The complete story of how we were able to build our first Innovation Hub is full of so many amazingly coincidental moments, but before we can even talk about how it all happened, we should mention why.
Why did we decide to turn an old shipping container into a solar-powered co-work space for our students?
The short answer is because it’s epic! And it’s something we were always dreaming about. But the reality is that we had too. In the communities we serve consistent electricity is no guarantee. Sometimes it’s there, most of the times it’s not. Building a technology non-profit without power isn’t really plausible, so we had to create our own.
Secondly, it’s important to us that we make a very visible investment into the communities we serve. We aren’t here to extract young minds but rather to create sustainable education opportunities in the community for the long run.
Lastly, we want our team and students to work in offices they’re super proud of. When walking through the neighborhood, it’s impossible not to notice our Hub. When our students show up to learn, they do so knowing they’re working at one of the coolest offices in all of Zimbabwe!
So, now that you know why we wanted to build a space, we can tell you the story about how it all happened…
There was a boarding school in America that learned about the work we were doing and they wanted to work together to find a student that they could offer a four year, 100% scholarship to. At the time, we were very early on in our program and didn’t have any students that fit the profile, so we presented the opportunity to some of the administrators from the schools we’d been teaching at.
After a round of interviews and meeting with various students, we identified a young girl who showed sincere drive and promise. At the bottom of her application where we had asked for guardian information, we noticed that the student mentioned living at a shelter in the community. We weren’t aware of a shelter or a Day Center in the community, so the next day we asked to visit.
As all of this was happening, we also had been making plans to build our first office. The infrastructure challenges were too sincere, and we agreed that a shipping container build would give us the right amount of flexibility at a price we could afford. We didn’t know how we were going to build the office, in fact we didn’t even have the money to do it, but we started telling everyone that that was the plan and went so far as to meet with the Dzivarasekwa community heads to scope out some potential locations.
So, it was pretty amazing when we walked with the student to the Day Center – a beautiful & vibrant campus full of youthful and joyous activity – and saw a bright blue UNICEF shipping container sitting perfectly in the yard. After making introductions with the founders of the Day Center we asked them about the container and told them about our plans. As it turns out, they had been looking for IT instructors (our speciality) and had plans to expand their IT department. The container was being used simply for storage at the time.
It wasn’t long before a partnership was drafted and to make matters even better, the Dzikwa Trust had just won a grant from the Australian Embassy and had come under budget with their proposal so there was room to add this new container renovation project to the proposal.
We couldn’t believe our luck!
Within weeks we had our first Innovation Hub up and running AND the young student won the scholarship. She’s studying in America now and our Hub is fully operational!