Anesu Gands, 25, a young carpenter, was named Integrity New Homes HIA South East Queensland (Australia) Apprentice of the Year in 2019. He moved from Zimbabwe to New Zealand at the age of seven with his family before moving to Brisbane, Australia at the age of 16.
As a child, you wanted to be…
A few things actually. At one stage I wanted to be a policeman, then an architect then a doctor. Now it’s construction.
How did you handle the cultural shift having lived in 3 different countries?
At first, it was unsettling. Even though I didn’t grow up kumusha with my grandparents and cousins, in the city the family mentality carried through even to the suburbs. I had awesome relationships even with people down the street. The western side of the world has more of an individualistic culture which was difficult to adjust to. Then there is the way
Africans are perceived in general. People literally thought I would see lions every day! Being a minority meant it was difficult to find where to fit in exactly especially as you had to deal with racism and ignorance.
How does your family keep the Zimbabwean culture alive?
‘I’m thankful that in Australia and New Zealand we had close family friends, so we almost formed little villages in a sense. Events and get-togethers were often filled with family friends, who I now refer to as uncles and aunties. I would watch my parents interact with them and through that be reminded of my roots.
The Zimbabwean community in Brisbane is…
… Quite a vibrant community. Like many other communities in the diaspora, we have the Zim pride and community events. We’ve managed to develop little clusters of families in a way as Brisbane is quite a big place. Weddings are often the times you see most of the Zimbabweans out in full swing.
What inspired you to pursue carpentry? How did the journey start?
I realised that in my particular context in Australia, some of the most successful businesses are in trade. I had met a few carpenters and was intrigued, so I decided that I would like to someday build a business that creates generational wealth and also gives me the means to pursue other entrepreneurial ventures.
You were named Apprentice of The Year 2019 in South East Queensland. Tell us about that experience and how it made you feel.
After months of not being sure if I had made the right decision, it gave me a confidence boost as well as opened a new door of possibilities.
Your two biggest challenges as an apprentice have been or are…
Having to deal with the machismo culture that is a just bullyish mentality. The second challenge is having to deal with ignorance, whether it be about race or differences in opinion.
How did you handle those challenges?
In some cases, silence is golden. But where I felt that I was personally undermined or felt that it was intentional, I would speak to my boss as well as my parents to see if I was being reasonable and then confront the issue.
A critical piece of advice you’d give a budding entrepreneur or apprentice is…
Develop an attitude of optimism. It doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days, but it’s learning to see the good with the bad. Know that after the rain comes rainbows. After the fire comes the time to rebuild.
What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
My father said to me once, “I don’t expect you to do what I do as a career or be like me. I want you to achieve and do even better.” He is a civil engineer so big shoes to fill!
To a young Zimbabwean in Zimbabwe right now, you would say…
… Be open to the possibilities of life. You have a dream or a vision? Find a way to work towards it and don’t forget those who were there with you. There is the awesome African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.’
And to a young Zimbabwean in the diaspora…
… With all the opportunities granted to you, if you could do anything in this world with no limits and money wasn’t an issue, what would you do? Go get that. Just do it.
What three things would you say to your younger self?
Try everything you can and then zone into a few things you love. Don’t worry so much about what others think especially those who are not invested in your life. Be accountable to yourself as well as others.
The first thing you do when you wake up is…
Drink lemon water, read my Bible and hit the gym.
Three people, from any period in time or walk of life, whose brain you’d like to pick are…
… Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Abraham from the Bible.
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