Real Leaders

My Decision to Move to Rural Zimbabwe – it Just Felt Right!

“What are you doing?” said Marianne Knuth’s friends. “You’re moving in the wrong direction – to Zimbabwe!?” They called her foolish for wanting to move to Southern Africa and start an educational program — Kufunda Learning Village.

There was no guarantee of support, infrastructure or financial help to make it happen. The decision to move was based on intuition. To Knuth, it just felt right.

When she arrived, Knuth couldn’t do anything about farming or sanitation, so she decided to focus on what she could do — facilitate. She wanted the local people to see the value of what they already knew about farming and other practical things, and have a positive approach to it. The turning point for her was when she celebrated a birthday in Zimbabwe together with her international friends and the local people. She realized that they had different skills and together they could do great things.

Knuth is half Danish and half Zimbabwean. She remembers well the moment when she decided to leave her international career and move to Zimbabwe. She has become increasingly reliant on her intuition and says that it has become the most important resource for herself, and anybody needing to trust themselves and develop self-confidence.

Kufunda is based on a typical African village. Its inhabitants were demoralized from the grinding poverty and stuck in a mental cycle that kept them in a mindset of scarcity. Now, after 15 years, Kufunda includes 30 farmers and 60 community members, including children and relatives. There is a Waldorf-inspired school to help children develop the emotional intelligence and self-awareness for personal growth. The village is designed by the local community to ensure real empowerment and to implement local knowledge that already existed.

Each person’s journey is important and It’s what makes Kufunda different from all the other initiatives that may look the same. “We see the person being left behind and want them to think out of the box,” says Knuth. “We try to give each individual self-confidence, instead of just academically-focused education. Kufunda helps community members rediscover their creativity and is a platform for their own projects to unfold. People are coming together and looking into the future, building a vision.”

Additionally, a strong relationship with the local councillors has been built and Kufunda’s success is now used as a model in other parts of the country.

“I think my personal courage comes from listening,” says Knuth. “I listen and learn. I’m fulfilling the destiny I was meant to carry out. I know in my gut and in my heart when I’m on track and I’ve learned to listen to my intuition, to my gut. When I’m on the right track I feel courageous, as if nothing can stop me. It becomes easier with age to learn to listen to yourself and to say no when something doesn’t feel right.”

“If I can give one recommendation,” she concludes. “Have trust in yourself. Trust your sense of right and wrong and when something doesn’t feel right, don’t rush ahead, but take a step back. Have the courage to stay until your path is clear.”

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