Our Team

Alphonse KouagouAlphonse Kouagou is the founder and inspiration behind the Benin Education Fund. He was born in Tampegré, small village in northern Benin. Alphonse has ten brothers and sisters, none of whom can read or write. His path to education is like no other. He was “drafted” at six years old by the village chief to attend the new primary school in his village along with 200 other children; this was the first school in his home town. At 13, the adventure continued when Alphonse moved to Natitingou for secondary school, surviving 7 years living alone. Nothing has been conventional about his long road to education but he feels “Lucky always”. At 15, Alphonse began teaching French and local African languages to Peace Corps Volunteers to raise money to support himself through secondary school. Two of these Peace Corps volunteers later purchased his plane ticket so he could come to the US to pursue his college education. Today, Alphonse has a B.S., a C.P.A., and an M.B.A., and he works for the International Finance Corporation, which is the private sector arm of World Bank Group. His dream of helping under privileged youth from Benin gain education was realized when he and his wife, Karen, founded the Benin Education Fund in 1998.

U.S.-based Volunteer Board Members

Jenny MalseedJenny Kyne Malseed is the BEF Board Chair. Jenny served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin from 1998-2000. After Peace Corps she worked with Winrock International where she managed grants for a scholarship program that supported thousands of female students in Africa. Jenny earned her M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management in 2005 and spent 8 years as a Strategy Consultant at IBM before becoming the Director of Strategy for ChildFund International in 2013. She joined the BEF board in 2005 and became the Chair in 2008.

Karen KouagouKaren Kouagou co-founded the Benin Education Fund with her husband, Alphonse, in 1998. She has been an active member of the BEF board ever since, with a focus on administration, special events and fundraising. Karen is fluent in French and has a broad consulting background in international education and human resources in corporate and nonprofit organizations, as well as the World Bank. She specializes in recruiting, training, and research, and has a M.A. in International Commerce and Policy. Karen is a local member of the Society for Intercultural Education, Training & Research (SIETAR), and currently works as a career counselor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.

Matt SokolowskiMatt Sokolowski served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Segbana, Benin, from 1998-2000. He has worked with several nonprofit organizations designing financial and operational systems. He is currently a partner at The Owner’s Representative, LLC, where he acts as a consultant Chief Financial Officer for multiple nonprofit organizations. Matt has a B.A. in American Studies from The George Washington University. He joined the BEF Board in 2008.

Raluca AngelescuRaluca Angelescu started volunteering with BEF in 2008. She currently serves as VP, Operations and Development, with Diplomatic Language Services, a language services government contractor. Prior to joining DLS in 2003, Raluca worked with the Business and Technology Practice Group of Piper Rudnick LLP (now DLA Piper), where she primarily focused on business analysis, strategic planning and investment management. She has an MBA in Finance from Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland and a B.S. in Marketing from the Academy of Economic Sciences in Bucharest, Romania.

Benin-based Staff and Volunteers

Philippe OwaPhilippe Owa joined the BEF staff in September 2008 as the Accountant and now supports administration and programs. A former BEF scholar, Philippe earned his Masters degree in Management, Accounting and Finance.

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Benin-based Advisors

N’Da AntoineAntoine N’Da is a retired secondary school teacher that has supported BEF in too many ways to count! His donations include the in-kind contribution of office space for BEF and a building for a computer center that BEF would like to open in Natitingou. He recently served as the mayor of Natitingou and is widely respected as a leader in the community. Antoine has an undergraduate degree from the National University of Benin and did his graduate studies in Germany where he obtained a Masters degree in literature.

Marguerite DogoMarguerite Dogo is a primary school teacher with over 15 years of experience. She visits new teachers in the field to provide training and support. Marguerite also interviews female students who are candidates for BEF scholarships and mentors our female BEF scholars.

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