Many of you will remember this story. When it first occurred it was a heartbreaking and incredibly difficult time. Nearly four years ago, the son of our namesake and first ever scholarship recipient, Manuel, was stabbed in the head and left for dead. MIraculously, he survived and through the support of incredible people in Zimbabwe and all over the world he has made an extraordinary recovery. Many of you contributed financially to the Ndakasimba Trust that was established to cover Manuel’s health care costs and rehabilitation expenses. Many of you offered thoughts and prayers for his safety and life. The story below, told by our partner Rob, is a story of strength, resilience, belief persistence and an incredible example of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Many of you played a part in making this story possible. Thank you.
There are some days when I look at my life and wonder what on earth I am doing. Yesterday was just such a day. We had Elias Sithole and his family around for tea. The time spent with them blew me away and I hope I have learned some lessons from them that I can build on for the future; lessons we would all do well to learn and gain some perspective from.
Elias and His family arrived in a car, their own car. Now this may not be amazing to you if you look at it as it stands on its own, but as with everything, if you scratch below the surface you find that there is so much more to the story than meets the eye, and here is why:
Elias earns less than $300 a month and lives in a small village with his family on a sugar estate. He does not earn enough to pay for much beyond bare necessity much less buy a vehicle. However, the values he has instilled in his family have empowered his sons and created in them a determination to help themselves out of a tough situation and start to do well for themselves. Manuel, Elias’ eldest son was stabbed a few years ago just before he was due to start university under scholarship. It should have been a fatal wound as he was stabbed through the head and the blade went all the way through his midbrain. The attack came from a boy who had taken a 2kg bag of sugar from the family and Manuel was asking for it back. Incredibly, Manuel didn’t die. He recovered and over time, with the help and support of friends and family, learned to walk again and function with a degree of normality far beyond any expectations that the doctors had for him. Unfortunately, as a result he was not able to go to university due to needing sustained healthcare and various other issues. So, he started to buy small items and resell them in his village. His brain which had been injured and affected his ability to speak properly had not cost him his abilities to deal with numbers or his ability to formulate a business plan, nor had he lost any determination to get on with life and be productive.
As soon as his brother Honest was done with high school they became business partners, and with Honest’s equally positive work ethic and the fact that he was more mobile than Manuel, his presence brought a positive influence to the business. Honest started buying things from across the border and bringing them back to sell with Manuel, increasing their product base and so expanding their customer base. They have had the ability to see where the needs are in the retail markets here and work towards providing customers with what they want. The result of this is that not only are they contributing to projects like the house that is being built for their family, but they have made enough profit to buy a vehicle which increases their mobility and allows them to open up another line of business in transporting people from one place to another.
How many people do you know of who have grown up in such impoverished and tough circumstances who have pulled themselves through it so remarkably? When was the last time you heard of a family like this with a single earning parent on less than $300.00 per month, have enough money to pay $6,000.00 cash for a car? Through their hard work they have put over $2,000.00 towards the building project being done for them; they are remarkable. To top it all off yesterday Elias reaches into his pocket and tells my mother, Mrs. Maureen Davy, “this is the way that my mouth says thank you to you for all you have done for us as a family”, and when his hand comes out of his pocket he is holding cash that is equivalent to a full month’s salary for him, and he gives it to her.
Never have I been so ashamed of the little I have done with the large amount (in comparison) of resources that I have. I have done a little and it may have been good but I have not done nearly enough. These are the types of people we should be investing in in this country. Those who have taken a little, and in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, have excelled with it. I was inspired and happy and proud and sad all at once. Inspired by them to do better and to do more with what I have. Happy for them because they have done so well and have retained a beautiful humility that only makes their success more poignant. Proud to know them and to be a part of their lives and proud because they were so keen to show us what they had been able to do and desired to celebrate their success with us. Humbled and saddened by the comparison of my life to theirs, not in quality of life but in quality of achievement. Like comparing a man who plants a single seed and witnesses it grow into a mighty tree which bears much fruit and provides shade for others, to a man who plants a bed of beautiful flowers that grow and look beautiful for a season but that fade away and die, leaving no lasting goodness save a fading memory of beauty and fresh soil to plant in.
This is why we are here, in this place at this time, for stories such as these, these moments that change our lives and help us change the lives of others around us. If we can teach those we are trying to help, using even a fraction of our resources, to do what they can with what they have in the same fashion as Elias and His family then we perhaps will be heading towards a place where we can do something with an impact that lasts a little longer than a fading memory of good things past.
The Sithole Family and their new car: (From left to right) Obey, Honest, Manuel, Elias and Servi.