José de Goede - An interview with our Young Africa Ambassador
Date: 22nd March 2023
Location: Young Africa Zimbabwe, Chitungwiza
Written by: Nollaig Hulme
Jose de Goede was born in Groningen, The Netherlands in 1954. Jose has worked in the art world as a certified appraiser and auctioneer for 40 years. She has had television programmes, given lectures and written columns for newspapers and magazines. In addition to her already busy life, a big challenge came which stole her heart. In 1993, Jose travelled to Zimbabwe for the first time to Gweru to visit a friend who was working as a doctor there. This visit came with great consequences. Her friend needed a sponsor to expand the hospital he was working in so Jose came up with the idea of exporting stone statues from Zimbabwe to be sold in the Netherlands.
Jose became so impressed and involved with the country, the people, and their culture, that for 30 years not only did she buy and sell sculptures, but she also took care of the artists and their families. Proceeds from the sales of the statues went back to Zimbabwe, which also resulted in an investment in a primary and secondary school where 980 children are now being educated every day.
In 2008, Jose organised a large food transport when the country was hit by a huge drought. Jose knew the area well and the people in need, for 10 days she drove around in a big truck to distribute the food. Jose says it was one of the hardest and toughest jobs she has ever done and further strengthened her commitment to Zimbabwe. After 30 years, Jose stopped with buying and selling the statues in Zimbabwe, when YA International asked her to be a YA Ambassador, she says she was “honoured to be able to continue to work on empowering young people in Zimbabwe to have a future.”
- What is the first word that jumps into your mind when you hear the words, ‘Young Africa’?
Energy. Lots of energy. Actually, two things come to mind, so if I must choose one – opportunities. Big opportunities.
- Why do you choose to work with Young Africa instead of any other NGO’s?
Chosen is a big word. This opportunity came on my path. I visited the Ambassador and she said “Jose, I think you need to do another job, after what you have done the last 30 years”. And she said, “do you know Young Africa International?”. The next day I had an appointment with Dorien Beurskens, and after 10 minutes I said yes, I would like to be your ambassador.
- Could you tell me the story that brought you to Young Africa?
I have spent a lot of time over the last 30 years in Zimbabwe doing charity work. All the skills I have, I believe I can bring them together for Young Africa. This is something bigger, and something that is really needed. That is why I am really proud that I can be involved.
- What drives your passion for Young Africa’s mission and work, and has that changed over the years?
I didn’t finish high school. When I was 24, I decided to continue my studies but since I had not finished high school, I had to do a colloquium doctom. It was hard but in the end I did it. But for all these youngsters I have met over the last 30 years, there are no such other opportunities here. I think organisations like Young Africa are so important for Zimbabwe and we need to work very hard. It is a double challenge, Zimbabwe, and its youth. I really believe in what we are doing.
- What is your relationship to Sub-Saharan Africa, and did you have the chance ever to visit Young Africa’s TVET Centres before today? What were the impressions/memories that you took with you?
I started coming to Zimbabwe in 1993 and I could see that there were not many opportunities or support for young people to go to school. All the circumstances, in my opinion, were not ideal. So, I worked on that and I invested in a school where now more than 980 children are getting good schooling and a warm meal every day. Similarly, I think the support provided by YA is needed in Zimbabwe because the young people have limited chances elsewhere, this is their only chance to continue their education.
I have been to Young Africa in Chitungwiza three times now, I have been involved in classes and talked to the teachers. Soon I will go to the centres in Mozambique and then to Zambia. But I guess the situation is all the same as here, no one is better off. The youth really need Young Africa International.
My impression of Young Africa Chitungwiza is amazing. I was really shocked in a positive way. Especially because of the way Young Africa operates with entrepreneurs as franchisees. I was an entrepreneur myself for 40 years in the art industry and I know from experience that you can learn best from a successful businessman/woman. YA gives them the skill of reality, in other institutions the students can go to school, but after that they don’t know how to apply what they have learnt to the real world. So, with the skills, the SRHR training, computer training etc that Young Africa provide altogether they are ready to work. That is what it is all about, to find work or to start a small business, earning money. To be proud of oneself, and I think that is the most important thing.
- Tell us about the main projects/activities you contributed to or even led at YA since you started supporting the organisation. What are you particularly proud of?
That I have being able to sell for 30 years worldwide, the beautiful and unique sculptures made by Zimbabwean artist. In this country they make unbelievable, beautiful sculptures and most of them have no other opportunities than making sculptures, but unfortunately, they have no idea how to sell it. Even these artists need to do a course, hopefully someday here at YA, so they know how to look after themselves, learn how to sell their creations and how to put their business on the internet. They are great artists, but to sell their art I think they really need to bring it to the attention of a large audience worldwide! Because here in Zimbabwe there is little interest in their art.
- What motivated you to become a YA Ambassador and give up your time to YA?
Since I am retired, I would like to spend a few days a week with Young Africa International, not just in Zimbabwe but I trying to find funding in Europe to continue our work. I really believe in the Mobile Training model. That’s my goal, in each city or in each area in Zimbabwe to have a mobile training unit.
- What is your biggest goal or dream for Young Africa to which you would like to contribute to in the following years?
To have 25 more mobile training trucks, and in the future maybe 50 to 100. Because it is very difficult for these young people to travel, sometimes the distance to travel is very far in Zimbabwe, sometimes they must travel for days by bus to reach Harare and that is also an added expense. If we go to the remote areas we can reach a lot of young people who would otherwise never here from us, and we have a bigger opportunity that they will participate!! So that’s my real dream.
- You have had quite a successful career so far, what characteristics do you think contributed to this success?
What contributed to me being successful was that people really believed in me. Like I said I did not finish secondary school, but everyone was enthusiastic about what knowledge I had and about the way I worked. Because of them, I dared to go for the colloquium doctum and did my studies, and then I became the youngest auctioneer of the Netherlands. You need to believe in yourself, be proud of yourself, but you can only be proud of yourself if you are taking the initiative to do something to change your life. No one else can do it for you. I think that is the real secret. I had no secondary school and I ended up being quite successful. But success is not always about money, it is what is in your heart. I did everything that was possible in my profession. I teach, I had a television programme, I won prizes. But it’s not about the any of that.
And for me energy is important. People can give you energy and you can give back energy, so I think it is all about the energy that flows between people. And that’s what I feel when I come here to YA in Chitungwiza. The laughter, the energy, the belief in people, the happiness. And I think you all we must do is help them to believe in themselves. Those are the key words – energy, love, and a lot of belief. Then you can make people fly.