Trustees & Founders

Ajay Sood - Trustee

Ajay SoodAjay Sood was born in Kisumu, Kenya and has lived in the UK for the past 30 years. He attended Pembroke House School in Gilgil, Kenya, becoming Head Boy there, after which he emigrated with his family to Canada where he finished his schooling, obtained degrees in Commerce and in Law and was called to the Ontario Bar. He later completed an MBA at London Business School and worked in general management for American Express. With Antonia, his wife, he co-founded and ran for 16 years a publishing business in the finance and management sectors which was eventually sold to a UK public company. Ajay's interests are in enterprise-building and leadership.

Having originally set up The Beacon Scholarship, Ajay is looking to bring in external partners and extend the Beacon model into other countries.

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 Antonia Sood - Trustee

Antonia SoodAntonia Sood was born in the UK and completed a degree in Russian at the University of Bristol. She worked for the UK Ministry of Defence then, after travelling widely, worked in the third world aid sector focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa. She subsequently completed an MBA at London Business School, after which she worked in financial publishing before co-founding a publishing business. The business was successfully sold after 16 years and since then Antonia has been involved in local community projects. Antonia's expertise is primarily in sales & marketing and sponsorship/fundraising.

Having set up The Beacon Scholarship with Ajay in 2008 as a fellow Trustee, Antonia is involved in all aspects of the Beacon, but has a particular focus on The Beacon Scholarship for University, a tertiary scholarship for top African students into international universities. 

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Africa Team

Susan Kiragu - Regional Beacon Representative

Susan smallDr Susan Kiragu was born in Nairobi, Kenya and grew up in Nairobi and Nakuru. Susan studied education at Undergraduate and Masters level at Kenyatta and Nairobi universities, after which she worked for a local NGO as a researcher in HIV/AIDS education. She completed her PhD at Newnham College, Cambridge in 2009, then joined The Centre for Commonwealth Education at the University of Cambridge as a Research Associate. In 2013 she worked as Research Manager for Camfed International. She has done educational research with children from underprivileged homes in Kenya, and has also partnered with colleagues from Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa and Swaziland. In 2013, Susan and her husband Victor quit their well paying jobs in the UK to come back to Kenya and serve more children from poor backgrounds. They founded an NGO, Children in Freedom, to provide scholarships and mentorship to African children, encouraging them to value their African heritage, and to use their strengths and talents to create and innovate solutions for their countries. Their powerful mentorship programme has been acknowledged by President Uhuru and Margaret Kenyatta.

Susan joined The Beacon Equity Trust team in 2016 and is now the Beacon Regional Coordinator, a role that enables her to continue to identify and nurture change-makers in Africa. She brings on board robust understanding and experience of Kenya's and Africa's educational terrain, and a strong innate desire for Africa to thrive – a dream that is impossible to achieve without firm and ethical leadership and governance. She believes strongly in The Beacon Equity Trust's mission to shape gifted children from an early age to become the visionary and ethical leaders that countries in Africa need.

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Debborah Odenyi - Kenya Beacon Representative

Debbie small

Debborah Odenyi was born and raised in Kakamega, Western Kenya. She studied at Kakamega Township Primary School, then Bunyore Girls’ School Kenya, and went on to study Education. She attended Eregi Teachers Training College, The Kenya Institute of Education, Sir Humphrey International College, and Kenyatta University College where she obtained her B.Ed. (Early Childhood Studies). She worked for the Teachers Service Commission, Kenya for 18 years, teaching in different public schools until 2011, when she joined the private sector. She taught at Oshwal Academy, Nairobi before going on to become Headmistress at SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities) - Kibera in 2014. She is currently Director for Programs and Education, Kenya and Tanzania for Girls on Fire Leaders. GOF provides early adolescent girls in the slums of Kenya and Tanzania with transformative leadership skills through educational travel, sustainable community projects, diversity engagement and global connectivity.

Debborah brings to the Beacon a wealth of experience in teaching and mentorship. Having worked in public and private schools, which employed both local and international curricula, she has interacted with and taught children from very diverse environments. She is passionate about transforming young people’s lives through mentorship and empowerment.

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UK Team

Angeline Ward - UK Beacon Representative

Angeline Ward small

Angeline Ward was born in Kenya and grew up in Kisumu and Busia.  She studied at Kenya High and Lwak Girls’ High Schools; and graduated from Kenyatta University with a BA in Business Studies.

Angeline worked at Inter-Continental Hotel Nairobi in various positions, leaving as Assistant Banquets Manager before moving to the UK with her family 21 years ago.  She worked at Hilton Hotel in St Helens as a Banquets co-ordinator and later as a Marketing Officer at Carmel Sixth Form College in St Helens, before a family move to Germany and China due to her husband’s work.  During their time abroad, Angeline volunteered at the international school and returned to the UK with a special interest in international education, teaching conversational Mandarin Chinese part-time whilst working as an Account Executive at a marketing agency.

She joined the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the UK in 2012 as a Senior International Marketing Officer and managed recruitment of international students from Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and those based in the UK; managed and promoted UCLan’s International Scholarship Scheme working with various scholarship providers; set up the partnership with the Commonwealth Scholarship Secretariat; revived UCLan’s Chevening Scholarship; and managed the international recruitment agency network.  She is now a Senior Marketing Officer (Student Recruitment) at UCLan’s Burnley campus.

Angeline is delighted to join the Beacon team and is particularly looking forward to using her personal experience of moving from Kenya to settle in the UK, as well as her professional experience of working in UK Higher Education, to support the Beacon University Scholars, their families and stakeholders.

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Jean Cooke - UK Beacon Coordinator

Jean Cooke

Jean Cooke has worked in investment for 30 years, as head of administration and compliance and company secretary, latterly with a London based fund management company specialising in emerging markets. After Simon Langton Grammar School for Girls in Canterbury, Kent, Jean travelled widely, including a year in Madrid, but then settled in the south east of England. She has now decided to use the skills developed in her business life for the benefit of others. Accustomed to multitasking, working to deadlines and decision making, she understands the importance of attention to detail and accurate reporting. 

Jean is actively involved in her local Church, where she serves as a Deanery Synod Representative and sits on the Parochial Church Council. She is also responsible for organising the Church Flowers and occasionally sings in the choir.

Jean has been involved with the Beacon since 2014 and provides invaluable administrative support for the Beacon Programme.

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Gabin-Wilfried Kayumbi - UK Beacon Transitions Mentor

Gabin Kayumbi smallGabin Kayumbi, born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, received an MSc in Telecommunications Engineering (Computer Networks and Multimedia Systems) from the University of Genoa, Italy in 2004 and a PhD in Computer Science from Queen Mary, University of London, UK in 2010. He was an exchange student in the Center For Person Kommunikation, Aalborg University (Denmark) in 2002-2003.

Gabin has held several postdoctoral research positions in interdisciplinary teams (the Computational Vision Group at the University of Reading; Medical Visual Imaging with NHS Wales and Cardiff University; Digital Humanities at Goldsmiths University of London). He was a senior researcher at the Open Data Institute.

Gabin's professional experience also includes mentoring and teaching roles (School of Life Sciences and Computing, London Metropolitan University; Institute of Psychiatry-Psychology-Neuroscience, King’s College University of London). He is currently with the University of London. His research interests are in Computer Vision, Virtual Reality, Computer Graphics, Data Science, Machine Learning. He is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE).

Gabin joins the Beacon team to help Scholars transition into UK universities, to facilitate their personal growth and leadership development, and to guide them on future employability.

Contact Gabin