Board of Directors


Nicolas Meringolo, Editor-in-Chief


Nicolas is the Editor-in-Chief of the Pencils for Africa editorial team.

He is a student at Saint Hilary Middle School in Tiburon, California.

To watch Nicolas’ presentation to the Board of Directors, kindly click here.

Colin Yoon, Deputy Editor

Colin is the Deputy Editor of the Pencils for Africa editorial team.

He is a student at Saint Hilary Middle School in Tiburon, California.

Rutendo Urenje

RutendoRutendo grew up and attended high school in Harare, Zimbabwe. She is currently studying for a Masters in International Human Rights Law degree at Lund University in Sweden. Prior to this, Rutendo spent five years at Rhodes University, South Africa, studying for a Social Sciences degree and a Law degree.

During her studies she worked for the Rhodes University’s Community Engagement office as a student liaison officer. In her own words:


I earnestly have a passion to serve people, especially children who may not have developed the capacities to help themselves.

In Sweden, she has been actively volunteering at both Save the Children Gotland and Save the Children Lund. Rutendo is also a project leader for the Kids in Transit Project in Lund. In addition to being fluent in both English and Shona, Rutendo has a working knowledge of French, Afrikaans and Ndebele.

Rutendo is the Managing Editor of African Peace Journal for which she recently completed a field journalism assignment as well as taught in a village school in South Sudan, Africa’s newest country.

Chyah Weitzman


Chyah was educated at Harvard College and completed her Master of Fine Arts degree through Harvard’s international study program in Japan. She learned to master the history, culture and technique of traditional Japanese paper making through the National Treasures of Japan. Chyah completed her masters thesis at the University of Copenhagen, teaching Japanese textiles to graduate students.

Chyah was in Samburu, Kenya during November of 2013, meeting with fellow Pencils for Africa board members Lekadaa and Saiwana Lolngojine, as well as elders of Nangida Village in Samburu. She is working to build an alliance between the local Nangida Village school and Saint Hilary Middle School where she has been teaching for the past seventeen years and is the Director of the Arts Program.

Since January of 2013, she has also integrated fellow board member Saki Mafundikwa’s book, Afrikan Alphabets, into her school arts program. Chyah directs and mentors the Pencils for Africa editorial team.

Twesigye J. Kaguri


CNN Hero Twesigye Jackson Kaguri is the Global Ambassador for Pencils for Africa.

Jackson was born and raised in Uganda in the small village of Nyakagyezi. At a very young age he demonstrated an unquenchable desire to learn, which led him to graduate from Makerere University in Kampala. During this time he co-founded the human rights organization, Human Rights Concerns, to help victims of human rights violations in Uganda and to educate the public about their rights. In the 1990s he became a visiting scholar at Columbia University where he studied Human Rights Advocacy.

In 2001, Jackson founded The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in response to the devastating effects of the disease in his hometown. The organization, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, provides free education to children who have lost one or both parents. In addition to two schools, it operates a library, a community agriculture and nutrition program known as Desire Farm, a medical clinic, and a clean water system. It also offers support services to the grandmothers who care for up to fourteen children at a time.


Jackson is the author of A School for My Village where he shares how he built the first school and the struggles he faced during the first few years. He has been named a Heifer International Hero, recognized in Time Magazine’s ‘Power of One’ Series, spoken to the UN about his work, and is a 2012 CNN Hero.

Katy Digovich


Katy Digovich is an entrepreneur that has spent the previous five years in Southern Africa growing and running a nonprofit that she founded one month after graduating from Princeton University, known as Positive Innovation for the Next Generation or PING.

PING worked on the ground deploying health and education technology and training local unemployed youth to support and maintain their systems. The organization used this method to launch 11 apps in Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa. PING has partnered with Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Clinton Foundation, Center for Disease Control, US-AID and multiple African telecoms.

Katy has been featured in several publications for her work including this article in Forbes Magazine.

Dr. Henry Petroski


Dr. Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering at Duke University.

At Duke University, he has a secondary appointment as a professor of history. From 2004 through 2012 he held a Presidential appointment as a member of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.

HPetroskiProfessor Petroski’s current research activity focuses on the interrelationship between success and failure in design.

He also has a strong interest in the nature of invention and in the history of technology.

Professor Petroski’s research has been sponsored by the Corps of Engineers, the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has published seventeen books and hundreds of articles in newspapers, magazines, and trade journals.

He has published articles in such places as International Journal of Fracture, Engineering Fracture Mechanics, Journal of Applied Mechanics, Structural Safety, and Research in Engineering Design.

Professor Petroski is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineers of Ireland, and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. His numerous honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship.

John Fulmer

JF with Adingra (oil)

John is an archaeologist by profession.

After graduating from Hospital Hill Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, he graduated high school at Phillips Exeter Academy and went on to study at Dartmouth College, the New School for Social Research, the University of Southern Mississippi and Washington University in St. Louis. He currently manages the cultural resources management department for an engineering firm in Kansas City, Missouri.

David Rees


Photo of David Rees by Meredith Heuer

David Rees is an artisan pencil sharpener.




David used to be a political cartoonist. His work appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, The Nation, Harper’s and many other publications. He gave that career up to pursue his dreams. David loves No. 2 pencils and pencil sharpeners, and considers it a privilege to sharpen pencils for friends and other people.

To read the How to Sharpen Pencils review in The New Yorker click here.


To view a video of pencil artisan David Rees demonstrating his sharpening skills click here.

Arundhati Inamdar Willetts


Aru has grown up in and lives in Kenya.

She has degrees in Environmental Chemical Engineering and in Environmental Resources, and works as an independent environmental management consultant, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Aru specializes in environmental and social impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment mainly for infrastructure projects and programs, and focuses on developing sustainable environmental and social solutions to technical problems. Her work has taken her to wild and wonderful places across the length and breadth of East Africa, a region she loves for its immense beauty and cultural wealth.

Aru has a special interest in supporting communities living alongside wildlife through sustainable tourism - her mantra: make industry care!

She is an active member of Ecotourism Kenya, and served on its Executive Board for a number of years.

Saki Mafundikwa


In his book Afrikan Alphabets, Saki Mafundiwaka includes a Ghanaian pictograph meaning “return to the past”. This is exactly what he did in 1997 when he cashed in his publishing job 401(k) and left New York to open the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (ZIVA) in Harare. (“Vigital” denotes visual arts taught using digital tools). As a kid growing up in Zimbabwe, Mafundiwaka loved to sketch letterforms he saw in books and magazines, but he didn’t know graphic design was a career option until he arrived in America.


Saki-Mafundikwa“Sometimes you have to leave home,” Saki says, “to discover yourself.” He opened ZIVA to pay it forward. “The dream,” he says, “is for something to come out of Africa that is of Africa.”

In 2010, he made the film Shungu: The Resilience of a People, a compelling narrative of the strategies ordinary people use to survive in Zimbabwe today.

Saki has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University.

To view Saki’s TED Talk kindly click here.

Lee Mingwei


Lee Mingwei, like Saki Mafundikwa, has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University.

He has had solo exhibitions internationally including Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Fabric Workshop and Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and has been featured in biennials in Venice, Lyon, Liverpool (2006, 2010), Taipei, Sydney, Whitney, and at Echigo-Tsumari, Asia Pacific Triennials. To visit Lee Migwei’s website kindly click here.

Paola Gianturco


Paola Gianturco is an author and photographer who has documented women’s lives in 55 countries.

She has had five books published and is a grandmother whose website is about Grandmother Power.

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.


Paola presented a TED TALK in May 2011. 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.



Lekadaa is an ecologist and conservationist based in Samburu, Kenya. He grew up in Nangida Village in Samburu, and is working with the Pencils for Africa editorial team to build an alliance with his village. This includes documenting and sharing Samburu tribal arts and crafts traditions such as weaving and bead-making, as well as the pastoral traditions of herding goats, cows and sheep. Lekadaa, through Skype calls with the Pencils for Africa editorial team, will update the team on activities in Nangida Village.

Dr. Elinor Breman


Elinor gained her D.Phil. from the School of Geography and Environment, Oxford University in 2010.

Her thesis examined the drivers of vegetation change at the present-day grassland-savanna ecotone in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa.

This involved the use of a variety of palaeoecological techniques (pollen, charcoal, stable isotope and phytolith analysis) on three sedimentary sequences spanning the Holocene (last 10,000 years).

The main focus of this work (funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation) was climate-fire-vegetation dynamics in the summer rainfall region of South Africa, temporal (Holocene) and spatial (altitudinal) changes in C3- and C4-dominated grass ecosystems, and ecological thresholds and resilience within savannas and grasslands.

Elinor also holds an MSc in Forestry and Land Use from Oxford University, and an MA in Plant Sciences from Cambridge University. To read the Pencils for Africa Editor-in-Chief’s interview with Elinor click here.

Dr. Shepherd Urenje

ShepU 2

Shepherd Urenje is from Zimbabwe and currently works as a Senior Programme Specialist at the Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development (SWEDESD) in Sweden.

Prior to joining SWEDESD he was a Principal Examiner at EDXEL UK (2009), a regional Programme Manager at SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme (2004 – 2008), a Research Associate (2002 -2008), a Teacher Educator (1997 -2003) and a High School teacher (1983 – 1996).

Shepherd completed a Doctorate in Development Education at University of London, UK in 2012.

He has a Masters Degree from Rhodes University in South Africa (2005) and undergraduate study at University of Zimbabwe.

His research interests are in the field of Environment and Sustainability Education, ranging from theory, design to implementation, with a focus on improving the practice of teaching and learning.

In recent years he has been working on developing cutting edge techniques for teaching and learning that will equip young people with the relevant knowledge and skills for an ever changing world. He is currently working in collaboration with researchers in South Asia and southern Africa.

Olivia Ramsay


Olivia Ramsay with her ballet students in Cape Town, South Africa

Olivia, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, grew up following her passion for classical ballet.

She became a professional dancer performing throughout the United States and Asia.

She also received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Mary’s College of California’s LEAP (Liberal Education for Arts Professionals) program. She currently teaches dance in Marin County, California.

Olivia discovered her passion for Africa while on a school trip to South Africa, where she taught dance in several townships in Cape Town. She was inspired to bring this new-found passion for Africa back home with her by creating a unique program to bring South African ballet students to the USA to train and experience dance from abroad. An early pioneer of Pencils for Africa, Olivia worked with the founder to launch the website and facilitate pencil donations. Olivia also served as the interim executive director.

To read Olivia’s interview with the founder of Pencils for Africa, click here.

Pierre Guidetti


Pierre is an artist and entrepreneur who is CEO of Savoir Faire.

For over 25 years, Pierre has traveled the United States, listening to the desires and aspirations of artists, interpreting their needs by sourcing and importing the world’s finest creative materials. His infectious enthusiasm and his jovial personality, made him the confidante of artists such as David Hockney.

To Pierre, art is not simply about beauty; it is about life, freedom of expression and the joy of the creative process. The idea that a simple paint brush or pencil can change a life, or even perhaps change the world, inspires and shapes his daily activities, whether it’s giving a seminar at the National Gallery of Art, collaborating with a manufacturer to create an innovative product, inspiring and educating retailers with presentations on the history and influence of the European art tradition, or painting with his two children.

Truly an ambassador of the arts, Pierre has made it his life’s work to spread the joy of creativity and of course, Savoir-Faire. Pierre has provides Pencils for Africa with abundant supplies of pencils.

Molly Kellogg

Molly grew up in White Plains, NY and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History.

While in college, Molly spent a semester in northern Uganda studying the history of the LRA conflict that devastated the land and people for more than twenty years. She was particularly interested in the border region between Uganda and South Sudan and upon graduating, she received a grant to work on a preservation and digitization project of the South Sudan National Archives in Juba, South Sudan.

Molly became intrigued by South Sudan and stayed on for a year expanding her knowledge of the world’s newest country. She interned for Norweign People’s Aid, the longest running NGO in South Sudan, as an advisor to a state-wide women’s association in Bor, Jonglei state.

While in South Sudan, Molly was also starting up her own business, Bulu Mango, based in Kampala, Uganda. Bulu Mango is a social enterprise that is working to create a market for women artisans who have talent but lack access to a sustainable income. She is now working on Bulu Mango full time and travels frequently between the production team in Kampala and the market in New York.

Olivier Bercault


Olivier Bercault by photographer David Buchbinder for Human Rights Watch

Olivier is featured in the first interview, in the Interview series of Pencils for Africa.

A video interview: The Conflict Through Children’s Eyes with Olivier Bercault can be viewed here.

Olivier specialized in armed conflicts, refugee issues and international criminal prosecutions. He leads fact-finding research missions to document human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity and help bringing to justice those who commit atrocities. Olivier is consultant for Human Rights Watch on the case against Hissein Habré, the international prosecution of former Chad dictator.

In December 2013, Human Rights Watch published Olivier’s book La Plaine Des Morts (The Plain of the Dead), a 714-page study indicating that Habré was personally implicated in the massive human rights violations during his rule in Chad from 1982 to 1990.


In 2010, Olivier Bercault returned to Iraq on behalf of Human Rights Watch where his research on torture of Iraqi detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad gained international attention and triggered an official United Nations investigation.

In 2008 and 2009, Olivier Bercault has served as deputy-head of the Human Rights Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Mr. Bercault has directed the reporting effort of the United Nations in Iraq regarding human rights violations committed in this country. He was also in charge of the human rights advocacy work and human rights promotional activity of the United Nations in Iraq.

From 2000 to 2008, Olivier Bercault has served in the emergencies program at Human Rights Watch.

During these years, he conducted research mission in most of the conflict areas around the globe: Eastern Chad, Darfur, Central African Republic, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka among others.

He has investigated and documented widespread and serious abuses committed by governmental forces, rebel and other armed groups.

His research on war crimes, child forced recruitment and crimes against humanity, especially in Darfur have ended up at the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Security Council.

Sudanese children in a Djabal refugee camp in southern Chad

Sudanese children in Djabal refugee camp in southern Chad

The Darfur Drawings


While on mission to Darfur refugee camps in eastern Chad in February 2005, Olivier Bercault gave children notebooks and crayons to keep them occupied while talking to their parents. Without any instruction or guidance, the children drew scenes from their experiences of the war in Darfur:

The attacks by the Janjaweed militia, the bombings by Sudanese government forces, the shootings, the burning of entire villages, and the flight to Chad. Mr. Bercault brought back hundreds of drawings in the hope that the rest of the world would see the war stories of these children.

The drawings have been published by the New York Times and extensively in the world press, on the net, broadcasted on major TV networks in the United States and in the world and showed in exhibitions in New York, in the major cities in the US and in Europe.


In addition to his work on emergencies, Olivier was responsible for Human Rights Watch (2000-2008) for coordinating the international effort to bring Hissein Habré, the former dictator of Chad to justice.

Olivier has also participated as an external expert in the Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo projects of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in New York (2003-2004). He conducted several missions to these two countries. At the end of the eighties and in the nineties, Olivier Bercault practiced law in his native France and then worked for the Moscow Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Russian Federation.

Mr. Bercault holds an LL.M. from Columbia Law School in New York as well as a degree in Private Law from the University of Paris. He has traveled extensively throughout the world, and has lived in Russia, Switzerland, Chad, Iraq, New York and Northern California.

Molly Burke


Molly Burke is the Co-Founder and the Executive Director of Bicycles Against Poverty.

Bicycles Against Poverty is a microfinance organization based in East Africa that empowers rural Ugandans to access critical resources using bicycles. Molly is currently based in Gulu, Uganda.

Molly holds a B.A. in Environmental Sciences and in Political Science from Bucknell University.

Saiwana Lolngojine

tumANTHONY 2Saiwana Lolngojine is an ecologist and conservationist based in Samburu. Kenya.

He is working with the Pencils for Africa editorial team to build to a program for conservation for the African elephant which is endangered due to increased poaching for ivory on the African Continent.

Saiwana is also working to build an alliance between the Pencils for Africa editorial team and the local school in Samburu so that the young people in both Kenya and California can learn more about each other’s customs and culture as well as participate in mutual arts and crafts projects.

Alison Nicholls


Alison Nicholls is an artist inspired by Africa.

She lived in Botswana and Zimbabwe for a number of years and returns to Africa annually to sketch, visit conservation projects, and lead sketching safaris for Africa Geographic magazine.

She is a member of Artists For Conservation, the Society of Animal Artists, the Explorers Club and the Salmagundi Club. She sketches and paints the people and wildlife of Africa in vibrant color, and often explores complex conservation issues in her work.

Alison makes a donation to African conservation from every sale of her artwork.

Her art can be viewed on her website:

Amanda France


Amanda is the co-producer of the I, Pencil movie.

I-PencilThis movie has been viewed and discussed in depth by the Pencils for Africa editorial team.

The film explores cooperation, collaboration and community-building toward a worthy purpose. It has helped the team comprehend concepts from Economics to Ecology as they pertain to harvesting trees, processing timber and sourcing graphite to make pencils.

To view the I, Pencil movie click here.

To read the Pencils for Africa editorial team’s interview with Amanda, click here.

Karim Ajania, Founder of Pencils for Africa

To read an interview with Karim about founding Pencils for Africa based on frugalis creativus click here.

BlogKarim 2


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