WMI Scholars are determined to create meaningful changes within their communities. 

The WMI Founder's Award

The WMI Founder’s Award (formerly WMI President’s Award) is a very special honor granted to select scholars who are recognized for their exceptional dedication, for going above and beyond what is expected of a young leader, and for the positive change that they are creating within their community, nation, and the world.

Meet Our WMI Founder's Award Recipients

In addition to the honor of being an award recipient each scholar also receives $1000 USD to be invested in a community project of their choice.

Dr. Melisa Clara Bhebe


This WMI Graduate Scholar awardee is actively creating a legacy within her home town of Hwange. Dr. Melisa Bhebe founded the Lwisani Uplifting Women in Education Foundation in memory of her mother and their joint passion for education. The organization provides school sponsorships and implements leadership, personal development, sexual reproductive health and career guidance programming. With this award, LUWEF will expand their support to send two adolescent girls to secondary school and purchase all of their supplies. Melisa remains dedicated to expanding LUWEF’s impact with the goal of supporting 50 students by 2030. As a true advocate for education, Melisa is expanding her own horizons as she works towards completion of a masters degree in public health at the University of Cape Town, as a fully sponsored Mandela Rhodes Scholar.

Peter Kabethi


Peter’s professional goal is to become a policy maker and an advocate for the deaf in his community, country and the world. He worked as a teacher at the Tumutumu School for the Deaf for 11 years and currently works at Reverend Muhoro Secondary School for the Deaf. In 2017, Peter founded the Mathura Self Help Group to develop employment and business opportunities for deaf adults and provide support for parents seeking educational opportunities for their deaf children. In 2021, his organization, through a WMI COVID-19 Response Grant, provided COVID-19 health promotion and support to 30 deaf adults in the community. With his award, Peter plans to provide voluntary service loans and business capital for deaf business owners in his community of Nyeri, Kenya. This activity aims at generating savings that will cushion members’ businesses during harsh economic times.

Portia Keatametse


Portia is a WMI Graduate Scholar of nursing in Botswana. She is focused on improving maternal mental health in her community. In 2017, Portia launched the Postnatal Mental Health Society to tackle maternal mental health issues in her nation and bridge the gap of maternal mental health services. She belongs to the Global Mental Health Peer Network where she advocates for maternal mental health by speaking about the cultural stigmas and wide range of mental health issues in her nation. In 2021, Portia’s organization provided 300 beneficiaries with maternal counseling services alongside infant and mother starter packs. With the funds obtained from the founder’s award, she plans to replicate this activity on a larger scale to support needy mothers in the rural Mmadinare community where she currently works as a nurse.

Mayom Mabuong

South Sudan

Mayom’s Community Development Fund began as a micro-grant project in 2015 and expanded with this award to transform the villages surrounding Rumbek. Over 189 loans, of which 70% supported female-initiated projects, led to the creation of new income-generating activities which reduce the prevalence of absolute poverty. In four years, the CDF has experienced 500% capital growth (taking into account extreme inflation) and continues to be the most trusted micro-lending group in the local region.

dr. catherine nagadya


Catherine founded Girls Unstoppable Uganda in 2016 to promote the importance of female education. This local NGO enables young girls to continue their secondary school studies with locally funded scholarships. GU-UG has hosted menstruation hygiene clinics in rural schools coupled with the distribution of reusable sanitary pads. The organization continues to grow and plans to provide more sponsorships to help bright female students and expand to provide career guidance beyond the secondary school level.

esther ajari


As a current Student Scholar, Esther is involved in many community service projects on health and education and the importance of sanitation to community health. She is founder of a non-profit on her campus called The TriHealthon. Its major areas of focus are sexual and reproductive health, childhood malnutrition and vaccination. She leads a team of fellow medical students passionate about improving healthcare services.

Ralf Etienne


Dedicated to improving his nation, Ralf founded Rebuilding Haiti after Hurricane Matthew to assist with disaster relief. Rebuilding Haiti repaired roofs throughout the region, provided access to medical treatment, and enabled communities to access clean water. The organization has since expanded with the mission of providing community members with the tools necessary to better themselves.

Sujan Gautam


Sujan pledges to tackle the issue of food insecurity in Nepal. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kathmandu was shut off from the rest of the nation. In an effort to provide immediate relief and long-term food access, Sujan provided basic dry good staples and vegetable seeds to 160 people. His dedication extends to rural communities where he is implementing a Community Development Seed Grant with 30 small-scale female farmers. Sujan designed a commercial farming capacity training, hands-on exercises and provided trainees with hybrid, off-season, high-yield seed varieties for increased vegetable production. Together with a team of fellow agriculturalists they will continue to support the farmers and monitor the new farming practices to aid in achieving larger crop yields.

WMI Founder’s Award recipients multiply their local impact. Support this unique initiative today.