Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s

by Makomborero
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Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s
Mentor the Vulnerable Girl Child to Impact 1000s

Last time we updated you on Girl Child, we were just about to have our end of term lunch. What a day it was! We had a hundred percent attendance! Lunch was rice, chicken in sauce and coleslaw, a much loved meal combination in Zimbabwe. The girls enjoyed an art session, some teaching from our COO, Mrs Albertyn and we were very privileged to have been able to distribute sustainable sanitary wear to all the mentors and mentees. Each girl was given three re-usable sanitary pants and a menstrual cup. Menstruation is a bit of a taboo subject to a lot of people in Zimbabwe so we had some wonderful training for the mentees prior to giving them these items.

 About our lunches, Mrs Albertyn had this to say: “The Girl Mentorship Lunches are an opportunity for all the groups of girls from different schools to come together and celebrate what they are learning.  Time to mix with different girls, facing similar challenges on a similar journey.  It is also a wonderful opportunity for the mentors to lead together and mix with each other.I love the teaching sessions that we dedicate to this time - it is always a broad topic that roughly touches on what they have been learning through the term but from a slightly different perspective.  We also have time for them to be creative, share a beautiful meal together and have a skill taught.  It is a coming together, a celebration of young ladies!  It is an opportunity for us to continue to shout out their worth and say - this is all for you - you are highly valued!An area that always touches my heart is how the girls always want to take something from the meal home to share with their family - wanting their families to have a small taste of the wonderful time they have had together!  As the year goes on the lunches become more relaxed and interactive!  They are beautiful confirmations of what we are building in these girls, slowly each week.  We get to see these flowers come slowly into bloom.”

Shortly after the day of the lunch, Zimbabwe went into a level of lockdown that once again restricted gatherings and unnecessary movement. Sadly, we have not had a physical meeting since then and online meetings with mentees are not possible as most mentees neither have smart phones nor the funds to access wifi. We did however manage to keep in touch with our mentors throughout this period. The longer serving mentors took turns to record audio sessions on different topics that would help the team when they were finally able to resume face to face meetings. It was a great way for the mentors to impart the knowledge they had gained over the years and to pass on some helpful nuggets. It was nice for the mentors who joined in the past year to get training from someone other than a staff member.

Those who have been following our reports will know that the last twelve to eighteen months have involved a lot of preparation for the few windows that we have been able to have face to face sessions. We are well stocked up with books, t-shirts for art sessions and craft work items. As such, we thought this time we would focus more on what our lovely mentors have been up to since our last meeting.

‘I haven’t done much because of the lockdown. I've been going to work for the most part.

I did a lot of reading novels in my spare time. I learnt how to plait my hair and other people's as well.

And I spent an awful lot of time at home! – Tadiwa

 'I spent most of my time at work the whole of lock down and reading a lot of books online (sadly couldn't find hard copies). I left for school a week ago to Ghana.’ – Martha

 'I've been helping with gardening at home. I have also been helping mom at the market and preparing for exams.’ - Judith

‘Since the last time, I have been tied up with work and prep for exams. It’s been a rough time for me. Hope to see everyone soon.’ – Aquiline

'I've been teaching extra lessons to A'level students mostly and a bit of reading online novels and also preparing for exams which I started writing yesterday’ – Perseverance

 ‘I have been at home studying and helping my brother in his studies as well.’ - Tina

‘Shamah and I have been busy getting prepared for exams and performing our daily duties as usual.’ – The twins, Shalom and Shamah

'I have been helping my cousin in her shop at Eastgate market mall . I have also been doing a little business selling braids .’ – Teclah

'I left for school in America towards end of August. I have been exploring the new place and various cultures as well as juggling classes.' - Shalom

What an amazing bunch our mentors are! They are always so excited about when we can meet again. They have been great at keeping in touch with each other despite not being able to meet. Some have managed to chat with their mentees, it has been lovely to receive the feedback. 

I will leave you on this very happy note… We start face to face meetings in THREE DAYS!! We will soon be back to chats and crafts, snacks and laughs. We cannot wait to update you on how the year ends. Thank you for your much needed and continued support. 

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Mood meter
Mood meter

The mood meter at Makomborero Zimbabwe went up a hundred notches on Saturday 10th April 2021 when we were finally able to hold our first Girl Child session after nearly 14 months of not being able to meet!! In case you are wondering what the mood meter is, it is something that was introduced to us by our co-founder Laura Albertyn, fondly known as Mrs A. We use it often at Makomborero Zimbabwe to gauge how people are feeling before and after a meeting or a session. In the case of Girl Child, the mentees draw a face on the white board before the meeting and another after the meeting. It’s often good fun and a great way of hearing from those who wouldn’t otherwise be vocal about their feelings.

 

Preparation 

The last few reports have felt like we mostly spoke about how much preparation was going into the time when sessions could finally resume. Part of this preparation was recruiting new mentors from our past Makomborero Zimbabwe students. We were so pleased with how many past students were keen on mentoring and the excitement and dedication that they have brought into the programme.

 

Mentoring mentors

There were some fun times to be had while we trained our mentors. Training was done online as lockdown restrictions meant gatherings were not permitted. This worked well as most mentors were able to play the recorded messages in their own time and discussions were held as a group on Whatsapp. We had a Mentor’s Quiz Night that saw existing mentors, new mentors and Makomborero staff exchange over 700 messages as we all tried to get to know each other better and equip each other for the year ahead. It was a great laugh! The prize was a bar of chocolate and it went to our trainee mentor Tadiwa.

 

Recruiting mentees   

There was much excitement amongst Makomborero staff, mentors and staff at partner schools when it was becoming clear that sessions were going to begin in March/April 2021. We had to move the start date a few times as the reality of what it would take to orchestrate everything unfolded. Our partner schools are all based in the high density areas, they have huge classes of sometimes over 60 students to one teacher. It was impossible for them to social distance and as such the students were split into two sets and  took turns to go to school for two/three days a week; or half a day each set. This had a direct impact on the recruitment process of Girl Child mentees as some of the potential mentees were in different sets to the recruiting staff. We waited this process out and it paid off! We had twenty excited girls start the mentorship programme on the 10th of April and another ten start on the 17th of April.

 

And so it began….finally! 

Our introductory session is about getting to know the girls, telling them what Makomborero is all about and making sure they understand the policies and procedures we have in place to protect them. On paper, it looks very much like a tick-box exercise but in reality, this session is worth gold! For a lot of the girls, having been forced to grow up before their time through such experiences as taking on lead roles in their families, it is the first time they get a good understanding of their rights not only as a female but as a child. Mentors do a great job of melting the ice as well as answering some tricky questions in this first session. We are 4-5 sessions in at the time of writing this report and attendance has been great, with a hundred percent at one school last week, which is rare. There was lots of excitement around the library books, which was lovely to see. Those who never thought they would get the hang of crotcheting are becoming pros. Girls who started off shy and not keen on contributing are coming out of themselves especially with the reassurance from their mentors. Snack time while someone reads an inspiring story is a huge hit as always. Stories about girls or women who achieved great things give the girls an instant dose of inspiration and eating together at gatherings is a much loved part of the culture. There is a proverb in one of the local languages, Shona, which says ‘Relationships are somewhat empty, it is food which completes them’ and it rings true at our sessions.

This year’s group is loving their group photos and silly poses, we are too! What a lovely celebration of finally coming together.

 

What’s next?

Remember that end of term lunch that we had planned for but couldn’t have in March 2020? Well, we have another planned for two weeks’ time. Our thirty girls will be served a delicious lunch prepared by staff and mentors. We won an amazing grant that will allow us to give each girl sustainable sanitary wear. There will also be a fun and educational session on menstruation as well as a relaxing art therapy session making use of the white t-shirts we so eagerly purchased last year. This group of girls will be with us for the year and we look forward to discussing more topics, having healthy debates, learning new skills and eating and chatting together with them.

Putting all this in writing has made us see how much has been achieved in such a short space of time (though we did have over a year to prepare). Thank you to all our kind donors who helped us stock up the materials that are now coming into use. Well done to the mentors who have done a great job at adapting to the new protocols necessitated by Covid-19. Verbally communicating through masks is a bit of a challenge especially during that first session, the mentors handled it beautifully! Well done to our trainee mentors for their enthusiasm and for being such quick learners. It would have been so easy to come under the dark cloud of Covid-19 and stop planning or hoping but there was a certain Mrs A whose positivity and forward planning kept everyone upbeat and focused. Thank you Mrs A!

Mood meter – at the start of this report, I had a smile on my face and now it’s turned into a big cheesy grin. Hope it’s infectious!

Too excited to take a normal group photo!
Too excited to take a normal group photo!
Session in progress
Session in progress

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It is hard to believe that 2020 is coming to an end and we have not been able to hold any Girl Child sessions since February. Our sessions thrive on face to face interaction and not being able to see each other has been a great disadvantage. There is some sadness as we reflect on 2020. However, the joy of Christmas is truly with us and we are grateful our girls are gearing up to enjoy the festivities as much as they are able to.

The lives touched by Girl Child so far and the passion the Makomborero team has for disadvantaged girls has fanned the flames of hope and given us all strength to keep looking ahead. We are grateful for the generous donations we have received this year, they have been a much needed practical element to our hopes. We were able to buy more than 40 books which will be added to the existing libraries of the three schools on the Girl Child programme. The rest of the books will make up starter packs for the two schools we hope to add to our programme by the end of 2022. We are pleased that we have not just added numbers to the library but we have been able to add some variety too! Most, if not all our girls will finally get to read classics such as Roald Dahl for the first time.

We have also been able to buy the much needed materials for the 'Baby blanket crochet project' which the girls engage in throughout the year. The office was filled with ooohs and aahs about the fun wool colours we were able to get and we are excited for our girls to start crocheting. We look forward to passing the skill of crocheting to a new set of girls, the happiness of making something from scratch together and to teaching them the value of giving to others.

Normally, we would bring all our girls from the different schools together at the end of each term. We would have a big lunch, play games and do an art session that involves t-shirt painting. We were not able to do this this year but the donations meant that we were able to gather all the art session materials needed for 2021. We were also able to buy all the t-shirts we will require for the painting activity. That is huge and we are immensely grateful!

Perhaps most heart-warming of all was that we were able to make a small parcel for each girl to enjoy with her family over the Christmas period. Each girl will receive a pack with dried sugar beans, dried soya meat, rice, pasta and some biscuits and sweets. We know the biscuits and sweets will be a real treat and the other food stuffs a welcome change from mealie-meal and a real life saver for our girls’ families. We feel this makes up in part for not being able to have a joint end of year lunch.

Earlier this year, we were busy writing session content, refreshing what we have and adding what we felt the girls needed. January will be a time of re-visiting those session plans and sorting out timetables.

We have been in communication with our 2020 girls through their mentors who live locally to them. We are always so pleased to hear of their well-being when they bump into each other at the local shops or while taking walks. They miss the sessions, are looking forward to Christmas and perhaps like us are just getting ready as much as possible for 2021.

Sadly, we will not be holding sessions with this particular set of girls in 2021 as we will be recruiting again at the beginning of January. Filled with hope and joy, we have prepared as much as we can for the next 18 months and look forward to welcoming the new girls.

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Library books covered and ready
Library books covered and ready

When, in March 2020, we were left with no choice but to pause our Girl Mentorship programme meetings due to Covid-19, no-one could have guessed that six months down the line, we would still be unable to meet. When lockdown came into effect, we were a couple of weeks away from having our first, joint end of term lunch for 2020. It was promising to be a fun day with food, games, painting and a wonderful speaker. We also felt we were starting to break ground with some of the shy and quiet girls. Stopping sessions for an indefinite period meant cancelling all these plans and preparing ourselves to start again with building those relationships. We not only miss the human to human contact, we miss having contact of any kind as none of our girls have the means to participate in weekly online sessions, were we to hold them.

On a brighter note, the time away from weekly sessions has given staff space to think how the sessions can be more fun and more relevant. We have been in preparation mode, refreshing session notes as well as writing up new sessions. We had just taken on a third group when the lockdown came into effect. In the last few months, we have gathered and covered library books for the new group . We have also managed to tidy and stock our first aid kits.

More recently, staff have been thinking about what getting back to sessions will look like in light of Covid-19. All the story telling and laughter will likely have to be shared from behind masks and face screens and we are gearing ourselves to making sure we are prepared for this in every way. Not only will Makomborero Zimbabwe be instrumental in the giving of sanitisers, masks, screens etc, before sessions resume, staff will also hold training with mentors on Covid-19 so they in turn will be able to educate our mentees about Covid-19 and how to keep safe, especially when the official lockdown restrictions relax. We have heard some heartbreaking stories of people from areas where some of our mentees live having to share masks due to financial difficulties. We hope to help alleviate this pressure for them.

We are grateful that we live in times where technology has made communication much easier. We are able to hear from most of our mentors who seem to be keeping in good spirits. Sadly, most of our mentees do not have personal phones, so it has been difficult to stay in contact with them directly. The silver lining is that most of the mentors live in the same areas as their mentees and we hear reports of them bumping into one or two of the girls. It’s really nice when this happens and we get to hear how they are.

Here is what a few have said they miss the most:

‘I miss the sessions so much because they inspired me.’ – Lynn – mentee

‘I miss crotchet and the stories we used to share with the girls while having snacks at the end of the day.’ – Tinaye - mentor

‘I miss being a mentor.’ – Shyline - mentor

'I miss leading sessions and recapping on previous sessions, and I miss playing games with the girls, I enjoy that!' - Teclah - mentor

‘I miss interacting with the girls. That’s the bit I love the most.’ – Joan – Staff member

We are also grateful for the donations of books, first aid kits and masks. Our donors, staff, mentors and eager mentees have really helped us to keep hope alive in these strange times! 

Refreshing our first aid kits
Refreshing our first aid kits
Donated masks for the girls
Donated masks for the girls

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The beginning of 1st Term saw a new group of girls. The Senior Mistresses of each partner school look forward to the programme starting each year, as they are seeing positive change in the girls that have been through it. In addition to the 2 schools from last year, this year we added another school bringing us to 2 schools in the Mufakose area and 1 school in Mbvuku area. We recuited 10 girls from each school who fitted our vulnerable criteria.  We have Local Community Mentors who have finished their one year training with us running sessions closely monitored by our Operations Manager and new Community Mentors being trained for the duration of this year. 

To start the year our Mentors and Trainee Community Mentors undergo extensive training and safeguarding sessions. Throughout the term the mentors also received various training sessions on the topics covered to help them effectively facilitate the sessions. We were thrilled to take our Chairman from our UK Board on his recent visit, to the programme in Mbvuku and he enjoyed having a peek into how it all runs.

Unfortunately all three programmes were cut short due the COVID-19 Lockdown and schools have been closed since March.  We have taken this time to review our material and prepare for the possible opening of schools under strict COVID-19 guidelines and have bought the necessary PPE for the sessions to commence as soon as schools open. However, we remain in touch with the mentors and it has been encouraging to hear how they have kept a positive attitude in this lockdown, despite the difficult circumstances. Some have taken to gardening, while others are making masks, others learning a new language but above all it has been a time to connect with family.

We also asked Mercy who has been working closely with the mentors to share her experience of the Girl Mentorship Programme which I believe sums up what the project is about. Here is what she had to say - 

I came into the Girl mentorship programme as an excited mentor who was expecting to see a group of timid, vulnerable young girls. I was not sure in this case what vulnerable would look like or sound like, perhaps I was even a tiny bit apprehensive but I was sure there would be spirit, I find there always is in young people.

On my first day at a Girl mentorship session in 2019, I felt like I had joined a group of old friends who had no problems adding a new face to their circle. This particular group of girls had been meeting for a while and they all seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. There had been the exchange of library books and one of the mentors had read out a short story about an inspiring woman, I think it was Marie Curie that day. It was all pretty relaxed, I was enjoying the atmosphere. The girls were having a ‘free session’ meaning that it was not a front led session, they could chat about anything and the mentors would only step in here and there. The first discussion that day had turned to physical punishment as a way of disciplining naughty children. Over snacks and with squares of crocheting in their hands, the girls spoke about their experiences in this area. They were crocheting like pros, it was hard to believe it was a recently learnt skill. Some spoke of their experiences so lightly, I could feel both pity and anger rise in me but I followed the lead of the regular mentors who at nearly twenty years my juniors were already teaching me something about listening and doing it well. I quietly sat with many questions forming in my head. I was bubbling to know whether the girls thought it was right to administer physical punishment, whether this is a method they would use if/when they had children.

Clothing became the follow on topic. How should girls dress especially when going to church? There was a general sense that there is a relationship between verbal and sexual abuse and the way a girl dressed. But does that make it okay? I was dying to ask.

As I walked away on that first day, I had a cocktail of emotions going through me. My heart was both broken and full. I had had the chance to throw my questions into the conversation but I had not been prepared for some of the answers. The girls had passion, they had spirit, they had some kind of fearlessness that shone through some of their walls, some kind of vulnerability yes, but a kind that could be worked with. They were clearly at a stage where they could all stand up for something. So what was lacking? Education. Someone to impart the knowledge that surrounds these topics and others so the girls’ discussions and their way of living can be less about accepting all things as they are and more about opening their minds to how things should be . And the work that the Girl Child does goes a long way towards this. That is what comforted me and filled my heart with hope as I made my journey home that day. Such heartbreaking views and a poor outlook on life are the very reason why Girl child does the work it does. I wondered how many girls in Zimbabwe on that particular afternoon had felt safe enough to discuss their issues without the fear of being judged or punished. How many girls had been given a voice, a chance to ask for help even if they did not realise this is what they were doing? I was glad this group was giving them that at the very least.

Since that day, I have had the privilege of attending all three of our Girl Child locations. As the months go by, spending time with the girls is like watching a flower blossom. I now understand that the educating process does not happen overnight. I understand more about how much trust, vulnerability, patience and believing in each other goes into the work Girl Child does. I am pleased at how topics are addressed head on, how it makes the girls brave to own who they are with a hope for tomorrow. My hope and prayer is that this work is understood, valued and supported. Our donors have been incredible and year in year out we continue to need their support. At present, we have the joy of changing the lives of 30 girls a year, our dream is to increase this.

homemade masks
homemade masks
Crotcheting session
Crotcheting session
Mercy and Phoebe at the sessions
Mercy and Phoebe at the sessions
Joan at Mabvuku High
Joan at Mabvuku High

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Organization Information

Makomborero

Location: Sidcup, Kent - United Kingdom
Website:
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Twitter: @MakomboreroUK
Project Leader:
Rumbie Mzenda
Sidcup, Kent United Kingdom
$7,560 raised of $10,000 goal
 
91 donations
$2,440 to go
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