On Wednesday the 22nd of March 2023, the 8 USAP Community School alum who are Capstone Fellows this year met in Harare for a three day mid-program retreat. Fellows traveled from Bulawayo, Gokwe, Gweru, Chipinge and Chikombedzi to come together to discuss their capstone projects, three months since their inception. The program was planned and facilitated by Betty Mafemera, the Education Matters Youth Programs Coordinator.
The retreat which kickstarted with a meeting with Kevin Burns, the CEO of Chobani. Kevin, who has funded Capstone Fellowship program for the past two years, met with the fellows to give them advice on measuring success and how to make their projects sustainable. Kevin asked important questions to get fellows thinking deeply and critically during their retreat; he cultivated divergent thinking and got the fellows to come up with new and more innovative ways to ensure their projects success.
Dieudonne Makelele, a 2023 capstone fellow from Tongogara Refugee Camp, is working on building a new model of Blair latrine for the camp. After being at a stand still in the negotiations with the camp administrator, he recently implemented the critical advice he received from Kevin Burns, and now the construction of the latrine is underway.
“Mr. Kevin Burns imparted his expertise on how we could reach out to government offices to gain permission to undertake some activities. I had been struggling to get clearance to test the latrine model I had designed. Thanks to his guidance, after our retreat I was able to obtain permission in just two days!”- Dieudonne
The 2nd day of the retreat continued on a high note as the students had a face-to-face facilitated session with Courage Matiza, a graduate of ALA and Amherst College who most recently has worked in Zimbabwe at CHAI, overseeing and monitoring large scale public health projects. Courage presented on Monitoring and Evaluation and gave important lessons on how monitoring their projects and evaluating the results honestly and thoroughly can take their projects to the next level. After meeting the students, supervised by Betty Mafemera, took a field trip to Netro Electronics to visit Eugene Jamu, a fellow USAP Alumni. Netro, which was founded when Eugene was completing his undergradauate degree in Electrical Engineering at Ashesi University in Ghana, is a company that specializes in electronics. The fellows got a better perspective on how to select and train a successor for their projects, especially since they are heading to university in September 2023. They also learnt from Eugene about project expansion, which involves putting all their knowledge into the project, as well as bringing in a partner with new and unique ideas to improve their projects.
The retreat finished on a high note with a presentation from Rebecca Zeigler Mano, the Director of Education Matters. The presentation mainly focused on the 3 aspects of Project Sustainability; Community Sustainability, Organizational Sustainability and Financial Sustainability. The fellows were presented with various scenarios as well as a range of questions that allowed them to think outside the box about how they can ensure their communities feel ownership of their capstone projects so that they will continue after the fellows continue to college in August. This discussion led them to the important diagnosis that not all of their projects are meant to continue to have their direct involvement. Some projects, such as Dieudonne’s mission to build a new model of latrine for the refugee camp, will be left in the hands of the community, after he would have imparted the knowledge to them. The capstone fellows are not only helping the community, but learning skills to be innovative and ambitious leaders of tomorrow.