At the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards, we take great pride in providing a platform for our community to celebrate its achievements and to project these successes as a way of inspiring our collective pursuit for improvement and progress.
The state or condition of a community at any one time is the reflection of the efforts of its individual members and institutions. In that respect, we find it necessary to pick out the organisations and individuals within our community that are investing their efforts towards the collective good and doing a lot to contribute to the wellbeing of others beyond themselves.
This is why ZAA came up with the Community Organisation and Community Champion of the year awards. As we consider yet another brilliant set of selfless individuals that have put in a lot of hard work in the service of our community, we caught up with the winner of ZAA 2014 Community Champion award, Maureen Ndawana (MN) for a quick chat about herself and her work.
ZAA: Tell us about yourself. Who is Maureen Ndawana apart from the everyday woman everyone else sees?
MN: I am a confident and highly empowered woman who has always had a heart of gold for the work I do with the Zimbabwean community in the UK. I’m ever smiling and so welcoming and my positive warm, radiant spirit keeps me going despite the world’s challenges. I take my adversaries as a stepping stone to higher dimensions. I love people and very respectful to humanity. My life is an open book for everyone to read and learn.
ZAA: What is it that you do and how long have you been doing it?
MN: I am Community Engagement Officer with African Health Policy Network. I work with people and I love my work. I coordinate United Enfield (UMOJA), a project to support people living with HIV in Enfield. I have worked with the Zimbabwe Women`s Network UK for five years .I have been doing this work for the past 10 years as a volunteer as well as paid work. I am a natural leader and I have grown a passion for helping the community to get the best out of life. Other people helped me to be where I am today and now it’s my time to do the same.
ZAA: You won the Community Champion of the Year Award at the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards last year. What has winning this accolade done for your drive and motivation over the last year?
MN: It has boosted my confidence. It has made me determined to do more and be more. This is what I get from having a passion of working with the African Communities in the UK. Somewhere, somehow, people notice it from a distance and hence I got this accolade. I thrive to exhale this God given talent and share it with the community. My wish is to help everyone who has the opportunity of meeting me in life and have them go away holding something positive from me and pursue life with so much confidence. I love making a difference in people’s lives.
ZAA: Has the Award helped or boosted you in any way in terms of the work you do in the community?
MN: Yes, this is on my profile and CV and is immediately recognisable to employers and key people for potential projects of what I am capable of achieving. I am grateful to Zim Achievers, the Zimbabwean community, my family and friends. I so much acknowledge the responsibility I have with my own people to make life better. I’m here to make a positive mark that cannot be erased in the Zimbabwean community and I believe I am doing this, and the recognition by Zim Achievers has only made doing what I do more magnified. I am proud to be where I feel celebrated for what I do.
ZAA: What is your unique selling point; in other words, what would you say makes you stand out from the rest?
MN: I stand confidently in what I believe in. I believe in love. The genuine love and respect I have for people is so reflective and it’s a source of my identity and my strength. I cannot hide it at all.
ZAA: With the work that you do on a daily basis, would you say there are people in this decade who are looking for things that they weren’t looking for say 10 years ago?
MN: Yes definitely, some have started looking at life from a different angle and they are making it. I refuse to be intimidated by life, instead I shape it with my words and actions as I have the God given ability to do so. I share a lot about the principle and it has worked for many.
ZAA: As a leader and motivator, how do you stay ahead of the game?
MN: I keep myself informed by engaging with my local networks, reading stuff as well as learning new ideas and skills daily. I continue searching for opportunities that give me a chance to practice my skills and share my experiences.
ZAA: What continues to drive you?
MN: My children and grandchildren as well as my family. I would like to leave a legacy for them. I love family like everyone else.
ZAA: Who are the three most positive influences in your life? Why?
NM: One – God, for he makes me to be who I am and gives me the zeal to do things; two – my husband/my mentor/my boss who is always ever supportive of my work and gives me the freedom to interact with anyone at any time. It’s his trust that keeps me going, and third, my children who are always cheering me on when I feel like giving up. It’s a bit draining sometimes but they encourage and build me up a lot.
ZAA: Are there any projects that you are currently working on, and if so, what are they and what is the vision or plan for them?
NM: I am currently working on a Prostate Cancer Project. This is to raise awareness of prostate cancer in the African Communities. I visit barbers/salons, shops, churches and social gatherings and discuss these issues at length. Our community is way laid back on this issue and our men are reporting with late diagnosis.
I am also part of the 1000 Women Voices project, working in partnership with Naz Project. Naz provides sexual health and HIV prevention and support services to selected Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.
ZAA: Being a community champion at heart, what do you feel in terms of opportunities is missing in our Zimbabwean community and what do you think needs to be done to achieve this?
NM: I do acknowledge our strength and ability as Zimbabweans to work and provide for our families here and back home but I strongly believe we sometimes deprive ourselves the opportunity to show off and show out what we are capable of doing as Zimbabweans. Statistically, we are highly represented in the NHS workforce, in care homes and teaching industry, but we seem to be focused on making it back home yet we forget that life is now and we are not practising life but living life.
It is high time we refocus. So many Zimbabwean women have passed on leaving millions of money and properties that they never enjoyed. Life is about making best choices and setting priorities right. We need to infiltrate the world and engage with the high level bodies in any given areas and lift up the Zimbabwean flag. We can do this!!