They say for every great story, small steps led one to the top. My great story began when Kucetekela Foundation came into my life and I began taking my small steps to the top.
My name is Harriet Mwanza and I was born on the 25th of October,2000 in Chipata, Lusaka.
I was raised in Garden Compound by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet for us as she worked as a community school teacher and got paid every two months. I went to Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe basic school from fifth to seventh grade and as a young girl, I immersed myself in a lot of studies understanding that with education, I could make my life and my mother’s better. With this, I became academically outstanding and competed well with other pupils and set a standard for myself. It was not surprising that when Kucetekela Foundation came to my former primary school that I was amongst the ten to be picked for the interview and was the only one to be selected for the Kucetekela foundation tests at Chalo Trust School.
Fortunately, I performed excellently in both the Kucetekela tests and my grade seven final examinations and my mother was called by Kucetekela that I had been awarded the five year scholarship to be sponsored from eighth to twelfth grade at a private boarding school called Pestalozzi Education Centre in Ibex.
My junior high school journey began in 2015 when I went to boarding school. It was a different environment, quiet and far from what I had grown up in in Garden Compound, away from the bars and the noise from crowded markets. The infrastructure was pleasant, neat with and a welcoming atmosphere from all the pupils that came from across Zambia. I met brilliant boys and girls and before then, I had not had a glimpse of what competition was like with half of the class as good as I was and the others, better than me. During this time, beginning my eighth grade, I changed study strategies and learnt to work in groups when I didn’t understand, use past papers and developed a strict personal timetable and managed my time.
Nevertheless, I got to learn about community service. At my previous school , people were not encouraged to give back to their community like they were in Kucetekela Foundation and at Pestalozzi. I knew I was interested in science, specifically Physiotherapy but I knew little about it because I did not know about being proactive in pursuing what you want. However, under Kucetekela Foundation, I was able to do my first community service at Beit Cure Hospital in 2015 for two weeks and Kucetekela funded my transportation. During the first week, I worked in the accounts department and helped with file arrangements and also paper filling. I got to manage my time, observe punctuality and work with deadlines and also develop in my interaction with people of various age groups. In the second week, I worked in the children’s ward which had infants, babies and children born with various neurological conditions and had various disabilities. I helped out at the reception area with paperwork and filing and also giving the children company and had light fun activities with them such as simple ice breakers. It was during this time that I realised that there is more to education than simply studying and getting good scores. I understood that education was about acquiring knowledge to create a change but also an impact in not only my life, family but my community at large. This realisation birthed in me a desire to want to create change and grow as a leader.
Apart from learning about community service through Kucetekela Foundation, I learnt to develop my interest in writing. I wrote for the drama and poetry club on various school occasions and also challenged myself to recite my poems at other gatherings and developed my public speaking and confidence.
With this, I was picked to apply for my first summer program in grade ten to apply for the two week women in science (WiSci) Girls Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) camp in Malawi. The program was an initiative under the Girlup campaign to encourage, support and expose girls to STEAM related fields through workshops with professionals from Intel, Google and NASA, hands on activities like coding, app building and sharing of success stories of successful women in STEAM.
I had a chance to go to an airport and be on a plane. The feeling was overwhelming, filled with grateful whispers and silent prayers of appreciation to God and Kucetekela Foundation. I arrived in Malawi and was welcomed by the beautiful and natural mountainous view of Malawi and also its friendly people. During the program, I met different girls from across Africa and the United States of America. The two weeks were filled with hands-on activities in coding, app creation and robot creation. I also got to learn about the Malawian culture and also the various cultures of the girls who had attended such as certain myths , norms and not to judge people for what they believe in.
I was thrilled as I returned back home to share what I had learnt and what I now believed in ‘That girls are equally as capable and can contribute to development’. I was eager to share my new found belief with the girls from my school through mini workshops . I wanted to expand Girlup’s mission, to encourage, support and expose girls to STEAM and that is when I applied for a $500 dollar grant, with the help of Kucetekela, to run a project to spread the aim of Girlup. Fortunately, I was awarded the dollar grant and set up my project.
My project was called Girls Must Be and through workshops, hands on activities like laboratory experiments, providing mentors and also sharing stories of successful women in STEAM, encouraged, supported and exposed girls to STEAM. My project grew beyond expectations and so I set up a Girls Must Be STEAM club to keep encouraging girls to pursue STEAM.
All through, I grew as a leader in my speaking, networking and also coordination of events.
Apart from that, I got to attend my second summer program when I was accepted for the Yale Young Global scholars (YYGS) youth conference in the United States,2018. I was in the two week Biology seminars and got to learn about advanced topics such DNA structure and neuroscience. I also got to have a feel of the American college experience and the American culture as I met students from across the United States.
My journey with Kucetekela Foundation has been filled with growth that has led to greatness and development. I have grown as a leader, an activist for women participation in science and as a whole rounded individual through the summer programs I have attended, my interacting with other Kucetekela Foundation scholars and staff and learning from them. I look back at what my life would have been if not for Kucetekela coming in, I would not have understood the true meaning of giving back to my community and would not have had the exposure to various careers and even tertiary opportunities. I would not have known of my ability to write nor would have been able to develop it. I am grateful to the impact Kucetekela has had on my family and my personal growth, that has continued on to earning me the Dolika Banda STEM scholarship at African Leadership University to pursue a degree in Computer Science and keep paying it forward.