In August 2018, my wife, Diane, and I travelled to Kenya and had the opportunity to meet a number of the young women who have received scholarships for their university education through the Rotary African Women’s Education Fund (RAWEF).
The students who are supported through RAWEF are from Uganda and the western part of Kenya. The western part of Kenya was very hard hit by the HIV/AIDS crisis and there are many families where the father has passed away leaving the mother with no means of support for her family, or perhaps both parents have passed away. Many of the young women who graduate from Secondary School have no hope of being able to attend university, due to financial constraints.
The Rotary African Women’s Education Fund provides university scholarships to young women to cover their room and board, tuition and books. Since the Fund began in 2009, a total of 55 women have been provided with scholarships for their university education. Of these 55 women, 19 have graduated, 19 are in the process of completing their degree, and 18 new students were funded in 2018.
We visited with our agency partner Caring Partners Global in Matangwe, which is near Bondo in western Kenya. We were hosted by Stephen and Sylvia Scott and met 11 of the young women who have been funded through RAWEF.
Here we are outside the Community Centre
We talked about some of the challenges the students face at university and how we could help further. I was amazed by the distance some of the women have to travel to attend university and how long travel takes in Kenya. Travelling a day or more to get to their university from their home was not unusual.
Diane and I also met with our partner Notre Dame Children Outreach (NDCO) in Nyalienga, near Homa Bay, and met two RAWEF students in Nyalienga. Later, we also met two students in Nairobi.
RAWEF funded students Anna Achieng Okworo and Evaline Adhiambo Oluoch are in the back row left. Anna is in first year Computer Science at Masinde Muliro University; Evaline is in first year Commerce at Kenya Technical University.
The students in the front row and in the back row right are students in Form 4 of Secondary School and will graduate next year. We talked to them about the opportunities for scholarships through RAWEF.
In Nairobi, we met with Notre Dame Children Outreach students Verona Amondi Ogama (left) and Charity Atieno Ochieng (right) who are funded by RAWEF. Alphonse Odhiambo M’Crymbo (middle) is an NDCO funded student who is in his final year of Petroleum Engineering.
Verona is in her third year at the University of Nairobi and Charity has started first year Economics at the Catholic University of East Africa. Charity also gave us a tour of her campus in Nairobi. I was surprised at how tight security was at all the universities we visited. There were armed guards at all gates and if you didn’t have a student card or valid papers to enter, access was denied.
We had a very good trip to Kenya and really enjoyed meeting the RAWEF students. Life in Kenya seems to be much harder than in North America and the students were extremely grateful for the RAWEF scholarships which provided them with the opportunity to attend university.

Martin Jones
Rotary Club of Kitchener
Chair,  Rotary African Women’s Education Fund