Caroline Zimano

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The TeamCaro Foundation is a charity that was started by Caroline back in 2017 to help support women with breast cancer as well as those who survived it like she did. Besides that Carol is also a renowned motivational speaker and we at HOM caught up with her and this is what she had to say….

Tell us about your motivational speaking. How did you get into it?

Motivational speaking seems innate in my matriarchal lineage. I take after my grandmother who was the wisest person I ever met. My grandmother had a way with words and she would say very apt words in any given situation. So, I learnt at a very early age to choose words that bring positivity and hope to others even when they are in despair. As I grew up, always assumed the position of a motivator by default and I soon realised that I was not doing it enough.

You reported you had a lot of support and assistance when you were initially diagnosed with cancer. What did that entail?

The biggest source of support was what I always call “the human durawall” that surrounded me. Going through cancer is a very lonely experience because no-one can even imagine what you are going through physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. But, consistently having people who are there just asking you what they can do to make things better is a very humbling experience. I had people bring raw and cooked food, take me out even in my unsightly state, visit me in the hospital, have sleepovers, support my husband and children separately and pray for me. This level of support gives so much strength even when one’s prognosis is poor. It ultimately isn’t about whether one makes it but it becomes about who is holding one’s hand through it and to the end (If there is one).

Your organisation the TeamCaro Foundation is based on a social model. Any plans for diversifying this in the future?

We recognise our forte as being in the social model of support because we are limited in terms of for ex-ample the medical model because we are not trained medical professionals in the area of cancer treatment. The social model allows us to be led by the patient and their family in terms of the support they need. We can also concentrate on raising awareness in the community not just about the possible causes of cancer but also about walking the cancer journey and the many organisations people can access for support. It looks like in the interim, we will grow within the social model of support scope.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in setting up your organisation?

In the first instance, I recognised that passion is not knowledge! So, I had to research as I went because I could not wait until I felt I had enough knowledge. There was no time for that. I was solo for the first year and that was hard because I did not think that the idea was going to bear fruit. Even though I believed in it, I was almost embarrassed to put it out to others. And then there was the challenge of working and trying to register and visit people that I was supporting. Eventually, when I was joined by the ladies that I work with now, it was incredible. I have learnt that we often face challenges because we do not reach out and I am now doing a lot of that.

Tell us about your life before you were diagnosed with cancer?

I was a bulldozer! There were not enough hours in my life and I was racing against time because I felt I had so much to do a bit late in my life. As far as I was concerned, things were going my way even though a bit difficult. I had 3 jobs, going to university as a mature student, undertaking a lot of motivational speaking across the country, playing my master of ceremonies role and being a wife, mother, friend, aunt, colleague etc! I am sure many people do that anyway but for me, it was the first time that I was doing things for myself and not for others.

How has life in the diaspora been for you and what lessons have you learnt being here?

Life in the diaspora has been full of surprises and learning, hope and disappointments as well as a plethora of opportunities. But each experience good or bad has been welcome and some opportunities I tapped into and some I did not. The biggest lesson I learnt is that my life is where I am and I should make the most out of it. I think we live 20-40 years never settling because we think of returning to our birth country, but I think I can uproot when I am ready if everything is in place now. I have maximised on the quality of life I live because even my cancer experience made me realise that we only live once. I have also learnt to be in competition with myself by challenging myself to outdo myself as often as possible. It reduces the stress of competing with people that I have no idea how they are getting to where they are.

Do you think things will ever get better in Zimbabwe?

I think things CAN get better in Zimbabwe because the problem we have is small. It is a mindset problem. If that changes, the change will be magical. However, if the mindset of, each man for himself and luck for everyone else prevails, we are doomed in this life-time. There is no appetite for building a legacy for future generations and that is a shame.

What keeps you motivated?

Being alive keeps me motivated. I am alive for a reason and a purpose and I cannot afford to waste that.

What business tips can you offer for someone who wants to startup a business? Believe, research, understand and implement!

What can people look forward to hearing from you and your organisation in the future?

We have an annual event that we want to grow into a must-go event and we are slowly going towards social enterprising. We also want to work with African countries that have an understanding of what we are doing and how it can transform lives and give people dignity in dying.

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