What comes around goes around

Alumna Dorothy Dix was able to change her life through getting a good education. Now she works tirelessly to give that opportunity to others.   

I was born and raised by a single mother of three in Zimbabwe. She struggled to make ends meet but always taught us that education would be the only way that we could have a better life than she had.

My earliest memory of meeting my father as a child was when he attended prize giving days at school. Having rejected me even before I was born, my young mind soon associated being loved and accepted with performing well at school.  Throughout my childhood, I enjoyed learning and would always be found happily immersed in a text book rather than playing. I yearned to experience ‘the good life’ that everyone told me education would bring.

My life changed at sixteen. Having just done well in my GCSEs, my results were published in a national newspaper and I received a full scholarship to study at The Red Cross Nordic United World College in Norway with 200 pupils from 85 different countries. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about different cultures and languages while forming lifelong friendships. During the summer, I picked strawberries to raise pocket money to come to the UK.

After two years, I received a scholarship from the University of Reading where I studied Psychology and Physiology. I came to Reading with only £70 to my name and a rugged suitcase. I worked part time to cover all my living expenses and when not working, I studied.. Education completely changed my life and opened doors for me that were a dream growing up in Africa. As I walked into The Great Hall on graduation day, I vowed that one day I would give back the gift of education that had been so freely given to me. If I could change one child’s life, my life would be complete.

I started sending my mother money to help orphans that she had met through her church. Gradually word got round and she received increasing requests for support. In 2012, with friends from Reading Family Church, my husband and I set up a charity, Creating Better Futures. I left my paid job to run the charity full time. We give more than 100 children living in poverty the opportunity to go to school and feed 3000 twice a day at school. If one of them can one day achieve their dreams, we will have fulfilled our mission.  Creating Better Futures is a small but growing charity based in Reading which is not only improving the outcomes of orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe, but is also having a local impact in Reading and the UK.

Since graduating, I have kept close links with the University of Reading and this year I took part in the celebration of its 90th Anniversary. It was a great honour to feature in the Anniversary video. I hope that I can inspire other students to pursue their passion in life. These links with the University of Reading have led to Creating Better Futures being able to provide summer work experience placements for Reading students. In 2015 three students worked at the Creating Better Futures’ office. Through the internship programme they developed valuable workplace skills and gained experience in digital marketing and event management. This summer we will welcome two more interns from Reading University.  We’ve also been able to provide volunteer placements in Zimbabwe for some Reading alumni who spent time assessing potential sustainability projects and seeing how the children we support live. In addition, University of Reading’s RAG chose Creating Better Futures to be one of theirthree designated charities for 2016.

If you are interested in finding out how you can support Creating Better Futures, please visit their website at www.creatingbetterfutures.org.uk.

How a scholarship can change the world

Carol Murekezi was able to attend the University of Reading in 2004 because she was fortunate enough to be given the Wallace and Muriel Hirst award. We interviewed Carol to find out how this award enabled her to go on and make a difference in the sustainability of agriculture. 

WP_20150822_001What is your favourite memory as a student at Reading?
There are a lot of special memories I have from my time as a student at Reading – here are a few of the things that had a great impact on me.
1. The sessions in class we used to have on ‘strategic thinking’. These sessions in particular forced me constantly to think outside the box and eventually helped me to become a more conscientious person.
2.  We went on a number of outings with Muriel Hirst and she took me to a potted plant sale at the university and bought me a lemon (smelling) plant.  It was so lovely because it used to give my room such a lovely scent.  I also loved the homemade marmalade she used to bring me whenever she visited me.  I truly enjoyed the visits.
3. I was also very blessed to be part of the multinational group at the university.  The students at the course came from over 20 countries worldwide.  It was very interesting to get to know them.
4.  I am a Christian and I got to know a number of people from our local church group with whom we shared a great deal including going on outings together.
What did it mean to you to receive financial support while studying?
I would have never been able to do my masters degree if I did not receive the funding I did.

What are you doing now?
At the moment I am a Consultant on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards in Rwanda.  I am working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources under a World Bank program with emphasis on the use and management of Agro-chemicals in the farming community.

What do you enjoy most about your current role?
I have been able to contribute to policy development in a number of areas in the agricultural sector.  I have been able to contribute to the development of regulations in the seed, plant health and agro-chemical sectors.  I have also been responsible for capacity building in Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards.  I have feel very honoured to have been a part of a process to effect real change in the way things are done in the agricultural sector and, more specifically, to be a part of creating an enabling environment for the private sector to get more involved thus giving the farmer better opportunities to move forward.

What are your plans/aims for the future?
I would like to play a bigger role in agricultural development in another developing country and explore more effective/relevant methods in building capacity in the agricultural sector towards the benefit of the farming community, specifically the small holder farmers.

What would you like to say to the University of Reading’s donors who support students during their studies?
I would like to say that by supporting students during their studies, the donors do the world a great service because by doing this, they give someone who would not have otherwise had the opportunity, to make a better life for themselves and the community they live in.

Prosperity and resilience is one of our IMAGINE themes. Find out more about our agricultural and sustainability projects at www.reading.ac.uk/imagine.