Karim Ajania

Founder and Mentorship Team Leader

Young Journalist Program

Karim is Executive Director of The Educationalist which is an international speaker series.

He is also the Founder and Editor of The Brick Project, a multicultural forum for teachers and students, which was the subject of his doctoral thesis at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is also the Founder and Director of a middle school program in the San Francisco Bay Area which builds community with children in Africa called Pencils for Africa.

He is also the Co-Founder, together with Noble Peace Prize Recipient Desmond Tutu, and the Editor-in-Chief of the African Peace Journal which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. African Peace Journal is currently working on a series on the plight of African land and boat refugees with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva.

Together with Founder and Director, Maharaja Jayasinhji Jhala, Karim is Director of The Halvad Revitalization Initiative, which works to reinvigorate a 15th Century citadel in Gujarat, India.

In the great British tradition Karim is also a keen and avid colonizer. Karim oversees a colony of authors and scholars as Editor of the Café Philosophie, a colony of artists and artisans as Editor of Salon de Refusé, and a colony of inventors and engineers as Editor of Frugalis Creativus (‘frugality and creativity’ from Latin) which includes patented education technology applications.

He was born in Nairobi, Kenya and sent off to school at age 7 to London, England to attended Chiswick and Bedford Park Preparatory School. After moving back to Nairobi at age 10 to attend Hospital Hill School, he returned to London to attended Drayton Manor School in Hanwell.

Karim holds advanced graduate degrees from MIT and from Harvard University.


Purity Kagwiria, Mentor, Young Journalist Program


Purity is based in Nairobi, Kenya and is the Executive Director of Akili Dada.

A journalist by profession, Purity has worked on the rights of women since 2004.

As an active member of the feminist/women rights movement, she is committed to analyzing the private and personal spaces and developing strategies that lead to the emancipation of women.

Founded in 2005 to address the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in Africa, Akili Dada is an international organization based in Nairobi and officially registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Kenya.


The organization focuses their programs around scholars and building networks with other women’s rights organizations both in Kenya and across Africa. Akili Dada, envisions a world where empowered African women from diverse economic backgrounds are equally represented in leadership roles and decision-making processes in Kenya and across the continent.


Chyah Weitzman, Mentor, Young Journalist Program


Chyah was educated at Harvard College and completed her Master of Fine Arts degree through Harvard’s international study program in Japan. She learned to master the history, culture and technique of traditional Japanese paper making through the National Treasures of Japan.

Chyah completed her masters thesis at the University of Copenhagen, teaching Japanese textiles to graduate students.

Chyah was in Samburu, Kenya during November of 2013, meeting with fellow Pencils for Africa board members Lekadaa and Saiwana Lolngojine, and elders of Nangida Village, Samburu.

She is working to build an alliance between the local Nangida Village school in Samburu, and Saint Hilary Middle School in California, where she has been teaching for the past 20 years and is the Director of the Arts Program. Chyah is Editor of African Kitchen Table (click here for the website)


Olivier Bercault, Mentor, Young Journalist Program


Olivier Bercault by photographer David Buchbinder for Human Rights Watch

Olivier is also featured in the first interview, in the Interview series of Pencils for Africa.

A video interview: The Conflict Through Children’s Eyes with Olivier Bercault can be viewed here.

Olivier specialized in armed conflicts, refugee issues and international criminal prosecutions. He leads fact-finding research missions to document human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity and help bringing to justice those who commit atrocities. Olivier is consultant for Human Rights Watch on the case against Hissein Habré, the international prosecution of former Chad dictator. In December 2013, Human Rights Watch published Olivier’s book La Plaine Des Morts (The Plain of the Dead), a 714-page study indicating that Habré was personally implicated in the massive human rights violations during his rule in Chad from 1982 to 1990.


In 2010, Olivier Bercault returned to Iraq on behalf of Human Rights Watch where his research on torture of Iraqi detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad gained international attention and triggered an official United Nations investigation.

In 2008 and 2009, Olivier Bercault has served as deputy-head of the Human Rights Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Mr. Bercault has directed the reporting effort of the United Nations in Iraq regarding human rights violations committed in this country. He was also in charge of the human rights advocacy work and human rights promotional activity of the United Nations in Iraq.

From 2000 to 2008, Olivier Bercault has served in the emergencies program at Human Rights Watch. During these years, he conducted research mission in most of the conflict areas around the globe: Eastern Chad, Darfur, Central African Republic, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka among others. He has investigated and documented widespread and serious abuses committed by governmental forces, rebel and other armed groups.

His research on war crimes, child forced recruitment and crimes against humanity, especially in Darfur have ended up at the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Security Council.

Sudanese children in a Djabal refugee camp in southern Chad

Sudanese children in Djabal refugee camp in southern Chad

The Darfur Drawings


While on mission to Darfur refugee camps in eastern Chad in February 2005, Olivier Bercault gave children notebooks and crayons to keep them occupied while talking to their parents. Without any instruction or guidance, the children drew scenes from their experiences of the war in Darfur:

The attacks by the Janjaweed militia, the bombings by Sudanese government forces, the shootings, the burning of entire villages, and the flight to Chad. Mr. Bercault brought back hundreds of drawings in the hope that the world would see the war stories of these children.

The drawings have been published by the New York Times and in the world press, on the net, broadcasted on major TV networks in the United States and in the world and showed in exhibitions in New York, in the major cities in the US and in Europe.


In addition to his work on emergencies, Olivier was responsible for Human Rights Watch (2000-2008) coordinating international efforts to bring Hissein Habré, former dictator of Chad, to justice.

Olivier has also participated as an external expert in the Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo projects of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in New York (2003-2004). He conducted several missions to these two countries. At the end of the eighties and in the nineties, Olivier Bercault practiced law in his native France and worked for the Moscow Regional Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Russian Federation.

Mr. Bercault holds an LL.M. from Columbia Law School in New York as well as a degree in Private Law from the University of Paris. He has traveled extensively throughout the world, and has lived in Russia, Switzerland, Chad, Iraq, New York and Northern California.