Coming Full Circle

When I lived in Toronto, Donna Mitchell became one of my mentors. She’s a gifted business writer who has a knack for seeing the possibility in people. After noticing my work on a charity website, she invited me out to a fancy lunch. “I’ve seen your work. But you need to build websites for more than one organization,” Donna averred. “You should start your own business.”

After nearly a decade cocooned in the safety of a job description and pension plan, this seemed daunting. But during that lunch my heart was strangely warmed and resistance melted. When the bill for lunch was placed next to Donna she smiled and slid it over to me saying: “Here’s your first business expense.”

I’ve always kept that receipt: it was a seed that planted Vibrant Content.

Donna soon introduced me to Randy and Natalie Watson who were starting a charity to support development work in a region called Zaka. Zaka is a rural, mountainous swathe of southeastern Zimbabwe, home to 100,000 people mostly living in small villages. Life could be dire in Zaka: water-borne disease was rampant, food and education were scarce. Before Randy and Natalie arrived, no other non-profits seemed interested in the region.

The Watson family in Zaka

Randy and Natalie became fast friends. We had countless meetings at a local Indian buffet trading ideas, stories and dreams for the future. It helped that we were all new to this. In time, I proposed a name for the charity: Bopoma, which means waterfall in the local Shona dialect. A friend and I worked on their first logo. He put a sprig on top of the last ‘a’ – which didn’t make sense given the their initial focus was on clean water – but we all somehow agreed that it was right. Years later when Bopoma Villages shifted their focus to agriculture, the logo was deemed prophetic.

Based on that logo, I put together their very first (and Vibrant Content’s very first) website.

Twelve years and about four website revisions later, I got an email yesterday that they were shutting down. It saddened me to lose our very first client. But my overwhelming sense was one of joy. Natalie and Randy poured themselves into Zaka – helping bring clean water to thousands, orphan care to hundreds of children, and employment to dozens of local residents.

But they always had an eye to root the work in Zimbabwe. Early on they recruited local leadership. In time they founded a local board and began handing off strategic decisions. This sometimes went poorly, but they tried not to overrule what locals planned. Eventually they fully handed over the work and are shutting down Canadian operations.

Many charities dream of working themselves out of a job, but few achieve it. And Randy and Natalie have some scars to show for the effort. But what they have done is a beautiful thing fuelled by their faith, prayerful sensitivity and years of tireless work.

We were happy to pass off our web design files to a local web agency in Zimbabwe.

1 thought on “Coming Full Circle”

  1. Jacob, we are so grateful that you have journeyed with us all these years! It has been a true joy to collaborate with you to accomplish so much more than we ever imagined possible. With each successive version of our website, you beautifully captured and told our evolving story. You understood and encouraged us, had endless patience as you taught us what we needed to know, and were a faithful friend from the day we met. It is impossible to imagine how we could have done it without you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for everything. Randy and Natalie Watson

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *