YOUTH OF THE MONTH, OUANZIE ZITA
Our Youth of the month this November is called OUANZIE ZITA, a very passionate and dedicated humanitarian who is at the head of SMILES AFRICA, an NGO on a mission to satisfy the most pressing needs of widows, orphans and the less privileged all over Africa and offering workshops through targeted projects.
Better Breed Cameroon had the opportunity to ask her a few question, which she answered and we believe it will be a source of inspiration as you read through.
- How would You describe yourself?
Describing myself in one word would be “GRACE”
- What is SMILES Africa and why SMILES Africa?
Smiles Africa is a charity non-profit organization with head-quarters based in Cameroon. It is a team with a mission to satisfy the most pressing needs of widows’ orphans and the less privileged people all over Africa and offering workshops through targeted projects. We also attain our mission through advocacy, education and sensitization of the society, awareness campaigns, and donations and deliver resource support. We work transparently and endeavor to have close cooperation and communication with our benefactors and their problems. In this manner we ensure that people’s donations reach the right places and where it has the greatest impact.
Why SA? I always dreamt of a world or society that practices equity over equality where everyone is given a fair chance. Several times in my private space I will cry to God asking “why” the world is this way. Personally my heart is never at rest whenever I see people mistreated because of their status, class or because they have no one to speak for them. And this is the case with most orphans and widows in the world today. So with this burden in my heart I was led to start up a charity organization guided by the voice of the book of James 1:27 (Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.) and has the name SMILES AFRICA. Our primary aim is implanting smiles in the hearts and faces of widows, orphans and the less privilege all over Africa.
- What inspired you to start SMILES Africa?
Honestly if I were just looking at my everyday life and activity I will still have never had the courage to establish this organization. But my seriousness to obeying the voice of God gave me a go ahead. I wanted to see equity, I wanted to see orphans smile and say they are no longer orphans because I exist, that they have hope again or feel love again. That they had a free chance to express their talents and skills. I wanted to see widows jubilant because the deaths of their partners did not mean they are now voiceless and all hope is lost. I wanted to see those who could barely afford anything in the society live comfortably and earn a living. But I lost the courage to begin until one evening when God instructed me to setup a foundation or a charity. I first of all tried to ignore. But this was an instruction and I found myself sleepless and worried for about 2 weeks. Then I stubbornly accepted and when to God in prayer and fasting asking what is the aim? The mission? Who are the audience I am reaching out to? And on breaking my fast on day 1. He said open your bible to James 1:27. And the journey began from there.
- Can you describe briefly your experience with SA so far?
It’s been a journey of emotions, personal growth, diversity, sleepless nights, celebration of wins, and miracles. Smiles Africa has taught me how to deal with people of different caliber. It has changed my sense of reason and made me more compassionate towards mankind. I see people in a more different way than i used to before. Dealing with SA and its people has molded me into a position of leadership where i am bound to lead my logic and not emotions. I find myself being hardworking and very determine, because I have come to the understanding that the destinies of certain people lie in my hands. Therefore I have to live right. I have to put in the extra time energy and work to see that the organization is intact to fulfil its mission. My life has even become more discipline and organized because I always remember there is a certain audience out there I am accountable to. Leading Smiles Africa has exposed me to a vast network of diverse people and has expanded my capacity.
- What specific challenges do you face running an NGO in Cameroon?
There are a lot of challenges. But one major thing I’ll point out will be finances and trust. We definitely have plans and projects but every plan remains a dream or irrelevant until it is executed. We can’t carry out these projects without finances or sponsors or donors. We have a massive number of people we want to reach out to but we get limited by lack of finances. Also a lot of people have this idea about NGO’s extorting money from people for their personal benefits. There are people of goodwill out there who are ready to donate and partner but are challenged with the “lack of trust” syndrome either because they heard one story or have had a similar experience were their donations never get to their benefactors. I remember a time we were reaching out to some children in a rural community who could barely afford one square meal a day or go to school. We wanted to put them on a food program, provide them with stationery etc. But the sponsors requested like pictures and videos of this children in order to actually confirm. My team and I at that point were already feeling frustrated from the excessive proof request. We didn’t know there was another bigger challenge ahead. When we got to the children their caretakers were against it saying other organizations had come and taken footages of these children and they never received any donations that were given to the organization for them. These are just some major challenges we face as an organization in Cameroon.
- Are they any projects or achievements you are so proud of and Why?
Yes there are several projects i am proud of more specifically proud of my team. Given that I am a distance away but then I still have people who say to me “do not worry go and rest, we have this all figured out” I could mention lots of project but i choose to talk about the “End hunger virus 2020” project because these is one of the projects that reminded me that Smiles Africa is build by and on God. I remember when we sketched the budget for this project it was about 700.000cfa and we had just about 1/3 of this amount in our coffers. My team kept asking are we sure this project will hold we have 1month to raise the funds. I was a little troubled, so i printed the flyer had my mom pray on it and then took it to my prayer closet where I prayed on it daily! In a week we had 3/4 of the budget come in from people we knew and anonymous. I thought i was dreaming but this was God fulfilling His word of when He gives you an assignment he provides for it. In 4 weeks we raised way much above our budget. And my team pulled up so well and it was an excellent 2 days project.
- What can we expect from SMILES Africa this year and what are your aspirations?
Expectations!!!! We’re currently working on our mentorship program called SMILES AFRICA MENTORSHIP SUMMIT, which is a mentoring program of teenagers and young adults seeking to address pertinent youth challenges, provide mentorship & coaching on spirituality and life skills, and platforms to exhibit, grow, channel their potentials, accomplish their dreams and positively impacting society. We also host a reunion event yearly of mentors and mentees to evaluate how much positive impact we’re creating. and we help look or link the kids to sponsors. Apart from this SAMS we run in general 6 programs every year NUTRITION, WORKSHOP/CAPACITY BUILDING, CLEANING, EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE.
My aspirations are to build a Smiles Africa Home where everyone is a family and has access to healthcare good feeding, spirituality, education and mentorship.
- What is your advice for young Cameroonians who are aspiring to start an NGO?
Taking a decision as this means you’re setting yourself up for leadership. My first advice will be to get schooled on these positions. To be honest there was a time I had to pause SA projects for some months to take classes on Humanitarian works leaderships, entrepreneurships setting up NGO’s etc. to better myself. So remember you are your own brand and until you mold your personal brand you can never have an excellent cooperate brand. Talk to people who have gone ahead and are succeeding, stay humble and always be ready to unlearn and relearn. Have a plan of long term and short term goals defined your mission and let your vision keep you going because difficult and sleepless times will come where you will courageously want to give up but let your reason for starting keep you going. Have a good and organized team of people, who are sincere, committed, and a good financial and project manager. Quench your hunger for money so that it doesn’t mislead you and above all trust God for directions.
- What do you think our Cameroonian youths need to know/do to be the Better Breed?
Every youth out there who wants to be successful must know their purpose and assignment and stay committed to it. Be consistent in prayer, love and trust God always. Avoid copying tour fellow mates or trying to be like them be authentic and remember that you are unique. And if you are alive in such a time as this its for a reason. Build yourself (read books, attend lessons, gain as much valuable certificates as you can) build your network. Invest in relationships they are very expensive currencies that will open doors money cannot. Belong to communities they’ll help groom you. And above all rest and eat healthy