The Magic of Paying It Forward

The kindness of a stranger once led to me staying in beautiful Milan

The kindness of a stranger once led to me staying in beautiful Milan

Can you remember that relative that paid for you to go on the school trip that you couldn’t afford? Can you remember that family friend who got you a holiday job so you could get some work experience? Can you remember that random stranger you met on a layover in Saudi Arabia who invited you to stay with his family if you visited Italy and welcomed you with open arms when you took him up on the offer?

Giving is the currency of community and I think it would maybe be impossible for society to function without it. For all the people who have helped me there are many more that I can’t even recall and there is probably no way that I can repay them all as some of them are dead, some of them might not need my help, and some now live in distant countries and I might never see them again. So instead of paying it back, I think the next best thing we can do is pay it forward…

What is paying it forward?

Paying it forward is when instead of trying to pay back a person who helped you, you go and find someone else who you can pay it forward to and help with the resources available to you.

It’s magical what starts to happen when people do this and here’s an example that I witnessed the other day in my hometown, Mutare.

A pay it forward story in Mutare

Zimbowties has been working with Amatelaz Homework Centre in Sakubva, a high-density suburb of Mutare, to identify talented children who we can award our Bow Ties 4 School Ties scholarships to.

Trish, Betty and Munashe, three of our recent creativity scholars at the Amatelaz Homework Centre

Trish, Betty and Munashe, three of our recent creativity scholars at the Amatelaz Homework Centre

The Homework Centre was started over 10 years ago by Nev Borradaile who wanted to give orphans and vulnerable children a study environment with the support and encouragement their families or guardians might not be able to give them at home.

By paying it forward and helping out kids in our community Nev and now Operation Orphan, who have taken over running the project, have provided opportunities for these kids that they might never have had the luck to receive otherwise. One of these children, who is now an adult, is called Sinior and he joined the homework centre when he was 10 years old.

Sinior with one of his first sewing machines from Nev Borradaile

Sinior with one of his first sewing machines from Nev Borradaile

While Sinior was at the Centre Nev decided to teach the kids some useful, practical skills so that they could use to one day find jobs. One of the skills they taught them was how to sew. It turned out that Sinior was a natural and at some point, Nev decided to buy him his first sewing machines so he could set himself up to make clothes and employ himself as a tailor.

We, of course, had no idea of this story behind Sinior’s life when we first met him. We were just looking for an additional tailor to help us make our upcycled bow ties and it turned out that Sinior was fantastic.

It was only two weeks ago when we were showing him pictures of the kids that we had just awarded scholarships to at the Homework Centre that it randomly came up that he had attended it too!

“Yes,” he told us. “Nev Borradaile was like a mother to me.”

Nev’s paid it forward to help Sinior and now, through his work with us at Zimbowties, he’s helping to pay it forward to kids at the very same Centre where he was helped to get his start!

I wonder how our scholarship winners might pay it forward one-day too?!


An interesting side-story, that probably comes from living in a small town, is that two years ago I met Nev in Scotland (she now lives in the UK) at a mutual friend’s 90th birthday party. We were just starting up Zimbowties at the time and I think I might have told her about what we hoped to do with our business idea, having no idea how interlinked her work and mine would become. I will have to make sure she hears about this story!

Kim WhiteComment