Patience Ndebele-Omijie is a philanthropist and an award-winning community champion for women, men and youth empowerment. She is founder of Inspire Women Men and Children, a charity organization based in London, United Kingdom and in Zimbabwe, also known as Inspire Women and Children.
She was honoured with the Community Champion of the Year Award at Zimbabwe Achievers Awards UK 2019, and Inspire WMC was nominated in Community Organisation of the Year category.
The Weight She Carries reached out to her to find out what inspires her to do what she does so well.
Tell us about yourself?
I was born in Bulawayo and grew up in North End suburb. I went to school in Eveline High School and then migrated to England when I was 23. I am a wife – a Zim-Naija wife – and a mother of two boys.
I’ve been into charity work and community development for more than 20 years. I started with voluntary work in an NGO in Zimbabwe (ORAP), and then later ventured into advocacy for gender and human rights until I established Inspire WMC in 2013.
I have led and delivered many projects aimed at empowering women, men, and youth through Inspire Women Men and Children both in the UK and Zimbabwe. I am also a public speaker, mentor, and business start-up coach. Besides charity work, I work full-time as a forensic specialist outreach worker.
What inspired you to pursue these ventures?
The story behind my upbringing and childhood inspired me to do charity work because growing up, we were taught to value family and giving. I grew up in an extended family which consisted of both our close relatives, cousins and distant relatives. The extended family concept provided me [with] a personal and corporal identity.
As the eldest child, I was assigned clearly defined roles in various stages of my life – to lead by example – and that helped me grow into a productive, selfless individual, which became a blueprint of my life in leadership.
As a family, we were united, we supported each other and our parents taught us the spirit of ubuntu – we shared all we had. My parents inspired me by teaching us to be there for each other.
On a normal day, we would have visitors, which were close relatives and distant ones, coming from as far as our rural home, Silobela. Our parents would ensure that we embraced, created space and shared everything. I remember one time we had 21 people in our house. We always cooked a large pot of food to accommodate visitors who would show up at any given time.
My father paid school fees for his brothers, sisters and the wider extended family, including strangers. He always emphasized sharing and caring.
When I came to England, I would hear how some families I knew had fallen on hard times and thought of how I could help them. Sometimes I would send money. I also met Zimbabweans in the UK who had fallen on hard times. I would offer them accommodation or food.
My childhood experiences motivated me to give back to my community to bring change. Growing up, I also saw all sorts of social ills, including women and young girls abused and some children having no access to quality education. I then realized that speaking up and challenging societal norms was the beginning and my role as a woman.
Charity work was a significant tool in solving the challenges faced in my community. I then established Inspire Women Men and Children, aiming to accelerate empowerment and bring equal economic and social opportunities to women, men and children in both countries.
What were your fears when starting out?
Income generation remains the number one challenge for organizations, followed by meeting demand for services and reductions in funding.
My fears were mainly on sustaining the organization. Starting a non-profit organization is not easy because you need to have systems for income-generating followed by meeting demand for services and also reductions in funding.
The fear of failing my communities was what kept me knocking on many doors to look for funding and support from well-wishers. Sometimes some doors where shut in my face; some doors were opened. I was once called professional beggar – this encouraged me to persevere.
Did you have any experience?
Yes, I had experience from my previous voluntary work and involvement in advocacy causes, but the truth is that we learn every day as long as we are determined to do so. Through my leadership experiences, I have gained a strong network of women who support my work.
Apart from taking short courses on leadership and personal development, I learn from other women who are also in the social purpose sector. I also support aspiring women and girls who want to join in mentorship.
What were some of your biggest challenges while you built your organization? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was securing funding to grow and sustain the organization. Funding is a big challenge especially for community-based organizations, but we are grateful to have partners and volunteers who’ve been supporting and ensuring continuity in our work. Running an organization in two countries is also not easy considering my full-time job.
Time management is hard, but I am glad to be surrounded by very supportive people that I can delegate for certain tasks.
What keeps you going on the tough days?
Before I used to throw a pity party on my tough days – either binge eat or drink. This was very unhelpful as I ended up with hangovers and an unhealthy lifestyle. I began to accept that sometimes I am up and sometimes I am down – during these times, I need more support from people who are doing similar projects for more guidance and support.
I am firm believer that it’s how I respond in my moments of defeat that really defines the type of person I am. I have learnt to navigate the difficult times by staying positive, knowing what I am grateful for, building up community – surrounding myself with people who are kind, loving and caring towards me – being kind to myself and self-realization.
I have come a long way – I have made progress and there is light at the end of the tunnel; it will get brighter. I am a spiritual person.
The world is full of challenges that need us to step out from our comfort zones and reach out. We were all created to add value to this world, and basically this is what keeps me motivated to serve those in need.
What do you consider to be some keys to your success?
I would consider six things as keys to my success:
- my passion and motivation confidence
- faith in myself
- my resilience
Our organization has been surviving due to the support we receive from people from all walks of life. The networks of relationships I have maintained since my leadership journey have been the pillar of our work, enabling Inspire Women Men and Children to operate effectively.
We have also remained resilient despite the challenges we encountered. It is very important for any individual who is hungry for success not to be deterred but to keep pressing on.
Do you have some advice for women who want to pursue their passion?
If you have ideas on making the world a better place, go for them. Do not hesitate. The world needs people who can serve each other and women should be at the forefront of leadership in all facets of life.
It doesn’t matter how much you have [or] your age, but lead from where you are and with what you have. What men can do, women can do it better. Zimbabwe needs more women in leadership and its starts with you and me.
You can connect with Patience via:
Facebook: Patience Ndebele-Omijie