission is to support the education of vulnerable girls in Kibera slums. To combine his passion for design, athletics and helping other kids back home in Kibera, Yema created the sportswear company YEMA, LLC. He founded the company in the San Francisco Bay Area with his friend and Dominican University classmate Rawad Abou Hassan. YEMA, LLC designs and sells high quality and fashionable sportswear and donates US$5 of every purchase to RFS. Each US$5 donated to RFS is enough to buy a textbook, three meals or a school sweater. RFS is sending kids from the slum to school, where many of the kids’ problems are addressed in one place, holistically.

The kids gain a family in each other, a bed, a uniform to wear, medical care, three meals a day, clean water to drink, safety from violence and assault, and an elite education. Through receiving an education, as well as the opportunity to live in a supportive environment, RFS students are able to break free of the cycle of being “stuck” in the Kibera slum, the largest slum in Africa.

Paola Gianturco, Advisory Board Member of Smart Libraries

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Paola Gianturco is an author and photographer who has documented women’s lives in 60 countries.

She has had five books published and is a grandmother. (Click here for Paola’s website).

Her involvement with women’s issues is long standing. She has lectured about them in the US, Canada, France and Spain. She spoke at UNESCO International Headquarters in Paris on International Women’ s Day 2008; her photographs were exhibited there in 2009 and 2011. Paola co-developed and taught Executive Institutes on Women and Leadership at Stanford University, and served on the Board of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). She was a principal in the first women-owned advertising agency in the United States and is a current member of International Women’s Forum.

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Paola presented a TED TALK in Dubai in May of 2014.

In 2013, Paola was named one of “40 Women to Watch over 40” – and in 2014, she was named one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s eNews. She serves on the Leadership Council of Let Girls Lead and on the Advisory Board of Global Grandmothers.

Shannon Sutherland, Researcher for Smart Libraries

Shannon is a co-author of the book, What is Smart?.

She is also the Editor-in-Chief of African Kitchen Table and the CEO of Girl Smart Africa.