Takudzwa Zholinda was born 13 years ago in Mapara Village, 38 km North of Mutare in Mutasa District of Zimbabwe. Her dream to become a teacher was shuttered when she dropped out of school for three years from 2006 to 2008. She had lost both parents due to the AIDS pandemic. She was however given a new lease of life when her widowed aunt took her and her 9 year old brother on board. Takudzwa and her aunt joined ASAP’s Village Savings and Lending micro-finance project in 2009 and are now able to meet some of their basic needs through ASAP's economic strengthening activities. Takudzwa who is now in grade three at Mapara primary school bemoans lack of school fees uniforms and stationary. The proceeds realized from the Kufusa Mari micro-finance project are still not able to meet all her needs. Takudzwa helps her aunt to run a small nutrition garden when she is not at school. She likes sadza and chicken. Now back in school, she is gaining confidence every day.
Agnes, aged 10 was born in Buhera District in Zimbabwe. She and her 15 year old brother moved to Manhanga village in Mutasa district after they lost both parents due to the HIV AIDS pandemic. Agnes and her brother had every reason to thank their elderly maternal grandparents who accommodated them after the death of their parents. After finding it difficult to meet the children s financial needs the grandmother joined the Kufusa Mari Micro finance Village Savings and Lending club in the area. She got a loan from the club which she used to start a vending project. When the micro-finance program was introduced in the area, she encouraged Agnes and her brother to join as well. Agnes is now able to contribute a little towards her school fees at Vumbunu primary school through the profits she realizes from the sales of sweets and snacks. She is currently in grade 4. The little girl helps her grandmother to fetch firewood when she is not at school. Agnes’s dream is to become a pilot when she completes her schooling.
Blessing aged 17 was born in Mt Jenya, 30 km North of Mutare in Zimbabwe. Ever since the age of three, Blessing never enjoyed the parental care and support most children enjoy. Her parents separated when she was still very young. Her mother moved to Mozambique whilst her father left for an unknown destination. Blessing’s uncle took over the responsibility of providing care and support to her and her 14 year old sister. To date, the girl has not been able to locate her parents. Blessing and her sister have been in and out of school because her uncle is overwhelmed by the burden of looking after his own five children. When ASAP introduce the OSA project in the area, Blessing was amongst the first to join. Blessing and her uncle are running a small aluminum pottery project to make ends meet. The girl is in form three and would like to become a nurse after she has completed her schooling. She plays a leadership role in ASAP's Kufusa Mari micro-finance project, as the cluster facilitator for her area. Blessing is also an advocate for children s rights.
Everyone has his or her own view of determination.
For me it’s always been Rudy, the scrappy kid who ditches the steel plant to follow his dream of Notre Dame football stardom. I mean, come on. At the end, when his whole family is there and everyone is chanting, that’s just classic. If you don’t tear up I’m pretty sure you don’t have a heart. Sean Astin, a tip of the hat to you.
For some people perseverance and determination is Mandela, King, or that guy who cut off his own arm to escape from underneath that boulder (come on, you all definitely remember).
However, it is pretty rare that one encounters that kind of person firsthand; a person who is literally putting everything they have, heart and soul, into one, singular goal.
When I arrived in Mzuzu, Malawi I admit I hadn’t done my research. I knew I was visiting a primary school called the Beehive School, and that they had encountered some trouble as of late. Aside from that, I was pretty much in the dark.
What I found when I arrived was a man who had been worked to the core, had been run ragged, and yet still was keeping his chin up. Before I even heard his story, I knew Niall Dorey had faced some tough times. He moved a bit slow, looked a bit tired, and yet seemed completely anxious to get to school the next morning.
The Beehive School was founded following Niall’s experience teaching in a local Malawian private school in the early 2000s. Faced with overcrowded classrooms, unmotivated teachers, and overall lack of proper infrastructure, Niall decided to act.
“The school I was teaching in was supposed to be the best in the Northern Region, but I thought these kids were missing out on something. I thought I could make a school that was so much better.”
Starting with eight students, and using a room of his own home, Niall Dorey officially started the Beehive School.
The school quickly grew to a massive 210 students, all decked out in their construction orange dress shirts and black ties. Classrooms and a playground were constructed, the operation expanded, and the Doreys moved into a new home. The school was even complete with a library and a computer lab. There were definitely some busy bees at Beehive, but for the Ministry of Education, the honey left a bitter taste.
Lacking proper licensing, and possessing “temporary structures” (which more often than not, were better than the facilities at local schools), Beehive was ordered to close in November 2009; this the very day they were approved for a parcel of land on which to build the permanent structures.
Unsure of what to do, feeling completely hopeless, Niall tried to negotiate with the Ministry of Education, but was met only with negativity.
Pressured by others, Beehive went to court.
While the court battle was ultimately unsuccessful, it did allow them a stay of closure. Two sessions later, however, they were closed yet again. Crushed and defeated, it seemed Beehive would simply be a dream lost by the wayside.
However, the dream still lives on. With the help of some dedicated parents, Niall was able to collect funds and hastily finish construction on one classroom block at the new site. It is simple, no frills, but it is indeed a permanent structure
They must split the school sessions--grades 1-4 in the morning, 5-6 in the afternoon. The walls are all blank, the blackboard has been painted onto the wall, and there’s a bit of condensation coming through the windows; but it’s a school, and a pretty good one at that.
If one were to have any doubt about Niall’s passion and love for these children, they need only see him at work in the classroom. Niall has had to adopt a first grade class as his own due to staff shortages, but still he puts everything he has into molding those little, at times a bit hyperactive, minds.
However, the work isn’t done. Construction on the second block is still underway, and the Dorey clan is working hard to ensure that everything about Beehive is up to code (there is quite a lot to the Malawian School Codes, just trust me, it’s pretty unbelievable).
Niall’s wife, Constance, has been a rock during the entire ordeal, single-handedly lifting bags upon bags of concrete for construction, at times acting as the brawn to Niall’s more soft-spoken nature. The two, with their three beautiful children, earn couple-of-the-year in my eyes.
While the stress may be overwhelming, and the staff members may be dwindling, I have no doubt in my mind that Niall Dorey will succeed and accomplish his ultimate goal—a proper education for Malawian children, and a beautiful school on a red clay hill.
“I’m going to build this school, no matter what. I want this school, the parents want this school, the children of Mzuzu need this school. (Niall Dorey)
Troy Smith, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is currently an In-the-Field traveler visiting GlobalGiving projects throughout Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania. Follow his trip at http://troygivesglobal.tumblr.com/.
Thanks to your donations, there are already 3 girls attending secondary school that would otherwise be destined to a life on the homestead working in the fields. Studies show that the incidence of HIV decreases to 50% when a girl attends secondary school. In this way, we say that your gift of education is a life saver!! These girls were selected as part of ASAP's ongoing partnership with Catholic Relief Services - the Out of School Adolescents Project. This 3 year project began in 2007 and will assist over 1,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 17 survive and thrive in rural Zimbabwe. Because of the cholera outbreak in 2008, funding for school fees for these at-risk girls were redirected to stop the spread of this deadly disease. With your support, ASAP looks forward to giving more girls hope for the future in rural Zimbabwe very soon.