Partnerships lay at the foundation of Our Moon’s success. In particular, we look to build relationships with universities around the world, who can offer scholarships to talented Zambian students to pursue their education. In return, these students are constantly looking for ways to contribute back to their society, to bring about positive change. It’s all about building and sustaining these relationships.
In February, our CEO Helen spent a month visiting 11 universities across the US and Canada, to strengthen Our Moon’s existing partnerships and build important new relationships. She also had the chance to spend time with 35 of her former students and hear their inspirational stories of how they are giving back to the communities they came from. In this week’s blog Helen shares some of what she learnt.
During her trip, Helen met with the admissions officers and MasterCard scholarship coordinators at each of the universities. She was able to tell them more about Our Moon’s work, and to find out more about their admissions criteria and processes.
‘They were all incredibly supportive’, Helen says, ‘and reinforced the importance of Our Moon’s work helping Zambian students to get A-Levels’. Firstly, this will help make them more competitive with other African students and secondly, it will mean their transition to university is not hampered by having two years of academic learning and skill acquisition to catch up on.
Helen was shown around all the campuses by an array of former students. She had a brilliant time catching up with them, and hearing how they are growing as they move through university and look ahead towards jobs! She even had time for an African drumming lesson with Justin at UBC!
‘Life at university in the US is very full on’, Helen tells me, ‘all the students have a lot of contact time and a huge amount of homework. On top of that, they have commitments to contribute to their universities and most get jobs so that they can send a little bit of money back home’.
One of the issues they spoke with Helen about was the difficulty of wanting to work and contribute in their home countries, but not wanting to return too soon, before they have some work experience and capital under their belt. Helen was encouraged by several of the universities who put considerable emphasis on helping their students find internship and employment opportunities in their home countries or other parts of Africa.
‘I was very impressed by the students’ clear work ethic and achievements’, Helen reflects, ‘their need to make a difference drives them forward to make a change in their country even when they aren’t living there’.
Chanda from Zambia is an excellent example of this entrepreneurship. Whilst studying at Bucknell University he founded a project focused primarily on low-income rural farmers within his town and neighbouring villages. It targets communities that are in need of sustainable transportation to aid the delivery of their produce to larger markets in distant urban areas. The tandem goal of this is to give rural people better access to healthcare, education and clean water.
Chanda has negotiated with a firm of bamboo bike makers in Zambia to provide bikes at a good price; he has designed carts for the families to carry their produce on the back of bikes and is helping them learn how to make the carts themselves.
‘This is a prime example of how these financially disadvantaged students not only understand the need to work hard and make the most of every opportunity, but are also constantly looking for ways to contribute to their society’, Helen says. It’s all about building and sustaining positive partnerships. Whether this is by sending money back home to help with siblings’ schools fees, doing work experience over the summer to advance their career dreams, designing ways to capture mosquitoes, getting funding to run projects in their home villages etc. they have a real sense of loyalty to their roots.
Here at Our Moon we are dedicated to helping these students be the difference they want to see in their home communities and countries.
We are at the beginning of our journey and are excited to see our partnerships and relationships grow and develop. We look forward to seeing Our Moon students go on to great things after university, and pave the way for many more Zambian students to follow in their footsteps in the future.