Elevation Zimbabwe – education for empowerment

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. This is our first interview with an organization in Zimbabwe. We talked to Tendai of Elevation, caring about the education of young people in the country to empower them and permit them to live an independent life. Knowledge and skills are fundamental for the future of all developing countries. Empowerment is possible, but we need education, and dissemination of knowledge. Would like to thank Tendai for the detailed answers and important impulses.

How was Elevation Zimbabwe founded and in which context?
I cannot say an exact event happened but a series of events gave birth to Elevation Zimbabwe. It was founded in 2012.
My passion for serving young people was thrust upon me at first, being a typical teenager who found issues surrounding HIV/AIDs boring and overrated. This was until I got a chance to participate in the Family Life AIDS Action Group in 1998 and was cemented in 2003 when I volunteered for 10 months in Gutu district with Students Partnership Worldwide Zimbabwe (now Restless Development Zimbabwe). Living and interacting with young people from disadvantaged communities opened my eyes to the realities of the imbalances faced by the youths. I witnessed how inadequate information led to the loss of life, as young girls and boys indulged in risky sexual practices. How girls the ages of 14 years voluntarily mentioned that the first person they had sexual intercourse with was either someone they did not know or a boy/young man raring cattle at their homestead.  It was through such experiences that I grew a true understanding of the need for youth empowerment through involvement and information dissemination.
I did not know how, especially without an education that I would qualify for a job. Seeing as I did not come up with the pre-requisite score to get a place at university to fulfill my mission/calling.  My passion became my credentials for my first job and directed my need to serve.  I believe that young people are the solution to their own development through meaningful participation. I have lived and facilitated for young people to realise their capacity and make positive contributions to the society. I believe I gained a skill that allows me to form meaningful relationships with people of all ages, through the voluntary work and paid jobs.
My personal objective has been facilitating for young people’s voices to be heard; bridging their sentiments with those in the community addressing the social inequities. We (my friends & I) founded an in school club at St. Mary Magdalene’s High School; Family Life AIDS Action Group (FLAG) – whose thrust was to allow young people (in school pupils) to take responsibility of their own surroundings. We fundraised (old clothes, magazines) for the benefit of the children staying at the children’s home. In recognition of the commitment the school board saw it worth to award me a School and Community spirit merit award.
We co-founded a youth oriented group, Hamundinzwi (you do not hear me) which is a voice of the voiceless youth. The organisation gave young people around Mutare urban an opportunity to express themselves through song, drama, art, sport, worship. The organisation championed the purpose of the youth, within Mutare.
I was invited and sponsored into the Mutare Mountain Dew Lions Club (2005), where I have served the community of Mutare. This was an honor as 11 years ago I was a pupil participating in a Lions club organized/sponsored event but to serve my community under their membership was motivating.
Some say experience is the best teacher; we intend to share that saying with our peers through the youth association. We intend to shape their vision into reality; usually vision is long term but we are saying let’s take the future into the present and let it be their light i.e. self-awareness, self- esteem, self-efficacy.
I enjoy working for young people, being young myself, and finding solutions to our challenges, but I felt at times some solutions were general when presented to me. A close friend, Innocent Kafembe said to me, “dude why aren’t you formalizing your thoughts are pursue the passion, you will really influence some lives”. I eventually said to my wife I want to share my experience with my peers let us form a training company. Being the wife she is, she jumped on board and we started name searching; Fountain, Elevate and she came up with Elevation Zimbabwe (as young people we will build a nation through life skills). So yes Elevation Zimbabwe was created in 2012.
I have gained so much wealth from my colleagues professionally and socially. My background cannot be said to have been fortunate nor can it be termed unfortunate but I feel there are some instances in my childhood or youth that I could have gone well with a ‘friend’. Today I want to be that friend to other young people, I will not reach out to all but by impacting on a group, one will emulate and cascade.
Elevation Zimbabwe was to be the premium life skills organisation that will design trainings for individuals within a team.
As the trainings commenced we discovered different angles of need from participants. These were needs my wife and I would not have experienced and if we were to share, it was going to be secondary experience so we would rope in a friend we knew went through a ‘similar’ situation or they are going through it. My wife said to me, “hey why don’t we call these guys training buddies?” This is how we developed the concept of training buddies. They would come in to offer the other end of experiential learning we were not equipped to deliver. Elevation Zimbabwe, as a result, developed an operational structure: the training coordinator and training buddies (young professionals/students who come in to assist peers at their current level by sharing how they managed to deal with situations).
From that point it was evident that Elevation Zimbabwe was to be a life skills centered entity, delivering age appropriate training; with a focus on empowering the individual and build from that so the individual had to realize their potential. Elevation Zimbabwe was also meant to encourage learning by sharing and doing through a personalised programme. We wanted to impart skills to the young; from as young asgrade 4 pupils in primary  school to adults. We modified an experiential model that would guide our life skills activities.
What are the main social issues in your targeted areas?
There are numerous issues that affect Elevation Zimbabwe’s target group. These affect our participants both, directly and indirectly (through parents/schools) but these issues mostly get to our participants directly.
Unemployment is definitely a major issue that we deal with. Some participants may be finding it difficult to find work or they may still be living off their parents in their parents aboard. When or if their parents loose their jobs and main source of income, the youth may be forced to drop out of school. Some may even go to school, but on an empty stomach, disintegrated family as parents stay away from home in search of the next meal/school fees. Some may get an education and still fail to get employment as. They may also struggle to capital to start their own income generating projects. Elevation Zimbabwe trains these youths in life skills such as resilience, entrepreneurship using locally available resources; low capital projects with the support of our training buddies
Another important issue we deal with usually is that the young person today is more exposed to having one parent at home and it is not because of diseases or that they have passed on, but because they are working or separated. It is expected that information or support comes from their parents/guardians, but most of these young people figure life on their own.
Role models at home or within the community are scarce. The youths rely on extended role models who might not be able to translate to the youths nearest reality; hence they keep chasing the wind. Youths are fighting with growth, being lonely while dealing with challenges and supposed to overcome those issues. The young are discovering themselves through numerous means that do not offer bi-directional interface for example through movies, music. We believe our training buddies can usher some ounce of hope and direction in their lives.
There is limited to no career option or career guidance for the youth. We intend to share all career paths for young people through engaging them at an early age
Interpersonal skills e.g. communication, decision making, self-esteem, self-awareness etc. We train our participants on how to balance between issues; school, home and personal matters.
Coping with stress, parental and social expectations vs. their dreams and they are always caught in-between. I believe young people including our youth in Zimbabwe, undergo emotional pressure as a result of failing to balance such pressures including the development of hormonal changes.
We also support issues raised by The Zimbabwe National Youth Policy under consultative section from consultation with various stakeholders who included the youth;
· Inadequate focus on behaviour change and life skills methodologies;
· Inadequacy of the educational system for current job markets in both the formal and informal sectors. The educational system is still too academic and does not prepare the youth for decision-making, entrepreneurship, and ability to participate in self-help programmes In addition, there is high incidence of school dropouts due to rising school fees. This affects girls more than boys.
· Deteriorating health conditions as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and teenage pregnancy-related problems coupled with inadequate youth-friendly health services. Early sexual activity, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, unsafe abortions etc. all contribute to deteriorating health conditions.
· Lack of experience and exposure, family breakdown, lack of appropriate role models, and lack of youth centered development programmes are mentioned as problems.
· Most youth do not seek out reproductive health services until they have become pregnant or contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
How do you identify youngsters that could benefit from your initiatives?
Our target group is people aged between 10 – 35 years which can also exceed in circumstances were we train those institutions or organisations that work with these age groups and engage us to train the trainers. Youngsters are identified as follows:
–     An institution/individual/youth group approach us seeking our services
–     we approach schools primary and secondary and volunteer our services/resources
–     Founding members or secretariat identify a need among a group of youths and approach relevant authorities offering their services to the group or institutions
–     Our training buddies can identify a gap in youths and recommend us to the group or the youths to us
–     We advertise trainings
Our activities are supported cash/kind by:
–  The founding member’s personal savings
–  Training Buddies
–  Friends of Elevation Zimbabwe(ElevationZw)
–  Institutions seeking training
What are the main features of your trainings?
Pre – Training
For every training or engagement we hold an assessment meeting with the financier or custodian to establish their desired end objective
We issue a pre – training needs assessment questionnaire that will be filled by the participants if they are known. If not we will establish these by collecting demographic information (age group/gender/duty) from the custodian
The timetable and training content are designed
Before content is delivered the trainers come up with a participants profile which leads to after the training.
We encourage learning by doing activities which make a participatory system approach the key difference between our interventions. Each participant must be able to complete and check each item from a task list, which they will start with from the day’s activity roaster. Our training’s main feature is on self-awareness as we believe the rest fall into the jigsaw when one is aware of their ability. There are individual exercises that will culminate into team exercises.
We use a lot of non-participatory techniques during the training; we even allocate the participants with responsibilities of running some components of the training along with the facilitators (this will rotate among the participants). Other techniques we employ
Writing in reflection
Story telling
Role playing
Team building activities
Outdoor physical activities
As we slowly introduce team activities we start working on the formation of teams, blending individual traits. The participants will eventually come up with individual and team action plans
Post – Training
Support offered after 6 months and linkages to training buddies for coaching purposes.
I am more knowledgeable and more determined to work on my weaknesses and become a truly inspirational leaders and role model—Mellisa Mashiki, Hillcrest College School Prefect 2014
“I have participated at numerous trainings, but I had not come across such an approach. You managed to get us to relax, enjoy yet deal with issues affecting our team. I am really impressed, amazed”, Evans Magumise, Simukai Child Protection
“Thank you for sharing an advert on your platform, I applied was called for an interview and today I am attached to the organisation. Thank you so much”, Bveke, Student on attachment
What has the impact of your activities been so far?
Elevation Zimbabwe does not operate in a vacuum; we believe in synergies, thus we work closely with like-minded institutions/organisations to support the development of young people.  We thrive on creating an enviable portfolio of service delivery, practice development and network support.
Through direct contact ElevationZw has directly reached 628 young people between 2014 – 2016 using ElevationZw methodology or design;
82 prefects trained in leadership
52 in school club presidents induction
290 self-awareness seminars
25 team building
54 Mutare urban and rural child parliamentarian induction
25 career readiness training including Resume development with 5 having found employment
10 primary school pupils supported in school fees
90 young professionals and students’ network
In the same period our message has reached to 3700 secondary beneficiaries, through social media.


We have collaborated and shared resources with Youth Boundless Zimbabwe (prefects training development), For Girls By Women (Menstrual Health Management), MushWorld (Mushroom training of young people to view mushroom as a low capital project)