Trustees & Founders

Ajay Sood

Ajay SoodAjay Sood was born in Kisumu, Kenya and has lived in the UK for the past 30 years. He attended Pembroke House School in Gilgil, Kenya, becoming Head Boy there, after which he emigrated with his family to Canada where he finished his schooling, obtained degrees in Commerce and in Law and was called to the Ontario Bar. He later completed an MBA at London Business School and worked in general management for American Express. With Antonia, his wife, he co-founded and ran for 16 years a publishing business in the finance and management sectors which was eventually sold to a UK public company. Ajay's interests are in enterprise-building and leadership.

Having originally set up The Beacon Scholarship, Ajay is looking to bring in external partners and extend the Beacon model into other countries.

Contact Ajay


Antonia Sood

Antonia SoodAntonia Sood was born in the UK and completed a degree in Russian at the University of Bristol. She worked for the UK Ministry of Defence then, after travelling widely, worked in the third world aid sector focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa. She subsequently completed an MBA at London Business School, after which she worked in financial publishing before co-founding a publishing business. The business was successfully sold after 16 years and since then Antonia has been involved in local community projects. Antonia's expertise is primarily in sales & marketing and sponsorship/fundraising.

Having set up The Beacon Scholarship with Ajay in 2008, Antonia is now leading the development of The Beacon Scholarship for University, a tertiary scholarship for top African students into international universities. 

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Regional Beacon Co-ordinator

Susan Kiragu

Susan smallDr Susan Kiragu was born in Nairobi, Kenya and grew up in Nairobi and Nakuru. Susan studied education at Undergraduate and Masters level at Kenyatta and Nairobi universities, after which she worked for a local NGO as a researcher in HIV/AIDS education. She completed her PhD at Newnham College, Cambridge in 2009, then joined The Centre for Commonwealth Education at the University of Cambridge as a Research Associate. In 2013 she worked as Research Manager for Camfed International. She has done educational research with children from underprivileged homes in Kenya, and has also partnered with colleagues from Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa and Swaziland. In 2013, Susan and her husband Victor quit their well paying jobs in the UK to come back to Kenya and serve more children from poor backgrounds. They founded an NGO, Children in Freedom, to provide scholarships and mentorship to African children, encouraging them to value their African heritage, and to use their strengths and talents to create and innovate solutions for their countries. Their powerful mentorship programme has been acknowledged by President Uhuru and Margaret Kenyatta.

Susan is very excited to join The Beacon Equity Trust team as the Beacon Regional Coordinator, a role that will see her contribute to identifying and nurturing change-makers in Africa. She brings on board robust understanding and experience of Kenya's and Africa's educational terrain, and a strong innate desire for Africa to thrive – a dream that is impossible to achieve without firm and ethical leadership and governance. She believes strongly in The Beacon Equity Trust's mission to shape gifted children from an early age to become the visionary and ethical leaders that countries in Africa need.

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Beacon Kenya Representative

Debborah Odenyi

Debbie small

Debborah was born and raised in Kakamega, Western Kenya. She studied at Kakamega Township Primary School, then Bunyore Girls’ School Kenya, and went on to study Education. She attended Eregi Teachers Training College, The Kenya Institute of Education, Sir Humphrey International College, and Kenyatta University College where she obtained her B.Ed. (Early Childhood Studies). She worked for the Teachers Service Commission, Kenya for 18 years, teaching in different public schools until 2011, when she joined the private sector. She taught at Oshwal Academy, Nairobi before going on to become Headmistress at SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities) - Kibera in 2014. She is currently Director for Programs and Education, Kenya and Tanzania for Girls on Fire Leaders. GOF provides early adolescent girls in the slums of Kenya and Tanzania with transformative leadership skills through educational travel, sustainable community projects, diversity engagement and global connectivity.

Debborah is excited to join the Beacon team, bringing with her a wealth of experience in teaching and mentorship. Having worked in public and private schools, which employed both local and international curricula, she has interacted with and taught children from very diverse environments. She is passionate about transforming young people’s lives through mentorship and empowerment.

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UK Beacon Coordinator

Jean Cooke


Jean Cooke has worked in investment for 30 years, as head of administration and compliance and company secretary, latterly with a London based fund management company specialising in emerging markets. After Simon Langton Grammar School for Girls in Canterbury, Kent, Jean travelled widely, including a year in Madrid, but then settled in the south east of England. She has now decided to use the skills developed in her business life for the benefit of others. Accustomed to multitasking, working to deadlines and decision making, she understands the importance of attention to detail and accurate reporting. 

Jean is actively involved in her local Church, where she serves as a Deanery Synod Representative and sits on the Parochial Church Council. She is also responsible for organising the Church Flowers and occasionally sings in the choir.

Jean looks forward to working with the Trustees, in the UK, to provide administrative support for The Beacon Equity Trust.

Contact Jean