Posted by Carolyn Schrader (Denver Mile High)
History of Previous Grants
Rotary Grants developed by the Rotary Clubs of Denver Mile High and Highlands in Zimbabwe have been delivering economic and computer trainings to high-density communities in Harare Zimbabwe since 2009. Almost 100 Rotarians have contributed their time and expertise to develop and deliver the training and oversight for these grants.  Over 6,000 women and youth have learned to save money and use their own savings to start and manage small businesses. 
With their newly acquired computer skills, they track their finances and stay in touch with their families around the world.  Over 250,000 people have benefitted by these projects.
2016-17 Training Grant
The local government has been highly supportive of the trainings, since there is nothing similar being offered to the women in the Harare area.  They asked that the training be expanded to other communities where women had no way to acquire skills to support themselves.  Working with the office of the mayor of Harare, local Rotarians identified three new communities for the training: Glen Norah, Highfield, and Dzivarasekwa (DZ).  We hired a training organization that was started by some of our participants in our first Rotary Grant in 2009.  Training started in September 2016.
There are four blocks of training under the Grant; the third round was completed in June 2017.  Women receive a week-long intensive training in economic skills, followed by a similar training in computer skills.  The participants form themselves into 12-13 member Self Help Groups.  The women create their individual businesses as well as a group business.  This gives them a chance to learn from each other to successfully run their own business. After the intensive trainings, there are 7 weeks of follow-up trainings.  At the end of the 9-10 week training block, there is a graduation celebration.
Business training uses interactive, hands-on workshops and other group activities to reinforce basic concepts. Training focuses on saving, keeping accurate finances, successfully running a business and effective use of loans.  Topics in computer training include creating documents, using spreadsheets to manage and track finances and effective use of social media.
Harare Rotarians have visited the trainings and presented focused topics such as financial management and marketing to the women.  Colorado Rotarians have interviewed participants to capture their stories.  Some of these encounters have been amazing.  One of the Self Help Groups presented a special gift at the graduation: a “Thank You Rotary” cake.
Computer Training and Equipment
One of the most popular aspects of the grant is the computer training.  Women rarely get a chance to learn this skill, and most who do have limited opportunities to use a computer.  The grant has funded 5 computers and printers that have been placed in the community centers. The participants have priority access to these computers to use with their businesses; they carry flash drives with their information that they access when they visit the community centers.  All participants have an email account; many also use Facebook.  For some participants, the computer training has lead directly to a job. 
Women’s Businesses
Our participants are only limited by their imaginations.  Businesses include:
  • Catering, cake making and decoration
  • Sewing uniforms and specialty kitchen items
  • Making soap and detergents
  • Jewelry and basket making
  • Purifying water to sell
  • Buying and selling goods
Rotarian Involvement
Host Rotarians visit the opening of each training and participate in the graduation ceremonies.  They visit throughout the 10 week period, offering advice and sometimes presenting focused trainings.  The head of training organization provides monthly reports and meets frequently with the Grant Committee to discuss progress and identify improvements.  This shows up in the performance of the groups, which seem to be getting stronger with each training block.  Colorado Rotarians will join the Host Rotarians in the closing celebration in September 2017 and interview participants to compile a series of their stories. 
For more Information about the Grant, Please contact Carolyn Schrader, Denver Mile High Rotary,  or 303-589-7599.