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Friday, January 15, 2010

From The Archives: Rising Helen



Written By: Staff Writer—She won Miss Millennium Namibia in 2000, was the second runner-up in the 2006 Miss Malaika UK contest, and with her visibility has used her voice to champion for those less fortunate. Meet 28 year old Helena Mazuva (simply Helen or Nanjira (her traditional name) among friends).
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Reflecting on her charmed life, Helen readily recognizes that she has been blessed, but that her blessings have come with a lot of hard work. Her first opportunity to work on an international platform on behalf of youth, was in 1996 when she graduated from high school and was selected as a Youth Activist.
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Along with the prestige the title conferred (only two high school students were selected), the title allowed Helen to study in Norway for a year. The opportunity opened up new avenues for Helen to other pursuits, including the performing arts. As Helen explains, "Apart form the youth work we did in Norway, we lived in an international boarding school called Elverum International Folk College. I studied Norwegian and theatre for a year. I was lucky to be chosen to perform in the biggest musical theatre called Salt of the Earth—the Story About the Life of Nelson Madiba Mandela and the Life in South Africa During the Apartheid Regime. It staged 80 students from 16 different countries, and it was performed all over Norway and also in South Africa. I had two roles in the musical, one of roles I played was the sister of Hector Peterson, a boy that was shot dead on June 16,1976 when South African students protested against being taught in Afrikaans. I could easily relate to this as living in Namibia I grew up in a town where apartheid was so obvious between black and white, and also at the time Namibias was called South West Africa as it belonged to South Africa. Performing in this play opened a lot of wounds for me, we met various south African leaders, like Walter Sisulu, Winnie Mandela, Desmond Tutu ... we also visited Robben Island to see everything that we put into this play, and to see where ... Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life."
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Helen graduated from the program and continued with her education, focusing all the while on youth related issues. In 2002, she was sent as a youth exchange student to England to study psychology for a year. "Having done a foundation course in psychology I realize that actually what I want to do is be a counsellor, focusing on people's feelings, understanding their feelings, and giving therapy, rather than psychology which for me is more cognitive and focuses on changing the behaviour of the person." With that realization in mind, Helen studied to become a professional counselor, completing her studies in 2006 with a placements at a rape crisis centre, a healthy living project, and refugee center for women who have suffered domestic abuse.
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Professionally, Helen is well on her way to success, as she plans to pursue a Masters Degree in Counseling and further help those in need. However, never one to settle for second best, Helen continues to use her visibility as Miss Millennium Namibia to reach out even further. "Being crowned as Miss Millennium Namibia, was a great opportunity for me to be given a platform as an intelligent young women to continue with my work and be a role model and a voice for young people, especially women. One of my prizes winning Miss Millennium was a ticket to England.. As it was only a ticket, I wanted to use it to the best advantage and do something positive with it. I contacted my local municipality and found out that we had a twinning sister town Chesterfield in England and with weeks of communication with the twinning officer in Chesterfield we came up with a fruitful program, where my visit included visiting schools, youth centers, radio stations and meeting the mayor and discussing. possible cultural youth links. The mayor at the time was actively a member and scout teacher, and we linked the scouts groups together, who are still sharing experiences up to today."
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Helen has worked with organizations such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Community Skills Development Centre (COSDEC), and Help for Self-Help, in addition to giving a voice to causes such as HIV/AIDS, children with disabilities, and the plight of refugees. "Life for me is a challenge, I try and turn the negative into positive, I believe the obstacles I had in life I have overcome them with the determination and perseverance of wanting to success and be the best I can, I believe God tests us in different ways and he offers us with different blessings." It is up to ourselves to make something positive out of it."
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Where does she find the inspiration to contribute to the world as much as she does? Helen says: "I'm inspired by strong intelligent black women who have struggled in their life to achieve what they have through hard work and determination and who they are today. Women in the street back home who are selling making ends meet to feed their children and the woman in the parliament with a big position inspires me, my mom, my great grandmother all contributed to my inspiration. As a child I loved Oprah Winfrey. Watching her talk shows I always dreamed that I wanted to be like her, I dreamed of making a difference in peoples life, and even being able to communicate to people in depth and Oprah inspired me. I dreamed being with her and chatting to her in my dreams, and nothing is possible I always say. Citing her greatest inspiration, her 96-year old great-grandmother, Helen says she, "never ever, no matter how successful or famous I get in life, [I] never [want to] take others for granted, but most importantly, to never ever forget my roots and where I come from."
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Get more information about Helen at www.nanjira.co.uk
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(Originally Published February 2007) (Photo Credits: Provided Courtesy Of Helen Mazuva Gregory)

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