Across the World and Back

PROVO, Utah – Apr 02, 2020 – Driven by a desire to help the people of her country, Vimbai Tembo began her journey from Zimbabwe to Provo by tucking her two children into bed and then lighting a candle to study for the GRE.

“Quite honestly, I thought BYU was an impossible dream because of the challenges I faced,” says Tembo, a first-year BYU Marriott MPA student.

These challenges began when Tembo was a young girl. By the time she was ten years old, both her parents had died. “My dad died when I was two years old, and when my mom got sick, she taught my six brothers and me how to do things by ourselves because she knew we would be alone,” says Tembo. “She taught me to serve. Serving my brothers made me happy and taught me independence.”

Recognizing that an education would help her gain independence and allow her to support herself, Tembo graduated with a marketing degree in 2010 from the National University of Science and Technology located in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. After graduating, she served an eighteen-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Zambia.

After returning to Zimbabwe, Tembo helped a nongovernmental organization run a project in an area with a 90 percent poverty rate in the rural communities of Zimbabwe. “Going into the villages and seeing the difference the projects were making in the lives of the people was satisfying,” says Tembo. “However, I felt I needed more skills to serve more effectively and be qualified for higher-management roles.”

Tembo began researching places to further her studies. “As I read about the BYU Marriott MPA program and the curriculum, I thought this is the program that I need,” says Tembo.

However, getting to BYU would prove to be challenging. “Studying was difficult because I had limited access to internet and practically no resources,” says Tembo.“I began preparing by studying by candlelight at night when my kids would be asleep. I would put posters all over the bedroom with math formulas to master them.”

After getting accepted into the BYU Marriott MPA program, Tembo relied on faith to get her family to the United States. “Zimbabwe has major food shortages, and constant power and water cuts. Plus, a challenging visa application process made coming to America difficult,” says Tembo. “My husband and I fasted and prayed several times for everything to work out, and Heavenly Father came through—we eventually arrived safely in the United States.”

Tembo, her husband, and two children moved to Utah, and Tembo began the MPA program in Fall 2019. After graduation, Tembo and her family plan to return to Zimbabwe where she plans to create self-reliance programs for women to learn skills such as gardening and craft making.

“What pains me is knowing there are women and malnourished children suffering,” says Tembo. “While it’s scary to go back, I know God wants me to take what I learned here at BYU Marriott and give back.”

BYU Marriott’s MPA program has already helped Tembo improve her communications skills and learn how to use tools to evaluate data to help people make better decisions she says. “In my life, I've always wanted to link my academic life with my spiritual life to help achieve God's plan,” says Tembo. “BYU has taught me to help people draw closer to God and come unto Christ.”

BYU Marriott MPA student Vimbai Tembo
BYU Marriott MPA student Vimbai Tembo. Photo Courtesy of Vimbai Tembo.
Vimbai and her family.
Vimbai Tembo and her family. Photo Courtesy of Vimbai Tembo.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kate Monroe