British charity founder awarded MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours for work in Kenya

Mary-Jane Butler W.O.R.K.
Mary-Jane Butler with some of the staff and pupils of Nangina Special School. Photo: W.O.R.K

Widows and Orphans in Rural Kenya (W.O.R.K.) founder Mary-Jane Butler has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours ‘for charitable service in Kenya’.

Mary-Jane, originally from Plymouth, spent many years in Cornwall working as a Macmillan Nurse, a Practice Nurse, and a Nurse Trainer before leaving the UK in 1997 to volunteer in the Diocese of Bungoma, Kenya.

Working as Administrator for the Misikhu Mission Hospital, her energetic leadership helped it win an award for the most improved hospital in Kenya.

This led her to be asked to become Medical Co-ordinator for the Diocese, supporting its hospitals, clinics and community health programmes.

After returning to live part-time in England in 2005, she founded W.O.R.K, a charity to support some of the many poor people she had encountered in Western Kenya.

W.O.R.K serves the needs of vulnerable adults and children in the Bungoma district of rural Western Kenya, an area which is roughly equivalent to the combined size of Devon and Cornwall.

The charity helps orphans and widows to become self-sufficient. It provides health care for some of the poorest people and provides education for children with special needs.

In 2015, she was named as one of the ‘Catholic Women of the Year’ and still visits Kenya annually to directly evaluate the various projects undertaken by the charity.


The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the Civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V, and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female.


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