“I was born in Bulawayo, left when I was 12 years old, my father was pensioned and we went to Chivi to our rural home,” says 62 year old Lettie Chimbi, a resident of Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom.

Leaving city life may have been a sad part of her early life but it did not deter her from working later in life, before she left Zimbabwe, for the Ministry of Transport, Central Vehicle Registry from 1980 to 1996.

In her working career in Zimbabwe she has worked as a clerical assistant from 1980, then promoted to senior clerk in 1983, before she was transferred to the Inland Waterways in 1991, then promoted to executive officer from 1991 to 1996.

She then left the programme called Voluntary Retirement (VR) as it was popularly known to go to the UK in 1998.

By that time most people had begun to go and work outside the country.

Currently she works in development, in what she called third sector community development work, a volunteer in many community projects.

“I worked for Swansea Social Services as a support worker, resettling people with special needs from institutions back in to the communities. At that time I also became a Board Member of all the Housing Associations as well as Swansea Council itself,” she explains.

“When many people from all over the world where given status to live in the UK, I was given the task by the Chairman of the Board, to interview every nationality who was involved in that scheme, and lived in and around Swansea, fed back to the board. As many people had children of school going age.

“This Board was a strategic management board. They wanted to resettle people in the communities they wanted to live and work, in other words giving people choices, and it was a very successful project. Swansea Social Services was a very good employer, training and staff development was one of their priorities, I am proud to be one of the beneficiaries.

“I also work as a personal assistant / live-in care assistant, a job that I really enjoy from time to time.

“From that experience, I could see myself in my own village in Chivi (Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe) doing the same thing. Transferring my skills to my own country is just an added bonus, I am a hands own person, If I start something, I have to nature it and see the results, learn from my mistakes.

A holder of a Masters in Gender and Culture, International Development Studies, 2013/14 academic year, she graduated in January 2015 at Swansea University.

She noted that when she arrived in the UK, there was a need for her to get involved in many different organisations because she could read and write English, Shona and she also understands and speaks a bit of Ndebele.

“In this part of the world, if you understand more than two languages, you can be used as a translator,” she explains.

“I wanted to help, worked with woman from all over the world; however, instead of doing the work, I now had the passion to empower women and also empowering myself”.

This prepared her for the kind of work that she does at the moment, working with women in the rural areas of Zimbabwe under the banner of Chomuzangari Women’s Cooperative, based in Chivi District. This is a charitable incorporated organization registered in the United Kingdom, and established in July 2016.

The story of Chivi is well documented in Zimbabwe as it is “a drought-prone area, north of Mwenezi and west of Masvingo occupied mainly by subsistence farmers”.

“The business depends on donors, we work from one project to another, depending on which donor is interested in what you are doing”, she explains about her charitable work.

However before that, she had faced challenges in the UK of learning the skills of running a charity volunteering for years without getting any money, which she said was “hard”. At the same time it was tough working to sustain her and young children.

After many years of volunteering, and learning, she then managed to go to university, and she now runs the charity registered both in the UK and in Zimbabwe.

Though the Chomuzangari Women’s Cooperative has been successful she advises those who may look up to her thus, “do not give up.” While her secret to success has been “listen to others, and learn to do things the right way,” backed up by the motto “work is pleasure.”

She explains that the co-operative is dedicated to the empowerment of women and young people especially those from the marginalized section of the society towards a decent and fulfilling life.

“The co-operative subscribes to the conceptual framework of sustainable development as espoused by the Economic Commission of Africa in their report on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the southern African sub-region that is embracing the economic, environmental and social dimensions of welfare which are mutually correlated.

“The outcome document entitled ‘The Future We Want’ produced by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) in June 2012 in Brazil gave meaning to the founding of this organisation. Chomuzangari derived from the perceived inclusiveness of the SDGs as pronounced in the ‘Future We Want’.

“In essence the ‘Future We Want’ can best be described by the very people who are facing the challenges of rural life in Zimbabwe.”

Chomuzangari Women’s Cooperative has a partner in Zimbabwe, Hope Foundation, an organization with a similar focus on several projects including empowering women in rural areas, through food security, education, water and sanitation.

“We could not have done this if we did not get support from our very own Hub Cymru Africa and the Welsh government. Thanks to the staff who work tirelessly to make people’s dreams come true”, she paid tribute.

Reflecting on her early days in Zimbabwe she had this to say: “I do not think it was a sad beginning, I had a very good childhood and going to Chivi as a family made it perfect. We had to adjust, as children we did not take long to get used to the new environment.”

Visit their website www.chomuzangari.org