AU students’ unique brand of servant leadership brings light to communities in need during COVID-19 lock down

For AU students Shaideen Travers and Joseph Zishiri, the isolation that the necessary national lock down in Zimbabwe and other countries has presented has interestingly exposed them to a new perspective. Confronted with a dilemma of job losses, the poverty exposure that this inevitably  poses and the expected increase in vulnerability to hunger, lack of access to education and disease,now more than ever, communities are having to pool resources to help those in the most dire of situations.

Final year Economics student Joseph Zishiri  has witnessed firsthand the desperate situations that have been compounded in this crisis . Christine Madhani , a single parent and widow who has Diabetes and Tuberculosis, is an amputee from Diabetes related complications and is wheelchair bound, she is also a grandmother of four. When Joseph found out about her situation, he learnt that the last time she took her life- saving medication was over 3 weeks prior to the writing of this story. With her limbs and eyes heavily swollen to the point where her vision was obscured,  Mrs Madhani was in desperate need of critical health care.

Joseph said, “Upon hearing of her plight, I managed to reach out to a friend of mine who is a physician who visited her and examined her free of charge. She was subsequently admitted to the hospital where she is currently receiving treatment . “

With Mrs Madhani being the breadwinner of her household, Joseph understood that  more support was required . ” I reached out to over 800 people within my network asking for assistance in getting this family back on its feet. My target was 400 ZWL but in 48 hours , we managed to raise 4000 ZWL! I used this money to purchase groceries and with what was left over, we managed to buy her medication. So much more needs to be done for her and the next goal is to buy her a band new wheelchair as the one she currently uses is too small for her.”

Showing wisdom beyond his years and a great depth of understanding , Joseph said, ” I know that this family cannot live on donations alone. The plan in the long term is to provide a sustainable solution where Mrs Madhani can fend for herself.”

Mrs Madhani and Joseph Zishiri pose for a picture as she receives medical treatment.

Shaideen Travers is no stranger to servant leadership as the Africa University Student Representative Council President, he has proven himself to be a capable, compassionate and available leader . Shaideen has taken this spirit into his community of Braeside  in Harare, where as in other parts of Zimbabwe, families are having to adjust to a new normal that has forced many to find means through which to make ever diminishing necessities such as food stretch longer . When asked about his motivation, Shaideen said, ” This work is highly driven by the way I grew up. I was raised by my mother who would always teach me and my two older sisters about life and how it can change. One day you may have hand the next you may not so help anyone you can anytime you can. She told me that in life, the more you give the next person the more you start to see your life change, this change is like a candle and what does that candle do? It will light up other candles until the whole room is lit up and there is clear vision . She said that this is similar to what happens when you give. “

Shaideen and his network of sponsors have managed to help over 15 families to date with Mealie Meal donations of 10 kg per family among and other food items. ” We intend to reach out to about 85  families with an aim to help 100 families in all. Our vision is to see people have some food in their bellies during this tough time. Many people have stopped working due to COVID-19 and really are finding it hard to sustain themselves. “

 By tapping into the African culture of Ubuntu and the intrinsic sense of community, Joseph and Shaideen  have managed to mobilize people from various backgrounds to support and uplift others. Speaking to the kinds of assistance that has been rendered , Shaideen said, “Some give cash and some give groceries, just a day ago, a brother of mine offered Mealie Meal after seeing the good work we were doing . Good work speaks for itself. Servant leadership is so important because right now it is the most effective and sure way to create a better world. Just imagine yourself in the next person’s shoes, not being able to afford a single bottle of cooking oil. The purpose of life is to be useful , to be honorable, to be compassionate, to make a difference. Only then will you have lived a life worth living!

To help these amazing young men in their cause , you can email Shaideen Travers  on  traverss@africau.edu 

Joseph Zishiri can be reached on Zishirij@africau.edu

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