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The Unquantifiable

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The following post is written by Laura Albertyn, co-founder of Makomborero.

I think often, as HALI organizations, we tend to focus on the quantifiable data of the work we do. The outcomes produce attractive data for statistics for us to go through. Obviously as organizations, this is all valuable information, as it validates what we do and how effectively we are doing what we do! However I sometimes feel sad that often this data—the incredible statistics—overlooks the other side of HALI organizations.

I call this “the unquantifiable data”: the data that often gets overlooked when putting together grant applications, reports to donors, etc. The unquantifiable data I feel is what is the heart of HALI organizations—it is what makes us tick, gives each of us purpose in what we do day in and day out, and often gives us our spring back in our step.

What is the unquantifiable data? It is the value that each organisation adds to each individual student that they work with. It’s not examination results, university applications, or SAT scores; it is about the individual person. It is long hours spent listening to a student’s story. Helping a student discover their passions, helping them find a voice, playing games together, laughing, building deep relationships that last a life time, teaching them how to swim, sharing meals together. These are some of the things that make a HALI organisation so incredibly unique and special—the time invested in each student. Often for many of these students, it is the first time anyone has taken a keen interest in them as a person—not for what they can produce or for the expectation on them from family but for who they are as a person. Their dreams, wishes, fears, shortcomings, walking with them and seeing a person begin to blossom. Our organizations continually look at how we can better impact the individual in the short time we have with them. What are the tools they need to be given to live life well, not only progress to further education but live a full life, one marked by a person passionate for their community, grounded in who they are, resilient and full of grit?

I look back over the years at the students that have come through Makomborero and the things I remember most are not university destinations or examination results but transformations of individuals. Christina, for example, a timid, super-intelligent young lady whose family lived in abject poverty, unable to greet us confidently, graduated from Makomborero by singing a duet of “You Raise Me Up” with a fellow student at our graduation. The tears flowed freely down my face, the transformation was incredible. A confident, secure, robust woman ready to go out into the world and fly! And that is exactly what she did! She was ready to graduate from her engineering degree after three years but decided to take a few other courses for her fourth year, just because. We joke she will become the first female president of Zimbabwe. Tears still form in my eyes when I think back. Unquantifiable!

And then there’s Craig, an orphan rescued from child labor in a terribly abusive, neglected extended family home environment. He learned to like himself, he found a family who loved him unconditionally, he found his voice as an orator, learned how to control his temper and what was the root of the deep anger in him and pursued a career that he never thought he would! Unquantifiable!

We could fill the pages with story after story, but what I really want us to focus on at this time of year, when university applications overshadow the other work that we do, is to remind us all of the incredible impact that HALI organizations have. Take a moment during this time to remind yourself of the unquantifiable, especially once results of places start to come out and often the quantifiable drowns out the unquantifiable. Some are overlooked, but we know deep in our hearts the gold in them and that somewhere they will find the right path for them, even if this one wasn’t quite it.

So, keep going HALI partners! The unquantifiable work you do is valuable—often far more valuable than the quantifiable.

N.B. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the students.

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