At 16, some young people will still be battling with what they have to do in life while others would still be bothering their parents — and society at large – to do something for them. But not so with Tatiana Sharpe, who is asking what she can do for someone.
Tatiana, who is currently out of the country, has since accomplished so much that she can easily make some adults feel very uncomfortable. A seed that God deposited in her heart while she was probably still in her mother’s womb has started flowering. She is now reaching out to many children who, due to circumstances beyond their control, have found themselves without parents or eking out a living in the streets.
While she was still seven, she wrote a story that fascinated her teacher Jenny Yon at Heritage School in 2005. Efforts were then put in place to get the story published. In writing the story and having it published, Tatiana, with one stroke, wrote her way into the history books by becoming Zimbabwe’s youngest published writer.
Her 23 page self-illustrated children’s book, The Lonely Tiger, tells a compelling story about the need for people to share whatever they have with the less privileged.
“What started out in her life as a simple book with a good moral story to help the less fortunate has now become part of her purpose to help the street children of Harare with her charity called Tariro Nevana,” says Yon, who was her teacher in Grade 2.
Yon says when she first read the story, she felt it was too advanced for someone who was in Grade 2. Tariro Nevana, which means hope for the children, is working towards creating shelter for volunteers to come in and help children in need.
Her mother, Joanna Sharpe, says her daughter has always loved disenfranchised children and from the time she was very young, she asked probing and thoughtful questions about their situation.
“She has always been in love with African children. She always asks why they are poor, why they are orphans and such things,” says Joanna. “She has always been careful with the food that she eats and always wants to leave some to donate because she says she wants do something for these children.”
The essence of her story is that it questions why the poor could not be friends with the rich and she strongly believes that although the poor may not have anything materially, they had something they could give to the rich.
About 5 000 copies of the books are being distributed as donations for needy children while another 5 000 have been placed in bookshops. The money accrued from the sales will be donated to charities that work with children and other poor people.
Under Tatiana’s Tariro Nevana project, 53 children come into the shelter and she feeds them. She is also working towards helping them acquire identity documents to get into school so that they can have an opportunity to shape their future despite their inauspicious beginnings.
Yon says while assisting with office work and organising the Young People’s Indaba at last year’s edition of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF), she invited Tatiana to come and inspire young people and help them realise they could also write books.
She adds that despite her achievement, Tatiana is not elitist in her attitude but embraces people from all communities and that is a quality that other youths must adopt.
Tatiana is also visible on the internet, where she has her own self-titled site, TATIANASHARPE, where she describes herself as “a young Zimbabwean girl passionate about helping under-privileged children in my community”.
Tatiana has made presentations at Gateway School and Thorn Tree Lodge, among other places, where she spoke to other young people, challenging them to do something and become relevant to their communities.
“Tatiana has not yet completed the story of her life, but everything is connected to each other and so we learn from Zimbabwe’s youngest writer that from small and simple things great things are brought to pass. We know we will hear more from Tatiana in future,” says Yon.
An e-version of the book has since been created and a video about Tatiana’s presentation at Gateway School.