Washington Masenda (66) is well known in the Highfield community for mobilising young men and women who are unemployed.
He does the same with the underprivileged. Masenda realised young people were spending most of their time in bars drinking beer, smoking all sorts of substances, and some of them became womanisers.
Together As One was born out of a need in the community to curb problems young people were facing — with Washington Masenda behind the initiative.
In October 1992, Together As One was formed. Before October, Masenda managed to sit down with young people in the community to find out why they were not formally employed.
Some of his findings included, among other things, the fact that most of them didn’t have money to go to school or qualifications to get decent jobs. His project was then formed with the aim of helping the unemployed and the underprivileged in the community to ensure a better future.
Becoming a beneficiary of Together As One is easy. Enrolment is open to anyone without regard to race, tribe, gender or educational qualifications. Statistics supplied show that at least 1 000 people were benefiting from this project every year.
“I have helped people in areas as far as Bulawayo and Hwange to form groups and mentor them as well,” said Masenda.
Dorica Mavi is the administrator at Together As One. Prior to working at Together As One, she worked for a large local mobile network provider as a senior credit controller, but she left and joined this organisation.
She stated Masenda taught her to work for the community without expecting anything in return. He gave her ideas on how to be independent and also to take care/look after underprivileged children.
Over and above her work, Mavi also learnt how to groom herself and people in the community. Masenda showed her the importance of uniting the community and sharing ideas with them.
Mavi said Masenda is a very important person in the community because he is an entertainer, teacher, facilitator, actor, educator and a father figure to many.
She also indicated Masenda managed to unite MPs and councillors while turning a blind eye to their political alignment or party.
“He is not doing this for councillors in the community only, but even beyond his community.” Mavi added.
Masenda trains teachers from different schools and students from different institutions.
“I’m now popular because of him. I acted in a drama called New Dawn,” said Mavi.
He has managed to raise many actors who have featured in local dramas and made it to the airwaves such as Tiriparwendo and Estate Blues.
Mavi said Masenda is a community person. He has a passion for helping people. Mavi now owns a house for orphans called Idonai Place Of Shelter.
The shelter is based in Harare and has other branches in Mutoko, Rusape and Zaka. Under that shelter are a group of women called “Woman of Substance” where she is teaching them to be independent through making handmade products such as sewing and making peanut butter.
They sell all hand made products in order to have money for the orphan’s needs.
“If it wasn’t for Masenda, I would never have known that working for the community is such a pleasant and respectable activity.” Mavi said.
She went on to say that she is not the only one benefiting from Masenda, but many people come with their project proposals to seek advice from him.
Everson Ndlovu got to know Masenda in 1999 when he was in Form One. “He came to my former school and he introduced Together As One policy so as to nurture the drama club at school. We used to meet after school for drama sessions and we could perform at shows such as World Aids Day, awareness programmes etc.
He helped me to develop my talent in acting and now I’m a graduate,” said Ndlovu. He has visited many countries in Europe through drama. He is now earning a living because of Masenda who managed to identify his talent.
Ndlovu is now sharing the knowledge he got from Masenda with the community and schools. He stated that to say even up to now Masenda is still a father figure to him, a mentor and guides him all the time.
James Mukwindidza came to Harare when he didn’t even know the city since he was born and bred in a rural area. He had theory on drama but he didn’t have the practical side of it.
Masenda helped him to gain experience in drama. Mukwindidza said: “He is the one who taught me about Harare and how to approach anyone about theatre.’’
Mukwindidza went on to say, Masenda taught him to be toleratant and patient when teaching others since he was bad tempered.
Currently Mukwindidza has created his own organisation called Vhuka Africa Performing Arts.
He had been part of the cast in local dramas such as Nhakayedu, Nhasi Mangwana, Legacy, Suburb D and The team.
He also featured in films such as Lobola and The Kiss. He also acted in a short film called Playaz.
The Member of Parliament for Highfield West — Simon Hove — commented on the good work being done by Masenda in the community of Highfield.
Hove said Masenda has done a lot for the community such as advocacy for HIV and Aids drama.
He is called for different workshops to present on health issues. Masenda works with different groups of people even outside his community. In Aids issues he has managed to reduce discrimination because of his teaching.
Above all he encourages people to be actors even if they do not have the requisite talents. The MP also acknowledged that if it had more people like him, the community would change for the better.
Together As One has achieved a lot in bringing up actors and producers not for the good of the community only, but for Zimbabwe. The late John Banda who used to act in the drama Gringo was mentored and trained by Masenda.
The other late actors also mentored by Masenda are Annamore Makumbe who acted, the drama called Vangu Vana Ndochengeta. She came to Harare after dropping out of school. Makumbe was raped and she fell pregnant.
She came to Harare seeking employment and Masenda helped her. Tsungirai Mutambwe, Patience Kabaira, Conrade Mapuranga and Scholastic Chizora also went through the capable hands of Masenda.
Jason Mapeka is now director of Patsime Edutainment Trust. Daniel Maphosa is now the director of Savannah Arts. Chamunorwa Zvouya owns Tashinga Arts. Peter Munjodzi owns Cultural Warriors and Patrick Tembo owns Shooting Stars-Tsimba Art Production.
All these people came through Together As One. They were groomed and mentored by Masenda.
The organisation doesn’t have decent funding. At times members visit sewing companies where they pick or collect materials from bins.
They make clothes and sell so the organisation could have money. They sell anything or act to earn money for the organisation.
They also generate funds themselves through acting and live performances.