In today’s post, I’d like to share with you a note written by our wonderful program coordinator, Fadzie Muzhandu, as a preface to this year’s annual report. I will be including some highlights from the annual report in forthcoming posts. As we seek to raise the funds necessary to continue our programs in 2013, Fadzie’s words, copied in below, are an exceptionally moving tribute to both the joys and the worries involved in our work.
Every year begins and ends with some excitement and anxiety for many Tariro girls and myself. We are happy we got through the year, paid all our fees, and are moving to the next grade, and we are extremely proud that none of the students dropped out of school. We tell ourselves, the students and I, that we must be doing something right.
At the same time, we are restless about things we cannot control, like whether Zimbabwe will have presidential elections or not and what it means for the program. I am especially restless at the beginning of the year, because this is when our final year students receive examination results, and I speculate about how many will pass, and what future our students who fail have. Even those who pass are still confronted by the realities of a country not fully recovered from a decade long economic crisis, with unemployment well above 80%.
I also worry about whether we will have enough school fees for our students for the next year and how many more we can recruit. Students worry about how their Christmas break will be, whether they will have enough food for celebrations, and if they are very lucky, whether a relative will buy them a new dress.
The realities of working with underprivileged children confront us around the holidays, but we still find time to celebrate our big and sometimes not so big achievements of the year. We celebrate the many students whose lives we have changed by paying school fees and through our mentorship programs. We celebrate that Noleen, who is in a wheelchair and through physiotherapy paid for by Tariro, made her first unassisted step. Many students have become leaders of clubs or were selected to the student government, and have made contributions to their communities. Our proudest moment was when 3 students were selected to participate in a cultural exchange program that saw them showcase Zimbabwean traditional dances in Japan!
As field based officers we sometimes forget that the work we do is made possible because of the generosity of many. Many who have never been to Zimbabwe, but have committed their time and resources to improving the lives of young women. Through our donors’ generosity, Tariro has provided education funds for more than 300 students since 2003.
Every year I am encouraged by our supporters’ bigheartedness and would like to reassure you that your support is going a long way in empowering and transforming the lives of young women in a big way. Every year we recruit about 15 young women, and for these young women Tariro not only gives them hope, but an opportunity to rise above their backgrounds and plan for, rather than just dream about a better future. For some of these young women, we simply help them reclaim their childhood.
A balanced perspective on Tariro’s work
For me, one of the most powerful things about Fadzie’s perspective is that the work of development, like any other human endeavor, is marked by both happiness and suffering, both success and failure. For a grassroots organization like Tariro, the path forward can only be navigated by working together, in a concerted effort that begins with our students and staff, and expands to include our donors, board members, and volunteers.
Thank you Fadzie, for your hard work, your important insights, and your true investment and belief in our students. And thank you, readers, for your donations and support. Together, we’re making a small but powerful difference, one girl at a time.