NOZIPHO has never known her biological father. On the day she was born, her father had turned his back and walked away, leaving his unemployed wife, Mariah Mbowane, and their five other children to fend for themselves. Literally.
It was 1988, and public transportation in the Nkalashane community in Swaziland was hit or miss. So, home alone, Mariah had no choice but to deliver her child by herself: a sweet little girl named Nozipho, who almost immediately began living up to the meaning of her name: gift.
Fifteen years later, Nozipho’s name is now also synonymous with being super-smart: every single year she’s received top marks in her class, making her mother’s hard work to keep her and her siblings in school worth it. Yet, after too many nights of sending her children to bed with empty tummies, Mariah knew she had to do more.
Taking a leap of faith, Mariah became a farmer, entering into an industry she wasn’t interested in and knew nothing about. But Nozipho and her siblings pitched in, weeding the garden and taking care of the cotton plants before and after school. Soon, a little money trickled in—enough for Mariah to feed her kids, buy their clothes and uniforms, and make sure their school fees were paid on time. At the same time, World Vision recruited Nozipho and her siblings Lungile and Mandla for sponsorship, and with it, a paid education. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, the kids buckled down to do their homework.
In 2004, Nozipho graduated from high school with honours and applied to the University of Swaziland. She was accepted into the diploma program for journalism and mass communications. The best part: the government awarded her a scholarship for her three years of studies. With a ton of self-discipline and hard work, Nozipho completed her degree and helped her mom out along the way.
“During my first year at the university, I gave my mother part of my allowance from the government to help her to buy wiring material for electricity installation,” says Nozipho, pride filling her voice. “It has been my wish to have electricity at home. Even though the material was expensive, we were able to do it and we submitted application forms to the Swaziland Electricity Company for the installation.”
Nozipho also gave her mom some money to plant maize with, “so that we could produce enough food for the family,” she says. She also bought a 10,000-litre water tank to supplement the water harvesters. Combined with the agricultural training her mom was receiving from World Vision, the new water tanks would help ensure their crops’ growth. Clearly, Nozipho’s university education was improving the entire community’s quality of life.
Everyone benefits from Mariah’s new-found farming and business skills, too. So naturally, when the community launched a DIY project to construct toilets for the community, Mariah was chosen as the chairperson. Through the process, she and her teammates learned how to construct toilets and buildings, and how to create a savings group, to save and borrow money against the profit of their businesses.
“I am grateful to World Vision for the assistance that my family received over the years,” says Mariah. “We used to get food rations, then clothes, shoes, toothbrushes and toothpaste.”
In fact, Nozipho once received a goat that gave birth to four kids—all were eventually sold to help pay for her university expenses. Her other donated gifts, such as multiple fruit trees, are still thriving. “Every year they produce an abundant amount of fruit,” says Mariah. “We even sell some to our neighbours.”
Now a university graduate, Nozipho works as a communications and marketing officer for a construction firm in Matsapha. With her salary, she’s helping her mother take care of six of the grandchildren—all of whom were orphaned after two of Mariah’s children died. And until last year, when the Swaziland government introduced free primary education for all children in public school, Nozipho paid for the grandchildren to get an education. After all, when you’re a gifted smarty-pants, it’s hard not to want the rest of your family to succeed.
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In September 2014, World Vision’s Nkalashane community program will be phased out. This is
a good thing: it means that everyone’s life is improving! So while drought continues to affect the harvests of many households, it no longer crushes this savvy community. They know how to work together and how to benefit from their clean water system, complete with a number of newly drilled boreholes surrounding the schools and neighbourhoods. Access to safe, clean and portable water is available to everyone.
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YOU ASKED,NOZIPHO ANSWERED
Q Congratulations, Nozipho! How did World Vision and/or your sponsor help you to go to and finish university? Sonja Hadley
A “Because I was a sponsored child, World Vision paid for my education. I was at the top of my class every year. So after high school, the government awarded me a scholarship to attend university.”
Q What an inspirational story. I sincerely hope that the 21 children I sponsor all do as well. What are your plans to help make changes that could impact your community? Jacqueline Chilliak
“With my salary, I’m helping my mother take care of six of her grandchildren—all of whom were orphaned after two of my mom’s own children died. And until last year, when the Swaziland government introduced free primary education for all children in public school, I paid for their school fees as well. One day, I hope to start my own consultancy firm and continue taking care of my mother and the children.”
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2013/14 issue of Childview.