Makomborero has broken the one million pounds in donations barrier in the same year it starts its second decade! There is clearly much to be celebrated in 2021! Last week we shared the figures behind this achievement on social media and that has not only helped us to realise how far we have come and what has been achieved, it has also made us really, really proud!
With that said, we thought this would be a perfect time for us to share the story of Makomborero. And who better to do that than the founders of Makomborero themselves, Mark and Laura Albertyn. They were so gracious in answering all of our questions including the silly ones and here they share honestly and openly about the Makomborero journey so far. (Is someone cutting onions?)
Tell us how Makomborero started.
Laura: we returned from the UK 11 years ago, having set up Makomborero there and we then set up a local Trust in Zimbabwe called Makomborero Zimbabwe. We bravely recruited our first fifteen students – they took a huge risk on us and in so many ways, those early years were a massive learning curve – they were our guinea pigs, so to speak. We had very little income and it was an incredibly hard, first 3 years – but 11 years on the programmes have evolved, we have learnt so much and our reach is much, much wider than just the 15 students we started with!
What inspired you to start Makomborero?
Mark: Eleven years ago we returned to Zimbabwe with a vision to help low income, high achieving students get a good A-level education. This dream was born from my time teaching at Gateway High School years before and working with such students. We wanted to also provide holistic care that not only catered for the students’ academics but helped them embrace more than just academic pursuits and also help many of them find their voice and hope for their futures – with the dream to raise up future leaders in Zimbabwe.
You started with the internal student programme. Take us through the next steps of the evolution of Makomborero and why did they happen?
The internal student scholarship was running well, students were flourishing in our partner schools, but we were limited by space in our boarding house and the free places we got at the schools we partner with. We wanted to do more. We then took on students who we would pay school fees for at local government schools – our care for these students has also evolved over the years and their integration with our internal students is wonderful. They gain from life skills sessions, mentorship and camps with our internal students, as well as their fees being paid, help with school uniforms and payment of examination fees. Recently we have also issued tablets with their full curriculums on, giving them the ability to study without having to be in school, as a result of the school closures due to the pandemic.
As Makomborero has progressed, we have noticed the gaps in provision of education and seen how Makomborero can try and fill those gaps in a very small way.
- Our Mobile Science lab giving hands-on practical science experience to 15-year-olds who have never been in a lab, complementing their education,
- Our Girl Mentorship programme largely run by our past students – taking the most vulnerable girl at 14 years and working with her for 1 year – oh, the transformation!
- Ndeipi – providing hope to our families that they can earn an income and support themselves – an incredible business training model.
- The University Grant scheme – to be able to offer student loans for our students to go on and study at a local Zimbabwean university! This now includes a house for students to live in during their studies.
- Mutsidzira – providing funding to past students to start small businesses that impact their community but also provide an income.
At the heart of all that we do is giving students hope that they can bring change by just embracing who they are and the gifts and talents they already have!
You must have had some difficult or challenging moments through your ten-year journey. What kept you going?
There have been seasons where we have not had a good work life balance, and this has hugely impacted our marriage and family. But you live and learn, and we are all stronger for it. We have also found it incredibly challenging at times, running a charity in an economic climate that is so unstable and unpredictable and learning how to navigate change continually has been something we have had to embrace as part of life here and not resist it but go with it. What keeps us going is seeing the fruit – all the past students that have been through our programmes – seeing how their lives have changed and their families. The way they check in with us too. Goodness a text message from a past student can give us energy for the week ahead!! Also seeing how our team has grown and how they now carry the vision – could we ask for anything more incredible than that!
Ten years ago, where did you think you would be today?
Ha ha! I really don’t think we ever imagined any of this – maybe that is the beauty of things evolving organically – it would have been terrifying to have known the journey we would have walked 10 years ago – as there would have been too many questions with how we would get there! (Particularly financial). I think we thought we would just be doing what we had started with as we never really understood how our hearts would be captured by these students and changed forever – making us desire to touch more lives! Goodness we have learnt too much along the way – not a perfect journey but one of growth and change. Our dream to have our own Sixth Form Centre is still a real dream that we continue to hold onto 11 years on!
What is your proudest moment?
Mark: For me it was the pioneers’ results – we took such a risk taking those students and we did all the teaching ourselves and it was a birthing of a dream. If it was not for that first group of students none of the schools would have come on board and we would not be here today!
Laura: I want to blow my husband’s trumpet a little here – I’m incredibly proud of the recruiting process we have today that has changed and been refined to look at each student as an individual, a whole person not just academically. We also provide an experience that changes lives even if their only time with Makomborero is the testing process experience! I’m incredibly proud of that! Mark has an ability to foresee what a student is capable of and is willing to take a risk on them – he sees their potential even before they see their own! I love watching him over those gruelling weeks of recruiting – he literally lives and breathes the process.
What has been some unexpected bonuses/benefits of setting up Makomborero?
Laura: Friendships across culture, ethnicity, class – I am a richer, better person for the people that this has brought into my life! Humbling and life changing. The person I am today is so different to 10 years ago and the people I encounter daily have done that for me. It is safe to stay in our comfort zone but oh, to step out of it is even richer and better – hard as it has been but oh so beautiful! Seeing my children live a life immersed in a different culture – to be able to step in and out comfortably – often brings me to tears.
Mark: Mine is similar – I have so enjoyed the people that have come into our lives because of Makomborero – our home has often been full of people wanting to know more, immerse themselves in Makomborero life and share the journey with us. These people have added so much to my life and often become like family to us. Very humbling.
How important are volunteers and donors to the work of Makomborero?
We would not be here today without volunteers and donors – not sure how else to answer this. They are the reason we are here. We are always humbled by every donation whether cash, in kind or a service. To hear people say, we believe in what you are doing – we want to be a part of it – Goodness, words are not enough! Huge, huge amounts of gratitude! When we think back over the years – literally donations coming in at the last minute that have filled a need, we were unsure was going to be filled. So humbling but also liberating – we have learnt to live with budget deficits as somehow every year we get to the end of the year and it is because of you, the volunteers and the donors!
What would you say to those who have made it possible to get to the 1-million-pound mark in donations?
Thank you, thank you! You have literally played a vital role in changing hundreds of people’s lives – restoring dignity, hope and passion to so, so many! It is no small thing!
Finally, what would you say to young people in Zimbabwe?
Don’t be limited by your education, your background or the tragedies you have faced. All these things can play a beautiful part in your story of rising. Cling to hope, heal your heart and start stepping out in small ways into a life that touches others’ lives. It doesn’t have to cost you anything but the joy and purpose you find will give you passion to conquer the world and bring such sustainable change to Zimbabwe!
Ok, now it gets a bit silly but some of us really want to know:
Who would win in a chocolate eating competition?
Mark, by far, in quantity! (Lots of laughter).
Who is more likely to get rid of a spider?
Mark, with a screaming wife standing on a table! If it was a bat – it would be Laura!
What an amazing journey and we know this is just a small window into the hours spent investing time and hard work into Makomborero over the last decade.
Thank you for your one million pounds in donations over the last ten, almost eleven years. Because of those donations:
- we have supported 195 students through their A-levels getting a total of 91 A*’s and 208 A’s
- we have funded 50 students through university in Zimbabwe
- we have educated 67 families through our Ndeipi entrepreneurial training, lifting families out of the cycle of poverty
- we have encouraged 90 girls in our Girl Mentorship Programme and 120 students have accessed our Mobile Science lab.
Above all, we have given hope for the future to all the lives represented in these statistics.
Thank you! Tinotenda! Siyabonga!
By Mercy Mutandwa
Mercy Mutandwa is the Operations Manager for Makomborero Zimbabwe.