About us

Rafiki Ya Maisha is a work of partnership and solidarity between France and Kenya. It was created in 2004.

We built 2 higher learning vocational training schools, which became landmark schools in the region. 

The education enables young adults to provide for their families at large and improve the community.

Mission & Vision

Our mission is to provide professional training to Kenya’s youth who have either not qualified for secondary education, who have been left out of the formal education system or who feel a calling for a specific trade.

We have now launched two operating vocal training schools in the region around Eldoret town. Since laying the first stones, roads have been tarmacked, classrooms and workshops built. After 20 years, our long-term vision has been 75% realized.

Who we are

Created by Claire Mathijsen Roth, the nonprofit was established in 2004 in France, Association Loi 1901, and the Community Based Organization, CBO, was registered in in 2007.
Rafiki Ya Maisha came to life in Chepkanga, a rural village near Eldoret, in order to help give professional training to young jobless or unqualified Kenyans. Our France-Kenya partnership is robust and thriiving.

The French chapter is mainly responsible for grant and fund raising; the Kenya chapter is in charge of operations and partnering with the local and national government. We are partners in strategy and decision-making.


Claire Mathijsen Roth, President
Claire Mathijsen, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Paris, where she works with local and international families. Claire is the mother of 3 children. She lived in Eldoret at Moi Girls’ High School in the early 80’s where she met her friend Elizabeth Tunoi.
Their friendship blossomed, leading to the village empowerment movement in 2007 and the Polytechnic school project for the youth.

Christian Roth, Secretary General
Christian Roth, former Head of the French department and teacher at Moi Girls’ High School in Eldoret., is an International lawyer specialized in business law, and former Professor of Law at the University of Paris I-Sorbonne, past Chairman of the European Lawyer’s Association, UAE.

Gabriel Teimuge, Secretary
Certified public accountant

James Chirchir, Chairman
Director of  Director of Insurance Company and former County Development Fund committee member

Dr.Philip Cheruiyot, Deputy Chairman
Dentist and Elgeyo Marakwet County official

Reid Feldman, Vice-President
Reid Feldman is an International lawyer in Paris, France, engaged in the practice of law in the United States and France and handling numerous cross-border corporate acquisitions and financial transactions.

Marino Pulliero, Treasurer
Marino Pulliero is Doctor of Philosophy, with a focus area in History of Culture; he has published numerous books and articles on German culture; Managing Director of private psychiatric clinic in Blois, France

Anne François-Poncet
Our first on-site volunteer in Chepkanga, helped erect the fence surrounding Rafiki Ya Maisha’s first plot of land, now home to SERGOEK Vocational Training Center in Chepkanga. Anne works as a Manager at McKinsey based out of Brussels. 

Rafiki Ya Maisha – Kenya

Elizabeth Tunoi, President
Elizabeth Tunoi is the brain child behind this project. She resides in Chepkanga, a township in Sergoit. She is a retired bank clerk and is currently working on her farm. She also runs a small fast food place and a small stationary shop in Eldoret town. She has also been actively involved in church activities mainly on a voluntary basis, and is very active in her community. Over the years, she dedicated herself to the the plight of the youth who, out of school and without any training, could not engage in meaningful employment. She founded the Saint Elizabeth vocational training college, and has been a pillar in the development of the Polytechnic School.

Chairman RYM Insurance agent, Eldoret, Community Development Fund secretary, Uasin Gishu
Secretary General RYM, farmer, retired town clerk, city hall of Eldoret
Treasurer, shop owner, Chepkang.

Mrs Paulina O.,Quantity Surveyor, Moi University Lecturer
Mr. Joseph S., Farmer and retired Uasin Gishu counselor
Mrs. Aida K., County counselor Usin Gishu, Sergoek Ward
Mrs. Scolastica K., Retired official of Kenya Farmer’s Association 
Mr. Michael S., Retired Catholic church Catechist
Mrs. Susan C., Former Women’s Representative of Elgeyo Marakwet County, joined in 2012

Where we are

Chepkanga is a village situated 15 km from Eldoret town in the Rift Valley Province (Northwest) of Kenya.
The inhabitants of Chepkanga are mainly peasant and middle level farmers whose mainstay is maize and wheat farming.
Due to a slump in the economy, agriculture is not fetching many returns and the people have to struggle very hard to educate their children. Many of these young people have a lot of untapped potential, which remains unexploited due to economic constraints.

Our History

RAFIKI YA MAISHA was born out of a long term friendship between Claire Mathijsen Roth and Elizabeth Tunoi. They met in the early 1980’s, when Claire spent 3 years in Eldoret, where her husband was teaching French in a girl’s school, in the context of his French Military Service.
At the turn of the century, Claire visited her friend in Kenya, who was increasingly focusing on youth education and training. One day upon her visit, she was asked whether she could help Elizabeth find second-hand computers in France, and send them back to the village of Chepkanga, where many youths have little access to training, and are thus left out of the economy. It seemed obvious to Claire at that moment that she could help find computers back in France, a highly developed society in the world of information technology.

This is how the idea of an association came to light; it was officially created in 2004. Its name came naturally as Claire thought of her life-time friendship with the Tunoi family. « Rafiki Ya Maisha », meaning « Friends for Life » was born. From 2005 t o2008, a total of 2 459 kg of donations (recycled computers, sewing machines, sport equipment, hairdressing salon, etc.) were shipped from France to Kenya.
Rafiki Ya Maisha’s activities and focus areas have shifted since its creation. Today, the needs of the community reside in creating the proper structure to house these materials and students, in order for them to receive professional training.

Focus areas

In rural Kenya, 74% of the teenagers and young adults are unable to move beyond available free primary education. 

These “lost” teens or ‘dropouts’ typically turn to risky behaviors: early pregnancies for girls and addictions or violence for boys. Towns become ghettoized and rural areas lose their youth. Offering this “lost” youth a technical education closer to home aims to break the cycle of poverty on site, right where it is needed.
RAFIKI YA MAISHA was founded to provide vocational training to unemployed young people in need, who have no secondary education or access to trade schools in rural Western Kenya. We are mobilizing to build a sustainable Polytechnic school with a degree program, offering a variety of courses with workshops, a library, a theater, classrooms, computers and boarding facilities. The graduates can start their own businesses or develop a career.

RAFIKI YA MAISHA has three focus areas :

  • Education
  • Empowerment
  • Sustainable Development