Elimisha Kakuma


Elimisha Kakuma, which means “Educate Kakuma” in Swahili, is the first college-preparatory gap year program designed specifically for refugees from Kakuma Refugee Camp in Northwest Kenya seeking higher education. In Kakuma, students who finish secondary school are faced with few to no opportunities. Even if students have the grades that would qualify them for university in Kenya, as refugees, they do not qualify for financial aid, nor do they have the right to work in Kenya, to earn enough money to study.  The few scholarship opportunities that are available are not sufficient to the number of students who finish secondary school each year in Kenya.  Three former refugees from Kakuma Refugee Camp, Mary Maker, Diing Manyang, and Dudi Miabok, experienced this same dead end. That’s why, a few years into their respective degrees at St. Olaf University, George Washington University, and Harvard University, they, along with their former teacher, Deirdre Hand, decided to found Elimisha Kakuma in 2021. 

Elimisha students go through a 15-month holistic academic program that prepares them for university-level content through academic classes, the college application process, mentorship, and community service. In its first two years, Elimisha students have received full scholarships to Dartmouth College, Macalester College, U.C. Berkeley, Elmhurst University, Trinity College, University of Tulsa, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Western University, and the Czech University of Life Sciences.  

As a refugee-led organization, Elimisha’s mission is that as more refugees receive higher education, they will give back and support their communities, as its co-founders have done.