Africa University is training ambassadors as a part of its expanding focus on development and resource mobilization on the continent of Africa.
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"The idea of ambassadors grew out of our realization that, even in Zimbabwe, a good number of United Methodist Church members do not know very much about Africa University," said Margaret Makadzange, a Zimbabwean business leader and member of university's Board of Directors.
If this was true within the denomination and in the country where the university's main campus is located, Makadzange noted, there as serious work to be done in the church, the wider community, and the other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Makadzange sought the support of the Resident Bishop of the Zimbabwe Area, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, and worked with Africa University's Office of Advancement and Public Affairs , located on the main campus at Old Mutare, Zimbabwe, to implement the ambassadors' training initiative.
Launched at a one-day workshop in Zimbabwe, the initiative targets influencers in every age group. The goal is to train and resource individuals who are engaging, well thought of, and passionate about the university. Once trained, they are deployed to promote, propagate, and protect Africa University's ministry and reputation in their community.
More than 70 clergy and lay members, representing the 13 districts of The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, attended the July workshop. Twenty-four-year-old Devine Gaga was among them.
"The workshop was educative, organized and transformative…I am very optimistic that the inclusion of young adults will make a big difference as they are energetic and strategic for marketing," said Gaga.
The participants gained insights from senior administrators, alumni, and church leaders, who brought the institution's history to life. Bishop Nhiwatiwa, a founding staff member in the school of theology when Africa University opened in 1992, was one of the presenters.
"Our first group of students arrived when Africa University had very little infrastructure and was situated in (the) bush," said Nhiwatiwa. "But, in their eyes, what they saw was a university. That is what you call faith!"
In addition to keeping their communities abreast of the Africa University story, the ambassadors are expected to help to identify and cultivate potential students and supporters. For Makadzange, the ambassadors' initiative is in its pilot phase. Based on lessons learned in Zimbabwe, the recruitment and training of university ambassadors is planned for the other annual conferences of The United Methodist Church in Africa.
Adapted from articles by Jeanette Dadzie, staff of the AU Office of Advancement and Public Affairs and Chenayi Kumuterera, communicator for the Zimbabwe West Conference of the UMC.
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.