Our Board of Directors

Lara Bancroft 

Lara is a global strategic change and HR consultant based out of Denver, Colorado with 20+ years of experience. Her expertise includes designing employee experiences that activate change and align human behavior to business strategy. In addition to being a consultant, Lara is passionate about travel and volunteering (especially with children and primates in Africa). She returns as often as she can to her birth country of South Africa, as well as Tanzania and Kenya where she has been volunteering for the past ten plus years. Lara is a lifelong learner and is always ready to explore something or somewhere new!


Carla Cochran - Co-Treasurer

Carla is an accountant running a public practice for small businesses in Canada. She loves to volunteer her time helping non-profit companies improve their accounting practices and came to Tanzania in November 2019 to support The Baobab Home in an assignment through AFID-Accounting for International Development. She loves to spend her time outdoors and travelling exploring the world while making a difference.


Joanna Krop - Co-Treasurer

Joanna has 20 years of professional experience in Finance & Administration across Europe. For the past 12 years, she has been working as Chief Financial Officer in a globally operating logistic company. She enjoys cross-functional cooperation in developing and executing successful strategies for organizations. Joanna originally comes from Poland; she worked and lived in Switzerland, Hungary and Denmark before settling down in Vienna, Austria.


Aileen Gemma Smith

Aileen is a leader with 25+ years of building relationships with customers in both public and commercial sector. She is a seasoned people leader who creates high performing, high trusting teams who deliver results. She is a strategic content leader with a focus on ecosystems, governance, distribution, lifecycle, and scale. She currently serves as Head of Diversity Business Strategy at Amazon Web Services. She received the Tech Target Archer Award Best thought leadership 2023. Aileen was the CEO and Founder of Vizalytics Technology. Vizalytics created business intelligence and data analytics solutions for public (state and local governments) private sector (transit and tourism) clients in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia.

Ann Myatt James, PhD

Dr. Ann Myatt James is a Data Services Librarian at George Washington University's Libraries and Academic Innovation (LAI). Dr. James works with quantitative, qualitative, and geospatial data. She an expressed interest in data and geographic literacies and a strong interest in human and digital rights, open science, data governance, and responsible, reproducible, and ethical research practices. Since 2013, her efforts have become increasingly global including co-founding and growing a rural library and educational resource center in Nicaragua; providing technical assistance and guidance to practitioners, leaders, and policymakers across the US, tribal nations, rural communities, and island territories; and contributing to applied research and open educational resource (OER) projects with collaborators residing on multiple continents.  


Ann Myatt James

Denise Okonsky 

Denise has worked for Johnson and Johnson for over 24 years primarily in the clinical trial space. Her most recent position is working for an independent non-profit committed to providing eligible patients with medications at no cost. Denise and her husband Dave split their time between Bridgewater, New Jersey and West Palm Beach, Florida where she is working on her golf game. Denise and her daughter, Hannah have been long time supporters of The Baobab Home. They first visited the shamba in 2010 and Hannah returned as a volunteer in March 2020. Both are planning many more trips in the future.


Jason Ledder

Jason is an innovative communications strategist and media relations expert with 20 years’ experience promoting companies and products, as well as developing and amplifying corporate messaging. Delivering integrated marketing strategies that leverage multiple media approaches, platforms to engage audiences, influence positive perceptions, and position organizations for greater success. Jason first visited the shamba in 2022 and is planning several more trips moving forward. He lives in Morristown, NJ with his wife Amy Labroo.

Kayla Cobbett

Kayla is a devoted advocate committed to dismantling student barriers, delivering high quality education, and promoting allyship. With a decade of experience in the field of education, Kayla commenced her journey as an English Additional Language (EAL) educator in Canada before teaching internationally in South Korea, and at Steven Tito Academy in 2015! Her extensive teaching career spans across private, public, and non-profit sectors, encompassing students from kindergarten to postsecondary levels. Over the past five years, she has transitioned into impactful administrative roles, notably serving as Vice-Principal in Nunavut, Canada, and currently as a Director for an Indigenous non-profit post-secondary institute in Ontario, Canada. She currently lives with her fiancé and four dogs in New Brunswick, Canada and loves to spend her time reading, writing, travelling and being outdoors.


Michael Place 

For 20 years Michael Place has helped build breakthrough enterprise software management programs for multi-billion dollar organizations spanning the public and private sectors and three continents. Now he is disrupting the status quo in global food production. The creation of EntoHack7G, merges his approach to building thriving learning cultures in rapidly advancing technical realms with his longstanding passion for emerging circular economic business models. In 2016, EntoHack7G launched a pilot project on The Baobab Home shamba.

Michael Ogburn

Michael is an elementary teacher with extensive international experience across the United States, Taiwan, Tanzania, and Costa Rica. Michael was a Standard Three and Six teacher at Steven Tito Academy for two years, from 2017 to 2018. Besides teaching in the classroom at STA, Michael also enjoyed teaching his students martial arts and running the cooking club. In his current position on the board, he now co-leads the Education Committee. Michael lives with his wife and two dogs, Kidogo and Sadie, in Seattle, Washington, where he is once again a third-grade teacher. Outside of teaching, he enjoys martial arts, being outside, and spending time with his family.

Shane Hofeldt 

Shane is a freelance filmmaker working in documentary and other non-fiction media. He is based in Maine, but works globally on various independent feature films, short documentaries, stories for NGOs, podcasts, and interactive media. He earned degrees in Supply Chain Management and Computer Information Systems from Arizona State University before working in IT at a consulting firm in Washington, DC. He was also the Post Production Manager and Faculty at Maine Media Workshops in Maine. Shane first encountered The Baobab Home through a mutual friend and lended remote technical support from the US before making his first trip to Bagamoyo in 2006 to volunteer. He has been a board member since 2008.

Advisory Committee


Katie Balk - Advisor

Katie Balk is Founder of Luminary Consultants, an organizational development consulting firm which helps organizations become more resilient and dynamic through strengthening individuals, relationships and organizational processes. She has worked in China, Costa Rica and France, as well as in the U.S. and her work has included, for-profit, non-profit and governmental sectors. Katie came to The Baobab Home as a volunteer in 2010 and fell in love with the kids and with Tanzania. She has since returned four more times and continues to work on accounting, marketing, and organizational change projects within the organization.

James Dailey - Advisor 

Jim has over 20 years of professional experience holding various leadership roles in Global Marketing, Product Marketing, Sales Management, and Direct Sales roles primarily in the medical device, pharmaceutical, and technology industries. In 1993 he graduated from Auburn University with Bachelors of Science in Marketing and in 2009 earned an MBA concentrating in International Business from the University of Colorado, Denver. He currently resides in Denver, CO with his wife Ellen where they enjoy the outdoors, international travel and community involvement.


Lauren George - Advisor

Lauren is a primary school teacher with experience teaching in Australia, Tanzania, and Scotland. Lauren first volunteered for The Baobab Home in 2006, returning in 2009 and then again in 2013 (for 5 years) to help set up Steven Tito Academy (STA). She has worked in a variety of different roles at STA, primarily teaching and training teachers, as well as marketing and fundraising, financial management, and other administrative duties.


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Michael Paulhus - Secretary

Michael has worked for more than 20 years in local government serving as an Administrator, First Selectman, and Town Manager. He lives in Willimantic, CT and is currently serving as the Town Manager of North Branford, CT. Michael holds a BA in Biology; MA in International Affairs; and MA in Public Administration and prior to starting his career in public service, he served in the US Peace Corps as a Fisheries Volunteer in Tanzania. Michael visited the farm in 2017 and 2018 to help with the fish ponds.




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