Lara Gureje-Oderinde is the President and Executive Director of Jewels of Africa Foundations Inc. She was born and raised in Nigeria. She attended public elementary and high school in Nigeria before travelling to the United Kingdom for her Undergraduate and Post Graduate studies. Lara is a renowned data and regulatory risk expert in the financial industry. She is currently a Vice President for Data Analytics, Data Governance and Business Intelligence at Bank of the West/BNP Paribas Group.
Having left the country over three decades ago, she is disheartened by the change and decay in the educational system in Nigeria. Growing up in Nigeria, Lara’s educational journey was made so much easier and interesting by the immense financial support from churches, missionaries and philanthropists that was made available to public schools. The current situation of the educational system in Nigeria is a far cry from what it used to be. She understands firsthand that youths from the rural regions of Nigeria are being disenfranchised as they have no means of accessing quality education. Consequently, the opportunity to use education as a platform to change their families' storylines and transform their own lives is very slim.
Not one to sit on the sidelines and lament the decline in the educational system in the country, Lara decided to do something about it and be part of the solution to restore the educational system to what it should be. Engaging with her alma mater, St. Margaret’s School in Ilesa (Nigeria), she kick-started a multi-pronged strategy to augment teaching and learning experience with after school programs, books and teaching aid supplies. The vision for Jewels of Africa Foundations Inc. was birthed as an offshoot of these initiatives.
Lara’s passion for youth empowerment is organic. Without doubt, it is her calling to make a difference in the lives of many children in Sub Saharan Africa. Lara is unwavering in her passion and commitment to raising up a new generation of African leaders. She continues to plug in and forge alliance and partnership with individuals and organizations with similar passion, with the goal of reviving the continent by impacting its present youth and the next generation.
Kemi Mackenzie-Gureje is the Vice President of Jewels of Africa Foundations Inc. She was born and raised in Nigeria by parents who instilled the value of education into her, early in life. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Ife in Nigeria before emigrating to the United Kingdom three decades, ago. She is eternally grateful, foremost to God and to her parents for equipping her with high quality education that has opened doors for her in a foreign country.
Kemi has an inconcealable and infectious passion for education. She testifies to the power and benefit of education as her defence through the dark moments of her life. She inculcated the same passion into her progeny who later became recipients of academic scholarships at some of the top independent private schools in the United Kingdom. Kemi is keenly aware that the generosity of the benefactors who bequeathed legacies to those schools, contributed in no small measure to the educational journey of her progeny. Having been a beneficiary of that generosity, she recognises that ‘to whom much is given, so much more is expected’. Armed with this belief and passion, she has formed an alliance with like-minded people who are committed to giving back, in the same measure, to underprivileged youths in Sub-Saharan Africa, notably Nigeria and Ghana.
Kemi is a freelance Software Engineer/IT Consultant in the Data space. She holds two Master of Science degrees, from the London Guildhall University (UK) and the University of Liverpool (UK), respectively.
Shola Oderinde serves as the Treasurer of Jewels of Africa Foundations Inc. He is a Software Architect in the Silicon Valley area of California (USA). Shola was born in the United Kingdom but raised in Nigeria. Having been a direct beneficiary of community mentoring in his early years growing up in Nigeria, Shola feels it is a natural calling for him to reciprocate the same mentoring and guidance that he once received growing up in Nigeria.
Shola is passionate about going back to his root to give back to the underprivileged youths. As a change agent, Shola has an unyielding passion to empower youth through education. Additionally, he is involved in various community programs for youth empowerment and big brother mentor-mentee programs within his local church.
Chelsey Kamson serves as the Secretary for Jewels of Africa Foundations Inc. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health, at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. She is passionate about improving the quality of life of individuals through advocacy, policy, education and research. Her current research focuses on health disparities, community partnerships, and the intersection between public health and technology. Chelsey completed her undergraduate degree at the University of California (San Diego) in Cognitive Neuroscience.
She believes that education is the catalyst for real and impactful change. As a first generation African-American of Nigerian parentage, she has a strong desire to make a sustainable and effective change within West Africa, from policy level through education. She believes that everyone should live in an environment where basic needs and necessities are given to all people. Educational development is critical for the growth and strength and provides a platform for sustainable and systematic expansion and improvement.