Students in pursuit of real change get a boost from Flywire scholarships

At Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), roughly 20 miles (33 km) northeast of Nairobi, Okoth Paul is living on campus and living out his calling of solving some of the world’s most pressing global health inequities.

Paul is one of eight winners of Flywire’s annual academic scholarships, selected from 5,000 applicants who are pursuing degrees that advance global health, social justice, global citizenship and environmental sustainability. The scholarship covered his entire tuition fee, which left him room to pay for accommodations himself.

“That’s a big impact which the scholarship has created,” he said. “I applied for the opportunity the same moment I received the link. I wanted to get a chance to make an impact.”

Paul has spent much of his young life making an impact. For three years, the 25-year-old traveled to low income communities in Kenya like the one in which he grew up to help girls learn about reproductive health and access healthcare resources – a lack of which deeply impacted his own sister and family. He spent another year studying mental health trends of young people in Kenya. And now, his goal is to ensure government policy translates into actions that help vulnerable people, as he pursues a masters degree in public health at JKUAT.

All of this year’s scholarship recipients have lived through major adversity, and chosen to funnel those experiences into making changes so that others would have it better. Their winning essays – which are scored according to a matrix and used as the major criteria for the awards – give a taste of the mark they want to make on the world, and a surface-level sense of what they have been through in their lives to inspire extraordinary action.

They want to develop and raise money for sustainable and scalable innovations for sanitation that could provide basic necessities, for instance, for refugees fleeing conflict. They’re studying food science to increase the nutritional content and lower the cost of bread. And they’re gaining expertise in environmental resource management in order to develop scalable technology to improve water access and quality.

Flywire launched the global scholarship program three years ago, and has since seen massive interest. The number of applicants doubled this year to 5,000 students from across 130 countries and territories, and who were studying or planned to study at more than 400 global universities.

This year’s winners are from South Africa, Ukraine, the United States, Kenya, India and Pakistan. Most students are furthering their education outside of their home country. But all want to give back to where they came from.

“I see myself as a person who will help my country to develop policies to tackle non-communicable diseases such as cancer and mental health problems,” Paul said, adding that access to clinical research is a big part of why he chose the school. “I can create more impact in the community, and improve the lives of people who cannot get the opportunities I get.”

This year’s scholarship winners are:

  • Nicolas Tinashe Mlambo, from South Africa, studying at North-West University
  • Darya Babenko, from Ukraine, studying at Stellenbosch University
  • Chaz Blackwood, from the U.S., studying at Binghamton University
  • Okoth Paul, from Kenya, studying at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT)
  • Wanjiku Sharon Wanjiru, from Kenya, studying at African Leadership College
  • Maheen Iqbal, from Canada, studying at Yale University
  • Eldho Jacob Thomas, from India, studying at Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus
  • Muhammad Bilawal Khan, from Pakistan, studying at University of Gloucestershire

Read more about the Flywire Foundation here: