Kaia Benson provides leadership and technical guidance to a portfolio that engages youth in the Middle East and North Africa in developing skills for professional and community leadership.
As a senior technical advisor for the Ma3an: For Resilient Communities project, Kaia provides oversight to youth leadership activities that develop the skills of youth to create social cohesion and resilience in vulnerable communities through peer engagement. As the senior project director for the MEPI Alumni Connection, she guides activities that support a cross-regional network of young professionals and community leaders to access opportunities for collaboration and professional engagement, developing skills to contribute stable and prosperous communities.
With 20 years of international youth engagement experience in transitioning economies, Kaia has designed and led a portfolio of youth and leadership programs supporting the training and career progression of young people from the Middle East and North Africa, Central & South Asia, and Eastern Europe. Through her leadership on the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program, youth from all 24 governorates of Tunisia have gained professional and leadership development opportunities, preparing them to contribute to Tunisia’s economic development and gaining employment at twice the national average for youth with tertiary degrees.
Her previous roles with IREX include leading multi-country youth and professional education programs teams in the Caucasus and supporting the skills development and engagement of youth in Turkmenistan. As a US Peace Corps Volunteer, Kaia taught youth in underserved communities and co-directed the first Girls Leading Our World summer camp in the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan, supporting girls in developing life and leadership skills.
Kaia holds a Bachelor’s degree from Pacific Lutheran University with majors in English Writing and Religions and a Master in International Affairs degree from Columbia University with concentrations in International Security Policy and Middle East studies.