Growing up in Zimbabwe, Tendai Masiriri was inspired at an early age to want to make a difference in other people's lives. He started down a career path of social work at a very young age, and now, about a quarter century later, he is the executive director of
Growing up in Zimbabwe, Tendai Masiriri was inspired at an early age to want to make a difference in other people's lives. He started down a career path of social work, and now, about a quarter century later, he is the executive director of Heartside Ministry.
RapidGrowth: What brought you to the United States?
Tendai Masiriri: Initially I came here as a student. I got my bachelors degree from Andrew’s University
at the age of 24. Then I became a minister in Zimbabwe before I came back to the United States to pursue further education and social work.
RG: What inspired your path into social work?
TM: I grew up in Zimbabwe, so I grew up around a lot of need. The natural tendency is that you want to help. The closest thing I could to do, to play my part, was to become a minister. So that is what I did. But it had its limitations, so I decided to pursue a degree in social work, where they educate you in the actual skills to do that advocacy. I mostly focused on substance abuse and mental health issues. You can either enable or help people... considering your level of skill-set. I got further training so I could help people.
RG: How has your work impacted your personal life?
TM: To be honest, it humbles you in terms of the ability to know that you have helped people at all levels of the social strata. Those who are in real need, as well as those who just need some counseling. You can meet a person after 10 years, and they still remember their initial encounter with you. It makes you feel so humble that they remember. What you thought were the little things at the time have had such a significant impact upon their lives. They tell you [about] their progress, their life, and they remember the times you sat down with the whole family. You take for granted the little stuff that we do and the difference it makes in peoples lives.
It also goes onto from a big picture perspective. Not only what we do as workers, but also the people that support the work. You might not always remember how much you give, and you might not always keep at the forefront of your mind what the gifts of the ministries do. From writing that check, to when that life is touched, the cascading effect is amazing.
RG: Do you ever struggle to maintain a positive spirit and attitude, given the social environments you work within?
TM: Yeah... I won't deny I struggle. It is always in front of you. You see the brokenness from a systems perspective to an individual perspective. You see people struggling because of the way things are and the way policies are crafted. The one thing I always tell myself when struggling with that is these people have a maker. They have a creator that loves them more than anyone else does. Things will be okay; there will be a way out. People are much more resilient than we can even imagine. People live with struggles and they learn to live with them -- day in and day out. You can only attribute that to the resilience in them.
RG: What led you into your most recent role with Heartside Ministry
TM: When I heard about this position, they first described what type of population they [work with]. This is a population that is struggling with income disparity, and I grew up in a place that need was all over the place. To think of only knowing about today’s meal… I can relate to that.
RG: What unique value do you hope to bring to the organization?
TM: I have experience and experience in program development - especially when it comes to unique programs. Right now we are looking at furthering our GED program, case management systems, and so forth. We are looking at how they can work together in an interdisciplinary program so we can really make a difference in these peoples lives.
We want to address the unique needs of this population. We have discovered that they are coming from environments where they have had multiple traumatic experiences…and they have a difficult time communicating their struggles. Through art making, they can tap into their innermost experience and communicate that information in another way.
RG: What inspires your teaching philosophy?
TM: I am a pragmatic realist. Theory should go along with the practical use of it; I cant just have theory and leave it there. The way I teach, the way I communicate, the way I develop programs here... I need to connect it to what is on the ground.
RG: What is your favorite thing about the saying “it’s not the end of the world”?
TM: It really puts things into perspective for me. The problems in the world aren't always as big as you think that they are. It’s my way of shrinking the problems in the world and putting them into perspective.
Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.