In January 2014, Moses Semwayo was one of 23 international visitors from 22 different countries that participated in a 3-week International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) focused on NGOs and Civic Activism. A year and a half later we are catching up with Moses to see how the program impacted him and what he is doing now.
What are you up to these days? Tell us about your work and family life.
Currently, I am running Semwayo School of Sewing and Creative Designing in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Also, I run a pre-school in Mutare, write a local community newsletter and take part in activities at the American Corner where I help to advertise and invite members from the community to attend the sessions at the Corner. I’m interested in pursuing a mission course in South Africa next year that will help me to be able to do more work with community projects and liaise with people from different backgrounds. My wife is involved in the sewing school, learning how to sew and my daughter, Anna, is attending pre-school in Mutare. We are expecting a second daughter this fall. I am also a consultant and trainer for peace-building and other related topics within the South African Development Community region. I train South African Municipalities on Conflict Management and also Professional Business Writing. I am also compiling a book on my experiences from the United States and also locally in Mutare.
Any favorite memories from your time in the U.S.?
Being afforded the opportunity to travel to the United States and meet 23 other civil society members and workers was a great opportunity. My favorite part of the IVLP project also was to be able to interact with NGOs staff and learn what they were doing and how that can relate to our situations back home. My other favorite memory was being able to participate in the Atlanta volunteer activity as a group.
Did your IVLP experience cause you to grow, personally or professionally?
My IVLP experience helped me to grow personally as I developed a new level of motivation for volunteer activities and have since launched several new projects. Professionally, I have managed to grow as I now have my own sewing business which grew out of the desire to empower women in their various communities and the ideas for which were taken from the readings and visits to U.S. communities. I have opened two branches so far and would like to open two more this year.
Tell us about some of your volunteer activities.
On a weekly basis, I volunteer at the nearby Joshua Dube Primary School doing some fundraising, looking for books to donate for the library, seeking for some trees to plant and help link the school with the outside and local organization for possible partnerships. I volunteer within the church as a building committee chair person and I work to see that the projects are supported by the church leadership and also by the community. I also volunteer every Sunday for the children’s ministry where we teach and play games with the kids, and help them to learn new ideas. My volunteer work includes visiting various schools with a children’s programs called Today for Tomorrow Southern Africa. I do this during my spare time and enjoy it a lot.
What was your experience like in the United States? Was there anything that surprised you?
My experience in the United States was fantastic and left a long-lasting impression. I was surprised in Texas when our host family told us that the chickens they were keeping were used as pets not for slaughtering, as we are accustom to in Zimbabwe. It differs from the country I live in because we keep chicken for special occasions and we slaughter them especially when someone visits us. That was a big difference. Also being allowed to visit and get close to the White House is unheard of in Zimbabwe. Presidential palaces are “no-go” areas. I was also thrilled to visit and tour several former Presidential Libraries and important centers around the states we visited.
Were there any U.S. organizations that you have kept in touch with or created partnerships with?
Yes, soon after returning home I was able to follow-up on the organizations that I managed to speak to and that we interacted with. I was able to search for new partners and some have already donated some sewing machines for our sewing school from New York City. Also, the IVLP friendships that we created have continued; we talk almost every day. Keeping in touch with these contacts has lead to some exchanges between sewing instructors in Zimbabwe.
Have you kept in touch with any of the other IVLP participants that were on your program?
Yes, especially Sheila from Uganda, Raul from Romania, Nosim Losai from Tanzania and the rest of the group. Recently, because of the earthquake in Nepal, we were joined together again as we continuously asked the welfare of one of the group members from that country.
If you are an alum of a program administered by Cultural Vistas and are interested in sharing your story or connecting with current and former colleagues or alumni of Cultural Vistas, please post in the comments below. You may also reach out by emailing email@example.com.