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Inside/Out with Charlene Hewat, Chief Executive Officer, Environment Africa
October 15, 2010

Full interview with Charlene Hewat - Read and listen

Describe yourself in five words?
Passionate, full of energy, outgoing, visionary.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Work with your passion. Go with what's in you. Believe in yourself because at the end of the day, it's not anyone else who can do what you are here for. It has to be you. And absolutely anything is possible. If you believe in it and you want it, get out there and go do it.

What's the most ridiculous thing you've ever done?
I think doing the ‘ride for the rhino' was ridiculous, in itself. I look back and think, jeez that was pathetic. Nothing else comes to mind except that.

What is your most treasured possession?
My health, because if you are not healthy you can't move forward. As for material possessions, I always tell people you come into this world with nothing, you leave with nothing so whilst you are here, get out and do your passion. You never see a hearse pulling behind a trailer with all your goods on it. I think people get really materialistic. I'm happy to live in a mud-hut, be in the communities and work with earth and people and wildlife.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I think it is when you have issues and hurt within family. That's really hard to deal with and sad.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
No, I don't think so. My hobbies, again, go back to my work. My son always says to me "your other child is your computer because you are always on your computer!"

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
My ears. I have a huge complex about my ears. It goes back to my youth when I had operations on them.

What is your greatest extravagance?
I bought a pair of tortoises, which I couldn't afford; they're carved in hardwood. They're really beautiful.

What have you got in your fridge?
Lots of salad, cheese, ketchup for my son, some leftovers from the night before because we don't throw anything away. We really use all that we've got.

What is your greatest fear?
Failure - I hate to fail. I want to succeed in whatever I do so I put my all into things, at the detriment sometimes to family and friends because my energy's just going into that.

What have you got in your pockets right now?
Nothing. I keep my things in my briefcase.

What is your favourite journey?
Adventure - any adventure. I love deciding new trips. A year ago we went to South Africa and we decided to go through Gonarezhou. It was in December so the rivers were up and we had to go over a flowing bridge, well it wasn't a bridge it was really just stones. And then we went into Mozambique and then into Kruger. There were hardly any roads and when we came across villages we had to ask for directions to South Africa. That was awesome!

Who are your heroes in real life?
One of them has to be George Adamson - he's late now but he was an amazing conservationist. He was really dedicated. He was from the UK, based in Kenya and looking after lions. He was shot by bandits in his area. He died for the work, protecting wildlife. But what is amazing is that after the funeral, when the majority of people had flown back, that night the lions roared. It was phenomenal. And we went back the next day and you could actually see where the lions had lain on his grave. Also Mandela. He is a unique person. I'm really privileged to have met both of them.

When and where were you happiest?
I'm happiest doing my work and my passion - getting out there into the field. I don't like to be stuck in an office. I love going into the wilderness and working with communities, especially rural communities. They are such precious people.

What's your biggest vice?
I like chocolate.

What were you like at school?
I was quite sociable. And I was quite sporty. I played a lot of sport - hockey for Zimbabwe, basketball and tennis for Mashonaland. I went to school for sport and had fun. I was naughty, really naughty. I believed that rules were there to be broken. I don't know if this is a good thing to tell the world but I went to the Convent and I ran a bar, I smoked and went out most weekends. I think I was only caught once, stealing peaches. But I loved school. We had a great time and enjoyed ourselves. We lived life to the full.

What are you doing next?
Well, this is the big journey, the Green Zambezi Alliance. I think it's going to be an awesome project. It's huge! It's massive! And the exciting thing for me is we are bringing people together. You know everyone's doing so much and we all get busy in our lives and somehow separated. So how do we join the dots to uplift Zimbabwe to the next level? Because Zimbabwe is a beautiful country and it has got beautiful people. I believe we can rebuild our country into the jewel of Africa because it is. It really is special.

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