Nancy Ellen Crooks Foundation

Nancy Ellen Crooks Foundation
improving the lives of women and children in Africa through opportunity and education

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Our Board of Trustees is comprised of nine professionals from four different continents - each with a unique background and each a dear friend of Nancy Crooks. In addition, our board is supported by an Advisory Council whose members offer a wealth of knowledge and experience to our foundation. It is out of their friendship and love for Nancy that each board and advisory council member has volunteered their skills, time, and efforts to see Nancy's hopes and dreams realized. 

The NECF Board Members

Renée Blasky, Chairman, Kenya
Renée Blasky, CFA, CIPM has lived and worked in Africa for 20 years. She has over 25 years experience as a financial consultant in the investment and corporate finance field, specializing in capital market development, capacity building and financial analysis and research. For the last 13 years she has worked as an independent consultant with both international and local companies with assignments in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Eritrea and Rwanda. Renée currently works with the Fund Managers’ Association of Kenya in developing and carrying out investment performance measurement surveys, trains financial analysts, and addresses compliance issues at a major fund management company in Kenya. She is also working with two international consulting teams advising on a national capital market strategy for an East African Community member and business strategy and operational implementation plan for a major medical and research institution. Renée is actively involved as a volunteer for the CFA Institute, including sitting on the Board of Trustees of the CFA Institute Research Foundation, a not-for-profit entity. Additionally, she is the Founder and Chair of the East African Society of Investment Professionals. Renée sat on the Board of Directors of the Kenyan American Business Association and Junior Achievement Kenya for up to ten years, acting as their Finance Directors for many years.

Jolene Wood, Secretary, Kenya
Jolene is a published photographer, writer and editor; and an image-manipulation specialist with extensive experience in digital editing and graphic design. She attended university at the American College of Switzerland (Leysin, Switzerland) and Harlaxton College (Grantham, UK) and has a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Northern Colorado (Greeley, Colorado, USA). Jolene has been teaching in a variety of capacities for the past 20 years, including children with developmental delays, computer literacy and digital photography. Originally from California, Jolene has lived in Kenya and been involved in charitable development projects for over 35 years.

Janet Carmony, Treasurer, Kenya
Jan is a fourth generation Californian associated with the travel industry for more than 35 years. Focusing on pre-med studies and business she was educated in public and private Californian educational institutions. She acquired a travel agency in the San Francisco area and, while developing it into a sizeable presence in the market, was considered the youngest female owner/operator of a travel agency West of Germany. She also developed and operated five restaurants in Southern California. After times living in England, Texas and Kenya, she created a professional African safari planning business in Mexico, based on her knowledge of travel, safaris and Kenya. Jan was an active member and board member of Rotary Clubs in Houston, Texas, USA, Nairobi, Kenya, and Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. Now, living in Kenya, she claims to be “basically retired” however, Jan definitely stays busy with the local and international community. She is a founding and current Trustee of the AWA Charitable Trust (Nairobi, Kenya), maintains long-term active memberships and Board participation with the American Women’s Association and East Africa Women’s League, both in Kenya, and as a representative to the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas. She has traveled to more than 150 countries - ranging from Antarctica to the Himalayas - and continues to add to her list.

Kim Edmunds, Kenya
Kim is the Marketing Manager and co-founder of the Glen Edmunds Performance Driving School (GEPDS) based in Nairobi, Kenya. GEPDS is an advanced driving school specializing in security driver training such as counter-carjacking, hostile environment, armored vehicle training as well as defensive driving training and 4WD instruction. Training is conducted throughout the African continent. In addition, Kim authors and publishes a weekly security newsletter, which updates the Nairobi community of local crime trends. Prior to joining her husband in managing GEPDS, Kim was a safari guide for many years, as well as a wildlife consultant for numerous television documentaries portraying African wildlife (mostly in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit from Bristol, England). She also worked as a naturalist/behaviorist at Djomba Intrepids Club in the Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) accompanying visitors to see the endangered mountain gorillas and lecturing on gorilla behavior and ecology of the local area. Kim is a graduate of Hiram College (Hiram, Ohio, USA) with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Biology.

Ricarda McFalls, Switzerland
Ricarda currently works in Geneva, Switzerland for a multilateral institution promoting public policies and business practices supportive of a sustainable development agenda. She brings more than 22 years of International Management and Business Development experience, primarily in transition and emerging markets of Central and Eastern Europe and Africa. While residing in Africa for 13 years, she established, managed, and built regional distribution networks for industry leading IT companies (including Compaq/HP and Mustek) with operations in Nairobi and Lagos. Based in Kenya from 1993-2005, she was active in the business community, serving a decade on the board of the American Chamber of Commerce (then known as the American Business Association), and as its Chairman in 2003. In a move to apply her business experience to more sustainable development policies and interventions in the region, she earned a Masters Degree in Sustainable Development from Stellenbosch University (Matieland, South Africa). Her case study research “Testing the Limits of Inclusive Capitalism” is published by the Journal of Corporate Citizenship and UNISA Press. She holds an MBA/MIM from Thunderbird Global School of Management (Glendale, Arizona, USA), and BAs in Business Economics and German Languages from the University of California Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, California, USA).

Christina Vincent, Australia
Christina brings a combination of international business experience and entrepreneurial success to the Nancy Ellen Crooks Foundation. She currently works for the Queensland (Australia) State Government where she has held senior positions for the past 15 years – at present, she manages their regional development infrastructure programs. Prior successes have included building venture capital and investment angel schemes to support businesses throughout Queensland. Christina has an excellent entrepreneurial pedigree, doubtless inspired by Howard and Nancy Crooks being involved in numerous successful worldwide business ventures. Prior to moving to Australia in 1989, she owned and operated a marketing and consultancy firm in Nairobi, Kenya, servicing the hospitality industry throughout East Africa. Prior, Christina was a founding director of three of Kenya’s most acclaimed dining establishments - the Tamarind (Nairobi and Mombasa), the Carnivore (Nairobi), and the Tamarind Dhow (a floating restaurant in Mombasa). In addition, she co-authored, with Nancy Crooks, the popular travel book The Kenya Trivia Guide. Christina has an international academic history, having completed a Bachelor and Master of Arts from the University of Houston (Houston, Texas, USA) and a degree in Hotel Management from Brunel College (Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK). While in the States, Christina taught Public Speaking at the University of Houston, where she was a member of the American Marketing Society. She is also an alumni member of the Australian Venture Capital Association’s Foundation course.


The NECF Advisory Council

George Jones, Kenya
George Jones has lived in Kenya for the past 17 years. However, his first introduction to the country took place in 1970 at which time he was writing a University of Colorado doctoral thesis on his health research in the Mathari Valley. After a period of 25 years, he returned to Kenya as the Mission Director for the United States Agency for International Development. George and his family have lived in nine African and Asian countries and worked in 25. In addition to working for the U.S. government, he spent 13 years with the United States International University (USIU) Kenya as the Special Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor. Prior to his 35 years of overseas work, Dr. Jones served as the Colorado Director for Developmental Disabilities. He was responsible for the first state plan for the Developmentally Disabled. George currently serves on the Board of Trustees for USIU, is an Honorary Kenya Wildlife Warden and, a patron of the Empakasi Primary School.

Rosemary Kinyanjui, Kenya
Rosemary Kinyanjui is an American citizen who has lived in Kenya for most of her life. She will soon be a Kenya citizen as well!  Rosemary came to Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer working as a lecturer in business at Kenyatta University. She met and married Dr. Maxwell Kinyanjui while in Kenya. After spending a few years in the United States pursuing graduate studies, they returned to live and raise their family in Kenya.  Rosemary has had wonderful professional experiences in Kenya:  starting the Secretarial Department in a harambee school; working for an international wildlife conservation agency monitoring black rhinos and environmental aspects of the Masai Mara and also running Conservation Clubs in 27 primary and secondary schools; working at the International School of Kenya three different times as a teacher and librarian; working as the Chief Librarian for the Aga Khan Education organization in Dar es Salaam and at the International School Manila and at the Shanghai American School in China.  She was the Executive Director of the Abercrombie & Kent Global Foundation, setting up projects in more than 40 destinations for that company – and many other fascinating jobs too! Rosemary was a close friend and neighbor of Nancy and Howard Crooks for more than 20 years and spent many wonderful afternoons with her in their gardens experimenting with solar cookers, driving out to take donations to the Langata Women’s Remand Centre Prison and planting many, many trees together.  Howard is still a very close friend and neighbor.

Barbara Kozakewich, Canada
Barb comes to us with a wealth of experience in administration, fundraising and marketing in Canada and Kenya. During the seven years she spent in Kenya, Barb was very active in community outreach projects and charity work, while serving on the board of the American Women's Association of Kenya (AWA); she was responsible for the communications, promotions and fundraising aspects, and established the Women's International Networking Group for the association. In addition, she organized charity fundraising events for various other groups, benefitting marginalized and victimized groups. She has won many awards in human resources management, business performance and team-building. During her last years in Kenya, Barb served as Director of Development at the International School of Kenya (ISK) – an institution founded by Nancy Crooks as the American Community School in 1967, which then became Nairobi International School, and is now ISK. She returned to Canada in 2013, where she currently conducts business development with groups of entrepreneurs. Barb brings to the table infectious enthusiasm, a 'think outside the box' perpective, and a 'can do' attitude which she applies to help the less fortunate members of society.

Barbara Steenstrup, Kenya
Barbara Steenstrup has worked in Africa for more than 35 years.  She has managed projects in the areas of micro, small and medium enterprise, business services and micro and SME finance as well as focused on business development in private sector development, health and crosscutting areas of development. Her areas of expertise are project management, proposal preparation, planning and monitoring projects related to private sector growth including market access, rural enterprise, credit, agricultural co-operatives, micro enterprise and women entrepreneurs. Barbara has been a contributor to and participant in donor forums related to the private sector and crosscutting issues, particularly small and medium enterprise development, and has a strong network of professional contacts in the region and can disseminate lessons learned from past experience. She has carried out extensive on-the-job training of local managers and technical staff, many growing into leadership positions. Barbara authored articles on development topics and international co-operation.  Barbara is a development strategist for people and projects, planner and communicator with hands-on experience in the private sector, with government aid agencies and international non-governmental organizations. Among the organizations that Barbara has worked for are the Danish Volunteer Service as Director of the Zambia program, the Danish International Development Organization (Danida) both in Copenhagen and Kenya, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Grontmij Carl Bro. Barbara is an ambassador for Science Club for Girls in the US; a supporter of Tenderfoot School; the  Editor of a periodic newsletter for a Kenya-based organization; a founding member of Junior Achievement Kenya on behalf of PricewaterhouseCoopers; a past member of Rotary; and a mentor for the American University semester abroad student program in Kenya. Barbara holds a MA, American University, School of International Studies, Washington D.C and a BA, International Relations & Organization, American University. Barbara, a citizen of the United States resident in Nairobi, Kenya is a native speaker in English and fluent in Danish and has basic knowledge of Swahili and French.

Paul Squires, Past Chairman, USA
Paul is the General Manager and one of the co-founders of Choo Choo R Snacks, Inc. - a beef snack distribution company based in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, USA. Since its inception in 1990, Choo Choo’s trademarked line of Buffalo Bills Premium Snacks now exceeds 90 items and is available in stores in over 40 states. In 2007, Inc. Magazine named Choo Choo R Snacks, Inc. one of the Top 5000 fastest growing companies in the USA. Prior to Choo Choo R Snacks, Paul worked throughout East Africa as a Special Projects Manager for two of Howard Crooks’ companies – Service & Supply International and KK Security. Clients included the United Nations, USAID, Pan Am Airways, and numerous international oil-related companies. Prior to working with Howard Crooks, Paul worked in Saudi Arabia as a Project Specialist for Aiand International’s food service contracts with the Saudi Ministry of Health and Ministry of Defense & Aviation. Paul is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University (Providence, Rhode Island, USA) with degrees in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management.

In Loving Memory
Rowena Buxton
Paul Epsom

With Gratitude for Past Contributions
Barb Canelas
Donna Donahoo
Larry Donahoo
Jim Dry
Mary Epsom



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The Nancy Ellen Crooks Foundation is a sponsored project of Lift Up Africa - a registered USA-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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