Simba Makarera and Martin Ganda, co-founders of Seeds of Africa Foundation, both grew up in Zimbabwe. Their childhoods were certainly different, but they had at least one thing in common, which was to get a good education – and that wasn’t an easy task. Simba’s journey required immense proactivity; when his parents couldn’t afford to send him to high school, he petitioned local businessmen to fund the rest of his education, and the CEO of a local bank ultimately agreed to do so. At the end of high school, Simba applied to colleges in the U.S. and eventually attended Yale on a full scholarship. Simba says, “I am conscious that it took a series of small miracles to get me to where I am now. I am aware that if it was not for the people willing to give a little of themselves to help me, I wouldn’t have achieved what I did.”
Martin’s story is similarly miraculous: in primary school, he began a pen-pal relationship with a young girl named Caitlin, whose family ultimately helped Martin to pay for his school exams and apply to college in the States. Martin emphasizes that his situation was not unique: “In Zimbabwe, there is a huge pit of talented young students who cannot reach their potential due to lack of funds.”
Today, Martin and Simba are passionate about providing similar support to bright Zimbabwean youth. Their aim is to foster and finance gifted students who are already proactively pursuing education, kids whose only obstacle to success is a dearth of resources and opportunity. Seeds of Africa is currently sponsoring 50Zimbabwean students who could not otherwise afford to go to school.
In their efforts to reach a wider community and to provide more holistic support to the youths they already sponsor, Seeds of Africa has embarked upon a new project: The Knowledge Center. The Knowledge Center will be a strategic hub for student growth with a tri-part purpose. First, students will be able to learn through resources both digital and printed, as well as attend supplementary classes taught by local teachers or visiting volunteers. Secondly, their education will be facilitated by technology – most Zimbabwean school children have never used, much less owned, a computer. This will be crucial for older kids who hope to attend universities and will soon undergo the daunting college application process. And finally, the Knowledge Center will be a site for engaging with other students in spaces like the Café and the Community Gathering Space, designed to emphasize that learning is not a wholly individualized endeavor.
The Knowledge Center is strategic not only in purpose, but in implementation. Ecologically, it will run entirely on solar power so as to make a minimal impact on the surrounding environment. And its location was chosen with care – the site is located beside a heavily-trafficked path that connects the sister villages of Sakubva and Chikanga.
As of now, the Knowledge Center is still only a blueprint; but in the coming months, the Seeds of Africa team hopes to turn it into a reality, brick by brick. Seeds of Africa has just launched its Buy a Brick campaign, which is a simple way to support the organization in their new undertaking. On the Buy a Brick webpage, you’re invited to buy a brick for $1 (or more), which will then be engraved with your name and used in the physical construction of the Knowledge Center. When the building is complete, one wall will be filled with names of contributors who helped the Center to become a reality. This wall will visually represent the group effort behind the project — manifesting the idea that success is not a solitary affair, but one that relies upon community support. In this way, the idea of interdependency will be built into the material structure of the Knowledge Center.
For the success of the Center, Seeds of Africa counts on the generosity of individual contributors, from college kids to companies. With the Buy a Brick website, the threshold for donating is unintimidating As Martin and Simba attested, their success rested on the shoulders of many, many others who had faith in their potential – and Seeds of Africa can do the same for Zimbabwean students today.