There’s a saying that some people are born lucky. Luckson Hove is not one of them. While the young Zimbabwean now has a bright future, having won a scholarship to a U-S university, he knows good fortune is not a birthright.
Luckson Hove says while his name means lucky son, it was not given him by his mother or his father.
He says, "That was the name that was given by the first family that I stayed with, my extended family. My whole name is Luckson, which is just like a lucky son. But I have no idea how I came up with the name. I had another name though, which they had given me, which I didn’t want because it literally means someone who is abandoned.'
Luckson’s parents abandoned him shortly after his birth in the town of Nderengwa, about 10 hours drive east of Harare. He was left with members of his extended family, but it would not be the last time he was abandoned.
He says, "What happened is my uncle, who was in charge of the family, passed away when I was five. As a result, my other uncles, whom I used to call bothers because I didn’t know, turned around and said, no, they couldn’t look after me because I did not belong to the family, I was not part of the family. It was a big surprise, a big shock in life. Basically, that was the time I started to build my own, from the age of five."
On that day, his uncles ordered him out of the house immediately.
He says, "Oh, where will I get the food, where will I stay? I didn’t think of that at that moment. Until I realized, I don’t have anywhere to stay or I don’t have anything to eat."
A five-year-old, he survived by eating fruits found in the forest. Occasionally he would steal food from gardens, although he knew stealing was wrong. He also figured out how to attend school, even though he didn’t have any money. He simply pretended to be a member of his friend’s family.
He says, "I went to school grade one to five using their last name. And I would still not have to pay at that particular point because it was still just ten dollars for the whole family. Nobody would ask you to pay as long as they knew this family has paid. When I was going to school I was living on my own. I was just using their name."
While Luckson never did meet his mother, he did eventually find his father. In fact, he went to live with him in Harare.
He says, "My stepmother said why doesn’t Lucky go to school here in Harare where we are? And that was fine with me. I was so excited. But then at the end of six months my dad turned around and said I think I was just mistaken. You’re not my son. And then I had to go back on the street. And this time I had to sell things like cigarettes, things like candies and sweets in order for me to raise my money to go to school."
It was the third time he had been abandoned by his family. But abandonment and poverty were not his only obstacles. He says he suffered physical and psychological trauma that still haunts him to this day.
he says, "At first it was when I stayed with my mom’s relatives. It was their sons. They had about four sons. And two of them were the ones I stayed with. And they would sort of rape or molest you almost every night. That went on from grade one up to grade five. So, for about five years."
Luckson says he began to realize the importance of education. It became his lifeline.
"I don’t remember any test or any exam I wrote without tears on my face. Because I knew that once I failed there was no future. It was a very difficult thing," he says.
Through determination and a fear of failing, Luckson Hove succeeded in school. He married in 1996 and he and his wife, Mary, came to the United States. Mary had a degree in business administration and worked at a hotel in the state of Virginia. Meanwhile, Luckson went to Piedmont College, getting high grades and several scholarships.
By that time, however, Luckson was to face another obstacle. His wife lost her job and he did not have enough money to stay in school. They would have to return to Zimbabwe. Their infant son also had breathing difficulties and would require several surgeries.
"It has never been easy, but I’ve now come to the conclusion that no matter how difficult things can be, they can never be impossible," he says.
To prove the point, Luckson was awarded a scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, named after the former owner of the gridiron football team, the Washington Redskins. He will attend the University of Virginia, majoring in accounting. He and his wife intend to return to Zimbabwe and open a school for street kids and AIDS orphans.
He says his desire is to “make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged.” As for his son, he is already learning to overcome obstacles. The surgeries have been successful and at 13 months of age, his health is rapidly improving. Luckson and Mary gave their son a special name – maybe one that would be luckier than Luckson. They came up with the name pronounced Thelorse (TEL-oz). It’s a shortened form of the phrase: The Lord Sees.