Joseph Kaifala

Joseph Kaifala

'10 MAIR
Executive Director
Jeneba Project

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.