ALICE MPOFU-COLES BIOGRAPHY
Alice Mpofu-Coles (Chigumira) has transcended adversity in her own life and used the compassion and empathy she has developed through her own experiences to dedicate her life to others.
Alice grew up in Zimbabwe during one of the many turbulent periods which marked that country’s history of descending into civil war. She witnessed massive social upheaval and distress.
She grew up fluent in 3 languages, and was an excellent student who went to one of the best schools in Bulawayo – Mzilikazi High - but the family environment and finances prevented her from furthering her education. Instead, she studied at a secretarial college, which opened the doors to working for the Government in a series of administrative roles. Gaining in experience and confidence, she applied to join the diplomatic service and trained.
She served as a diplomat in Belgrade in former Yugoslavia from 1989 to 1991 fortunately returning home before the Yugoslav war broke out, then worked for the Vice President of Zimbabwe before being posted to Maputo, Mozambique in 1992 to 1997. Here she became known for her work on effective communication between different cultures, to promote shared understanding and positive relations. She formed the Young African Diplomat's group. She was presented with an award from the President of Mozambique after writing about her experience working in Mozambique.
Back in Zimbabwe, she took redundancy from her work in the Foreign Ministry and concentrated on writing, speaking and conducting conferences on communicating with different cultures. She launched the 1st Zimbabwe Secretaries Award and received a Kruger Gold Coin for a presentation and speaking at a seminar by the Institute of International Research of South Africa. Eventually, due to the political instability she left the country in 2002 and settled in the UK as a refugee.
The refugee support group in Reading was invaluable in helping Alice get on her feet, and as soon as she was able, she was determined that she would offer the same helping hand to others. She has since served seven years as Vice Chair, then Chair of this group, and has helped many local refugees regain some stability in their lives. Her work empowers refugees - especially women - to adapt to their new situations, forge new careers, and build a better life for themselves and their families.
At the same time, she has been politically active in supporting refugees, challenging prejudice, stereotypes, and misconceptions. She organised Refugee Week in Reading and helps shape government policies affecting refugees; featured in a BBC educational documentary about refugees and featured in a narrative story produced for the British Library. She also started volunteering, researching, writing and supporting those disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS including taking part in the Walk for Life in London 4 times - something that struck a deep chord when she lost close relatives and friends to the disease. She writes regularly for the local paper and other media on these issues.
She has also been an effective proponent of diversity in Reading. She is one of the individuals who started the Zimbabwe Community Groups in UK, volunteered for Positively Women and is a member of Amnesty International. She is also involved in activists work and has elsewhere campaigned among other things on poverty, discrimination and education for girls.
Beginning as a carer, she then became a social worker for Reading Council: helping other people to realize their potential is her profession as well as her passion. She has studied with the Open University and Reading University where she gained a Masters degree in International Relations while battling breast cancer. She was presented with an Honorary Degree of Masters of the University for her contribution to public service, community and culture by the Open University. She is now an Ambassador for the Open University. She has continued to educate herself and did a summer school at Oxford University in Refugees & Migration studies. She is currently studying for a PhD in Human Geography at Universiy of Reading researching on Young Zimbabwean Disapora in the UK
Alice has been a powerful advocate for the Zimbabwean community in UK, and has both strengthened that community internally and built bridges with other community groups. She was recently appointed a trusteee for the Reading City of Sanctuary and a Specialist Wave Maker Ambassador for the Female Wave of Change Global.
Alice is a keener reader of books with a purpose. She loves travelling, visiting old historic churches, walking the family dog Zii, cooking, exercising and currently persuing a journey as a Christian.