Born in the United Kingdom and raised in Zimbabwe, Rugare arrived in Australia at the age of 15 to start a new life. Australia has been, and is, a place of opportunities and freedom for this young entrepreneur whose mind brims with social venture ideas – for his home and host country.
Rugare, meaning ‘God’s Peace’ in Shona language, belongs to the Shona people – one of the main ethnic groups of Zimbabwe. The Shona are known for being artistic and skilled stone carvers since the time of Great Zimbabwe, beginning in the 11th Century. Zimbabwe is a name that also comes from the Shona language meaning ‘Great Stone House’. We don’t know yet if Rugare’s social actions and desire to empower others will be carved in history but here is the story of a man of action.
Living in the third biggest city of Zimbabwe, Mutare, near the border of Mozambique, the 15 year-old Rugare already dreamt of new horizons with a thirst for fresh opportunities. Feeling alienated from his young peers and finding hard to fully express himself back home, he explains his journey to Australia, “I really wanted to explore and do something different with my life so I wrote a letter to a family friend here in Australia and explained I wanted to pursue my education here. He was not necessarily a wealthy man but then he took the initiative to go to schools in Melbourne and explain our family circumstances. One of the private schools gave me a part scholarship and he paid for my school fees, airfares. He looked after me so that’s how my journey to Australia really began. It was an extraordinary experience!”
But this isn’t the happy ending of the story. Once Year 12 was completed, families from his school raised money for Rugare to continue his tertiary education in Australia. The humble Rugare started little and got bigger jobs to finance the other half of his studies. After completing an Arts Law degree in property development work, he still was hungry for social ventures. Through his mentor and meeting the right people, he was introduced to Ducere where he became the Director of Corporate Affairs and General Counsel. Interestingly, Ducere has a focus on education by offering online courses in business and management delivered by the world’s most successful individuals.
But this isn’t all! The Ducere Foundation is also an inspiration for this social entrepreneur who recently founded the Gomo Foundation. The genesis of the foundation originates from Ruagre’s trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe in July 2013 where he visited one of his uncles working on a community project to build a school in Ruwange, Zimbabwe. He was told by his relative how the community came together to build the school for their children. “Uncles [of the community] would come back from the capital city with bags of cement to build the school. The community would cook food for the labourers. Everybody had their role to play in the development and building of this school. I was so touched, moved and inspired by this because, despite the economic situation, they were really taking matters in their own hands for their future and community.”
The community spirit is well and truly alive within the Gomo Foundation and Rugare states that it is a platform where people can make their own contribution and, where donors and recipients are empowered. On one side, young girls who already have a vision for their lives receive Gomo’s scholarship to complete their primary and secondary education. On the other side and with a zero-dollar-on-adminstration policy, Gomo’s contributors benefit from the Leadership Assisting Program where people offer their skill set, receive training and are free to express their skills and talents in the foundation to support those in need. Gomo’s Literacy Program also aims to revive African literature in the newly built schools and preserve African native languages by allowing children to write stories in order to publish them and redistribute the books.
With nine girls sponsored in 2014 for education, the Gomo Foundation has the very high target for 2015 to get hundreds of girls into classrooms. “We run like a business, we are agile and we want to make an impactful difference”.
Rugare’s experience of Australians’ generosity and support has definitely inspired him to now pass on these values to those more in need. “Australians are so generous and they want to transform something if it is wrong. To me, Australia means freedom, full self-expression, safety, opportunity and love”.