This week we wanted to share the story of another of our students, Pamela Saidoni. Pamela comes from Highfields, one of the oldest high density suburbs in Harare called. The area is characterised by very old colonial housing, broken sewer pipes and overcrowding. Pamela is the first born of four children. Neither of her parents have been formally employed since the worsening of Zimbabwe’s economic and political situation in 2008. Putting food on the table and educating the children has been a daily struggle, and Pamela and her siblings have had to help their parents earn income for the family.
Despite her upbringing, Pamela is an ambitious young woman, with a great sense of responsibility for both her family and the nation at large. Pamela’s family made huge sacrifices for her to write her O-level examinations at Highfields 1 High School where she performed extremely well. In Zimbabwe, being a girl and wanting to pursue science subjects means that the odds have always been stacked against Pamela –– she really had to fight for what she believed she wanted to do and not succumb to the pressures of the cultural norm for young girls.
Pamela applied for a Makomborero Scholarship in 2012, and was given a full scholarship to study at Gateway High School. When Pamela first came to Makomborero she was extremely shy and really struggled to hold a conversation with us, but there was something that shone through in her personality – an overwhelming kindness and gentle heartedness. She stood out for us, that despite her hardships as a girl child from a poor family she was determined to work hard and excel in her education. Pamela had great aspirations beyond what her environment or her under-resourced school could ever give her!
As Pamela settled into her Makomborero life she began to flourish. We saw this quiet, shy young lady begin to find her voice and believe that she had something to contribute to Zimbabwe and the world! It brings immense joy to see the transformation that takes place in our students as the constant burden of worrying about school fees is lifted, and the students are given a reprieve from the harsh environment and general struggles they grow up in.
Pamela blew us away when she left Makomborero, singing a duet with Lisa at their graduation. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I listened to these two beautiful women sing “You Raise Me Up”! Before Makomborero these were women who had no voice and they were now leaving Makomborero having not only found their voice but they are pursuing their dreams and breaking the cultural norms.
Pamela performed brilliantly at her A-levels and then had eighteen months off before starting University. During this time, she threw herself into many opportunities to inspire other students. She volunteered at orphanages, passing on to other students a vision and dream for their lives. Pamela enrolled in Leadership Development courses that helped her grow in her leadership skills. As a result of all these experiences, Pamela has become a very confident young lady who gives motivational talks and inspires other young women.
Pamela also used this time to reflect and experience life as a citizen, out of school, facing the challenges of unemployment and hardship. This time was a real eye-opener for her as she began to appreciate how the majority of Zimbabwe citizens struggle for survival.
Today, Pamela is studying Computer and Electrical Engineering at West Virginia University in America, on a MasterCard Foundation Scholarship through Akwanya. She’s had huge cultural adjustments to make but has embraced them and is making the most of the opportunities put before her. She hopes to use the skills she is gaining from her studies and experiences in America to impact positively on the country’s economy and society.
She is currently interning at ZOL and Liquid Telecom in Zimbabwe, were she is getting a better knowledge of how corporates work in the Zimbabwean environment, as well as gaining some technical experience. We have so enjoyed having her home! We can’t wait to see where Pamela ends up one day! Pam you make us proud! In the words of Frank Turner, “It doesn’t matter where you come from; it matters where you go…”.