Meet Peter Dunn, Director at Heritage Financial Advisors. Peter is our Chair of Trustees and friend to Creating Better Futures. He embarked on his first trip to Zimbabwe last year. He spoke to us and shared his experiences of the trip.
Peter’s involvement with Creating Better Futures began when he met Dorothy Dix. Peter listened as Dorothy shared her own remarkable story, from growing up in Zimbabwe to studying at Reading University and then founding the charity. Peter remembers being “just moved by her story and totally inspired by the charity’s incredible work for vulnerable children” in Zimbabwe.
Peter soon became Creating Better Futures’ Chair of Trustees and joined the team on their trip to Zimbabwe in 2019. And with that, as they would say in Cheza, Domboshowa, and Mutare, rwendo rwakatanga (the journey began)…
Upon arrival, Peter’s first stop was a beautiful lodge in the mountains. He fondly remembers spending evenings with Whisper, the lodge’s owner and builder: “We stayed up until the early hours putting the world to rights in front of the fire pit.’ And there wasn’t a subject that went untouched “we discussed politics, Brexit, Trump, friendships, love, and his hopes for the future of Zimbabwe…. He was a most wise, and good man.”
Sadly, Whisper passed away unexpectedly after a long illness late last year. Peter paid tribute to his friend, saying “I’ll miss him and our chats.”
The team soon made their journey from the mountains to the CBF projects across the country. Driving through beautiful landscapes, Peter quickly realised the harsh reality of life in Zimbabwe. He saw countless “young children squatting by the side of these dusty roads, hoping to sell a bundle of wood… or a handful of tomatoes.”
Peter and the team met some families who had received support from Creating Better Futures. It was heartening to see that despite the challenges they faced, the children “were laughing, playing, and seemed happy.” Sadly, it soon became clear that there was more to this.
Peter recalled meeting Jossline and her family, at their small home just outside of Domboshawa. Jossline is 11 years old and attends Chinamhora Primary School. Heritage Financial Advisers, Peter’s company, kindly sponsor her to get an education. The family wouldn’t be able to pay for school fees without this support. It’s looking like a great investment… as Jossline is top of her class!
Peter came to understand the challenges facing the family when asking Jossline’s Mum about daily life and the challenges they faced. He only received one word in response: ‘food.’ However, CBF through our feeding programme provides Jossline with 2 meals a day. Jossline’s mother expressed a ‘heartfelt gratitude’ for the support.
As Peter spent more time with the children, one thing struck him: their unphased ambition and appetite for learning. Nowhere was this more apparent than his meeting with Jeffery.
Jeffery is only 15, but he carries an enormous amount of responsibility. The adults in his life – his paralysed grandmother, an uncle with HIV as well as his depressed and epileptic mother – all rely on him for his support.
Peter was shocked to hear the extent of what Jeffrey had been through. His mother fell into an open fire during an epileptic episode. Whilst his immobile grandmother was unable to help.
Peter said “you hear stories about children like Jeffrey. They are heroes! Back home you might see them on TV at the Pride of Britain awards, or being surprised by their favourite celebrity. Jeffrey handles it all with optimism and courage beyond his years… beyond my years!”
With everything going on at home you would think classwork would be the least of his worries. It was clear that Jeffery recognised the importance of education. When asked what he would like to be in the future Jeffery said ‘I am going to be a lawyer’.
Peter remembered being struck by something in this short sentence. Something that encapsulates Jeffery. Self-belief. He didn’t say “I’d like to be a lawyer.” He said, ‘I am going to be a lawyer.’ It was like none of the obstacles in his life mattered.
As an outsider, Peter found it hard to ignore the fact that this has been facilitated by Creating Better Futures: “Jeffrey may or may not eventually become a lawyer (although I suspect he will!). But what he is gaining from the education he is receiving from Creating Better Futures and his sponsor, is a genuine hope and belief for his future, and that hope and positive spirit permeates into his family and collectively, it raises the hopes and aspirations of the wider community.”
Education has many forms
Meeting Jossline and Jeffrey had impacted Peter. He had seen how determined they were to succeed. A visit to a school supported by Creating Better Futures only affirmed this. It may have been during school holidays, but classes were as busy as ever. Peter found that the school provided extra classes. Teachers were giving up their free time to assist whilst older children volunteered to prepare younger ones for their exams. “They feed on education,” Peter said. “These children clearly want to do well… they just need the resources.”
He also saw Creating Better Futures’ feeding programme in action at the school. One of the teachers explained the importance of the programme: ‘you can’t study if you’re starving’. Peter thought back to Jossline. Would she be top of her class without this programme? Would she be able to concentrate on the scraps of food her mother could gather? Probably not. How many talented children had been held back by food shortages? Creating Better Futures are protecting these children from harm (hunger, illness, poverty) of course. But they are doing so much more. They are unleashing their potential.
There was a final issue nagging at Peter. What does education lead to? And how is it relevant? He quickly recognised that the children come from basic, agricultural communities and a good education doesn’t necessarily mean university for every child. It is about giving them the cognitive, social, and technical skills to have a self-sufficient future.
The reality was that “not all of them will or should go to university, many of them will need to provide for their own families.” Fortunately, Creating Better Futures give them the life skills to do just that.
We are introducing apprenticeships and academies to develop skills in growing and managing farmlands in our farming program.
Although Peter’s visit came to an end, his journey continues…
Peter truly believes in CBF’s ability to change the lives of many young people in Zimbabwe: “It really is a very exciting time to be involved with Creating Better Futures and it feels like we are on the cusp of accelerating our impact out there.”
It was only after spending time with the team, that Peter was able to conclude: “there are so many integral cogs that make up the CBF machine, and their achievements and the massive impact that they have on so many lives, on such a limited budget, is nothing short of extraordinary.”
Peter’s company, Heritage, sponsor 10 children through their education and are making plans to extend their sponsorship to the farming program. They are also regular guests at our Annual Out of Africa Gala Ball, often invite our team to speak at their office and have ran half-marathons for the charity in the past. Every year they make a significant donation to the charity, partially funded by the money saved by sending virtual Christmas cards instead of physical ones. And this all started from one conversation!
On his trip to Zimbabwe, Peter got to see the impact Creating Better Futures have made on so many lives. He enthusiastically shares his experience with others and plays an important role in the future of Creating Better Futures.
And you can do the same.