Holman United Methodist Church has invested more than $50,000 to date in direct scholarships for Africa University students. The gifts from this Los Angeles-based African-American congregation are part of an Usahwira partnership with the university that began in 2007. When it is translated into English, Usahwira, a word from the Shona language spoken in Zimbabwe, means “a beautiful friendship.”
Churches and individuals enter an Usahwira by committing to provide scholarship support for a student for the duration of his or her degree program at Africa University. Usahwira partners encourage the students, follow their progress, and essentially become extended family to them.
“Holman UMC values its ongoing relationship with Africa University. Knowing that the students we have supported through the years are offering excellent leadership to their churches and nations is deeply affirming,” said Bishop Brown. “It is wonderful to learn that our congregation is a leader in long-term commitment to AU. The visit has reaffirmed our connection and our commitment will continue.”
Sandra Hardy chairs the Africa University Scholarship Committee at Holman UMC. She says the congregation has prioritized the scholarship ministry because women on the continent of Africa and around the world often have fewer opportunities to obtain a higher education and realize their dreams.
Elaine Lewis, now an elementary school teacher in South Africa, was Holman UMC’s first scholarship beneficiary. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies/Geography with Education from Africa University in 2010 and returned home to Eldorado Park, a suburb of Johannesburg located on the southern boundary of Soweto.
University-educated female professionals like Lewis stand out and provide a new narrative for young women growing up in Eldorado Park. It’s a close-knit community where, under apartheid, most of the residents were classified as “colored.” Twenty-five years after the official dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, Eldorado Park residents are still challenged by high unemployment, inadequate housing, substance abuse, and violent crime.
Lewis has a passion for education and community development, which she describes as vital to a brighter future for Eldorado Park and many other struggling South African communities. With her first college degree as a foundation, Lewis enrolled in graduate school at Nelson Mandela University. In April, she completed a master’s degree in Development Studies.
Through its ongoing friendship with Africa University, Holman UMC has helped three African women to earn undergraduate degrees. The congregation is currently supporting a fourth female student, Liza-Maree Tarr. She is pursuing a four-year degree in Education with a major in English and a minor in Music.
In thanking members for their impact on the lives of young women like Lewis and Tarr, James Salley noted that Holman UMC was in a class all its own. Currently, Africa University has 21 ongoing Usahwira partnerships. Holman UMC is the only predominantly African-American United Methodist congregation in that group.
Andra M. Stevens, Director, Communications, Africa University Development Office
A World Service Special Gift is a designated financial contribution made by an individual, local church, organization, district or annual conference to a project authorized as such by the Connectional Table. Current World Service Special Gifts projects include the Africa University Endowment Fund, the Leonard Perryman Communications Scholarship for Ethnic Minority Students, the Methodist Global Education Fund, the National Anti-Gambling Project and the Lay Missionary Planting Network.