A few days ago, I listened to a BBC PODCAST called The Documentary and found out how they are handling the mental health issue in Zimbabwe. You can find out more about this unique approach to increasing access to mental health services by listening to the podcast here. Here’s a quick summary.
In Zimbabwe, there are 14 million people, 20 psychiatrists and approximately ¼ of those 14 million people have a mental health issue. So they came up with a creative solution to help people who didn’t have access to a psychiatrist. It required a little tweaking to create a uniquely Zimbabwean solution. The word mental health didn’t go over so well in Zimbabwe, but the word friendship did.
So, they created friendship benches.
What is a friendship bench?
A friendship bench is a bench where a local grandmother sits and provides counseling to anyone who comes along who needs a listening ear or is struggling with a mental health issue.
The grandmothers have been trained in cognitive behavioral therapy and how to talk to a mentally ill person. They provide counseling to the best of their ability when a brokenhearted person happens along. Severe cases are reported to a more experienced practitioner. This has been so successful that friendship benches are now being copied all around the world.
So what do grandmothers in Zimbabwe have to do with Black Startups?
At this particular moment in history, when Black people need economic empowerment to start businesses, I believe that just like in Zimbabwe, Black grandmothers have a role to play.
If you’re a Black grandmother, or Black grandfather for that matter reading this, let me ask you a question. Are you retired and relatively healthy? Could you provide 4 hours per week to a Black business to do any of the following?
- Customer Service
- Chat Support
- Telephone Support
- Voice Overs
- Project Management
- Writing, proofreading
- Data Entry
- User Experience Testing
- Legal Help
- Social Media Management
If the answer is yes, look first to businesses in your community that are just starting out or look at the job listings on this website. Remember to read our due diligence document before you begin. This will help you to avoid scams, anyone trying to get money from you, or take advantage of you. Make it clear up-front that you are not providing financing, only labor.
Why should you do this, and why am I calling on all Black grandmothers? Consider these three reasons to help a black business.
1) What if you found out that just a little bit of help from you could mean the difference between success or failure for an entrepreneur?
2) What if the support that you provided freed up the entrepreneur to work on things that could have an impact on the community and grow the business to profitability?
Finally, and this is the most important one
3) What if, because of your help, the next generation of black people will assume that it is perfectly normal for every Black person to own a successful business.
This is the best motivation for helping a Black business a few hours a week.
This is why I’m calling on all Black grandmothers.
Consider helping a black business today with your time and your talent. Sometimes it takes a village to grow a Black startup.
By Carol Barrett
July 13th, 2020