Getrude Chimhungwe

Kalu Humanitarian Initiatives Grant Essay 

“It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.” - Nelson Mandela 

Like many other people, life’s experiences have shaped my goals. I vividly remember the 20th of January 1999 when I walked out of the gates of St. Dominic’s High School in Zimbabwe, tears streaming down my face. I had been suspended from school because my parents had failed to pay my tuition. My father had lost his job three years earlier. Increasing unemployment rates and skyrocketing inflation rates in Zimbabwe had made it difficult for our family of eight to make ends meet. My father ceaselessly sought employment but his inadequate academic qualifications made it almost impossible for his search to be fruitful and things got tougher by the day. As a result of that bitter experience, I made it a personal goal to finish school and to earn a professional degree, although I had no idea about how I was going to realize this dream. All I wanted was to excel academically so that one day I would be in a position to benefit my family and help pull my country out of poverty.   

​With the full financial sponsorship of the Dominican Sisters and Jesuit Brothers, I completed high school with excellent grades. After high school, I was honored by being selected as one of the 30 students in a pool of over 400 applicants nationwide for the United States Student Achievers Program (USAP). Through USAP, a program that assists highly-capable, economically-disadvantaged students to attend top U.S. institutions, I was admitted to Mount Holyoke College on a full undergraduate scholarship. Suddenly a dream that seemed farfetched was right in front of me through the help of a variety of people. I knew that I had an obligation to assist those who are trapped on the road of poverty, those who are losing hope in the struggle to make their dreams a reality.

​My exposure to the US opened my eyes to the potential a health care system could have. I was quite impressed with the abundance of healthcare structures, personnel and provision here in the US as compared to my home country. As such, I made it one of my goals to contribute to the betterment of health care in Zimbabwe. Over two years ago, when the cholera epidemic hit the country, I helped in efforts to save people by initiating a fundraising drive at my current church, University Presbyterian, which raised close to $2,000. Additionally, in my undergraduate junior year, I co-wrote two successful grant proposals worth a total of $17,000 from the Dorothy Ann Foundation and the Davis Foundation to implement a project that increased health care access for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in Norton, Zimbabwe. The project was focused on setting up a chicken farm, now financially sustaining a clinic supporting over 500 children run by Tsungirirai, a nonprofit organization. By working on this project and interacting with the children, I became passionate about pursuing a career in health care. Regardless of the financial obstacles I knew I would potentially face furthering my education, I applied and was admitted to the pharmacy school at the University at Buffalo.  I am currently in my forth professional year of the Doctor of Pharmacy program, which has thus far been funded through working outside of school, obtaining various scholarships and receiving generous tokens from friends and family. 

​As a pharmacy student, I am already striving to reach out to my community. I partake in wellness clinics and community education where I have the privilege to speak to people who are dealing with a wide variety of health issues. I have counseled people on medication related issues, or educated them on their disease states and have also had the privilege to be a listening ear, understanding and empathizing with them on the toll of diseases they face. This, together with my work as a pharmacy intern at Rite Aid, have been greatly fulfilling as I am a people person and I love imparting what I have learned for the good of my community. I believe that by so doing, I become an integral source of the healing process in the community.

​In addition to imparting my knowledge in the US, on my visits to my native country, I volunteer in outreach activities in which free healthcare services are provided to extremely needy rural communities. I have gone on outreaches conducted by Celebration Health and Christian Medical Fellowship of Zimbabwe where I have worked as a pharmacy technician and a  career guidance youth advisor. Also through Celebration Health’s Champions for Life (CFL) psychosocial program for HIV/AIDS orphans, I have volunteered as a camp counselor.  Working with these HIV infected youths has also fueled my passion to continue in the field of pharmacy and to ensure that they access medications.  All these experiences have shown me that that I do not have to be a millionaire to make a difference in people’s lives; I just need to be willing to find ways that I can help them.

​I believe that being educated as a pharmacist will contribute greatly towards fulfilling my goals. My immediate goal is to finish my studies and start my career in pharmacy. My ultimate goal is to be in a position to influence the health care system in Zimbabwe especially to assist those who cannot afford the cost. In the long term, I aspire to start my own chain of pharmacies in Zimbabwe, incorporating the knowledge that I have gained here in the U.S into the country’s pharmaceutical industry and providing affordable services. In this way, I hope to become an influential voice for the poor in Zimbabwe’s health sector. Through my pharmacies, I also hope to financially assist underprivileged children particularly through their education.  

​Although I am currently facing financial challenges similar to those I faced in my high school, I am confident in my dreams. Whenever I want to despair I am reminded of the path I have already walked and am encouraged to keep going. Breaking through barriers and obtaining an education has empowered me to be who I am today and has encouraged me to focus on other people. Being awarded the Kechie’s Project Grant will enhance my chances of finishing pharmacy school and thus of seeing my dreams come true. The grant will therefore go a long way in helping not only me, but also subsequently touching the lives of the many people. I believe that the things I have done thus far have proven my love and devotion for my community therefore making me a good candidate for the grant.