Student exchange programs can be life-changing but rarely, if ever, do they impact a family for generations. But that is the reality for a South African teenager who spent his exchange time in Durango thanks to the local Rotary Club. You’re watching the Local News Network brought to you by The Payroll Department and Serious Texas Bar-B-Q, I’m Connor Shreve. Tinashe Vareta, or Nash for short, recently returned home to Zimbabwe after graduating from Durango High School, the recipient of an exchange scholarship from Rotary Club of Durango High Noon, an experience he says was like a movie.
For me, coming here, ’cause I got to like learn a lot about like the American culture and getting to live in it, ’cause I’ve only been like seeing it from the movies, and getting to live in it. And yeah, it’s been like so amazing.
Nash’s family had been on the list to buy land in Zimbabwe for more than a decade. When the opportunity gained momentum, he told his local host mom not to worry if she noticed his bank account was low, he was sending the money home to help his family pay for the land. Unfortunately, the cost of that land had risen. So Rotarian Tami Duke thought she would ask her fellow club members to donate the pool money from that week’s meeting to Nash’s cause.
Justin read the document and said, “Hey, Tami, it doesn’t look like you need a few hundred dollars here, it looks like you need $4,500.” And I said, “Oh, ha-ha, yeah, that would be fabulous, Justin, but, you know, whatever people can do, we’d sure appreciate it.” And then as a joke, I held up Nash’s cupcake, since he wasn’t there that day and said, “Hey, whoever gives the most gets this, you know, little city market cupcake,” and I had a balloon.
And it escalated quickly.
Steve Redding, one of our members, threw down $1,000 to start. Jamie McDonough stood up and his law firm donated 1,000. People gave $5, $10, whatever they could. And at the end of the Rotary meeting, you know, like 15 minutes later, Justin, we were, I think, $926 shy of meeting the goal for Nash’s family to buy the land. And so Justin Osborne donated the last 926 to get us to an even 4,500, so.
The club decided to present their gift at the next meeting, which also happened to coincide with Tinashe’s 18th birthday.
They’re like, “Oh yeah, open the box.” And I’m like opening this box and boom, yeah, I like see it, I’m like, I couldn’t like breathe. I mean, I had cried during my birthday, like my actual birthday, and getting to cry again on that Thursday was just like, yeah, I was like, wow, yeah, it was just so much love.
Nash woke up his family with the news via video call. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough plots for everyone on the list and Nash’s family was left out, but they were a third of the way to being able to buy a home in Zimbabwe. So after a local financing fell through, the Durango Rotary stepped up again.
So at that point, I just decided to talk with a local family here in Durango and say, hey, you know, for about $20,000, this can change someone’s life, the whole family, it can change generations, it can allow them, you know, all these freedoms and economic stability and food stability if they could own this house, could we somehow come up with a loan for 20,000? And this local family agreed to do that.
Tinashe says his mom thought he was joking with her when he told her what had happened. And this is where the story levels up in regard to how it resonated with our community.
His parents thought the loan would be $20,000. They thought it would take them 10 years to pay it back. As of today, that loan is just below $10,000 because people keep donating to Nash. And so it’s going to take them about five years to pay that back.
The home will allow Tinashe and his sisters to have a room and a bed for the first time instead of having to sleep on their kitchen floor. It will also provide space to rent to other families. Duke says Rotary’s mission is world peace. And hearing Tinashe Vareta’s experience through Durango’s Club, you might be inclined to believe that mission is still achievable.
People have like so much love and it’s just so amazing, and that’s like part of the culture that I’ve learned here. Like, you know, the love and like the people are ready to like accept and like help each other out and yeah.
You can learn more about Durango High Noon Rotary online and learn more about this and other stories at durangolocal.news. Thank you for watching this edition of the Local News Network, I’m Connor Shreve.