Joseph Kaifala is the founder and
executive director of the Jeneba Project, which aims to expand educational
opportunities for women in Sierra Leone and address the post-war society’s
humanitarian needs. He is also co-founder of the Sierra Leone Memory Project,
which allows the West African country’s survivors of the brutal civil war (1991
to 2002) to share their stories and testimonies, including former child
soldiers, amputees, and rape victims.
In 2017, he received the Catherine
Bertini Trust Fund award granted by the World Food Program USA. The trust fund
will help the Jeneba Project finish building a high school for 75 girls in the
Robis region in northern Sierra Leone, where dropout rates are high. (The award
is named for former Maxwell School faculty member and former long-time director
of the United Nations World Food Program Catherine Bertini.) Click here for more about Jeneba and the Bertini award.
Kaifala was born in Sierra Leone but
spent his early childhood in Liberia and Guinea. He later moved to Norway where
he attended the Red Cross Nordic United World College to study for an
International Baccalaureate before coming to the U.S. and enrolling at Skidmore
College, where he was an International Affairs and French major with a minor in
Law and Society.
After earning his MAIR at Maxwell, he went
on to become an Applied Human Rights Fellow at Vermont Law School, where he
completed a law degree in 2013, with a certificate in international and
comparative law. He also earned a diploma in intercultural encounters from the
Helsinki Summer School and a certificate in professional French, administered
by the French Chamber of Commerce.
Kaifala has served as a Davis United
World College Fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
and a Lantos-Humanity in Action Congressional Fellow. He was also awarded the
Arthur C. Helton Fellowship by the American Society of International Law. And
he was an intern at the Child and Adolescent Development department of the
World Health Organization in Geneva.
Joseph is also a human rights activist,
a Rastafarian, and a votary of ahimsa. He speaks six languages.