Muroti ‘Washington’ Mudziviri’s epic journey to America

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By IOM Today

Muroti ‘Washington’ Mudziviri did not have a lot of opportunity in his village near Harare in Zimbabwe, but the generosity of the Isle of Man changed his life for the better.

This is all down to the ‘Friends of Pestalozzi, IOM’ charity, which helps underprivileged children gain education opportunities that they have not had before.

Washington had not heard of the country that sponsored his education before received the news that he had received the sponsorship.

He said: “Initially, I do not think I quite understood what that really meant because I really didn’t know about the Isle of Man at all.

“I thought it was just part of the UK and I knew that there were many people chipping in to sponsor Pestalozzi.

“When I heard that the Isle of Man was sponsoring me initially it was very abstract to me until I actually came to the island, then I started to see the faces and all the effort really that comes into providing those funds.”

Daxa Patel, a former journalist with the Financial Times newspaper who lives in the Isle of Man, was Washington’s main link with the Isle of Man, as she was involved with the charity and raising the money to sponsor Washington.

She said: “I didn’t know anything about the charity at first. It was a friend who I met on the boat coming to the island who introduced me to Pestalozzi.

“I went to my first Pestalozzi function in 1999 in Balladoole and I went as a guest.

“I could understand this cause because I could understand the students because I could have easily been one of them, as I could identify with them myself having born in Uganda, and being a girl.”

Daxa then went on to get increasingly involved with the charity and served as the chair from 2005 until 2016, when she stepped down.

Daxa was set a target of £10,000 by the then overseas aid committee, if the charity met the target through donations then the government would match it.

The donations were met by locals who felt for Washington and his story.

Washington was a resident at the Pestalozzi village, a multicultural, multi-faith environment in East Sussex in England.

It was here that he completed a two-year International Baccalaureate course to help further his educational prospects.

His final exam came at a difficult time for Washington, just a few months after he took his exam, his grandmother, who had cared for him all his life, died.

He said: “It was really challenging, and a few days after she passed away that is when I got news that I had been accepted to Duke University.

“I knew that I had to keep pushing and studying because my acceptance from Duke also had a condition that I had to do well on my final exam, so it was a very tough time.”

Duke University is a prestigious university in North Carolina, USA.

Washington passed degrees in biology, chemistry and global health, with distinction during his time in America.

Washington is a self-proclaimed ‘life-long learner’ and has a deep passion for education.

He even took economics and Spanish classes while studying at Duke.

Washington said: “I think the hardest part was coming out of Zimbabwe and going to do my IB (International Baccalaureate)and after that I had access to so many opportunities.

“Duke was a very different place, but I think I had been prepared enough about Pestalozzi because I was living in a multicultural environment already and it was that buffer period where I was being guided and taught how to conduct myself in the wider community and really eased my path into college.”

When at Duke, Washington had aspirations to go to medical school, however, there came a point where he had to make a choice between medical school and the responsibility he felt for his family and their betterment.

He said: “For a long time I had been preparing for a career in medicine and in the US it’s a very long process.

“Also, throughout your undergraduate, there’s no room for B grades and you have to make all these other sacrifices and commitments to shadow other physicians.

“There came a point that I had to make that decision also knowing that I had growing responsibilities at home so I really needed to find a way to also make money.

“I think it was one of the most challenging decisions I have ever had to make.”

Washington decided to explore other interests and also take a gap year to work and figure out what was next for him.

He worked as a research assistant at Duke and a company called Locus Biosciences and there Washington got into data science and that opened up a world of possibilities.

He taught himself coding and computer programming to develop his skillset and enrolled in a Masters degree in data science at the University of Edinburgh.

Today, November 24, Washington will graduate with distinction from the university and will also be celebrating his 27th birthday.

Washington has been working for American technology company IBM as a data scientist and an artificial intelligence engineer.

The primary focus of his team is working with healthcare and life sciences companies to incorporate different technology into their work.

Washington said: ‘It’s been an exciting and intellectually-stimulating experience environment to work and I really enjoy it. I still consider myself in the early career stages of artificial intelligence so I want to bolster my knowledge in the industry.’

Washington loves the Isle of Man and plans to come back here in the future.

He said: “I didn’t really remember the places but I remember the people.

“I like to think of myself as an honorary Manxman and the island is a part of my story in a very strong way because everything that happened and all the other scholarships I got after that, this was the foundation, the bedrock that I want to build on.”

The Friends of Pestalozzi IOM charity sold its land in the island and has since been renamed as the Pestalozzi International Foundation and is still based in East Sussex. Washington was asked what advice he would give to those who may be in a similar position he was when Pestalozzi helped him.

He said: “I was always worried about the next step and where it would come from.

“I was always scared what if it goes wrong and I have to go back, so the advice I would give is always do you best, give 100% to the stage you are at and don’t worry about the future so much, it will sort itself out.”