Interview with Last: Community work during COVID-19, gender and role models

Bootcamp graduate Last was interviewed by PapalargeOnline this month about her work making food in her home kitchen for asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds during lockdown.

Last, a Zimbabwean activist and philanthropist living in Coventry, practises her faith by donating her time, experience and skills to help create a better world, before and during this difficult period of covid-19.

Her current work responding to the struggles of asylum seekers in her community was featured by PapalargeOnline, a media site focused on Zimbabwean and African stories. Check out the full interview below, and see the original post here. Congratulations to Last, we are inspired by your work!

Last making meals from her kitchen in Coventry to feed asylum seekers. Photo credit: PapalargeOnline

Hi Last, how are you today? Thanks for giving us your time for this interview. I have to acknowledge your hard work and how you have become such a powerful woman in your community in helping others. Where did it all begin? 

Helping communities is something I grew up with. My mother worked tirelessly helping others in her community when I was growing up. I remember her making meals in her kitchen to feed young children in the early 80s under the US funded ‘feed the child’ programme. Ironically, I am doing the same during this lockdown… making meals in my kitchen to feed asylum seekers and refugees with no recourse to public funds. 

Who is Last Mafuba?

I was born and raised in kwaMafuva, a small village 20 kilometres south of Masvingo in Zimbabwe. I view myself as a change maker who is committed to tackling poverty and injustice in my community. I believe ‘the self’ is not separate from the world but united and intermingled with the natural and social environment. My culture has instilled in me the theory that it is through one’s community and surroundings that an individual becomes a person of volition whose actions and decisions affect the entire group… more like the Xhosa saying, ubuntu, ngubuntu, ngabantu (a person becomes a person through persons). I love people. My purpose is to have a positive impact on them and leave behind a lasting legacy through kindness. 

Women who aspire to scale the heights you have reached would want to know how you balance the demanding roles of mother on one hand and your career on the other.

I had children early in my life and they are adults now so I focus more on my career. They still need me but they are not as demanding as when they were young.

Is the glass ceiling real and are women bumping their heads against it, or we are just stumbling into gender stereotypes here?

The glass ceiling is very real. Research has confirmed it and for women like myself it is reinforced by my other social identities such as race and class… and besides, being a minority one is bound to encounter the glass ceiling, regardless of their gender.

Last Mafuba making meals from her kitchen in Coventry to feed asylum seekers. Photo credit: PapalargeOnline 2020

Which three words best describe you?

Authentic, conscious and kind.

Who is your role model if any?

I have a few but my mother stands out. She pushed important projects at a time when it was extremely challenging to do so, such as delivering the family planning project when it first arrived in Rhodesia now Zimbabwe in the early 50s. Men were not open to it and hated her for it but women loved and trusted her. I remember as a young child accompanying her to a secluded place in the hills where she would hide some family planning pills for some woman to pick up later when it was safe to do so because her husband did not like the idea. Among other things she also set up a clinic at home in the 80s and delivered dozens of babies with neither running water nor electricity. 

Internationally, I look up to Tina Turner… to come back like that from what she went through with Ike is just phenomenal. I love her.

What is your definition of success and how do you handle failure?

To me success means loving what you do. As for failure my sister and I use the phrase ‘zvarambwa’ – a Karanga word meaning ‘it has been denied whenever we fail at something’. The belief is when something is not good for you or when it is not the right time for you to have something, the spirit or the universe will not allow it to come to you. Therefore, when I fail at something I don’t take it too hard. I see it more as a blessing and search for lessons in the failure.

Have you any regrets or unfulfilled ambitions?

I wish I had studied psychology before having kids. 

Which book(s) are you reading?

I am re-reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s ‘Why I am no longer talking to white people about race’ and watching (I know it’s not reading) ‘The Last Dance’ Michael Jordan’s documentary on Netflix… very inspiring.

What advice would you give to Zimbabweans and other immigrants of colour on your deathbed?

Stop talking about problems and start talking about solutions. Please…

Lastly, is there anything that I haven’t asked which you think the readers of PapalargeOnline would like to know about?

Maybe that amongst the chaos one should make space for gentleness, compassion, understanding and love.

Photo credit: PapalargeOnline 2020

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