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"Change Begins with Me"

Posted by Ellen Frierson at May 18, 2017 02:10 PM |
Tapiwa, a SUSI program participant, developed a program to engage youth in her home community in Zimbabwe.

Tapiwanashe Gladys Simango, a student from Zimbabwe who participated the recent FIUTS Study of the U.S. Institute on Civic Engagement, is using the skills and experiences she gained during her time in the U.S. to combat drug abuse and child prostitution in her community. Her initiatives recently culminated in a one-day conference to explore issues affecting youth.

Here is a blog post written by Tapiwa about her experience, as well as some photos from the conference.

Hi, I am Tapiwanashe Gladys Simango from Unit P Extension -Seke, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe. I participated in the SUSI (Study of the U.S. Institute) program on Leadership and Civic Engagement from January to February 2017. An experience that was exceptional from Washington DC through New Orleans to our last destination in Seattle which was home for my entire stay in the USA. I drew a lot of lessons to take back home, especially noting that,"Change begins with me, it does not come from without." This ignited the passion that drove the project I implemented upon arrival back at home entitled,  "A community that is drug free and non-tolerative to child prostitution" targeting a total of 100 youths in Unit N, Seke, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe.

The project was motivated by the sad reality of youths in my community aged 12-25 who engaged in drug abuse and child prostitution. Generally speaking I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of watching young girls becoming mothers and drug abuse claiming lives of the economically active group in my community. What then did I do? The start point was community mapping, answering the questions who, what, when, where, why and how this phenomena was existent. Active participation through volunteerism was a principle I adopted as the backbone of my project because I wanted the youth to take initiative and be responsible for the change.

In its didactic nature, the project firstly trained 10 youth leaders through a workshop on the effects and dangers of drug abuse as well as child prostitution. These 10 leaders in turn trained 10 youths each from the community which escalated the number of trained youths to 100 within a period of 1 month. All these efforts amounted to a one day conference open to the community further exploring these issues. This was not a one man job, but partnerships fostered through a multi-sectoral approach saw SAYWHAT ZIMBABWE, Shamwari Yemwanasikana and the Zimbabwe Junior parliament coming on board.

The turnout and energy during the process was exceptional more than what we anticipated. Interestingly the guest of honour to the one day conference was a 17 year old boy, who despite the background we all are coming from, has done well and excelled as a Senator in the Junior parliament. In his speech he motivated youth to be the action bearers in the creation of a community they want by shunning the culture of ignorance. He said, "Ask a question and you will be a fool for only 3 minutes, do not ask a question and you will be a fool for the entire of your life!

We only not scored a success, we ate, danced, did drama, bonded, had fun, laughed, learnt and above all became heroes and heroines of our own community. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so does a thousand gallons of water spill from one tap...this is a journey we have embarked on, and we will sojourn until we realise the community we want made #forwebywewithwe.


The Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, promote a better understanding of the people, institutions, and culture of the United States among foreign students, teachers, and scholars. Study of the U.S. Institutes are short-term academic programs for groups of undergraduate leaders, educators, and scholars from around the world.

The SUSI on Civic Engagement with students from Southern Africa is coordinated by the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), a local non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Washington that promotes international friendship and cross-cultural understanding in the region.

Guest posts on the FIUTS blog represent the experiences and views of individual writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of FIUTS or any organizations or institutions affiliated with our programs.

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