Alphonse Kouagou is the founder and inspiration behind the Benin Education Fund. He was born in the village of Tampegre in northern Benin. Alphonse has ten brothers and sisters, none of whom can read or write. His native language is Ditammari; he also speaks two other African languages, plus French and English. At the age of six, Alphonse was recruited by the village chief to attend the new primary school in his village. After primary school, Alphonse chose to continue his education. With a few francs and a sack of yams, he walked 20 miles to the city where the high school was located. Alphonse eventually graduated from high school and college. He began teaching French and local African languages to Peace Corps Volunteers, which eventually led him to the U.S. Today, Alphonse has a B.S., a C.P.A., and an M.B.A., and he works at the International Finance Corporation in Washington, DC. His dream of helping young people in Benin was realized when he and his wife, Karen, founded the Benin Education Fund in 1998.
Benin-based Staff and Volunteers
Latif Serou joined the BEF team in August, 2013, as Program Manager. He came to us from Plan Benin, where he spent three years focused on education and protecting children from trafficking, child labor and violence. He has worked his entire professional life for NGOs, primarily on education and health, focusing in particular on the challenges Africa women face. Latif received his masters degree in law from Parakou University.
Julie Wang is a Peace Corps Volunteer who joined the BEF team in September, 2012. She is part of the Peace Corps’ Small Enterprise Development program and partners with BEF’s local staff in Natitingou, Benin. Julie comes to Benin with a lifetime of travel, running a business in New York City for 20 years, practice as a landscape designer in Maine plus three children and three grandchildren under her belt! She is fluent in French and received her B.A. in Honors French from McGill University in Montreal. She also has degrees from the Harvard Business School and Harvard’s Graduate School of Landscape Design.
Philippe 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.
Robert N’Da Robert N’Da is a primary school teacher and a BEF graduate. He assists with program monitoring and administration, including student enrollments and tuition payments. He is based in Natitingou.ns the BEF staff in September 2008 as the accountant. A former BEF scholar, Philippe recently earned his Masters degree in Management
U.S.-based Volunteer Board Members
Jenny Kyne Malseed is the BEF Board Chair. Jenny served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin from 1998-2000, and is fluent in French. 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 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 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.
Joan Libucha is a graduate of Newton College of the Sacred Heart and Rhode Island College School of Nursing. She is a Registered Nurse and has worked part-time at Rhode Island Hospital since 1984. Joan retired at the end of 2008 after 39 years as an elementary and middle school teacher in Fall River, MA, and wants to continue contributing to causes that benefit Africa. She has been a loyal BEF donor and supporter since our launch in 1998 and visited Benin for the first time in 2009. She officially joined the board in 2008.
Raluca 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.
Antoine 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 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.