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Letter from America: Lander University honors Mufuka Foundation!

In showcasing its contribution to international education and development, South Carolina’s Lander University invited a retired US Ambassador to Zimbabwe in honor of the Mufuka Foundation.

Ambassador Wharton poses for a photo with Dr. Rumbi Mufuka (left) and her father, Dr. Ken Mufuka (right).
Ambassador Wharton poses for a photo with Dr. Rumbi Mufuka (left) and her father, Dr. Ken Mufuka (right).

Ambassador Bruce Wharton gave several lectures to Lander students, faculty and public.

Ms. Lois Mufuka Martin, a vice president at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania’s Search and Consulting Services shared the platform with Wharton. She is Dr. Ken Mufuka’s daughter and coordinator of the Mufuka Foundation in the US.

Wharton, whose grandparents served as Presbyterian medical missionaries in the Congo, has inherited a passion for the proper use of foreign aid and the role of education.

In honoring the Mufuka Family and the role it played in bringing Zimbabweans to study at Lander University over a period stretching way back to 1976, Wharton said that Lander should regard itself as showcasing the best practices in global education.

In planning, the beneficiaries of such aid should be consulted from the beginning. A global education, such as that provided by Lander University has the advantage that the recipient will, in the long run return to Zimbabwe and participate in the development of his country.

Zimbabwe students pose with benefactor, Douglas Mufuka MD and his wife Jean.
Zimbabwe students pose with benefactor, Douglas Mufuka MD and his wife Jean.

Wharton pointed out that among Lander’s goals, two stand out as suited for global impact; namely relevance and career orientation. Every Lander student graduates with a clear advantage that he is employable.

Wharton praised Lander for its foresight in offering employment to a young Zimbabwean, Dr. Ken Mufuka, who, at the time (1976) was unable to return to his employment.

By that stroke of luck, Dr.Mufuka immediately brought an international perspective to development issues by sponsoring students from his home country at Lander. Dr. Mufuka’s story illustrates an “educational journey” from Zimbabwe, via St. Andrews University in Scotland and Queens University in Canada.

By setting aside $50 every two weeks, and having achieved a sum of $27 000, Ken and Mashura set up a Trust Fund in favor of Zimbabwean students.

Ms Lois (extreme right) enjoys a moment with her soros-Lander Class of 1989.
Ms Lois (extreme right) enjoys a moment with her soros-Lander Class of 1989.

Mufuka’s regard their coming to Lander and the opportunities that were open to his family as part of God’s favor. Mufukas regarded their stay at Lander as having spared them the trials and tribulations going on in Zimbabwe.

In 2000, Douglas Mufuka, MD, and his wife Jean came upon a windfall of $200 000 plus, and formed the Mufuka Foundation. Over the years, the two funds have served several Zimbabweans.

Wharton said that Lander students are lucky to be exposed to Zimbabwean students because that country’s population has a reputation for valuing education highly as well as having a strong work ethic.

This prepares US native students for global competition.

As a young diplomat in Zimbabwe, Wharton’s interest in his home country, the US was aroused by a column, Letter from America, written by Ken Mufuka for the Sunday Mail.

Wharton says, “I was educated about my own country, and how foreigners react to events in the US by that column.”

A volunteer American, Mrs. Ruth Mano, whose passion for helping the least among us puts her on the same trajectory as Mother Teressa, approached him about establishing US Achiever Program.

“I really didn’t think it would take off, but I decided to give her a desk at the US embassy in Zimbabwe,” Wharton said.

By sheer force of character, Mrs. Mano was able to connect poor but deserving Zimbabweans and with US universities including Lander.

At some point Mrs. Mano contacted Ms. Lois, (as she is lovingly called) beginning a life- long relationship with Mufuka Foundation.

To hear the story told by Wharton, makes one’s eyes water. A few people, armed only with passion and love can move the world. Together, these programs have affected the lives of more than 400 Zimbabwean students.

But there is more.  Six of them have become Rhodes scholars. From Lander, two have graduated with medical degrees and two more are expecting to enter that field.

In listening to these stories, one is always on the verge of shedding tears. Learnmore’s mother died when he was 11 years old. His father rented a one room for him in a native location in Zimbabwe, and through the help of neighbors passed Ordinary and Advanced levels (8 A-Grades and 3 A’s).

Randy Bouknight Lander’s vice president for Student Affairs was impressed when Learnmore won four awards in his freshman year.

Now retired, Wharton’s hands are already full. A director of the Education Matters Africa Foundation, he also serves on the board of the US Foundation of the University of the Valley Of Guatemala.

At Lander University, he found himself preaching to the choir. Lander University has been the home of Zimbabwean and Kenyan students, recruited through the influence of Dr. Mufuka for the last thirty years.

Zimbabwean students share some of the accolades. Of the 50 or more Zimbabwean and Kenyan students who passed through Lander University, not a single one of them dropped out. That speaks to the thorough preparation these students received in their home countries.

Ms. Lois talked of the need to connect the dream to some concrete action plan. The unsung heroes then are the two soros cut from Mother Teressa’s branch of the human race, Ms. Lois and Mrs. Mano.

These two fanatics were able to connect the students, the universities, and the benefactors. I heard the Senator’s wife, Mrs.Mamie Nicholson, whisper in my ear (with feigned bitterness) that Ms. Lois has “squeezed a lot of money” from their family for the scholarships.

“Ms. Lois better not show her face at my office soon.” She added. Ms. Nicholson,  the wife of State Senator Nicholson, is the Board Secretary to the Self Foundation of South Carolina.