Mrs. Barbara Benhilda Mangwende

Director, Self-Employment
YMCA of Greater Toronto


In 1999, after completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Studies at the University of Zimbabwe, just like any other graduate, I started my journey towards finding a full-time job without much success. Around that time I ran into information about the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Study Grant Program through the Centre for Applied Social Science and applied for the study grant. After going through the selection process, including interviews, I got accepted to do a Master’s degree in the USA in 2000. From the time I was accepted into the KSAL programme, my perspective on life including my capabilities changed. Through the leadership workshops that the program offered, I realized that I was a leader in my own right. I got a chance to interact with Fellows from other countries and learn more about myself and others. I also realized how lucky I was to have received such a unique opportunity so when the time came to leave for the USA in August 2000, I was prepared more than ever for the success that lay ahead of me. I was accepted at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts for a Master’s in Sustainable International Development, majoring in Micro Finance. During the program, I got to meet and work with students from all over the world. That was my first time to travel, to live and study in the USA -- away from all my family and friends, in a new culture. What a challenge! It was well worth it! During my studies, KSAL supported me all the way such that I didn’t need to find a part time job like other students in order to pay my fees. All I had to focus on was my studies! Accommodation, books, health care benefits were covered. The only thing I missed was my family back home but in my second year, I was able to go back to do research on micro finance institutions in Zimbabwe. I also got an internship with ACCION Texas, a successful micro finance program in the USA. All this was a great learning experience for me. The transformation for me after KSAL happened from the inside out. I was more confident and felt that I could achieve anything and make a difference in the international development field. I felt empowered by knowledge and the rich experience of living in the USA and sharing with other students from all over the world whom I wouldn’t have met without the KSAL programme. I have been able to compete with other professionals in the international development field and am currently leading a successful self-employment training program. As a result, I have been able to take care of my immediate and extended family. A big “THANK YOU” to KSAL for changing my life! I am who I am today because of your support. Please keep up the great work in the region!!! Thank you.