WHAT’S YOUR STORY: Mupfudze’s story: Finding himself

Zach Mills

His name is Richard Rashai Mupfudze, but most of his friends call him Rashai — “We were given.”

A year and a half ago, the 19-year-old native of Zimbabwe was given a new opportunity in life when he signed a full athletic scholarship to play soccer at Western.

It was in America that Mupfudze began to find himself — with the help of a little divine intervention.

“I’ve been more spiritual,” Mupfudze said. “My focus in life and everything I desired in life changed.

“I guess my desires and my needs changed because I accepted that God is guiding my path and he is the Author of my fate,” he said.

Mupfudze has changed as a person, too.

After being in America for almost two years, he said he’s more “loving, more sociable, understanding, caring, approachable and spiritual.”

Being alone in America has aided in Mupfudze’s growth.

“It allows you to find yourself,” he said. “It helps you define your goals because there’s no one out there that’s going to take care of you.”

But there was a time in Mupfudze’s life when someone was there to take care of him — his mother. She died of AIDS when he was 16.

“My mom was really my backbone,” Mupfudze said. “When I lost her, I kind of lost the motivation to do anything.”

Mupfudze’s grades dropped, and he began concentrating on playing basketball and rugby. He played both for the Zimbabwean national team.

But he had a more lucrative offer to come to America to play soccer.

“I declined it the first year,” he said. “I never really focused on it [soccer] because it always came natural for me.”

After Mupfudze decided to take the scholarship to Western, he became grateful for the opportunity it provided him.

“It was like somebody was watching over me,” he said. “This is my ticket to help everybody that’s home.”

Mupfudze works in the library and sends money home whenever he can.

He’s happy he has the chance to make a better life for himself and his family.

Mupfudze described shortages of gasoline, jobs and food supplies as some of the problems that plague Zimbabwe, along with corrupt government officials and the AIDS epidemic.

He plans to use his Computer Information Systems major to help change some of the negative conditions in his country.

“I’d like to work here but go home constantly and provide… kind of give back,” Mupfudze said.

Living in America has been a positive, life-changing experience for Mupfudze, but he’s getting a little homesick.

He hasn’t been home since August of 2001, and he talks to his family only twice a month, if he’s lucky.

“I just miss the simple things,” he said. “Just being around them and growing up with them. You always want your family close to you.”

Although it has been hard being so far away from family, Mupfudze views his opportunity to come to America as a blessing.

“The fact that I’m here, you could say that somebody was looking out for me, being her [ my mother] and God,” he said. “After she died, I kind of chose a bad lifestyle. When I came over here, I had to find something to hold on to. In that sense it was God. It strengthened my faith.”

Reach Zach Mills at [email protected]