Laura Albertyn’s 2018 graduation speech

Well it is that time of year again and we love graduation time!

I can’t start my speech today without acknowledging the pain Makomborero has faced this year.  It has been a sad year for the Makomborero family, losing 3 people suddenly who were part of us.  The terrible tragic death of one of our students, Takudzwa, under weird and hard circumstances, with his whole life before him.  A gentle humble, young man who graduated in this building this time last year, passed all his private pilot licence exams and just needed to accumulate flight hours.  His death has left many unanswered questions and we continue to walk with his family through their grief and trying to make sense of it all.  He was a dear friend to many and his going leaves a big whole.

Our house mother Mai Banga had to suddenly bury her precious son Danford.  A young man at the prime of his life – doing his Masters Degree in Cape Town.  By all accounts a gentleman, a man who many loved dearly.  Mai Banga has bravely faced her grief and kept on loving our students at the Resource Centre.  Overwhelmed by her loss at times but showing so much courage.  We are so proud of you Mai Banga.

Two weeks ago we tragically lost our Chairman, Pagiel Chimudzi.  He was a humble, gentle, wise man – who we relied on for wisdom, direction and was an ever present sounding board.  He was an incredible husband and father – such a role model to so many – he loved so well!  Seeing the pain his wife and children face now with a life without him breaks our hearts and we continue to support them through this very sad season in their lives.  Pagiel will be greatly missed by Makomborero and many, many others!   

As you can see, it has been a year marked by loss but it has made us more grateful for what we have and to not take for granted our relationships.  Above all heart connections are the most important thing – above achievements, accolades, etc.  Asking ourselves if we are loving well is key to life!! This quote from Denzel Washington sums it up nicely – “At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve acoomplished…it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better.  It’s about what you’ve given back.”

We welcomed 8 wonderful students into our Resource Centre this year and a further 10 external students.  It has been a delight to get to know them over this time and begin to discover who they are.  I love the Upper Sixth year – more freedom to be themselves and more opportunities for us to really know them.  They have big shoes to fill as they move into Upper Sixth but I have no doubt they will fill them well!

It is always hard to know what to focus on in my speech each year – do I list all the accomplishments of our students, what Makomborero has been up to etc.  So much happens in a year it is hard to condense it in a few short paragraphs!  We have continued to see more University Graduates this year, more students begin to give back to Makomborero, more students obtain scholarships for Universities abroad, more students enrol at two local Zimbabwean universities.  It is a joy to see that the journey with Makomborero does not end at this graduation.  Yes the time at the Resource Centre comes to an end but the journey with Makomborero continues and as we are learning, that journey actually never ends.  Seeing this family grow each year, seeing people treat each other like brothers and sisters, seeing students passionate to give back – it fills our hearts and we are so grateful for this journey we get to be on with so many! 

Our students have all excelled academically at their respective schools but they have also shone in the various co-curricular activities they have taken part in, as well as all the other little extras we do.  My heart has swelled with pride as I have watched many of our students tackle things they have never been exposed to.  Especially in the Arts!  I’ve often sat in the audience at events and wanted to nudge the person next to me and say “She’s mine,” or “He’s mine”.  These extras broaden their view of the world. 

Our students have shown such courage, determination and stamina during this busy exam season.  They have paced themselves well, found it exhausting at times but have finished well.  We look forward to getting their results in the new year. 

This past year has been a hard year for Makomborero – like it has been for so many in Zimbabwe.  We have felt the weight of all of this at times but we have kept our eyes up!  Our team has tirelessly given of themselves to keep bread in the house, fuel in our cars, food on the table.  I am so grateful to them!

Thank you to our corporate sponsors and individual sponsors.  It is wonderful to have the loyalty of our long standing sponsors, you do not realise how much your dedication to us means, when so many of our local sponsors have had to stop supporting us over this year!  Thank you, thank you!  This investment will pay off in the long run!

We ran our Pilot Girl Mentorship Programme this year and it has brought so much joy!  A project birthed from our passion to see young girls stay in school past Form 2!  We worked with the most vulnerable girls in two schools this year and our team was run by past Makomborero students – young, wonderful, confident ladies!  These ladies helped write all our sessions and ran the programme with passion and dedication.  I think what surprised them most was how much they fell in love with each girl – each girl became a highly valued jewel in their eyes.  We have seen these young girls bloom this year and words cannot describe the transformation that has taken place in each of them.  We are looking to run two mentorship groups this coming year and will continue to refine and work on our material.  It hasn’t cost us much, it isn’t playing the NGO world numbers game, but it is giving hope to a few precious girls each year and we are thrilled.  I am immensely thankful to Ropa and Rura, Belinda and Chenai for all they poured into this project and for its success.  We have learnt lots and can’t wait to see this grow and grow each year!

We have 25 students at UZ and have upped our game a little with our mentorship of these students this year.  We have regular get-togethers at our house, mentorship sessions and opportunities to encourage each other.  These guys are incredible and I love their hearts.  We saw Makomborero UZ students helping fundraise to keep fellow students in University this year and I was so proud that it was Makomborero students’ spear heading the initiative!

Our Mobile Lab continues to run on Saturday mornings – running two sessions per Saturday, impacting students from all over Harare and different High Density schools.  Giving them a deep joy for learning, seeing their worth and learning the practical side of a subject.  I tell my two awesome teachers – the academic side is important but above all of this is your heart connection with these students!!!  We want them to leave with hope and purpose in their hearts, that someone values them deeply as a person.  I think they accomplish that and more in the 9 weeks we have the students!

I’d like to say a few thank yous – Our Volunteers –

  • Alison – thank you for your essay writing workshops – the students have benefited from this so much and so enjoyed their time with you. 
  • Mai Mano – thank you for your belief in Makomborero, for the support you have given to Isabel and Chiko through the USAP programme.  We are so excited about your school opening next year!
  • Fisher for continuing to rescue me and volunteering your time to help with our computer glitches. 
  • Thank you Tsungi for being a great partner in our Life Skills programme – we work well together! 
  • Tongai and Stuart thank you for being a dedicated team who lead our Mobile Lab so well!  You guys inspire me and I love spending time with you!
  • Saskia – thank you for your incredible English lessons this year!  What a gift to us!

Thank you to our local Trustees for their support – Mark, Minali, Praise and Charles.  Thank you for helping us navigate the hard place we find ourselves in in Zim.  As we look to the new year and to strengthening the board I look forward to working with you again!   And to our UK Board of Trustees – wow you guys give so freely of your time.  Thank you!

To the outstanding Heads and incredible teachers of our 3 partner schools – Hellenic, St Georges and Gateway.  We are again sooooo grateful to you for your continued support of us.  Your belief in our students and the generous places you offer each year.  Often encouraging me to see the bigger picture!  We are so thankful!

To my team – Each of you adding so much value in the areas that you serve Makomborero.  I feel so honoured to work with you all.  You put up with a boss who is juggling many balls and has little time available, who drops balls at times and you cover my nakedness.  I love working with all of you and each of you carries a very special place in my heart!

  • Mrs Chikowore – my right hand lady – honestly I would be lost without you – thank you for all the overtime you continually work to get a job done,
  • Mr K your ability to continue to work long hours all term and always, always being there – we could not do this without you.  You are the king of fuel ques!
  • Mrs Banga – our late night chats on the couch in the Resource Centre and you telling me to go home when it gets close to 10pm – thank you for your friendship over the years and you have been so brave this year!
  • Aunty Patricia – your loyal, friendly, hardworking attitude is commendable and I love our Sunday evening meals at the house – yum,
  • Mrs Rumbi – your catering ability and events coordination have taken a load off me – thank you for the great events this year, and speakers to come into the Resource Centre
  • Robson and Johnwell– you guys make up such a fantastic team in our garden and I’m loving seeing you both grow in your knowledge and love for our wonderful property. 

To my husband Mark – I looked across a room at an event recently and thought I’m thankful you are mine and that we have learnt, over time, how to work together in all things!  Reminding each other often we are on the same team!  You love me well and I’m glad we are changing lives together! You dedication to see students love learning is inspiring.  To my children – thank you for journeying with us and opening your hearts to all at Makomborero – I’m so proud to be your mum and see you walk this road with us.  The relationship you go out to build each year with each student is so special and they will be your brothers and sisters forever too!

And now our students – to the external students – Tafadzwa, Carlos, Annah, Kuda, Daisy, Rutendo, Nyasha, Shawn, Wadzanayi and Learnmore – thank you for your commitment to giving back with us and being a part of Makomborero.  You have all worked incredibly hard these past two years and some of you have already achieved such great things!  We are proud of you and are glad you are part of Makomborero.  Mrs Chikowore will address each of you individually.

Our Internal Students (stand) – Wow guys you were the big guys and this year seems to have flown by.  I started mourning you leaving as early as June this year and often left the Resource Centre with tears running down my face this term at the thought of you not being in the house!

  • Brandon – your smile and gentle nature are a winner and I have so enjoyed getting to know you!  You are a true gentleman, who possibly works a little too hard.  You will fly this coming year and I know where ever you end up they will be so rich to have you as part of them! 
  • Donald – I have learnt how to send GIFs, though I still think you are a walking GIF!  You have made me laugh so much and you have brought joy to many of us.  Though some don’t like to admit it!  Your owing in the house will be missed – OW!  But seriously you have been a fantastic role model to many at Hellenic and I can’t wait to see what your future holds.  What is certain is that wherever you go there will be many laughs along the way!
  • Isabel – you slowly opened your heart to me over the past two years and I have loved getting to know you.  You are an incredible young lady – who fights for what she wants!  I love the way we tell each other often that we love each other!  And I love that you and Shy are the best of friends!  Sisters forever!  I can see your future – a big rugby stadium in a high density area run by none other than Isabel!  A passionate heart for how sport can impact and change people’s lives, because it changed your life!  Oh and I’m so glad I blew your mind by driving the combi last weekend!
  • Shyline – Wow girl you have blossomed this year!  I am in awe of the strong, brave woman you are.  You are incredibly wise for your age and particularly when it comes to finances and forward planning. You blew me away this year with your forward planning for your rewrites and having watched you navigate that I know you will embrace many challenges head on and find a solution!  I love our chats, and your honesty!  Proud of you!!
  • Roy – Goodness – I am so incredibly proud of you.  You walked through one of the most painful things a child has to face, losing your mother last year – you felt your grief but also didn’t let it paralyse you – you embrace every opportunity set before you at Hellenic and at times I have been worried your poor body couldn’t keep up with you.  I love that you and Mr A’s personalities are so similar – it meant I get you – and saw the treasure in you early!!  The future is bright not because it is easy but because of how you embrace life!
  • Chiko – you are always willing to participate, step in when no one else will.  I love your little stories that you tell – especially when my story telling is dominating and we are needing a change of voice!  You are a bright shining light in the house.  Your heart and passion for electronics, gadgets etc makes me wonder what journey lies ahead of you.  Exciting!
  • Munya – I have loved seeing you blossom these past two years and especially seeing you reach a new level in the house with friendships and belonging after the SA Trip.  You have bravely faced some health issues and together we have found a solution.  You are a rock, constant, not easily swayed and so willing to share your heart.  I have loved the gems that come out of you and I know that whatever you set your hand to will be done with passion, determination and much love!
  • Kuda – you are one of the most grateful young men, always coming over to say a thank you for something.  You are a true example of servant leadership and your love for children and little people is so evident.  Ella and you have a special relationship and I have loved watching you two together.  Your future is bright Kuda – keep your eyes up!!!  You are brave!

I love you all very much and love that I hear you say those words too!  So when you all move in with Mr A and I next year we should have a jolly good year together!  Remember all your important roles!!!

To the parents and guardians of our students – thank you for entrusting your children into our care and for the huge sacrifices that you made for their education.  We are so thankful for our partnership with you and you are the true, unsung heroes in this room.  We honour you today!

To my external and internal students God has great, great plans for you and I can’t wait to see them unfold.  Good byes are hard but as past Makomborero students know, our door is always, always open and the journey does not end here!!  We love you and are proud of all these two years represent for you.  I entrust you into our Fathers hands and as has become a tradition – I leave you with this quote:

“Promise me you will always remember,
you are braver than you believe
stronger than you seem
and smarter than you think.”