Tendai Rupapa-Senior Reporter
GROWING up at an orphanage in Kuwadzana Extension, Harare, a 22-year-old girl never dreamt of attaining any qualification let alone landing a job in the country’s vibrant hospitality sector.
Unbeknown to her, God would smile at her one day and pluck her out of the walls of Tamuka Children’s Home, which she has called home from a tender age.
Fortuitously, the girl is among young women from the country’s orphanages who were taken by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and offered an opportunity to train in hospitality before being offered jobs in the hospitality sector.
In recognition of the First Lady’s drive to empower the girl child and ward off mischief, Hotplate Grillhouse, a player in the hospitality industry, last week handed over a fully equipped restaurant to her Angel of Hope Foundation where the less privileged girls are now employed.
This comes at a time when the country is battling juvenile delinquency largely attributed to Western influences and idleness. But the Angel of Hope Foundation is giving hope to the hopeless.
The new, fully licensed restaurant, which was officially opened by President Mnangagwa last week, is nestled at the corner of Samora Machel Avenue and Seventh Street in Harare.
The mother of the nation is working flat out to ensure citizens in difficult circumstances are uplifted and empowered.
So ecstatic were the girls who were lucky to receive training ahead of employment that they thanked the First Lady for her benevolence and opening a new chapter in their lives.
“I started staying at the home at a tender age, in fact I was taken in as an infant. I want to thank mhamha (First Lady) for giving us jobs at Hotplate Grillhouse.
“We will not think of any mischief because our minds would be occupied with work. We are now able to earn our own money through hard work,” she said. Another 21-year-old, who came from Harare Children’s Home, said she was ready to step up to the new challenge and thanked the First Lady for giving her a chance in life.
“I started staying at Harare Children’s Home when I was five-years-old. I want to thank our First Lady, Amai Mnangagwa for her assistance in raising a girl child. If it were not for you Amai, I do not think we would be here. We promise to work hard and make you proud,” she said while fighting back tears.
Freedom that comes with earning one’s own money is what another lucky girl who also stays at Harare Children’s Home is looking up to.
“I started staying there when I was young, but now I am 24-years-old. We thank the First Lady for what she has done for us. I am now fully employed hence will plan my life knowing I now have an income. May God bless her in everything she does,” she said.
Equally happy was another beneficiary who grew up at Dzikwa Trust.
“I want to thank Mhamha (the First Lady) for her efforts of looking at the rights of the girl child. She is empowering many of us and may God replenish where she takes away things to bless us. She is always donating to homes countrywide giving us food, toiletries, blankets and clothes among other items.
“I never experienced mother’s love growing up but Amai stood in the gap, she is a mother to the motherless. Thank you mhamha, I love you wholeheartedly. I also want to thank everyone who came to our assistance. Empowerment enables the girl child to stand on her own and not be abused by people. It enables her to do things on her own,” she said.
Officially handing over the restaurant, Hotplate Grill House chief executive Mr Benson Muneri expressed gratitude to the President for sound policies which enabled people to invest and the First Lady for supporting the empowerment of the girl child.
“I am a son of the soil, I am a Zimbabwean and I am an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry. I have been in the hospitality industry for the last 22 years and I am here in Zimbabwe, back from South Africa to invest in Zimbabwe in line with the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra as led by Your Excellency Mr President.
“Mr President, I thank you as a Zimbabwean for levelling the playing field for us, we young businesspeople. As small businesses, we appreciate your support and value your support and appreciate your presence to this day,” he said.
Mr Muneri said he was thrilled that the First Lady was giving the girl child an opportunity to own, manage and operate a restaurant.
Acting Secretary for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Dr Douglas Runyowa said the gesture resonated well with this year’s World Tourism Theme: “Tourism for Inclusive growth,” and underlies that the Tourism growth trajectory should not leave anyone behind.
“We are pleased to note that the workforce here is drawn from orphanages supported by Amai, the First Lady. We will thus leave this event satisfied that the tourism dollar is indeed going to make a difference in supporting the massive philanthropic work championed by Amai,” he said.
The Ministry then handed over certificate of registration and operator’s licence to the First Lady.
In her speech, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry said she was happy to witness national skills development initiatives being carried out by private players in support of the current economic drive spelt out under the Second Republic.
She thanked the First Lady for her focus on the girl child saying she had indeed changed their lives.
“I want to applaud the First Lady and leadership of the Hot Plate Grill House for embarking on this notable drive,” she said.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima said the opening of the restaurant demonstrated the capacity Zimbabwe had to promote employment creation initiatives and his ministry greatly commends it.
“We welcome the opportunities being created for our youths as this allows them to concentrate on building livelihoods and refraining from the negative vices that confront our society today such as drug and substance abuse.
“It is indeed commendable for the youth to be able to fend for themselves by sustainable means such as formal employment. My ministry through the Decent Work Country Programme continues to promote employment creation and we wish to take this opportunity to encourage business to emulate this initiative and venture into employment promotion activities,” he said.
Employment creation, Minister Mavima said, was a sustainable way out of poverty and would ensure that the country’s National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) objectives were met.
Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni also attended the event and said she was delighted to be part of an event which was a product of hard work and culmination of a noble initiative to empower underprivileged girls.
“I am glad to note that the initiative to take 20 girls from the children’s homes, train them and give them employment meets our goals as a Ministry and is also in line with NDS1 which is anchored on the principle of leaving no one behind,” she said.
Minister Nyoni said the First Lady’s initiative to take girls from children’s homes and empower them economically was an effective strategy to prevent gender-based violence.
Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri also attended the event and thanked the First Lady for her love towards the less privileged.