By Joyce Mukucha
Young people are the backbone of society. Their participation in all aspects of society is very important. Unfortunately, most Zimbabwean youths are being deprived of this. They have no or limited roles in decision-making processes or leadership programs at the local and national level.
The generation of young Zimbabweans has been hit hard by the economic crisis especially those residing in rural and remote areas with the transition from education into the labour market becoming more difficult.
Quite a number of researches have it that isolating young people, intentionally or unintentionally, especially in rural plantation areas, can contribute to drug abuse, illegal and criminal actions, depression, migration, and so on. This is happening while the youths are the potential group of actors for structuring the future of Zimbabwe.
Many youths cannot find work and believe that they are marginalised and excluded from economic and social life and feel their concerns are not taken up by the government and other responsible institutions.
Witnessing young people’s predicament and trying to tackle radicalisation and alienation, bridging the gap between the haves and the have nots, a dedicated, committed and youth-oriented Zimbabwean based organisation, Heal a Soul Foundation (HASF) is making huge strides to empower young people in different communities ensuring that they are given space, a chance to participate as well as a voice.
HASF is a trust in Zimbabwe aiming to build a community of value, trust, integrity, and hope through better mental health. Its aim is to provide mental health wellness and awareness, fighting drug abuse, and promote behavior transformation.
The nonprofit making organisation is making a concerted effort in developing mentorship and skills training schools for the young especially for the marginalised ones in rural areas.
Currently, HASF is engaging in farming projects mainly aimed at empowering rural young folks’ development. Meanwhile, the organisation is working on setting up its headquarters in Binga to ensure that no one is left behind in as much as leadership and self-dependence is concerned.
In an interview, HASF founder, Gorden Sithole said youth empowerment can curb the rate of poverty to a large level. One of the keys to empowering the youths, he said, is with skill development.
“Our main focus is to establish learning and recovery centres in rural and very remote areas. Rural areas are our strength. When a youth is equipped with essential skills, he or she can utilize them to feed, assist others, and even invest for future use, aiding the nation economically. Therefore, empowering, strengthening, and including young people in the work environment will reduce unemployment, crime, drug abuse.
“This will lead to a better society, a better country, a better world. Education is the key to a better society, a better country, a better world,” Sithole highlighted.
He added that” Our organisation does not charge for mentorship but instead we seek to empower them and their projects, as we also help to link the youth with markets for their products or skills.”
Last year on the 12th of December, HASF held a youth empowerment festival in collaboration with the church Assemblies of God in Highlands, where like-minded organisations were invited.
Expressing gratitude, one of the young people who is also a member of Jaggrevade performers who was assisted by HASF said, “Many thanks to Heal a Soul Foundation and National Aids Council of Zimbabwe for giving me the chance to share part of the story behind the Jaggrevade. I express my thanks to them for extending great support towards my solo track ‘Tales of the Jaggrevade’. I’m proud to say that it has been seen live on stage at both Youth Convention Programme held at Assemblies Church of God in Highlands as well as the world at large.”
As for 2021, all is set for a girls conference in April followed by a boys conference in August and lastly a mixed gender symposium which will be held in December.
It is the organisation’s plan to partner with local and foreign organisations sharing the same vision of empowering and motivating youths which in the end enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority.
Articulating on opportunities realised by the organisation, Sithole pointed out that since they are youth-oriented, they have discovered that IT and media plays a big role in bringing their world to one place.
However, the organisation was also facing challenges such as a lack of IT and media equipment, education, and spearheading of awareness campaigns.
In the long run, HASF is looking forward to having its own pieces of land, running recovery centres and skills training centres all around the country as it seeks to build youth mentorship supporting groups, youth hubs in communities, churches, schools and colleges among others.
Also, the organisation has a Memorandum of Understanding with a rehabilitation centre in Ruwa, where it is developing a farming project on 41ha.
Operating in the unprecedented times of the deadly pandemic, Covid-19, Sithole said since HASF is a youth-oriented organisation, much of its activities involve gatherings and lots physical interactions through sports, music and dance, seminars just to mention but a few but unfortunately, with Covid-19 restrictions, they are being forced to halt activities.
The challenge is also being worsened by the lack of IT and media equipment to help keep in touch with its members.
Extending advice to those aspiring to work with young people, Sithole said it was of paramount importance to find out what impact they want to make, help them understand their strengths as well as appreciating the set-up they live in.
“My advice to those aspiring to work with young people is just simple, “Be like them and with a very big heart and long patience. Young people aren’t experimental but only need space to express themselves and obviously with good guidance.”
HASF was founded in 2010 by Gorden Sithole and it was officially registered in 2019 as a foundation.
It is driven by the passion and mandate to empower young people encouraging them to take charge of their lives.
They do this by addressing their situation and then take action in order to improve their access to resources and transform their consciousness through their beliefs, values, and attitudes.