In memory of Senzeni Matikiti

Tariro program officer Senzeni Matikiti (center), pictured together with other Tariro staff members Fadzie (left) and Daniel (right). Photo: Tessa Munson Wood

Tariro program officer Senzeni Matikiti (center), pictured together with other Tariro staff members Fadzie (left) and Daniel (right). Photo: Tessa Munson Wood

It is with very deep sadness that I write this post informing you of the recent death of Tariro’s librarian and program officer, Senzeni Matikiti. In addition to working with Tariro, Senzeni was a close personal friend, whom I have known since my first trip to Zimbabwe, in 1995. My feelings after losing Senzeni are too big to fit in a single post. Today, I want to give you a glimpse into Senzeni’s life and work. I will follow this with another post early next week honoring Senzeni’s experience, and reflecting on how her life speaks to a much larger, Zimbabwean story.

1995: Meeting Senzeni

Originally from Mukodzongi village in Chiweshe, Senzeni came to Harare as a teenager, where she lived with one of her female relatives, whose name was Kesi Chauruka. In a typical trade for adolescent girls, Senzeni helped the Chauruka family with various household tasks, cooking and leaning in exchange for her food and lodging. When I first met Senzeni in 1995, we were both fifteen years old.

Obviously, there were major differences between us. While Senzeni was no longer attending school, I attended a prestigious public IB program in Eugene, Oregon. While Senzeni had little access to any kind of financial resources, I had the ability to travel halfway around the world in order to study Zimbabwean music. Nevertheless, we developed the kind of friendship that often results from extended, daily interactions. Frequently, we walked to Machipisa market together to do the daily shopping for the Chauruka family. We also sat for long hours around the family’s cooking fire in the evenings, stumbling to converse in each other’s languages. By the left I left, we had developed a close friendship, which would last for nearly twenty years.

1997: Returning to Zimbabwe

When I returned to Zimbabwe in 1997, Senzeni was no longer living with the Chauruka family. Near the end of my stay in 1995, one of the residents of the Chauruka household, a woman named Mai Ndasara, had passed away of an undefined illness. Shortly after this, her widowed husband, Baba Ndasara, took Senzeni as his new wife, and moved out of the Chauruka compound.

Now, Senzeni had a son, whom she named Tinashe, or “God is with us.” While we no longer saw each other every day, she hadn’t moved far, and we still frequently encountered each other walking through the streets of our neighborhood, a high-density township called Highfield.

2008: Senzeni falls ill

After several short trips to Zimbabwe over the years, I finally returned for another year-long stay in 2008, in order to begin fieldwork for my PhD dissertation in ethnomusicology. Returning to Highfield to visit old friends, I quickly learned that Senzeni’s husband had died since my last visit, and she herself was now seriously ill.

Greeting my old friend, I was struck by the desperation apparent on her face. Long stricken with asthma, Senzeni now seemed to have a serious respiratory infection, and was struggling to breathe. She also had a skin condition affecting much of her scalp, and was thin to the point of appearing emaciated. With no steady income, she had resorted to buying popsicles, known locally as “freezits,” in bulk, which she then resold our of her home freezer to neighborhood children walking home from school. Obviously, this creative economic activity didn’t produce enough income for Senzeni’s family, especially as she now had a young daughter, named Jesse, in addition to her son Tinashe.

2009: New hope

Much to the consternation of Tariro’s old program coordinator, Fadzie, I tend to act immediately whenever I feel I might be able to make a difference. Indeed, I quickly sprang into action after visiting Senzeni, arranging for her to see a doctor in the nearby neighborhood of Glen Norah, and paying for her to fill prescriptions to treat each of her various conditions. Going even further out on a limb, I offered Senzeni a part-time job as a librarian at Tariro.

Of course, this wasn’t in our budget, so I paid her salary out of my own pocket, never telling her that her position was anything less than completely official. While she received only $100 a month for her work, this was an incredible sum in comparison to what she had previously been trying to survive on. Relieving her of some of the burden of paying school fees, I also enrolled her daughter, Jesse, in Tariro’s sponsorship program.

2012: Our invaluable librarian

Senzeni threw herself into her work with Tariro with unparalleled enthusiasm. In addition to staffing our lending library, she gradually began to take on a much wider role within the organization. In monthly updates from our program coordinator Fadzie, for example, I started encountering phrases like these:

“Senzeni has been amazing with following up, and making sure our receipts meet the standard we have set for ourselves.”

“Senzeni is currently paying all the fees I couldn’t pay.”

“Senzeni and I have completed most of the home/school visits.”

“Senzeni and I compiled a report which we have submitted to Mercy Corps showing how the funds were expensed as well as the signatures of all the students who benefited from the grant.”

“I do have another copy of the students register, compiled by Senzeni.”

By 2012, Senzeni had already been made an official staff member at Tariro. Yet it was becoming clear that she was much more than simply a librarian. In response, Tariro’s board president, Easther Chigumira, suggested that we raise her salary. In recognition of her invaluable assistance to Tariro, board members voted unanimously to double her salary to $200 per month, giving her a very decent income by Zimbabwean standards.

2014: Mourning Senzeni

While Senzeni’s health had improved somewhat, she was still frequently too ill to come to work over the years. In September, I heard from Tariro’s new Executive Director, Kenny Magwada, that Senzeni was now seriously ill, and seeking treatment at Harare Hospital, a government institution. Soon, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and transferred to the Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital. I told Kenny to contact me if there was anything I could do, and asked for Senzeni’s telephone number to call her.

A short time later, I received word that Senzeni had been discharged, and was now at home. Visiting me in Rochester was Cosmas Magaya, a wonderful Zimbabwean mbira player, and one of our Zimbabwean trustees. Together, we called Senzeni to see how she was doing. Both of us were shocked at how ill she sounded. In another sign that her illness was very serious, her mother had traveled from the rural areas to care for her.

Once again, I sprang into action, asking friends in Zimbabwean for referrals to a private specialist, and contacting other friends whom I thought might be able to help arrange transportation for Senzeni, as well as covering the initial costs of her visit. As plans were being put into place for this to happen, I received the news that on the morning of October 12th, Senzeni was transported by ambulance back to Beatrice, where she died.

Yesterday, Kenny traveled to Senzeni’s rural home of Mukodzongi Village to attend her burial. Please join me in saying, “Nematambudziko,” or “We share your sorrow,” to Senzeni’s family, especially her mother, and her children Jesse and Tinashe. And if you play mbira, please play a song for my dear friend.    

Tariro girls shine and Tariro receives an Award!

The setting was Domboramwari high school in Epworth, about 15 km from Harare’s city centre. The event- Speech and Prize giving day, where students who excelled in their studies were being awarded prizes of excellence.

Multiple awards…

Well, Tariro Girls dominated the awards as four of them, yes four, received various awards at the event. First up was Bertha M, who won an academic award of excellence in Religious Studies then there was Morleen who scooped three awards in Shona, English and Accounts as well as another one for a good overall performance among the form fours.

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Morleen receiving multiple awards

There was also another category, The Smartest Students award and two Tariro girls landed the award. Bertha M was voted the smarted student followed by Rumbidzai M.

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The smartest Girl: Bertha is all smiles after scooping two awards including the smartest girl award.

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Another smart one. Rumbidzai M, who received another award for smartness

In honour of last year’s top performers in the Ordinary level examinations, the school also gave awards to top performers. It was in this category that Pride R, now doing lower six at another school received a prize.

Icing on the cake

As if that was not enough Tariro received an award in recognition of our “great support” to the school. Tariro’s executive director received the award on behalf of the organization.

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Some of the Tariro girls at Domboramwari pose with Executive Director Kenny (in Black Jacket), standing beside him is Morleen’s mother.

Thank you and we want more of your support…

As we exalt in these recent achievements, we never forget the strength behind our work- YOU . We dedicate this award to all of you who have supported us throughout the years, either through your donations or moral support.

this time of the year, we begin our fall fundraising campaign and we would like to call upon you to make a  one-time donation or to set up a recurring monthly donation to enable Tariro to continue educating and empowering Zimbabwean girls.

Your donation will go a long way in educating a girl

  • $30 will provide a student with school supplies (pens, paper, and sanitary ware) for the year.
  • $80 will provide a student with a new uniform, including shoes, socks, pants/skirt, shirt and tie.
  • $100 will cover the annual cost for a student to participate in Tariro’s music and dance ensemble.
  • $150 will enable a student to write her Ordinary Level exams, which are required for further study.
  • $300 will pay the annual     school  fees for one girl attending secondary school

All donations are tax-deductible in the US. Thank you!

A special Saturday for Tariro Girls !

Board members visiting…

Saturday was another special day for the Tariro Girls. Usually the girls meet for traditional dance practice and general meetings. However this one was a bit different as they mixed and interacted with two of Tariro’s board members who were in the country visiting. The two, Dr Stephanie Bengtsson and Dr Jo Ailwood are faculty members at the School of Education at the University of Newcastle Australia.

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Words of advice: The girls listen attentively as Jo illustrates a point.

The day started with Jo and Stephanie giving the girls some career guidance. After that the girls showcased some of their marimba music and traditional dances. As if to reciprocate the girls were treated to some Zumba and Salsa dancing lessons from Stephanie ( she is a licensed Zumba instructor). It was indeed, a jovial atmosphere for everyone – releasing stress and strengthening the body!

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On the dance floor: Stephanie leading the girls through some Zumba moves.

Gifts Gifts Gifts!

To put the icing on the cake, the girls received gift bags from Stephanie and Jo. In those bags was an assortment of stationery as well as sanitary ware. The girls were quite thankful for the gifts and couldn’t hide their joy.

Stephanie and Jo’s visit was a much needed morale booster for our girls. Not only did they have fun but they also benefited from the career guidance from professionals as well as invaluable gifts that will go a long way in empowering them.

The girls listening to Jo and Steph while holding their gift bags

The girls listening to Jo and Steph while holding their gift bags

Third and final term begins!

The third and final term of the Zimbabwean academic calendar has started, considered by some as the shortest; it comes as the defining term for most students who will be sitting for their national examinations. We have students in Tariro who will be writing their final examinations this term. Three of them will be writing their grade seven examinations, this examination is a terminal examination for the primary school students, and they will be going to secondary level.

Grade seven candidates

This year it will be Rufaro M, Fadzai M and Noleen C; These girls will be seating for their Grade Seven examinations in October. Fadzai and Rufaro  have, behind them, a satisfactory academic performance and we even featured them in previous blogs for having won academic prizes of excellence. Most of you may now be familiar with Noleen C, a special needs student whom we sponsor. She is is quite excited about writing her final examinations.

Four subjects, Maths, English, an indigenous language , General paper (a combination of natural and social sciences) will be examined at the Grade Seven examinations.

Noleen C at her home in Norton

Noleen C at her home in Norton

We would like to wish our girls all the best as they seek to crossover from primary to secondary education. This is also an opportunity for us to thank those of you who have been assisting us to realize our mission of educating and empowering young women and girls in communities affected by HIV/AIDS.

Fadzai displaying a certificate of academic excellence that she was awarded when at the end of her grade 6 year.

Jane J at university!

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Jane in 2010, when she was doing her Ordinary Level

 A promising start and a future full of hope

On July 26 2010, we shared with you a post on Jane J. Well, we come back again with the good news that Jane is now at university. Back then, she was doing form four. When she joined Tariro she showed great academic potential such that Fadzi, our former program coordinator said “with proper guidance and support,  Jane will achieve her intended career goals.” We are glad that she has kept her focus and has managed to climb the ladder of academic success, We are thankful for your continued support of Tariro’s work and we can rejoice in another success story in the making.

Jane couldn’t hide her joy the day she left for the Midlands State University to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management. In her words, she was thankful for the work that Tariro and you, our supporters are doing for her and other children in our program, “..firstly when i lost my parents i thought that life was going to end but i thank God that he provided me with you guys…thank you for paying my fees, may God bless you...” said Jane with tears of gratitude flowing down her cheeks.  

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Jane, just before she left for university

A call for more support

As we rejoice in this and other girls’ stories we would like to extend to you an offer to partner with us on our mission of educating and empowering girls in Zimbabwean communities affected by HIV/AIDS. Your donations are a critical in enabling us to meet this end especially now that we have more students in university than before. 

You can also make a one-time donation to Tariro through JustGive, or by sending us a check at:

Tariro: Hope and Health for Zimbabwe’s Orphans
PO Box 50273
Eugene, OR, 97405
USA

Once again, it’s a big thank you to to those of you who have been supporting us throughout the years!

Tariro at the Youth Expo

The girls go through their dances at the expo

The girls go through their dances at the expo

It was indeed a great day for our Traditional Dance ensemble, as Tariro girls were invited to perform at the Youth empowerment Trust Expo that was held recently in Harare, Zimbabwe. Their energetic traditional dances and mellow marimba tunes lit up the atmosphere and wowed guests who included legislators in the Parliamentary portfolio committee on youth as well as fellow exhibitors and members of the public.
Apart from the dances, we got a chance to reach out to other people and organizations through the Expo. The expo was running under the theme “Creating space for young people.”

We rejoice in the fact that our light continues to shine as well in the never ending hope of total girl-child and women empowerment.

exhibition time

 

More of our girls for University!

Well, after a long break, we return with some good news.

Two of our girls, Edwinner S. and Jestina T. have been accepted into university. Both will be studying at Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE).

Edwinner will be studying towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Social work while Jestina will be taking a Bachelor of Science degree in peace and governance. this brings the total number of Tariro beneficiaries to  6. ( Just to refresh your memory, we already have Politness N. and Melody M. at the University of Zimbabwe, Tariro K. at BUSE and Pamela K. at Harare Polytechnic college)

To Jestina and Edwinner, we wish you a fruitful academic journey ahead and we promise to be faithful companions just like in the times past.

Edwinner (L) and Jestina (R) are bound for Bindura University of Science Education

Edwinner (L) and Jestina (R) are bound for Bindura University of Science Education