Farai Rukunda, a member of Stevensville UMC is transforming lives in his former village in Zimbabwe.
United Methodist News Service
Farai Rukunda, a member of Stevensville United Methodist Church in Stevensville, Michigan, sees himself in the young people at Arnoldine Mission, a United Methodist mission village in the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference.
It’s where he grew up, orphaned at the age of six when his parents died in a car accident.
Before their deaths in 1976, his parents became close with American missionaries Norman and Winnie Thomas, who arrived at Arnoldine in 1963. That relationship would change the course of Rukunda’s life and that of his four sisters.
The Thomases provided financial support for the children who were taken in by an aunt. After they graduated high school, the couple brought them to the U.S. to attend college.
“If it was not for the Thomases who picked us up from Arnoldine, maybe no one would have realized the potential in me. I know there are many people out there like me who need similar help for their potential and talents to be realized,” said Rukunda, who earned his master’s in biochemistry and now oversees a team of engineers for LECO Corporation.
At the urging of Norman Thomas, Rukunda returned to Arnoldine Mission in 2014. He said that trip changed his perspective on life and made him realize a need to touch the lives of others in the same way the Thomases had transformed his life.
“Children at Arnoldine High School had no textbooks, desks and no clean water. They would walk three kilometers roundtrip to get water from a nearby stream. … The harsh conditions they were enduring were unbearable,” Rukunda said.
“I was touched and thought of transforming their lives in any way I could.”
Rukunda returned to the U.S., and with the help of members of Stevensville United Methodist Church, started raising money to provide a clean water source for the students. By June of 2015, there was clean drinking water in the classrooms.
Rukunda then set his sights on the creation of a new secondary school. In 2017, he founded Living Beyond Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the people of Arnoldine.
“Our mission is to use education as a catalyst for community and economic development at Arnoldine Mission,” Rukunda said.
One classroom block for the new high school is already in place.
“Our vision is to make the high school a boarding school to cater to those who are coming (from) afar,” he said.
Mwaonera Chiremba, headmistress of the school, applauded the efforts of Living Beyond Hope and Stevensville United Methodist Church for the infrastructure development, donation of textbooks and the payment of school fees for disadvantaged children.
“Through the efforts of Rukunda, donors contributed building materials for the construction of a two-classroom block after parents have provided locally available materials. In addition, recently, the school received textbooks valued at $6,000, and furniture.”
In 2018, Living Beyond Hope assisted five children facing financial challenges.
“I am grateful to Living Beyond Hope who helped me with school fees after I had left school because my (guardians) could not afford to pay,” said Travis Dzikiti, an orphan. “I have great hope to be an accountant, but this dream was about to be destroyed had it not been for him.”
Leona Kamupira echoed those sentiments.
In this video Farai shares a little of the background of the development of the school in Zimbabwe and the help given by Stevensville UMC. ~Facebook/Stevensville UMC
“My mother is a vendor and could not afford to pay my examination fee. I felt the presence of God when I was told that Rukunda will pay for my school fees. If it was not for him, my dream of being a lawyer was going to be shattered.
“His intervention has improved the quality of education to many children,” she added.
Douglas Fusire said when his father was diagnosed with cancer, his hope for completing his exams became bleak.
“When it was confirmed that my siblings could not continue to pay for my school because all the money was going for chemotherapy for my father, I was doomed. God has plans for everyone. When we feel life has ended, that is when he started. My hopes have been resuscitated through the hand of Rukunda,” Fusire said.
Other projects in the pipeline include additional furniture, buildings and staff houses.
Rukunda said his goal is for the school to be self-sustaining through the utilization of 27 hectares of land allocated to the school. Plans are to implement a piggery, poultry farm and then dairy farming, with the feeds and processing to be done at the school, he said.
“I have great dreams to unleash in my rural home. My wish is for my effort to touch a hopeless and helpless life and bring light at the end of the tunnel by providing good service in education, health and agriculture sectors.”