The second school term in Zimbabwe starts just at the end of the autumn season and takes us through the winter months and what a winter it was! Some mornings we genuinely did not expect to have any mentees turn up at all but we are so proud to report that attendance was hardly an issue and we managed to hold all planned sessions during this term.
Though Covid-19 restrictions are still present, they are nowhere near as strict and we felt that this gave a sense of freedom to the mentees. Education wise, it was especially helpful as most of them were writing their mid-year exams and were able to attend classes and revise without disruptions. We also found our Girl Mentorship sessions to be more relaxed as mentors could focus more on the sessions without worrying about strict protocols. A few times mentees opted to sit outside in the winter sun for their sessions. Apart from warming their bodies this warmed our hearts to find that our once very timid girls are now confident to have input into how their sessions run. Sitting in the morning winter sun ‘mushana’ is something that brings communities together all over the country. Our girls chatted and encouraged each other regarding exams and some of the hard and very real topics we were navigating. It is so humbling to be able to create these small communities of once marginalized girls who can now come together and be each other’s’ strength without the need for mentors to be present.
Self- development features a lot in the topics we discuss during our sessions. The focus towards the end of the second term slightly shifted and most topics looked at the role mentees could play within their families, schools and communities. This was more well-received than we had anticipated! The icing on the cake was our mentees going round their schools during one of the sessions picking up litter. For most of them it started off as an ‘uncool’ and embarrassing exercise but by the end we had smiles and laughs and a sense of togetherness!
Our final session was……….you guessed it, the end of term lunch! All three schools came together and enjoyed a packed programme and a lovingly prepared meal. Our mentors, led by our super-duper intern Nicolle, helped to plan and run the day efficiently. We had a volunteer dental nurse, Brenda, who spoke to the mentors and mentees about oral hygiene, something that often gets neglected in communities that struggle financially. Our COO, Mrs Laura Albertyn brought a challenging message through story time. She read a story about a heroin, Queen Zenobia who went through hard things just like most our mentees but was brave and dedicated throughout. Most of our girls would have been read to for the first time ever this year and from their attentive silence one could tell they loved the story and the message behind it! After an appropriate winter lunch of rice and beef casserole, the girls had hot chocolate with marshmallows, most of them for the first time ever! When all was done, the girls were sent away with a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste each to help put into practice what they had learnt. They loved comparing the colours and shapes of their toothbrushes and talking about how they couldn’t wait to make use of them. If nothing else gets you at these lunches, the smiles and sense of marvel at new experiences from the girls will! Thank you to one of our board of trustees for the donation of toothbrushes, toothpaste and hot chocolate and marshmallows.
The time we spend with each set of mentees is short, just one year per group. However, in such a short time, great impact is made. That is hugely down to our team of excellent mentors and to our donors. Thank you to our mentors who give knowledge, time, energy, friendship and most importantly much needed love to our mentees. Your dedication is just incredible! Thank you to our donors. You play a pivotal role in the lives of our mentees. Without your gifts and donations we would not be able to teach our girls valuable lessons such as giving back to those around them. Thank you all involved this term for being part of the chain reaction that is given to give.