About the Team

Our multi-cultural team is made up of creatives, strategists, and masterminds from all over Utah Valley.
We’re thinkers and innovators who are determined to re-imagine the way we help refugees. We’re stubborn, we’re committed, and we don’t know when to quit.

But more than anything, our lives have been changed by our incredible new neighbors. We’re here to welcome them home.

Meet our Founder and Executive Director, Leonard Bagalwa

Leonard is a former refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who resettled in the United States, Utah in 2004 after spending seven years in a refugee camp in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Leonard obtained a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) and a bachelor’s degree in public and Community Health Education from Utah Valley University. Leonard has over a decade of experience in working with refugees in Utah and has been a board member of several non-profit organizations.

Leonard is the founder and Executive Director of Utah Valley Refugees, an organization that provides support and services to refugees in the area. He is also the founder and former president of UVU African Club, a club that promoted a positive and accurate image of Africa among the local community and the state of Utah. Leonard is passionate about making a difference in the world and helping others.

Leonard received and was honored with several awards for his humanitarian work, such as Utah Business – Living Color and the Utah Freedom Festival. Once kidnapped and used as a child soldier, Leonard escaped and found himself in the refugee camp in Malawi. With all what he went through, Leonard believes that his personal journey and his work can inspire and empower people to overcome challenges and achieve their goals.


Meet the Board of Directors

Robert Cvetko, Board Chair

Robert has been supporting Utah Valley Refugees for over two years. He has lived in Utah County for the last 15 years with his wife and six children. Robert works at HealthEquity doing Corporate Development, and is active in his church and community. He feels it is important to get everyone involved in welcoming and caring for refugees.

Frederick Axelgard, Board Vice Chair

Fred has been involved in international work most of his life. He and his wife, Robyn, moved to Utah County seven years ago after working in Washington D.C. for almost 35 years. Fred is mostly retired, but works on a frequent basis with the Wheatley Institution at BYU (where he assists  programs that offer leadership training to young scholars and professionals around the world). He welcomes the chance to help strengthen UVR’s presence in our community.

Jennifer Allan, Board Director and Treasurer​

Jennifer possesses a rich personal and professional background deeply rooted in Utah Valley, where she has nurtured her family. As the Director of Enterprise Risk Management at a prominent medical device corporation, Jennifer’s expertise lies in fortifying organizational resilience and sustainability, while preparing the workforce for unforeseen challenges. Her commitment extends to the local community, where she advocates for the self-sufficiency of refugees, aligning with UVR’s vision.

Her academic journey culminated in a Master’s degree in Accounting from Brigham Young University, post which she embarked on a professional voyage with Ernst and Young, followed by a tenure at American Express. Jennifer’s professional acumen is validated by her CPA and CRMA credentials.

Beyond her professional realm, Jennifer is a devoted mother to five remarkable children. She cherishes explorative travel and quality moments with her spouse and kin. Her competencies encompass risk management, business continuity, resilience planning, internal controls, auditing, data scrutiny, accounting, and financial analytics.


Sam Lee, Board Directors

Sam is a Research Consultant for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Previous to DHHS, Sam was the Program Manager of the State’s “Home Visiting Program” that serves low-income single mothers through the Utah Department of Health. Earlier in his career Sam worked for the state fleet program serving as the Fleet Director. Sam completed both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Brigham Young University. His bachelor’s degree was in sociology and his master’s degree was in Public Administration with the Romney Institute of Public Management. Sam is a certified divorce mediator and is active as a volunteer in services associated with refugees including OneRefugee.org, Utah Valley Refugees, Great Lakes Peace Foundation and African Girls Hope Foundation. Sam is married to Valerie Lee and they have five children. The family has lived in Pleasant Grove since 2001.

Karl Weenig, Board Director

Karl Weenig obtained a Doctor of Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine and completed a family medicine residency at the Utah Valley Family Medicine Clinic and a sports medicine fellowship at the University of Alabama. He serves as chair for the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for the Utah High School Athletic Association and has enjoyed working with athletic trainers, school administrators and state legislators in setting policies for our high school sports and activities programs.  Prior to going to medical school, Karl taught chemistry and human biology as well as coached at Timpview High school.  He decided to pursue careers in teaching and medicine while growing up under good mentors and is grateful for their positive influence.  He has enjoyed experiences in scouting, church, and other community service and he supports the mission of Utah Valley Refugees.  He and his wife Polly live in Orem. 

Alexander Odume

Alexander Afam Odume is from Adonte, Nigeria. He has served in a number of ecclesiastical assignments in the West Africa area, including as a mission president, temple president, Area Seventy, and district president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prior to his ecclesiastical service, Alexander worked as an accountant, internal auditor, and human resource manager. He enjoys reading and traveling. 

Scott Wood, Board Director

Scott Wood has been a Finance and Operations Executive with 40+ years’ experience building and leading manufacturers and corporations in the aviation/aerospace and food processing industries.  He has managed expansion, restructuring, and capital market transitions.  Mr. Wood is a strategic decision maker who has a broad view of an enterprise and maintains an understanding of details.  He has extensive experience in capital structure, banking relationships, asset management, M&A, due diligence, and audit.  He holds an MBA from Brigham Young University with an undergraduate degree in accounting. In addition to his work with Utah Valley Refugees, Mr. Wood is active in his community and supports other local causes including a local food pantry.

Jeffrey Whitlock, Board Director

Marjorie Holt, Board Director​

Marjorie Holt, aged 50, was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. She lived in 3 other countries in Latin America before moving to the United States to attend Brigham Young University. After graduating with a degree in Public Relations, Marjorie worked in various marketing and project manager positions.  She has worked for 30 years in private and non profit work, including PTA President twice where she was recognized as the State KUED PTA Golden Apple Volunteer of the year in 2012.  She has worked as a copy writer, and wrote grants and award nominations totalling over 100,000 in value for various organizations. She currently works for JetBlue Airways as an Analyst in Customer Support.  She is passionate about volunteering in her community and became involved with UVR as an English Teacher.  She still teaches the Basic ELL class once a week.

Korina Mathews, Board Director