Meet a graduating scholar: Congratulations Julia Brenda Omondi, Kenya

133e2184-57a1-4c04-9281-449671678a37“Having a degree in Psychology will open a new window of job opportunities for me of which I am ready and willing to take advantage of.”

Meet Julia Omondi, a 2016 Watipa scholar, who is graduating this year with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (Counselling) from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Congratulations Julia – your hard work has paid off!

I am very proud of how far I have come. Looking back, I started out without a steady means of getting school fees, and my grades were really affected. However, since Watipa started supporting me by paying my school fees, my grades improved. In addition, being a Watipa scholar has given me the opportunity to be a part of an international group of scholars like myself, which is always a motivation. I find myself challenged by how much other young people in different countries are doing for their communities. Plus, some conversations we have on different topics such as climate change and human sexuality also make you see things in a different light. This enables one to learn. Seeing other scholars graduate has also been motivating. Being a part of the Watipa committee that makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees has been amazing.

Sometimes, standing before the young women I reach out to, I cannot ignore the fact that some, if not most of them, view me as a role model. So sometimes I share my personal story with them. For example, in August this year I was giving a group of sponsored students a talk. The high school students had not been performing well and I used my experience with Watipa to encourage them. I shared with them that there should be gradual improvement in their grades now that they no-longer endure the burden of unpaid school fees. I used myself as an example. I am proud of the opportunities I have received to support adolescent girls and young women in the community.ffb5e22b-1ee3-4e48-a687-7966aad4e2ccThere have been some challenges this year with lecturers strikes. Many students were not able to meet the deadline for paying school fees, and because the school had become stricter about the issue, normal learning had to be put to a stop. This has led to a delay in the time that myself and my cohorts will finish our studies and graduate. Sadly, this is the experience of the majority of students in Kenya who go to public school.

Outside of university, within my local community, I have been working with young women under the DREAMS Initiative (DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe). Luckily for me the particular program I work in (My Health My Choice, MHMC) also involves adolescent boys. Being involved in this program has enabled me to see the need to empower young people with information on sexual reproductive health. I have a great appreciation for the gaps that exist; empowering girls without enlightening the boys can create further challenges. In my community there has been a lot of progress made, but there are still areas that need to be addressed – each day is a learning experience.

As I approach the final leg of my academic journey, I get very nostalgic thinking about the beginning and I am both hopeful and excited about the future. My hopes are to finish school, graduate and get a job. A degree in Psychology will open a new window of job opportunities for me of which I am ready and willing to take advantage of. I would love to continue to study in the future and do a Masters degree, subject to my overall performance in my degree and how soon I get a job so that I can sponsor myself. One day I hope to work with the United Nations (UN) particularly UNAIDS or UNDP because I admire the scale of the global impact. I also hope to give back to my community more than I do now. Of course, I would also like to give back to Watipa because it has done a lot, not only for me but also many other scholars.

As I leave, I make room for other deserving scholars to benefit from Watipa. I hope to serve as a role model to current scholars and contribute in various ways to give back to Watipa. The entire Watipa scholarship process has been rewarding in every way!

Julia Brenda Omondi, Watipa scholar and young woman aged 26, Kenya

Editted by Sam Mudie

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