Conversation With…Beritha Muzondo, Teacher and Founder of VOW/Women of Valiance

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Beritha

VOW/Women of Valiance was founded in 2017 by school-teacher, mother and wife, Beritha Muzondo, to bring women together to support education in Zimbabwe. In 2017, she hosted the 1st VOW High Tea at Woburn Sculpture Park, Bedfordshire which raised just over £1 400 for Kandava Primary School, Seke Rural, Zimbabwe.

This year, VOW will host another fundraiser, a Ladies Luncheon, on Saturday July 14th2018 at Whittleberry Hall, Towcester, Northampton.

 

 

What’s the inspiration behind VOW?

Well, over the past 4-5 years, I had always been sending school supplies, whenever I could, to Rakodzi High School in my home country Zimbabwe. One year, I collected and donated around 300 library books.

Believe me when I tell you that back in my day this school was one of the best schools there was. This was in Marondera, a high-density area. The head teacher was Australian, most of the teachers were ex-pats and it was well-resourced. But when I went back a few years ago, things were not the same, in fact far from it. I thought, if a school like this with so many donors is in this situation, what about a school with no donors.

A school that came to mind that I knew had little support was Kandava Primary School. One year, during a visit to my family homestead in the rural area, as I was driving through, I saw some children going to school without shoes or uniforms. I thought to myself that I could start with buying uniforms.

I decided to shelve Rakodzi as a lot of people were already supporting them, then focused on Kandava Primary. I asked Kandava if they had orphans and they gave me a list of 120 children. That was way too much for me, so, I asked them to prioritise the children in order of need and I went away and started thinking of ideas to fundraise.

What made you think of a high tea event?

I like to plan events and I plan them well. I bounced ideas from others and a high tea event came out on top.

The venue for last year’s event was exquisite! How did you find it?

I like nice things! And we all deserve nice things. What was important was to make the event memorable, so I wanted a venue that was different, unique, elegant and would allow people to dress up. I wanted people to feel that they were doing something truly wonderful and the surroundings had to inspire that feeling.

Last year’s event featured great speakers and that awesome auction! What can supporters and guests expect this year?

This year it  will again be an inspirational, dynamic and fun-filled event. People really enjoyed meeting each other so this year there will be more time for interaction and networking. There are going to be some dynamic speakers as there were last year and with more audience participation.

For you, what was great about the VOW2017 High Tea?

What was wonderful was that so many supported the event and were so generous with their donations. Tickets were sold out and in the end 196 guests attended. In fact, so far, a lot of last year’s guests already have tickets for this year’s event. The one thing they had to do was bring stationery, books and pens and everyone did. With the ticket sales and the luxury auction held on the day, we raised just over £1 400. This bought uniforms, shoes and paid school fees for 20 children at 2 schools – Kandava Primary and Muchakata Primary. Although the event was not formally sponsored, many gave cash donations.

Beritha Kids

The theme last year was ‘Stop Saying I Can’t and Start Saying I Will’. What’s the theme for this year’s event?

This year’s theme is ‘Starve Your Distractions and Feed Your Focus’. It’s important that guests come away feeling inspired in the same way they are inspiring our young people through their generosity.

What opportunities are there for people to get involved and contribute?

We do have sponsorship packages which include time for sponsors do a short presentation about their business. Sponsors can also be anonymous if they prefer!

What would you like guests to donate this year?

This year we ask guests to bring stationery and books again, as well as clothing which of course must be in good condition. We would also like people to sponsor a child which costs £100 per year. Imagine that £100 can support a child at school for a whole year including fees and uniforms. In fact, last year, one guest sponsored not just one child, but the entire family.

What’s the fundraising target amount for 2018?

This year we aim to raise £5 000 to build a borehole for Kandava Primary.

 

For more information on VOW Ladies Luncheon 2018, contact: info@valiant-women.co.uk

For tickets, contact 07979091582, 07850089572 or purchase via website at: http://valiant-women.co.uk/

Tickets cost £50pp and include a 3-course lunch with tea and coffee

Follow VOW Annual Ladies Luncheon on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/womenofvaliance/

If you are not able to attend but would like to donate to the cause, please contact: info@valiant-women.co.uk

 

 

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Time to Do Something

To read the sensational headline that London now had a murder rate higher than New York City (NYC) was shocking. And sensational it was, because that statement actually pertained to the last 2 months of 2018, bearing in mind we are only in month 4; in February, London recorded 15 murders whilst NYC recorded 11; in March 2018: London, 22 and NYC, 21. Were these really margins that warranted the screaming headlines across the front pages and our TV screens? When you look back over the last 3 years at least, London’s murder rate has been well below 1/3rd that of NYC’s, and London still remains a lot safer than a whole load of other cities around the world. So what really is the significance of this statistic?

Well, the significance has been hotly debated in the last week…again, and that is that 35 of the 48 murders so far have involved stabbings and pretty much all of these stabbings have involved young black men. By the time you read this, the figures 35 and 48 will be out of date. We have been talking about knife crime perpetrated by young black men for at least the past 5 years (and behind closed doors for much longer), but each year it just gets uglier and uglier and hurts more and more. I ask myself why it hurts so much, because obviously the vast majority of young black boys are actually leading the lives of normal teenagers, supported by loving families and friends.

The situation is significant and we debate it because no child deserves to die, especially violently, no matter their race or background. With each and every young person that is denied their potential, we are compromising the future of our society. That one death impacts not only that child’s family, but also their peers, their teachers and anyone who has worked to prepare them for their life ahead. Whether we feel it or not, a little bit of society dies with the death of a child.

 

Why do something?

We also debate it because it raises some pretty ugly goings-on in our world: the life of ‘the hidden’ who have no status and are exploited not only by a particularly vicious type of criminal that preys on vulnerable youngsters but also by legal agencies that should provide protection; dysfunctional or non-existent parenting that in some cases is wilful, but in most, is a legacy of the long-standing decay in family life that actually pervades across social strata – some simply have no idea how to parent, and not just black parents either; community politics that has transformed into career politics where politicians work for themselves as opposed to working for their electorate; a society increasingly devoid of empathy for the ‘have-nots’ and which takes great pleasure in marginalising those ‘have-nots’ along racial and social lines.

I think we have debated the issues long enough to know that the situation we find our community in has been borne out of many factors. We’re pretty much past pointing fingers and apportioning blame now though. We can still point if we want to, but it’s probably time walk up to the problems and simply deal with them. Forget the ones we can’t control for now and start with the ones we can do something about. A start may be to just seek to understand the way in which our world has evolved to land us in this mess. Even for those of us that live a ‘cushy’ life where none of these issues ever enter our sphere, whenever children are dying, we must make it our business to engage.

Like many parents of a young black boy in London, I am increasingly aware of how he is already perceived by those around him, many of whom won’t even know him. Whilst the saying goes, ‘what people think of you is not your business’, in this situation, it is our business because the consequences of those skewed perceptions can lead us down a path we should not have to tread. And even if I or you may not be the one that treads that path, either of us may have to take that walk with someone we care about. And trust me, I know, it’s not a stroll in a lavender-filled meadow. That thought alone compels me to engage and do something and surely that must go for all of us, whoever and wherever we are.

 

What is your something?

My something is words – putting them together to tell a story. My other something is connecting people. My other, other something is seeking knowledge. I am going to put together all my somethings and throw them out there under the guidance of the Spirit. One thing that has consistently come up in the many conversations I have been a part of in the last week is that there are many individuals and collectives who are doing so much to address many of the problems that have come to the fore. And, there are many who want to do their something. So why not bring everyone together?

Over the next few days or weeks or however long it takes, I will connect those who are doing with those who want to do. When the idea came to mind, I realised that actually, many of these folk are already in my contacts list. So this was pre-ordained! Starting tomorrow, I will share stories of the many good works that some amazing individuals are already doing, and some of the eye-opening conversations we have had. If you think you can help them in any way, I urge you to do so. If it inspires you to do your something, even better!