The year 2020 saw Agricultural Economics graduate Nyembezi Soko authoring and releasing a book—Building Fences Not Walls —about five years after graduating from the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) in 2015.
The book is a 31-day journey to begin emotional healing, written to help readers explore their deep emotional wounds which many do not confront. “It is not a step-by-step guide that promises you to sort through your emotional baggage in 31 days. Instead, it helps the reader to begin a journey that is otherwise difficult to go on. Most of the examples given are things that people go through every day without realising the impact caused by such experiences,” explains the 25-year-old.
The book draws from Bible stories and sheds light on emotions that people do not usually focus on when reading the Bible.
“The idea is to normalise conversations around emotions—that being spiritual does not rid us of this aspect of life and that when we learn to manage emotions and heal from them, we position ourselves for a meaningful and satisfying life,” she says.
Building Fences not Walls was motivated by Nyembezi’s own emotional breakdown, which opened her eyes to a gap in devotional resources on the subject.
To begin with, she feels that people rarely have conversations around emotional issues—and many people hardly know what to do when someone shares their feelings, especially when those feelings are negative.
Although she managed to find some resources, she notes that they were not enough to help her relate with what she was going through, especially from a Christian perspective.
“The devotional sheds light on different sources of emotional pain or trauma and I have experienced each of the ordeals that I describe in the book,” she says.
The graduate student further notes that many people carry wounds from childhood trauma, some of which they do not even realise they had.
“It is a trickle-down effect; because when we do not heal, it is almost inevitable to hurt others. People who never healed from things they experienced growing up become emotionally abusive parents. Unfortunately, most of them do not even realise it and so the chain continues,” she explains.
Nyembezi points out that even verbally abusive bosses are usually individuals who carry unprocessed pain and offload it on others every chance they get. The same applies in schools for some teachers.
“We should strive to be the generation that breaks this chain of emotional toxicity,” Soko notes.
Apart from the many hats she wears, the young woman, who likes photography, blogging, cooking, reading and video editing among other things, is also a philanthropist.
In 2016, after noting that many children in their locality did not go to school, she and her friend Elizabeth Kamba founded Tsogolo Learning Club (TLC), a community-based organisation to teach the children how to read and write.
They founded the organisation with the understanding that early education is key in human development and considering that individual focus in public schools is difficult to attain because of the low teacher-pupil ratio.
“For about 18 months, we offered free bridging classes for the children in that area once a week to fill the knowledge gap. Our classes were a combination of mathematics, phonics, arts and crafts.
“We followed training manuals on basic early childhood development and incorporated that into the activities we organised with the children. We also engaged parents, especially the mothers in enrolling their children in school,” she recalls.
TLC had a total attendance of about 40 children from Area 49 New Shire. They also organised a community art fair, which engaged the children in different art activities as a way of nurturing talents among them.
“The hope is that we resume these activities in the near future,” Nyembezi says.
Currently, TLC has a bursary programme that assists in paying school fees for secondary school students, to ensure that education is accessible for all.
On her part, Elizabeth added that while they are doing the little they can to solve some of the most challenging issues that our society is facing, there are still a lot of gaps.
She, however, notes that anyone can help in their communities with the resources at their disposal.
“You do not need to have a lot to bless others. So, we hope to do more soon and possibly have a lot more people volunteering to help,” says Elizabeth.
That aside, Nyembezi plans to write more and is already excited about her next writing project.
“It is slightly different from Building Fences not Walls, but hopefully, equally relevant,” she says.
Looking ahead, the last born of three children wants to focus on developing her economist career by being part of research and development projects that impact lives, especially those in rural areas.
She also plans to grow the confectionery business that she runs with her cousin and be able to employ and train other young people.
“I believe that entrepreneurship is key in reducing the high unemployment rates and it is something I want to invest more time and resources in. It is challenging as a young woman who wants it all — a white-collar job, business, a family and civic leadership — but I believe it is possible to be successful in all those dimensions,” she says.
Nyembezi, who comes from Ekwendeni in Mzimba, was born at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe where she grew up. Upon completing her primary school studies, she was selected to Lilongwe Girls Secondary School.
She later proceeded to Bunda College of Agriculture, now Lilongwe University of Natural Resources (Luanar), to study a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics and graduated in 2015.
After graduating, she did some part time jobs between 2015 and 2017 while running the confectionery business with her cousin on the side.
In 2017, she landed a paid internship with International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (Iita), that led to a short-term employment as a monitoring and evaluation officer.
In 2018, she joined AGC as a programmes associate, but resigned in 2019 to focuTs fully on the business which had at the time extended to baking classes for children, catering for social and corporate events as well as supplying to cafes.
By the end of that year, she was awarded a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural commerce at Lincoln University in New Zealand, which she is currently pursuing.
Apart from the other hobbies mentioned, she also enjoys taking walks, and watching sunsets and sunrises.