It is everyone’s dream to travel. Well everyone except my paternal grandmother if the journey involves flying. I, on the other hand am infatuated with all things aviation. My first flight was when I was coming to Australia and that did nothing but fuel my fascination with aviation, airports and people watching.
Three countries, two continents, one girl. I have always wanted to be a global citizen. Outlier? Adventurer? Simply put, a bad economic situation has forced most of my countrymen to move to other countries and my family is no exception. However, in the journey far away from home I have always yearned to belong. I came to the realisation that I could, by creating the sense of belonging for others.
Where are my manners, let me introduce myself. I am a youth leader, a junior accountant, an administrator, a crier, a fighter and would love to be a writer. The eldest of six, I am Rumbidzai, but most people call me Rumbie. Except my mother when she is angry. Then, you will know how to properly pronounce my name (sorry mum).
Born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe, when I was 13, my family moved to South Africa for better work opportunities. I had to stay back home in Zimbabwe with my grandmother to finish my high school studies. I later joined them after three years. During those three years, I was privileged to be at boarding school 9 months of the year and visit my family in South Africa during the other three months, for the school holidays. At times I felt like a foreigner both in and outside my home country.
When in Zimbabwe, I would mostly be at school. Being a boarder meant I did not get to engage with the outside world as much, during the 3-month long term. When in South Africa, while their diverse cultures are mesmerising, being around people with 11 official languages and take pride in their mother tongues made communication a bit of a challenge. Or maybe I did not try hard enough.
Not only did I feel like a foreigner, I found it hard to define where home was. One of my siblings thought I was a visitor in my own mother’s house. I recall one time, during the holidays, I annoyed my then three-year-old sister (as siblings often do). She went to our mum to ask her when I was returning to “my home” which to her was my grandma’s. But I was home. In her defence, I was never around long enough to establish that I was not an annoying visitor, but just a sibling (and annoying came with the sibling package).
I joined my family after my high school studies for a while in South Africa then moved to Australia. In 2016 upon invitation from my aunt, I settled in Adelaide to study and graduated with a Bachelor degree of Commerce in Accounting and Finance. An opportunity I am thoroughly grateful for. Why study in Australia? I mean the fees are indeed expensive especially for international students but the experiences and opportunities the country offered were alluring. And as I later discovered, I managed to find my voice, where I belong and think independently because of the environment.
While at university I got my first job as an event assistant with the Students’ Association, something that was rather outside the scope my personal character… interacting with people. I was curious to interact with other students and although I only got to speak with a student for less than a minute, interacting with more than 100 people over an hour was a highlight of my week. I threw myself into several volunteering activities including being a careers leader, a peer mentor for first year business students, a treasurer for my university’s Fair-Trade Collective and a student representative over the course of my studies. Unbeknown to me at that time, I ignited a passion to just listen to people. Connect with them and connect them with people who can help and also bring “outsiders” into a group.
I currently volunteer with my church youth group as a youth leader. A role I cherish dearly as I get to lend an ear and just be there for teenagers, an age group which I reckon are is still looking and trying to identify where they belong. My role is not to tell them where but to acknowledge that they have a community to support them during that phase.
What does this all have to do with belonging? You never notice the outliers sometimes, unless you are one. I am socially awkward. I wear that with pride because it has given me opportunities to notice those who feel excluded, look excluded, are being excluded and I bring them together. Not to make them fit in but acknowledge differences that make us unique and be outsiders together. Ha! This was one of the aspects that drew me to Welcoming futures.
The thought of being around people from different communities and learning with and from them was utterly appealing and the journey has been tremendous. We have created a lifelong friendship, bantered along the way but definitely I have learnt a lot from them. Global citizen. It happened without me travelling to a lot of places but by involving a lot of people into my “communal” circle and being open to learning from them.
Home. “Home is not a place, but it is a feeling”- (Cecelia Ahen, Love, Rosie, 2004). Belonging. I have learnt to embrace where I am at and the people around me.
In my short life, I have learnt; I am Rumbidzai. I am a Zimbabwean. I live in Australia. I am a significant part of a whole thing… whatever thing that I make it to be. I am the integral part to the story of me. The story of me includes all those that understand wanting to belong and creating an environment where others feel they belong. Being in Australia, volunteering, and getting involved in the Welcoming Futures created those opportunities and nurtured that sense for me.