Laura Albertyn’s 2019 graduation speech

Welcome everyone!  It is always an honour to get to address you each year as we have another opportunity to reflect.

This year – phew!  We made it!  I think all of us are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief – the end is near.  At times this year has felt like an endless marathon of survival tactics but we have been blown away by the incredible generosity of individuals and companies that have kept us going!  It has been a year of many mixed emotions!

We welcomed 8 wonderful students into our Resource Centre in January and a further 10 external students onto the programme.  It has been a delight to get to know them over this time and begin to discover who they are.  The Internal students bravely faced their new schools and cultures and I have been so proud of them and how they have embraced opportunities and straddled two cultures so well.  The external students have settled in too and we have continued to enjoy life skills sessions together at the Resource Centre, a fabulous joint camp and team work at our testing process.  I love the relationships that form across our internal and external students – I love that really no one is more important than the other, we just see the internals more!  The Upper Sixth year is a year to fully embrace all that Makomborero has to offer and it is wonderful seeing them embrace the freedom to be themselves.  I have got tearful the last few weeks of this term, sneaking in extra hugs as I pass an Upper Sixth student or walk into the kitchen and find a bunch of them doing dishes and tell them I’m going to miss them – I know the hole they will leave once gone!  But I am so proud of them and their achievements. 

I could bore you with a plethora of Makomborero accomplishments and inspiring stories but these are documented in our newsletters and really only want to give you headlines today!

Our testing process is underway for this next intake – it will be our 10th and we are incredibly humbled we get to do this again and again!  We continue to refine our testing process – impacting lives for one day, even if it’s their only day with Makomborero, is our absolute goal as well as academic testing.  We sow seeds of hope during this process and see lights come on in eyes, even if only 18 of them gain a scholarship.  It is a wonderful time seeing our current and past students come together and give tirelessly of themselves to touch students lives over these coming weeks!  We hope to finish home visits by 20th December!

The Ndeipi entrepreneurial training programme was a great partnership with One Hope Initiatives who ran the course.  They came in for a number of weeks and ran sessions on setting up small scale businesses with very little capital, budgeting, managing a business.  Many of our students and families will be graduating from this training programme today.  This course is so empowering, it not only gives practical skills but it is filling hearts with hope again.  We are grateful for this partnership and the opportunity to run this course again next year! 

We ran our Pilot Girl Mentorship Programme last year and were able to expand to two programmes this year – one in Mufakose and one in Mbvuku.  These programmes take the most vulnerable girls in form 2 and we work with them for one year.  What an incredible journey it has been with them.  Makomborero past students are the mentors and they trained up community mentors to take over the programme in the new year – we see the trainee mentors lives change as well as the girls on the programme and it is inspiring and wonderful! I think what surprised our mentors the most was how much they fell in love with each girl – each girl became a highly valued jewel in their eyes.  Words cannot describe the transformation that has taken place in each young girl.  We are looking to run four 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 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, Isabel and Shyline for all they poured into this project and for it’s success this year and for the incredible Trainee Mentors who have become part of us too!

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 science, 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!

We continue to see students get international scholarships and will see students go off to Botswana, Germany, USA and Morocco next year, having sent students this year to Scotland, USA, Mauritius, Botswana and Kenya.  These scholarships are an amazing opportunity and we are proud of our students but the real heroes are the students studying at our local universities!

We have 22 students at UZ and NUST.  We have regular get-togethers at our house, mentorship sessions and opportunities to encourage each other.  We had a big emphasis on mental health this year and this I think has been particularly worthwhile for our students.  The living conditions of many of our students as they try and secure accommodation near campus is completely unacceptable and it has been heartbreaking to witness!  We have had three incredible families come forward and offer their homes to Makomborero.  A couple in Vainona have given space in their home to two Makomborero University students and have been doing this for a few years now. Another couple invested in converting 4 rooms on their property into beautiful accommodation for four of our students.  This has been a life saver!  The last family have generously donated us a house in Avondale West which we will be looking to convert into an 18 bed University Residence.  These three families have blessed Makomborero beyond words and we are so incredibly grateful – humbled and overwhelmed at their generosity! 

I can’t move on from our University students without acknowledging the big role that Sandvik play in the success of this programme.  As things have become more and more challenging in Zimbabwe the gaps in our funding have grown.  Sandvik have plugged this gap for us with our University Students and if it was not for them we would not have been able to pay tuition fees.   Our partnership with Sandvik has been humbling and life saving all at the same time.  The vital food packs arriving just in time to fill students bellies have filled a very real practical need! Their vision for Zimbabwe and their incredible leadership is inspiring and I leave their site often feeling like I’ve visited a foreign land. 

Their CEO spoke to some of our students a few weeks ago as he showed them his state of the art factory and said that we each set the standard.  This has stayed with me and rings so true in all that we wish for Makomborero and our students.  That only we can set our standard, walk confidently in it and watch others follow.  Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own.  We see this all the time in Zim!  When our doctors in training see their mentor doctors treating nurses badly they can choose to be different, to set the standard.  When our students are met with corruption and bribery, they can choose to set the standard.  I think so often we are waiting for political change, for things to improve but the reality is as we know that might never happen and it is all of us who have to play our part – to set the standard.

 I was so saddened by the death of Dr Rutendo Bonde this year (known to me as Ru) – another phenomenal example of someone setting the standard and seeing people follow!  I knew her well in my late teens and found her hugely inspirational – how she became an incredible doctor dispite her disability.  She set standards in Zimbabwe and has left an incredible legacy.  She raised that bar high and many doctors now follow in her footsteps – google her!  So to our outgoing students let this be your take away today – set the standard as you go out into the world – don’t conform!  People will follow as they see you humbly standing for justice and changing lives in the process in whatever fields you end up in.  Stay humble and grounded – entitlement is not a standard!  It repels people from you!

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!  A shout-out to three corporates who this year have upped their game and really plugged some holes for us – Belina Payrol, Multichoice and Caurnaldmetal box for sponsoring today.  Thank you, thank you!  This investment will pay off in the long run!

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

  • Mai Mano – thank you for your belief in Makomborero and for giving up time to spend at our Resource Centre giving university advice.
  • Past students – have played such an important role in everything we do – volunteering to give talks and spend time at the Resource Centre we are so grateful.
  • 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 wonderfully!  You guys inspire me and I love spending time with you!
  • Mercy for your incredible English lessons – you have the students eating out of your hands!

Thank you to our local Trustees for their support – Brian, Mark, Minali, Praise and Charles. What a gift Brian is to our team as our new Chairman – we are immensely grateful.  We would like to thank Charles for serving on the board in an educational advisory capacity for 9 years and he will be stepping down at the end of the month.  Your wisdom, hands on help over the years have been so appreciated! Praise has also stepped down as our Finance Trustee after 4 years of serving on the board.  We will miss her wisdom, her oversight and help with the accounts.  Botswana has gained a great lady!  Thank you!  Thank you to all of you for helping us navigate the hard place we find ourselves 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.  You have learnt the incredibly hard world of running a UK Charity and Mark and I are often humbled by your dedication to Makomborero.   Thank you!  We loved having a trustee out this year and look forward to welcoming two trustees with us over Christmas and in February.

To the outstanding Heads and incredible teachers of our 3 partner schools – Hellenic, St George’s 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 queues!
  • 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!
  • 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, as well as contact with our corporates have taken a load off me – thank you
  • 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. 
  • And Mercy – thank you for joining our team in September as our Part-time Operations Manager – your presence is bringing order and systems to places that I could never get to and the weight off my shoulders knowing this area is now covered is wonderful.  You have been thrown in the deep end and I know you will find your feet – once systems are in place!

To my husband Mark – We are a good team and you are wise, level headed and you complement me so well!  Thank you that we get to do this together!  To our children – thank you for journeying with us and opening your hearts to all at Makomborero – we love watching you in the Resource centre and the way you each build relationships!

And now our students – to the external students – Terrence, Noel, Moilla, Tanatswa, Gracious, Judith, Obert, Lindiwe, Alan and Augustine – 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) – So the end has come and what a journey it has been.  I love you all very much and have loved watching your grow!

  • Tino – it was a privilege to nurse you in hospital in the evenings and Mai Banga during the day when you were so ill nearly two years ago.  I grew to love you deeply through that.  You have a fabulous outlook on life and I could learn to embrace some of your habits – burying yourself in a book when everyone else is stressed!  
  • Muzi – it took a while for me to see who you were but you have so grown in confidence.  You are a true gentlemen who goes the extra mile, has a naughty smile and is a real team player.  Be confident in who you are and what you offer the world – don’t let people tell you that you need to change!  Just believe in yourself! 
  • Patrice – I feel like it has been a journey of your discovering more of yourself this year, growing in confidence of who you are.  You have a fantastic brain but remember that is not your only attribute and you have lots of wisdom to offer too!  I love your smile and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
  • Lincoln – you have an incredibly naughty smile and giggle, which makes me very suspicious of you all the time!!!  Really proud of how you have intergrated into Hellenic making friends with people from very different backgrounds to you.  Your brains will take you far – but be humble and grounded!
  • Peter – your humour, smile and laughter are infectious!  Your willingness to help this year and often asking me what you can do to help me – I love how you ask me how I am doing!  You love a good debate and playing devil’s advocate!  You will always light up a room! 
  • Martha – you are a beautiful young lady who has blossomed the past two years.  A little reluctant to try new things in the beginning but I have seen you put yourself out there and have been so proud of you.  You have also grown in confidence as you have discovered some of your passions.  You have had to face some painful issues over these two years but you have sought support and I have been so proud of you.
  • Tinaye – another beautiful young lady!  Girl – your English wasn’t great when you came into the house and we worried how you were going to cope with the cultural adjustment but goodness you have flown. Your leadership ability was recognised and you were made a prefect.  You are always helping with everything in the Resource Centre and I love working along side you!
  • Simba – you have a very gentle spirit and are a true friend to people.  I love to see how you invest in relationships in the Resource Centre.  You have a calming influence on others and I love your smile and your laid back approach to life!!

I love you all very much and love that I hear you say those words too!  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 that these two years represent for you.  I entrust you into our Father’s 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.”

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An Update from Mark and Laura Albertyn – 3rd Term 2019

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