About Rafiki Thabo Foundation

Rafiki Thabo is a UK registered charity, based in Oxfordshire but working in Kenya, Uganda and Lesotho. It was set up just over a decade ago by Jon Uglow who, after having spent 8 months living in a rural community in Kenya, realised that as he and his gap year peers all headed home to their university education and safe futures, his Kenyan friends just did not share the same opportunities, no matter how bright or driven they were. For the majority, affording an education and all the social and economic opportunities that it would bring was a remote possibility; their parents were subsistence farmers, they would be subsistence farmers. It was Jon’s passion to help change the outcome and break the poverty cycle - even for just a few – that resulted in Rafiki Thabo being set up, working closely with people he and his fellow trustees had lived with and gotten to know extremely well in Kenya, Uganda and Lesotho. These trusted friends and contacts subsequently became the in-country committees and remain so today.

Our vision is that young people, including those living with disabilities, will be empowered through education to enable them to reach their full potential and initiate positive change in their communities.  We do this by enabling access to education. Our core programme provides grants to promising students (Rafiki Scholars) who have each qualified and obtained a place at secondary or higher education, but without our support would be unable to afford the fees.  It’s a simple, targeted model bringing opportunity and economic mobility to families who can then navigate themselves out of poverty. At our inaugural gala dinner in November 2018, we were delighted to screen a short film that captures some of the excitement and hope that Rafiki brings to young people’s lives, our words will never fully do justice to the transformative nature of Rafiki Thabo’s intervention. Take a look at this wonderful and powerful film here

Education of course does not exist in a vacuum; at Rafiki Thabo we also support the development of school infrastructure and other ‘holistic’ projects that further our aim to increase access to education – new computers, electrification of classrooms to name but a few examples.  We also run an ‘Eat Well to Learn’ programme where some of the very poorest Rafiki Scholars are provided with lunch each day, making it possible for them to continue in school.

The key to our success is knowing where our money goes.  Rafiki Scholars apply and are selected by the above-mentioned volunteer in-country committees, made up of community leaders known personally to the trustees.  Fees are transferred directly to the educational institutions ensuring no money goes astray.  We nurture a relationship, not dependency – when Scholars graduate and are able, they reach out and support the next generation either financially or through mentoring.

The drive behind Rafiki Thabo is clear: positive and sustainable change in local economy, politics and health can and will happen.  Gender equality and an end to poverty is possible.  Underpinning it all is education.

And the best bit? It really doesn’t cost that much to transform a life. Below are some examples of how little it takes to empower these young people as Rafiki Scholars:

  • £121 could pay for a year at secondary school for a child in Lesotho
  • £800 would pay for a year at university in Uganda
  • £1,768 could pay for a whole term of school meals for 70 children in secondary school in Uganda
  • £955 will pay for a year at university in Kenya

In 2019, through kind regular donations, and the amazing amount of funding raised at our inaugural gala dinner, we supported 186 Rafiki Scholars! In 2022 we are supporting a record 250 scholars, including 40 living with disabilities, and it is our dream to support so many more! Through joining us at our next Gala Dinner on the 10th November 2022, you will support us in doing exactly that!

To find out more about our work and our impact please visit our website