The commitment of a Swift Current residents towards educational opportunities for children in rural Zimbabwe has been acknowledged through a Rotary award.
Collin Nyabadza is the recipient of a Paul Harris Fellow recognition, which was presented to him during a virtual meeting of the Rotary Club of Swift Current, Oct. 18.
The presentation was made by Rotary 5360 District Governor Martin Parnell from Cochrane and Kim Cooper, a Kamloops resident and an honorary Rotarian with the Rotary E-Club of South Africa One.
Parnell congratulated Nyabadza on joining a group of people through this recognition that really exemplify what Rotary is all about.
Cooper has known Nyabadza for several years and she has always been impressed with his dedication.
“He works tirelessly to help thousands of underprivileged children in Zimbabwe, and it’s because of his work that he’s done that I’m recognizing him for a Paul Harris Fellowship award,” she said. “Collin strongly believes that no child should be held back due to the economic circumstances. He has proven that through dedication and support anything is possible and as a result, schools have obtained furniture, new classrooms, books and sports equipment.”
She referred to a recent example of his efforts, which resulted in the donation of 50,000 textbooks from Scotland to many schools in need in Zimbabwe.
“Collin is really a quiet and very humble leader with a dedicated team of volunteers who help in any way possible to make a difference to so many children and schools,” she said.
It is a condition of a Paul Harris Fellow recognition that a donation of $1,000 is made to the Rotary Foundation. Cooper and her husband made the required donation to made this award possible.
Nyabadza is a member of the Rotary Club of Swift Current, but a Paul Harris Fellow recognition can also be made to individuals who are not Rotarians. Notable Paul Harris Fellow recipients include polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, retired U.S. astronaut James Lovell, and former United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.
Nyabadza expressed appreciation towards his fellow Rotarians for their support on his journey, which started almost 29 years ago when he began working as a teacher in rural Zimbabwe.
“Thank you everybody who has believed in me, but the journey still continues until I die,” he said. “I’ll keep doing this kind of work.”
He spoke to the Prairie Post about his work and the significance of this recognition during an interview the following day.
“I feel overwhelmed,” he said. “When you start this journey, it’s not like you’ll be anticipating any return, anything like that. It just makes you feel overwhelmed and at the same it makes you feel honoured. At least you’ve done something worthwhile.”
He is the founder of the Collin Nyabadza Children’s Voice Charitable Trust. It aims to provide support to schools in rural Zimbabwe to ensure that children have an opportunity to attend class in an environment that is conducive to learning.
“I feel we’ve really done considerable work, considering that we’re just a small foundation with very limited financial resources,” he said. “It’s not easy to galvanize financial resources, but nevertheless that has not deterred us from pursuing our mission.”
He paid tribute to the dedicated members of the trust for their efforts and support to reach the goals of the organization.
“We all work 100 per cent on a volunteer basis, as our aim is to ensure that every penny we receive from kind people across the globe goes to the children we support and not on salaries,” he said. “It’s a dynamic team. Some have master’s degrees while some of them have PhDs, and are all well-articulated in both educational and humanitarian work activities. I deeply feel honoured leading such a dynamic team.”
He has been a Swift Current resident since 2011, where he works in the education and non-profit sectors.
“I wish to deeply thank my community of Swift Current for the support they have been giving me,” he said. “I have received both financial and material support from businesses and individuals. … People often stop me on the street, asking me how my foundation is doing. This gesture certainly means a lot to me.”
His commitment to improve learning conditions for students started after graduation from college, when he became a teacher in January 1993 at a dilapidated rural primary school in Zimbabwe.
There was a high turnover of teachers, because they transferred to better equipped school, and it influenced the performance of students.
“I felt if we all come and go as teachers, who is going to help these children,” he said. “That’s when I made the decision to stay in that school and instead helped to mobilize the parents to turn things around and develop the infrastructure. So that’s when I started my work.”
He also started to source scholarships for students to continue their education and have a better future. He worked for nine years at this school and each year he obtained scholarships for five to 10 children. His efforts resulted in a decision by the Cambridge Female Educational Development Trust (CAMFED) to expand its work to this area.
He began talking to organizations in different countries to obtain assistance for his work in support of rural schools in Zimbabwe, and this eventually resulted in the establishment of the Collin Nyabadza Children’s Voice Charitable Trust.
“I can safety say we have impacted over 400,000 children to date, because in Zimbabwe schools are quite big,” he said.
He noted the economic situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate and it has an impact on families, students, and schools.
“So each day we get requests from schools,” he said. “They’re appealing for support from us. It’s like we are being overwhelmed now. Our resources are not matching the amount of help that’s required. … Despite that, we will still carry on. With this type of work, you can never rest and say I’m giving up, because if you give up it also means those kids that rely on us over there will have no future at all as far as education is concerned. So we won’t give up. We’ll just keep moving on.”
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