Student Kofi*, 24 years old, explains how his social life and income were cut down because of the covid19 pandemic and how the VUB Caroline Pauwels Relief Fund came to the rescue.

One day I will earn a PhD in Political Science

Kofi is 24 and comes from Ghana in West Africa. He is in his final year of the Bachelor program in Social Sciences. He arrived in Belgium in the Summer of 2017 to start his education at the VUB. Before that, he already made some friends in Belgium while he was working for an NGO in Ghana that has a sister organization here in Belgium. Through that organization he got to meet a lot of people from Belgium and discovered the VUB. ‘I always had the intention to study abroad in a new culture, to learn how things can be done differently. Once I have my Bachelor’s, I will continue with the Master’s. Then, I want to go for a PhD’, Kofi shares his ambition.

The first of his family to start at university

I come from a not so well-educated background in a sense that from a family of 8 I am the only one who had a higher education’, Kofi admits. His mom did not go to school and is unemployed. His dad did have a job but unfortunately, he passed away a long time ago leaving the burden on Kofi’s mother alone to care for the large household. While they are all struggling, they do give a lot of emotional support to Kofi. ‘They encourage me to keep going telling me I am the light of the family and that they believe in me to make them proud, that is how they supported me, and it gives me a lot of strength’, Kofi smiles.

Playing football to earn a living

Kofi is a gifted student and a talented football player. Playing football allowed him to earn a living to pay for tuition fees and other expenses. But when football was stopped, Kofi could not get any money. Football also gave him a social life here in Belgium. All that was gone from one day to another. Kofi: ‘There has been no social life whatsoever for me. I had no football anymore, no classes on campus, no opportunities to socialize with friends and that got me depressed. I lost my motivation because of the online classes. I could not really give my best the way I am used to.’ When the academic year began and Kofi lost his football income he had to tell his mother he did not know what to do to pay his tuition fees. ‘My mother was devastated' Kofi says.

Friends come to the rescue

My friend on campus is doing his PhD and set up the African student community at
the VUB. He is one of my best friends and he told me about this Fund that was
sponsored by Caroline Pauwels
’, Kofi explains. So he applied for the VUB Caroline
Pauwels Relief Fund, exchanged e-mails and documents and got the funds to help.

How the VUB Caroline Pauwels Relief Fund helps

Kofi received money for his tuition fee and every week he collects food at the university campus: ‘I think it would have been extremely difficult to continue my education. Honestly, I did not know how I could pay the fees without the money coming from football. The support I received from the university was really my rescue. I am extremely grateful for the support. It makes a huge difference for me.’ Thanks to the financial support Kofi got from the VUB Caroline Pauwels Relief Fund, he is now on his way to graduate in the Summer.

Others received help too. Kofi knows of a friend from Ghana who got food and funds. ‘I also helped a student from Tanzania. She couldn’t pay her rent anymore and got really depressed. To make things worse, her landlord was threatening to kick her out if she would not pay the rent, so I paid her rent for a month’, Kofi shares her story.

A daily call to Ghana

Kofi likes to keep in touch and talks a lot with his family. He calls his mother every day because he cannot travel to Ghana now. ‘When I told my mom about the VUB Caroline Pauwels Relief Fund she was very happy and grateful’, Kofi says. He gladly shares his story so more people can learn about the positive impact the support from the VUB Caroline Pauwels Relief Fund is making, ‘This is solidarity at its peak. This really helps us, and we are able to complete our degree and create positive impact on society. I will not forget it for the rest of my life.

*Kofi is a pseudonym to protect the student’s privacy.

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Support the VUB Caroline Pauwels Noodfonds voor studenten with a donation on the IBAN account number BE51 0013 6779 3562 of the VUB with the reference GIFTFO7. In Belgium, donations of €40 and above are fiscally deductible. Online donations are possible via this webpage.