Malaika consists of a local, on-the-ground team of passionate individuals responsible for running the school and overseeing the day-to-day operations. The team works with a number of international pro-bono volunteers who bring a wealth of expertise across sectors, industries, and geographies.

At the helm of Malaika is founder Noëlla Coursaris Musunka, a Congolese/Cypriot philanthropist and international model. 

After finishing her studies in Business Management, Noëlla entered the world of modeling. As her career took off and she took her talents to the global stage, Noëlla uncovered a platform through which to share her passion for human rights. In 2007, she founded Malaika. Fiercely proud of her African heritage, Noëlla’s determination to help improve the lives of Africa’s youth has made her an international advocate for their welfare.

Noëlla is an advisor at Concordia and has shared her insight at a number of world-class forums spanning the World Economic Forum in Davos to the university halls of Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and MIT.

In 2017, Noëlla was named one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential & Inspirational Women of the Year, and in 2018, she received an award at the 100 Years of Mandela celebration. She is an Ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. 

Board of Directors

Noëlla Coursaris Musunka
CEO and Founder
Noëlla Coursaris Musunka, a Congolese/Cypriot philanthropist and international model, is the Founder & CEO of Malaika, a grassroots nonprofit that empowers girls and communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through a school, a community center, and a clean water program. A unique and fearless spokesperson, and the face of leading fashion campaigns across the globe, Noëlla is a voice for the power of girls’ education worldwide. Founded in 2007, Malaika’s programs impact thousands of lives and are all offered free of charge. Crucially, Malaika acts as a local model that can be replicated on a global level, as demonstrated by the launch of the Malaika Model Toolkit during UNGA week in 2022. Noëlla has shared her insight at a number of world-class forums, spanning the World Economic Forum in Davos to the university halls of Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and MIT. In 2017, Noëlla was named one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential & Inspirational Women of the Year, in 2018, she received an award at the 100 Years of Mandela celebration and in 2022 she was honored as a Daughter of Greatness from the Muhammad Ali Center. She is an Advisor at Concordia and an Ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She sits on the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network and the L’Oréal Fund for Women Endowment Fund Advisory Committee and has been a two-time judge for EY’s World Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Charlotte Kirby
Charlotte is Vice President of Global Strategic Relations at Salesforce. Charlotte is responsible for building formal strategic partnerships, international collaborations and strong strategic relations to holistically support Salesforce.org. Saleforce.org’s mission is to put technology in the hands of nonprofits and education institutions so they can connect with others and accelerate their impact. Charlotte is passionate about driving learning-based programming, employee volunteerism, and grant management in areas of STEM education, youth workforce development, and technology innovation. Prior to this role, Ms Kirby worked in senior management roles in the telecommunications industry, holding senior management positions within Verizon and WorldCom and focusing on business transformation and customer success. Ms Kirby holds a BA (Hons) in Business fromAnglia Ruskin and a MSc in Corporate Governance from London South Bank.
Alain Pakabomba
Board Member
Alain joined Malaika in 2008, after 14 years in the investment banking world, where he gained extensive leadership experience while maintaining a strong involvement serving in a number of local and national non-profit organizations. Born in the DRC and passionate about the power of education, Alain strongly believes that Africa must commit to improving education standards so that economic growth can be sustained. Alain brings his wealth of experience and passion to help shape Malaika’s strategic direction and structure in supporting and managing its futuregrowth. Alain works as a Managing Partner for Obsidian LLC, a specialty advisory firm he founded in 2015, which focuses on financial services in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to that, he held executive roles in Investments and Capital Markets for a Fortune 50 company.
Sanjay Rawal
Board Member
Sanjay Rawal is a documentary filmmaker and human rights specialist with over 15 years experience in nearly 50 countries. His first film Food Chains, produced by Eva Longoria and narrated by Forest Whitaker, exposes the abuse of farmworkers in the United States. In addition to making films, Sanjay has started and run a number of nonprofit initiatives including the Voss Foundation, on whose board he currently sits. He has worked for a number of philanthropists, corporate leaders and entertainers in crafting solutions to pressing issues in emerging markets. Sanjay had the opportunity to work on healthcare issues facing the Democratic Republic of Congo and was privileged to accompany Khaliah Ali on her trip to the DRC to celebrate the 35th anniversary of her father Muhammad’s fight with George Foreman. Sanjay is a dedicated supporter of girls education and has been an admirer of Malaika’s work for almost a decade
Eileen Walmsley
Board Member
Eileen is a Program Officer at the Claims Conference. Prior to this Eileen was the Program Manager for Malaika and has remained dedicated to the organization as she is passionate about development work that has a deep impact on communities, with quantifiable results. Eileen grew up in India, the Philippines and Brazil, leading to her passion for international affairs. She spent years working at a human rights NGO in Peru, focusing on health issues affecting women in lower income areas. She saw firsthand the obstacles women face to rise out of poverty and came to believe in the power of education as a means to breaking the cycle. Eileen has an acumen for strategic thinking, adaptability and problem solving. She speaks four languages and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology from McGill University.

Executive Team

Sarah Kalumba
Country Manager
Sarah Kalumba is the country manager for Malaika. She is a skilled and passionate leader who believes that every girl has the right to achieve her dreams and get an education. Sarah was born in the DRC and traveled throughout Africa while studying to become a veterinarian, finally receiving her license at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Lubumbashi. She began leading the Malaika Community Center as a center manager in 2014. The Malaika team saw her potential and a year later, she was promoted to country manager and has been a major part of Malaika’s growth. Having been raised by a single mother as well as being a woman and mother of four, Sarah knows firsthand how hard life can be for those less fortunate and in particular, for women and girls. To Sarah, Malaika represents a refuge for all those who seek to overcome the various barriers in life that stem from a lack of education and self-esteem. In her role, Sarah uses her knowledge and life experiences to help empower a community in the DRC. She leads an amazing team of both staff and volunteers, regularly deals with Malaika’s local and international donors, and oversees all of Malaika’s programs on the ground.
Sylvain Koj Tshikut
Sylvain Koj Tshikut is Headmasterat the Malaika School. He was born in Kasaji and studied Computer Science at the Superior Institute of Statistics (ISS) in Lubumbashi. Sylvain has a passion for youth and music, and he plays many musical instruments (piano, keyboards, drums, etc.). He also has experience in choir directing and has managed a youth movement called Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade. In 2003, Sylvain and his family were living in Bunia but fled to Aru (a Congolese border territory of Uganda) to take refuge from the war. The death of his dear friends during the massacre in Bunia is a sad memory that he will carry with him always. Knowing personally the effects of war, he is passionate about investing in the field of education to help the Congolese youth. He hopes to use his life experiences and education to make a positive difference in the lives of the girls at the Malaika School. He counts the day that he received the call from Malaika announcing that hehad successfully passed the test at the School as one of the happiest in his life.
Adriana Henriquez
Chief Financial Officer
Adriana joined Malaika as CFO during its inception in 2007. She oversees all aspects of the foundation’s finances, including budgets, audits, preparation of financial statements and reporting to Malaika’s board of directors and the public. Adriana brings to the foundation over 20 years of management experience in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, with a focus on developing policies and procedures to improve revenue and performance. A strong advocate of STEM education for girls, she graduated with a Masters of Public Administration from the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College and with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. She sits on the Board of Directors at Concordia.

Advisory Board

Bethany Asplundh
Bethany is a mother of 4 boys and a devoted activist for the rights of women and girls around the world. She has been a generous supporter of V-Day for over a decade and produced and directed a recent production of “The Vagina Monologues” in Philadelphia. Through Bethany’s work in the DRC, she came to know Noella and get involved with Malaika, and she is honored to sit on the Advisory Board.
Marjorie Coestier
Marjorie walks with students
Marjorie is the Project Manager and Digital Expert at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in Switzerland. Through her work and throughout her career she supports and inspires school communities to create a sustainable and relevant digital culture understanding the different elements of a digital project, both computational and pedagogical. Marjorie believes that collaboration and collective intelligence are keys the success of a project. She has brought her passion for technology and pedagogy to Malaika and has had the chance to work directly with staff and students to help improve and expand our STEM program.
Charlie Collins
Charlie Collins is the founder of Creative Wardrobe – a mindful consultancy that helps women to build and maintain more sustainable wardrobes. Alongside private wardrobe appointments, vintage treasure hunt sales and inspiring events, Charlie has collaborated with global brands such as Eco Age, UGG, Mulberry and RIXO to help inspire their communities with her sustainable philosophy. Charlie has spent over 10 years working within the sustainable fashion industry, alongside leading brands such as Vestiaire Collective, William Vintage and Smart Works Charity. She feels incredibly passionate about Malaika and the vital work they are doing and has been actively supporting the charity since first meeting Noella and hearing her incredible story.
Eve Jeffers-Cooper
Hip-hop star and actress Eve Jeffers-Cooper is a longstanding Malaika Goodwill Ambassador. This summer, she was named the President of the First Cohort of Malaika Students. Eve attended Malaika’s 2023 graduation ceremony, which took place in Kalebuka in July 2023, as the ceremony’s guest of honor, delivering a speech to all attendees and the class of ‘23 graduates. Eve was named Goodwill Ambassador in 2016 following her visit to the Malaika School with Founder & CEO Noella Coursaris Musunka to inaugurate the very first library on International Women’s Day. The award-winning musician and actress was the very first winner of the Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2002 for the song “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”. In 2002 her album Scorpion was also nominated for Best Rap Album. In 1999, she released her debut album, Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady, which reached number one on the Billboard 200, making her the third female rapper to accomplish this feat. As an actress, she starred as Terri Jones in the Barbershop films, among others.
Majda El Bied
Prior to recently becoming the Resident Program Director for the International Republican Institute (IRI) in CAR and the DRC, Majda El Bied served as the Deputy Director of the Africa Division at the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). Majda has worked in the field of parliamentary and political party strengthening for more than 9 years and has in-depth experience implementing democracy programming in Africa ( Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana). While at WFD, she managed a large EU-funded election project in the DRC focused on political party agents and election monitoring. Prior to that, she implemented several programs focused on increasing women’s political empowerment, financial oversight, public outreach, evidence-based policy, etc. A native French speaker, Ms. El Bied has a BA(hons) in Journalism and an MA in Communication Studies from the Institute des Hautes Etudes des Communications Sociales, Brussels (IHECS). She also completed a program on ‘Understanding Women’s Human Rights’ at the London School of Economics and was a guest speaker on the ‘Impact of Policy Implementation in Africa’ for LSE masters students. She cares deeply about education and empowering young girls and has joined the malaika team in 2010.
Lauren Gilbert
Lauren Gilbert graduated from the University of Virginia in May, 2010, with a degree in Foreign Affairs. She currently works for LitWorld, a non-profit promoting worldwide literacy, while volunteering her time as an advisor for Malaika. In the process of applying to law schools, she hopes to become an international human rights lawyer specializing in access to education and women’s and girls’ rights. Lauren is a firm believer in the power of education to empower girls to change their communities, their countries and the world.
Yowa Kabongo
Yowa was raised in Switzerland and has Congolese roots. Being the oldest in a family of four children taught her to give back and be responsible at a very young age. Yowa has over 15 years of banking experience and is currently a Client Relationship Officer in a private bank. Advocating for education is essential to Yowa since good education gives each child the chance to decide who they want to be and what they want to do. Yowa is a committed Christian and believes that part of her purpose is to be salt and light in the world, bringing flavor and hope to everyone she encounters. “I am deeply passionate about Malaika because it is not just a school but a centre to train the leaders of tomorrow. I love to describe Malaika as an educational boot camp from which the best will go out into the world. In addition to the school, Malaika raises awareness of the strengths and leadership skills of women and mothers by bringing education and a change of cultural beliefs to the community,” Yowa says. “An entire village has been changed through the creation of Malaika and the work of the team. A visionary and dedicated leader initiated the transformation of the community. Inspired by its impact, I decided to join the advisory board and invest in the success of the school girls, the empowerment of women, and the future of a village that has become an exemplary ecosystem.”
Francois Latouche
Francois has been the vice-principal of Lycée Français de Zurich since 2019. Prior to this role, Francois was a teacher, teacher instructor, and the directory of a primary school. He is passionate about his work, particularly, teaching, pedagogy, and ensuring the progress of his students. After living in Vienna and Paris, Francois settled in Zurich in 2015 where he lives with his wife and three children. “I wish to participate in the Advisory Board of Malaika to continue to accompany the school’s pursuit for educational excellence at a higher level. I am very happy to belong to this great family which offers a huge opportunity for these young girls to grow up through education.”
Christopher Lawrence
Chris Lawrence works at J.P. Morgan as a Wealth Advisor, and advises wealthy clients and families on private wealth management. Chris is based in New York, but was born and raised in Switzerland. Growing up in a country where education is accessible has made him profoundly aware how it can drive greater opportunities, and he is passionate about enabling access for all. He also prides himself on financial literacy for those who need advice.
Philippe Loral
Philippe is an early supporter and active contributor to the Malaika effort since its conception. He has spent the largest part of his career in senior executive positions at a Belgian commercial bank, accumulating more than tree decades of experience in corporate finance. He has been leading the bank’s corporate division in Belgium and established new offices for the institution in New York and Hong Kong. Having also been active in several other financial centers around the world, he has acquired a keen sense of expertise for building international businesses. His experience has been very useful for Malaika’s constitution and expansion. Philippe is a Master of Science at the Antwerp campus of the K.U.Leuven University (Belgium) with a degree in commercial and financial engineering.
James Masters
James Masters has worked in the IT industry for over 30 years, most of which he spent at LRS, Inc., a U.S. based software firm. During his time as the company’s EMEA VP, he has grown their EMEA operation to 100 plus staff with a turnover of over $35 million. After a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo with his wife Noella, the founder of Malaika, James found a passion for the cause and decided to utilize this same professional drive to help the girls of the DRC. Since this time, he has leant his professional expertise, contacts, and copious amounts of his time to our fundraising goals.
Jonathan Mboyo Esole
Jonathan is a Congolese mathematician working on the geometry of string theory. Trained around the world (College Boboto, ULB, Cambridge University, Leiden University, Stanford University, Harvard Math and Harvard Physics), he is currently Professor of Mathematics at Northeastern University after being a Benjamin Peirce Fellow at Harvard, working with Fields Medalist Shing-Tung Yau. Jonathan has solved important problems in mathematical physics and won several prestigious awards (Wiener-Anspach Fellowship, Ford Fellowship, Marie-Curie Fellowship, Benjamin Peirce Fellowship, NSF research grants). Jonathan was recently named a Next Einstein Fellow for 2017-2019, an award that celebrates the best young African scientists and technologists. Jonathan is a passionate advocate for African excellence in the sciences and African women’s access to education. Education in STEM is an absolute necessity to bring Africa to its full potential. We cannot do it without a special focus on our young girls and women. They are our hope and our future. They deserve the best of us, especially in the smallest villages of the Congo.
Josuel Musambaghani
Josuel Musambaghani is a Software Engineer at Microsoft, working in the cybersecurity division. Previously, Josuel worked with Silicon Valley startups and organizations, including Code2040 and Slack. Josuel’s team at Microsoft won the 2019 and 2020 CSO50 Awards, a prize for cybersecurity projects and initiatives that demonstrate outstanding business value. Josuel serves on the Advisory board for the Microsoft Aspire Experience and is the Co-Chair of the Employee Network Africans @ Microsoft. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College, with degrees as valedictorian in both Mathematics and Computer Science.
Karina Nagin
Karina Nagin is a non-profit and social impact leader. For the past 15 years Karina has worked with non-profits, foundations and philanthropists to build social impact programs around the world from New York to Tanzania. Karina currently runs an assistive technology non-profit based in New York, while also managing North America’s longest running all documentary film festival in Hot Springs, AR. Karina has lead several global health non-profits and previously worked at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) as the Head of Response & Resilience. At CGI Karina consulted corporate, philanthropic and government leaders on issues of disaster response and post-conflict reconstruction around the world. While at CGI Karina launched the Democratic Republic of Congo Action Network, facilitating cross-sector partnerships and highlighting the opportunities in the region. Karina became familiar with Malaika’s work in 2011 and in 2014 she visited the school in Kalebuka and saw first hand the impact the Foundation has on each student, as well as their families and communities. Karina believes with her whole heart that Malaika is educating the next generation of leaders, and therefore the future of the country is bright! Karina hails from Arkansas, lives in Brooklyn and is always trying to return to the DRC!
Purva Panday Cullman
Purva is Senior Programs Director at V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls where she has helped to develop and grow programs, global spotlight campaigns and safe house networks as well as fundraise and establish partnerships including launching and managing V-Day’s DRC campaign and establishing City of Joy, a leadership center for survivors of sexual violence in South Kivu, DRC. Purva’s career has been devoted to social justice. She was a Program Officer for Safety and Youth at Ms. Foundation for Women, where she worked on a feminist movement-building project, convened the Gender, Youth & Safety symposium, and oversaw grant-making in the safety and youth areas. She also served as the Acting Executive Director of Lower Eastside Girls Club. As the Director of Community Education, Outreach & Advocacy at Girls Inc. of NYC, she ran anti-violence programs for girls in East Harlem, trained NYC teachers and youth workers on best practices for girls programing and convened a symposium on sexual harassment in public schools at Barnard. In 2018, Barnard College awarded her with The Millicent Carey McIntosh Award for Feminism.
Rosie Rafferty
Rosie Rafferty recently left her role as Vice President of Strategy & Planning for External Affairs at multinational energy company Shell to pursue her passion of helping tackle poverty through education. In her former role at Shell, she was responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of a global reputation strategy and for advising and supporting the CEO and Chairman. Prior to this, as Head of Crisis Management for the company, she was responsible for developing a best-practice approach to crisis planning and response across 128 countries. As Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for the Downstream Business, she was involved in the development and implementation of local, country, and global programs aimed at increasing access to energy and supporting local enterprise and STEM programmes. She has worked all over the world, including in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and Senegal, and was brought up in Malawi. Rosie is a mentor to young businesswomen and a Trustee of the Nick Jenkins Foundation and the iAfrica Foundation — two organizations that are focused on improving the quality of education for primary school children in Africa.
Richa Sahay
Richa Sahay Photo
Richa Sahay leads content and communities for Automotive and logistics industries with a focus on Emerging markets at the World Economic Forum. She is an author of several WEF reports and has been featured in Forbes, Fortune, The Economic Times, the Agenda blog and has made media appearances on NPR Radio, Fox NY News, CNBC on the topic. She also leads a portfolio of electric mobility initiatives in emerging markets such as India, Indonesia and Rwanda. She was nominated to be on the Ultimate List of Women Transportation Leaders by Trucks VC. Before this role, she curated over 500 sessions with c-suite executives at high-level events such as the Annual Meeting in Davos, Africa, India and China. In addition, she leads various Diversity and Inclusivity initiatives at work and is on the Equity and Inclusivity Advisory group at the WEF. Richa grew up in India and the Philippines where she spent after school hours teaching under-priviledged kids. Her immigrant parents imbued in her a deep appreciation for education as an important vehicle for economic and social empowerment. She hopes to meet the inspiring and bright young girls of Kalebuka in person and serve the community with authenticity. In her free time, she also is a singer in a classic rock band and loves to appreciate food, art and design.
Corina Savvas
Corina was born in the beautiful lakeside city of Goma, in Eastern DRC, and has an international background of Greek, Congolese and Belgian origins. She grew up in Goma and started travelling the world at the young age of twelve. She still speaks Swahili fluently and has remained close to her native country ever since. Corina has been involved with Malaika since the early stage discussions and she has witnessed Malaika’s amazing growth since then. Corina saw firsthand the progress on the ground during a visit to the School in 2013. Corina has always been very sensitive to inequality and poverty and is a strong advocate for gender equality and the right to education for all, which is why she supports Malaika’s work with young girls in the poorest parts of the DRC. Corina and her husband, Hervé-Lomami, share a common passion for this project and are both involved in actively promoting Malaika across their global network.
Marine Tanguy
An advocate for artists since a young age, Marine Tanguy managed her first gallery at age 21 and opened her first art gallery in Los Angeles at age 23. After seeing the restrictiveness of the traditional gallery model, Marine launched MTArt Agency in 2015. MTArt is the first talent agency for visual artists worldwide. Clients love to work with the agency to identify the next rising stars in the art world. They trust its rigorous selection and the expertise of the team to integrate their art in the most extraordinary contexts. MTArt Agency was behind the largest public art painting in the world: the project of Saype in Paris supported by 30 companies including the Eiffel Tower and the Guardian Media Group. Marine was awarded Forbes 2018 30 under 30 Europe: Art & Culture and UK entrepreneur of the year for the 2019 NatWest Everywoman Awards. She is a writer and keynote speaker on contemporary art and art investment. Her talks include two TEDx Talks on how to transform cities with art and how social media visuals affect our minds.
Hervé-Lomami Steimes
Hervé-Lomami was born from a Congolese mother and a Belgian father and spent his formative years in Lubumbashi and Kigali. He has over fifteen years of international banking experience and is currently a director in a prestigious private bank where he recently became the lead on the Africa team. Hervé-Lomami has always had a keen interest in development topics and strongly believes in the transformative power of education. Hervé-Lomami and his spouse, Corina, have been involved with Malaika since its conception in 2007 and are active in awareness- and fund-raising for the foundation. He has visited the School in Kalebuka and is proud to be involved with an organization that is having such a positive impact in the DRC. Hervé-Lomami holds an MBA from Manchester Business School and a Master’s degree in Governance and Development from the University of Antwerp.