Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
She is a former beauty queen, a successful businesswoman and has a heart of gold. Mrs Cecilia Mautsa is a compassionate yet tenacious woman on a mission to change lives of the underprivileged. She is determined to achieve her goal and bring smiles to hundreds of widows and orphans in the neighbourhood. Caring for 150 widows and 55 orphans, Mrs Mautsa has achieved this feat by riding on the sincerity of well-wishers and from her measly allowance as an early childhood development consultant.
“It is not something that I planned to do, but it is God’s calling. I never imagined myself being a caregiver of any sort, but I just found myself doing it,” said Mrs Mautsa in an interview recently.
From the time she responded to God’s special calling in 2012, Mrs Mautsa has brought smiles to many people through her organisation, Compassionate Hearts.
“It is indeed a tall order which requires strength of character, patience and a high level of commitment. I did not train for this, but it is out of love,” said Mrs Mautsa.
She said her current role as a caregiver entails her assisting the beneficiaries registered in the database with food, clothing and in some instances medication while they are domiciled in their areas.
Because the provisions can sometimes be inadequate – as is the current situation – Mrs Mautsa has to rely on the benevolence of different organisations especially churches, upcoming entrepreneurs for which she is grateful.
“When we started, assistance from the corporate world would pour in, but now the dynamics have shifted. We are no longer getting as much, and we now have to rely on well-wishers, whose contributions are on an ad hoc basis,” she said.
“We keep knocking at people’s doors, sometimes they are shut in our faces but we never lose hope,” said Mrs Mautsa, who has got Miss Zimbabwe patron Mrs Kiki Divaris to thank for nurturing her philanthropic attributes.
She says her interaction with Mrs Divaris, while she was a model back in the 1980s, gave her the foundation to venture into charity work.
“Being a model in the early 1980s a lot activities then involved charity work at various levels. But you needed to be passionate about it. I was not, but Mrs Divaris taught me to be resilient,” she recalled.
After her stint with Silhouette Modelling Agency, which opened doors for her in various fields, Mrs Mautsa ventured into the corporate world and took up various positions with a number of companies among them Delta Corporation and Royal Harare Golf Club.
At one time she successfully ran an employment agency, co-ordinated several beauty pageants in small cities, trained security guards and was at one time the regional manager for Women in Business, an organisation advocating for women empowerment.
However, despite her appearance and participation in the corporate world, Mrs Mautsa is still amused with her short but beneficial stint doing charity work, while working as a model, something she greatly cherished.
An opportunity to be engaged in charity work presented itself when she was handpicked by the late Dr John Makumbe to assist in the operations of the Zimbabwe Albino Association (ZIMAS).
Though apprehensive at first, Mrs Mautsa embraced the opportunity to work with the vulnerable, counselling and assisting in different capacities when the need arose.
During her tenure with the organisation, Mrs Mautsa might not have earned much financially, but working with the less privileged was in its way an enriching process, where she picked up good tenets that propelled her into charity work.
It was while she was with the Zimbabwe Albino Association in 2012 that God spoke to her to venture into voluntary work full throttle.
With no resources to kickstart any meaningful voluntary service organisation, she approached a few orphaned children in her community and invited them to her Marimba home for few counselling sessions.
“During the few sessions that I had with them, I noticed that they also lacked materially. Some would come without any shoes while others were visibly hungry.
“In some situations, the little ones who were less than 10 years would attend with their grandmothers or guardians. It turned out that some of their guardians actually had more problems than these orphans.”
Together with different members of the clergy, friends, and associates within the community, she formed the Compassionate Hearts Organisation.
“When we started, the situation was okay and we could get much from individuals and corporate organisations as well as assist many vulnerable people.
“At one time, the beneficiaries even ran successful poultry projects that were meant to economically empower them, but we are no longer able to do that due to lack of resources,” she bemoaned.
For a woman driven by zeal to assist, Mr Mautsa feels all hope is not lost. Given her unwavering passion to bring a change in people’s lives, she says she will continue assisting the vulnerable against mounting challenges.
Mrs Mautsa, who does consultancy for some of City of Harare’s early childhood development centres in the capital, has given herself a target to start 10 crèches between now and 2016 the proceeds of which would be ploughed back into the charitable programmes she is working on.
“I am inspired by Bill Gates’ words when he said effective philanthropy requires a lot of time and creativity, the same kind of focus and skills than building a business requires.”
She says society, especially women, needs to be educated on the benefits of philanthropy in creating better societies and communities.
“Women are strategically positioned to lead in their communities by virtue of the roles they play within their own homes.
“The fact they are nurturers gives them the biggest mandate to assist and reach out as much as possible,” she said. A mother of three and several grandchildren, Mrs Mautsa is also a marriage counsellor.