For the past two weeks, I made the bold step to personally visit 100 families in the community of Musena in Zimbabwe, reaching 21 villages - stretching more than 18 kilometers of travel distance - the same distance young boys and girls need to walk to get to school each day. Those that get the chance to walk to school each day are the most privileged, many kids do not have tuition to join the walk to school.
During my visits, I met children born with HIV and AIDS and some with disabilities. Most of these children have only attended school for seven years at the primary level before dropping out. They owe their former schools so much money in arrears they are forced to drop out. When we told them, we will give them scholarships and they would be able to return to school this month - our words were too good to believe. “What a generous world,” said one parent. This is the work I have been building for so many years, but it, of course, has not been without its challenges, I remain strong and undeterred to lead the course. It is because of the stories of young girls like Joana Maphisa and Elizabeth Bandera that I remain 100% committed and optimistic.
There are many stories and they all were touching and heartwarming but after visiting and spending time with 100 families the stories of Joana Maphisa and Elizabeth Bandera are the most inspirational to me. These two are doing all that it takes to be successful and be able to continue in school. They are working hard in their communities to raise money for tuition. I share the same story with them because I also grew up working in the fields to help my parents to raise money for my school tuition.
Joana and Elizabeth both believe they can one day go back to school. But there are many odds working against them. Instead of receiving money for when they do their jobs in the community the get paid with food. They can't sell this food to get money for tuition because they need the same food to eat not only for themselves but for their brothers and sisters and parents. Time is not on their side. With each passing day, they are growing up beyond school-going age for secondary level. When we arrived at their home, they had just come from the gardens where they had been watering vegetables. They were each giving a bundle of vegetables to take home. Their mother told me a painful story about how these girls work every day and for so little, but I kept strong and held the tears.
When we knocked on their door, we changed their lives. When we started this work a few years ago, I told the world “only an education changed my life.” That's why we believe our #100Scholarships initiative will change the world for those we can send to school in this community. For the next few months, we will reach out to you to help other young children like Joana and Elizabeth get the same opportunity in other communities. I believe this work is just starting, and we know you took us this far. Let's keep going.