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From Program Member to Program Facilitator

Manley is no stranger to grief and hardship. After losing his mother in 2006 and then his father in 2008, he went to live with his aunt and uncle. Manley’s aunt used brutal ways of parenting: shouting, beating, corporal punishment, and food deprivation. She depleted him of the little confidence he had left. But still, he stayed for five years.

After Manley finished the advanced level of education to qualify for the university, his uncle kicked him out of the house for good. Manley returned to his rural home, where he learned his paternal relatives had assumed control of his parent’s land. They had even sold off part of the estate for profit. Manley was devastated, but as an orphan, he knew he could not make demands of his elders. He drifted on the streets, toiled in the fields, and begged for corn and cassava. Occasionally, he grew desperate enough to return to his uncle for food or ancillary needs. 

In 2014, Manley joined Zoe Empowers Zimbabwe. He received training on starting a business and a grant amounting to 150 USD. With the grant, Manley bought several broiler chickens, which he reared, then sold. As his income grew, he diversified his offering, tending to pigeons, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other larger farm animals. He bought and sold groceries and second-hand clothing. The more his businesses grew, the more self-reliant he became. Eventually, he did not need to return to his uncle. 

Manley (in black), Manley’s friend (in blue) and his Program Facilitator Chico (in orange)
Manley in his first year holding groceries bought from his business profits

The Zoe Empowers staff equipped Manley with the resources to repossess the land his relatives had stolen. There, he settled into the most stable living arrangement he’d had since before the death of his parents. Because he’d achieved high marks in the advanced level of post-secondary education, despite his miserable home life, Zoe staff and his peers encouraged Manley to consider going to college. This possibility had never occurred to him, but he couldn’t unsee it once he envisioned himself in a college classroom. 

Manley enrolled at Midlands State University (MSU) in 2016. He chose Psychology as his major and was accepted into the Honors program. Because Manley relied on his businesses to afford tuition, he hired an orphaned young person in the community to manage his operations while he was at school. Before long, his entrepreneurial spirit prodded him to start another business at college. 

Manley consulted his Zoe Empowers group about the idea, and they loaned him money to start a new endeavor: printing and photocopying. He also bought and sold clothes. All the money he made went toward his school fees. During semester breaks, he returned home to participate in his empowerment group activities and check on his other businesses. 

In 2020, Manley completed his Bachelor of Science degree. He was recognized for his stellar academic achievement, winning the Best Undergraduate Student Award, Nyaradzo Life Assurance Award, MSU Book Prize Award, and First Mutual Health Award for best undergraduate student in the Department of Psychology. After graduation, he returned home to intern for Zoe. 

One year later, in 2021, Manley enrolled in a Master’s program at MSU, focusing on Community Psychology. Upon completion, he was, again, awarded the MSU Book Prize; and the Allied Health Practitioners Council Award for being the top student in his class. He aspires to earn a Ph.D. in psychology in the near future. 

When Manley reflected on his journey with Zoe Empowers, he described himself as “a village boy with a city dream.” A dream he never thought was possible until his Zoe group  helped him realize it. The dream chart taught him that a negative mindset is a barrier to success, but a growth mindset opens avenues for the less privileged. “A dream does not become a reality through magic,” Manley said. “It took sweat, determination, and hard work to fulfill my city dream. But I know that, with God, nothing is out of reach.” 

Zoe Empowers recently hired Manley as a program facilitator in Zimbabwe. As a Zoe team member, he shares his testimony with the young people in the program, offering advice and encouragement to orphaned children and vulnerable youth as they endure the challenging process of changing their lives for good. He often shares with them, “Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work. Zoe Empowers is the catalyst that propelled me from dust to destiny.”

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Manley and his livestock