This is a core belief of Siberaster Evaristo, a Binti Shupavu Mentor with AfricAid. Unlike most of the young women in this role, she is not an alumna of AfricAid’s reputable leadership course, the Kisa Project. However, you will see why AfricAid hired her without hesitation for the Mentor position. She has much to offer the adolescent girls in the Binti Shupavu life skills program. She is determined and goal-oriented, with an impeccable work ethic – and she models these qualities for her Binti Shupavu Scholars. She also has a deep seeded belief that every person is capable of leading. They just need to know how.
Siberaster’s fellow university classmate, friend, and former AfricAid colleague, Violeth Mmbando, compiled this story about her.
“I will never look back.”
Siberaster is the first girl in her family, as well as her entire community in the region of Mbeya in Southwest Tanzania, to achieve a bachelor’s degree. As long as she can remember, she had a dream to study science subjects and to change the status quo in her community. But her educational path was not easy and only came about with great perseverance.
She has always been goal-oriented in her decision making and the way she solves problems. She also has always considered herself a valuable person, even though people in her home community did not see her that way. For these reasons, she was different from other girls growing up. Also for these reasons, today she wants to teach other girls how to have self-worth, be goal-oriented and problem solvers.
Siberaster is the second born in a family of four children. Sadly, her youngest sister passed away in 2003, and the family lost their dear mom in July, 2018 (just four days before Siberaster sat for her final exams at university.)
It was not that her parents did not want their children to attend school, but they depend solely on local farming for the money to take care of the family and those funds did not stretch far enough to cover school fees and supplies. Generally, boys in their culture are given preference when it comes to school fees, but her brother, in fact, has just an Ordinary Level education. His two sisters have encouraged him to pursue a certificate in nursing.
Her journey to become an educated person started at Gombe Primary School in Mbeya and continued at Pankumbi Secondary School. Despite very little support from her family, Siberaster managed to focus and excel in her studies. In 2010, at the conclusion of Ordinary Level classes, she performed very well on the nationwide exams and was awarded a scholarship to a government school to study physics, chemistry, and mathematics (PCM). She left home and traveled six hours to board at Ifunda Girls High School in the Iringa Region. When she completed her Advanced Level studies, she was again chosen by the government to continue with university, but her family’s lack of resources kept her from enrolling. This obstacle did not stop Siberaster.
In 2014, she opened a study center at her family’s home. Her father gave her two rooms to hold classes for primary, O-Level, and A-Level students and she tutored kids in science and math subjects during school holidays. The house is built of mud and not especially strong or presentable. She started teaching just at a table, and after raising a bit of money, bought a small piece of ceiling board to be used as a chalkboard. She helped a lot of kids prepare for their exams and improve their grades. She also earned enough money to continue her education.
In early 2015, Siberaster had collected about $300 USD and began searching for a lower-cost university to attend. She was admitted to Ruaha Catholic University, also in the Iringa Region, and started in October that year. She proudly earned a degree in computer science software engineering in 2018. She finds it rewarding to use technology to make work easier and improve efficiency. It is her way to serve her nation and make the world a better place… in addition to mentoring girls!
Her educational goals have not ended. She would like to earn a master’s degree in mathematics and is currently seeking scholarships.
Siberaster always shares her story with her Binti Shupavu classes. She wants the girls to know that a difficult past absolutely does not get in the way of present success.
“Everything they are looking for is within them.”
Siberaster believes that leadership is something that everyone is born with. The problem is, many people don’t know how to exercise it. She said, “The task of a leader is to move her people forward from where they are – to uncover strengths they didn’t know they had.”
She gained experience as a leader through various positions throughout her own schooling. She has been Classroom Monitor (primary), Academic Prefect (secondary), and Class Representative (university). She sought out extra-curricular leadership opportunities at college also and was elected Vice-President of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Club.
At university, Siberaster realized that leadership can actually be taught and nurtured when she met Violeth. Violeth was a graduate of the Kisa Project, which was available to her as an A-Level student at Enaboishu High School. Violeth demonstrated everything she learned as a Kisa Scholar through class discussions and sharing ideas. She was confident, proactive, hardworking, and a good decision maker, both inside and outside of class. Siberaster told herself, “I am going to be friends with that girl!” Violeth left such an impression on Siberaster that she applied for a position with AfricAid and became a team member of the Binti Shupavu program in early 2019.
After her first eight months with the organization, Siberaster is very happy with the feedback she receives from Violeth, the other Mentors and Managers. “Working with AfricAid has been a very good platform to learn and grow. I have the chance to encourage young girls from Forms 1 to 4 to change their communities’ status quo and to convince them that everything they are looking for is within them.”
Finally, we know you are wondering… what about her very unique name?
Siberaster’s name means “a person who loves others, loves peace, and does not like to make trouble with anyone.” We think her parents chose a perfect name for her. Between the many children she tutored in her home community and the hundreds of girls she is mentoring now, she demonstrates daily that she loves others.
Read about some other Mentors who were hired outside of AfricAid.