“My biggest advice (to young girls facing adversity) is that dreams are renewable, no matter your age, if you really want to be someone in life, you should not give up no matter how old you are,” says Fortunate a participant of the United States Achievers Program (USAP).
She was admitted to Smith College with a full scholarship and hopes to pursue studies in medicine and business studies.
Narrating her story, Fortunate says she dropped out of school in November 2008 after her cousin was retrenched from a motoring company in Harare.
“I dropped out of school and went to live in the rural areas with my cousin’s family due to lack of funding,” says Fortunate. Despite her good grades at O level (scoring 7 straight As and 3 Bs), she endured two years cultivating the fields in Beitbridge.
At the time there were “unprecedented levels of hyper-inflation, sustained period of negative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) , massive devaluation of the currency, low productive capacity, loss of jobs, food shortages, poverty, massive de-industrialisation and general despondency,” according to the Short Term Economic Recovery Plan, a document authored by Zimbabwe’s coalition government in 2009.
“That period was very difficult and harsh,” says Fortunate. “At that time, no one was going to work, so it was difficult to get food. I went to the fields to help out- just to look for food. I also tried looking for work, but since I had neither certificate nor qualification I could not get a job to help out in the family.”
Her parents are deceased.
In May 2010, Jessie Machakwa- a business woman and friend to her late mother offered to fund her education, enrolling her with Shungu High School in Kwekwe, Mdilands province.
In early 2011, Fortunate applied to join the USAP and was admitted, and attributes this to God.
USAP recruits students who are economically disadvantaged, but academically talented A level students.
The students spend a year in the program growing together and working through the college application process, with all costs of the program borne by the US Embassy.
The US colleges and universities provide the scholarships whilst local corporate and individual sponsors have also contributed to the students’ expenses including visa fees, immunizations and air tickets.
For Fortunate, the programme has achieved more than just securing her a full scholarship to study in the United States.
“I learnt so many things, but what I really love most about the USAP group is that they help you to get you dreams achieved, to get where you really want to go,” she says.
Having taken leadership positions throughout her school career, Fortunate knows she owes Zimbabwe her future and is willing to play her role.
“I love the fact that in Zimbabwe we are free, although we have got some difficulties here and there we still manage to work and get our things done,” she says.