Welcome to this first part of the Review of 2019 at Pakati.
The story of this year really began in 2018 when I revisited Pakati Secondary school for the first time since 1992….I met the current Headmaster, Mr Mugove Chifaka, and this project was born out of our discussions. Computers for both Primary and Secondary became my motivation. I set about planning things: Publicity. Social Media. Fundraising. Activities. Donations. Contact. Visiting.
The project was being organised from October 2018, and planned to launch January 16th, 2019, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of my starting work at Pakati Secondary school through the international development charity, VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). By the time of the launch date, much of the important vehicles for publicity were already in place – Website/blog, Twitter, gofundme page, email, and within a couple of weeks, Facebook page. Soon after the launch, key publicity messages were getting spread, particularly in my home area of Scunthorpe.
BBC Radio Humberside picked up the story too…and their sports programme broadcast a live interview which lead to the Stephenson Group getting involved as a donor of computers. It also lead to the start of an unseen bonus – football shirts.
During the early months of 2019 I found myself training towards the largest fundraising event I had planned – a sponsored walk between two football grounds – Bradford City ( the city I live in) and Scunthorpe United (the town I am from and club I support) – in the days leading up to the match between the two sides near the end of April.
During this time and throughout the time since my visit I was in regular contact with at first staff, and later former students of Pakati schools. These gave me valuable insights into life there according to the local community themselves, with stories, photos videos and most interestingly, individual profiles. Telling these stories brought Pakati to life for people here in the UK who became interested in my project.
I was able to show what it is like to live and learn in what is a typical rural community in Zimbabwe, and discuss what, if anything, has changed since I was there 30 years before. To do that I had help from many friends old and new who were willing to tell their stories here on the blog. Possibly the most remarkable story was that of my now close friend, Bothwell Riside. His tale of growing up in real poverty but succeeding in becoming very well educated is genuinely moving and inspiring.
Sports play a very important role in school life at both Pakati schools, and they frequently out-perform some of their larger local rival scools.
As I prepared for the walk, developed the blog, publicised fundraising, promoted the stories and grew my list of contacts, I was stopped in my tracks in mid-March, as my Mother passed away after a long battle with dementia. The blog I posted naming her as a true Friend of Pakati was both heartbreaking for me, but also celebrated an important event in her life according to her own words, the two visits my parents made to Zimbbabwe in 1990 and 91. Her first visit brought her to Pakati as she wanted to see where I was living and working. Only as we went through her personal things did we realise how profound an impact it all had on her.
This first part of the review will end here….but there is more to come! The Walk, the funds raised, football shirts, planned visit, donations collected and delivered, actual vist and celebrations, plus, of course, ongoing life at both Pakati schools.