What is it that encourages us in our most despairing moments? How do we hold on to hope when our lives are shaped by things outside our control?
These are the questions that the inspirational speaker, Chido Govera, will encourage her audience to ponder in her upcoming School of Life tour. Chido Govera is a farmer, campaigner, and educator who teaches mushroom cultivation to thousands of people across the world.
As a social entrepreneur in Zimbabwe and the founder of The Future of Hope Foundation, she has reached out to over 1,000 women in communities in Zimbabwe, Congo, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania and South Africa and schools in India, Indigenous communities in Australia, and entrepreneurs in the US and Europe.
We spoke to Govera to get some insight into her incredible life.
You’re an inspiration to so many. Where did you get your own inspiration from when you were fighting your way out of your oppressive situation?
In the beginning, it was the responsibility I had over my granny and my younger brother that helped to hold on and to want to do better than just settle, not even for a man who could only put food on just my plate and not on the plates of those I was responsible for. Later on my inspiration came from the possibilities that mushrooms presented, the possibility to secure food and a small income for my family and the excitement of thinking that maybe I could do more and reach out to others beyond just my family – fulfilling the 8-year-old Chido’s dream of helping other orphans so they never had to experience what I did when I was young.
What’s the message of empowerment you want to spread to people who feel they have no hope?
My message of hope to those who feel they have no hope is that you are not defined by what happened to you in the time you had no control.
Indeed in life, unpleasant things happen which rob us of our appetite for life but if and when we survive, we owe it to ourselves to redefine ourselves and take the steps to rewrite our stories. When I was 19, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in a Swiss clinic where I had been sent to because it was then my best option. I had gone to the hospital with such big expectations that they would fix all my problems and that I would be good as new.
To my great disappointment then, they told me I would be responsible for my own healing. I was devastated at the time, but today I look back to that message as one of the most empowering messages I’ve ever received. It helped me to rid of the powerlessness I had adopted from my childhood, take control and reclaim myself. The knowledge that I could do something about my situation helped me to step out of my victim role and take charge of my life, regaining hope and a love for life again.
Tell us about learning to farm mushrooms from your own experience: how did you learn and why is this so important for those people you now teach?
I learned to farm mushrooms at the age of 11, when I was out of school and struggling to feed my family. I depended on working in other people’s fields, fetching water and firewood and sometimes tending to children and all kinds of household chores. Farming mushrooms enabled me to provide food and a bit of money for my family more easily. From the mushroom sales I was also able to contribute towards payment of school fees for other orphans in my community.
Mushroom farming became so important to me because it enabled me to provide food and an income for my family and other members of my community using agricultural biomass that all the poor people in my community had in abundance even when there was a drought. Today the importance of mushroom farming continues to increase especially on my continent and my country specifically, where we continue to struggle with the economic and leadership crisis which render even the well-educated members of society in absolute desperation. Everyone has to find their own way using what they have in these desperate times.
The El Nino-induced drought has made things even worse and vulnerable orphans and women suffer the most. In these circumstances, the need for orphans, especially girls and women to be engaged in initiatives like mushroom farming is very very big and urgent to secure survival and to build resilience using resources that are locally available.
What can we expect from your events at The School of Life in Melbourne and Sydney?
At The School of Life in Melbourne and Sydney you can expect an open interaction where I will share my story and views on how we can all jointly contribute towards creating a better and more hopeful community starting by taking responsibility for own healing, our own welfare, our family and immediate community regardless of our background or where we maybe in the world. You will learn from me and I will also learn from you and together we will redefine how we want to show up in the world going forward.