-By Nyasha Matavire; Executive Director (CLUBHOUSE Zimbabwe)
There is this program on TV that I used to hate, it showed people in dire situations and who genuinely needed help. People with special ailments, cancer or injuries sustained in either domestic or traffic accidents, you know, things like that. These people would come and tell their stories and mostly it would end with them asking for donations so that they could travel to either South Africa or The States for treatment or for certain procedures. The people around me didn’t understand why I rushed to change the channel each time this program started; they probably thought I was heartless: “why couldn’t I sympathize with people in difficult situations?” The truth, however, is that the program always left me with this feeling of hopelessness. No matter how much these stories touched me, at the end of the day I couldn’t help these people. Sometimes I blamed the rich people of this society; surely there are people in this country wealthy enough to assist these people in difficult circumstances; most of them continued to come back to the show because help was not coming!
So when I received 30 application letters for the CLUBHOUSE scholarship from children from two different schools, and had to select only a few, I felt that same sense of hopelessness coming back to me. We had thirty kids who desperately needed help, and all we could help was eight. When I went through the letters for the first time I couldn’t select anyone. Of course some kids where in more serious situations than others and some of them failed to outline their backgrounds and why they wanted to be part of CLUBHOUSE, but most of them were in real situations that needed attention and showed an interest in serving their community and that warranted a place among the true CLUBHOUSE ambassadors. All this made it very difficult for me so I sat on the papers for a couple of days waiting for one of the board members, Mishelle, who was in the country then visiting relatives. As soon as she was back in Harare we set up a meeting and I literally dumped the papers on her lap. She happily took the challenge and, I must say, I couldn’t have done the job better myself. At that stage we had just been told that the funds were coming in well and we were going to increase our number of kids to ten. One would assume that this would have made the job a whole lot easier for Mishelle and I. Yet somehow, we ended up with eleven kids instead of ten. We couldn’t agree on which kid to remove from the list. I took all the 11 names and their applications to the board and thank God child number eleven was accepted.
As soon as we had all the names in place, money was sent in and it was forwarded to our Mutare agent, Mr Godo – a veteran educationist and former headmaster of both Sheni and Rujeko schools. He then visited the schools on opening day and he paid the fees and announced the names of the scholarship recipients.
About a week after schools had opened I went to Mutare to present the acceptance letters to the kids and basically to meet them and get to know them a bit and also to familiarize myself with the town. A day after my arrival, Mr Godo took me to the schools. I did not know what to expect; all this was all new to me! It was my first time in Mutare, I was going to meet these kids and the authorities for the first time so I was a bit nervous.
What was waiting for me though, is an experience that I will never forget.
We started our tour at Rujeko Primary School and with my host Mr. Godo being a legend at the school, the whole place was abuzz the moment we got there. All teachers were coming to greet us and to welcome us. I was being introduced to everyone as the Director of CLUBHOUSE and the respect that I recieved by people who are way older than me was kind of embarrassing. After taking a tour of the school, a meeting was set up in the deputy headmaster’s office and I presented the kids with their acceptance letters together with little stationary hampers in the presence of their Deputy Head, Teacher in Charge and the senior teacher. The kids were so happy and one could tell just by looking at their little faces that it was a big moment for them.
From Rujeko we made our we made our way to Sheni as my host narrated to me how the school was formed some 30+ years ago and that it is called Sheni because it overlooks the famous Sheni Mountain that has a pool on its mountain top that never runs dry. In the pool are found only one breed of fish, called Cheni and from these was the mountain named. Just as we were about to get into Sheni school, a certain lady approached us and asked my host if he was indeed Mr Godo. Upon confirming that, the lady then started pouring blessings after blessings to him, thanking him for what he had done for her son. It turned out that this lady was Mrs Areferi, a single parent to Richard, one of our CLUBHOUSE beneficiaries. After being introduced to yours truly she then went into overdrive pouring her out, you could tell from her voice that she was fighting so hard not to cry. That moment, right there, was all that I needed. If that was the only thing that had happened while I was in Mutare, my trip wouldn’t have been in vain. I realized that it doesn’t take a fortune to make someone’s life a whole lot more bearable.
We were treated to the same hospitality that we were given at Rujeko and as soon as we had finished touring the school, a meeting was set up in the T.I.C’s office and this time we were joined by all the teachers of our beneficiaries. After giving them their acceptance letters, we then announced to them that we were also going to pay for all of them to enroll in a computer class, a class that is considered a luxury and can only be afforded by well-to-do families. The things that give satisfaction in life are very simple, seeing a broad smile from a kid that you had never met before and knowing that you contributed, even in the smallest way possible to putting that smile there is one of them. I was especially touched when all the kids, one by one, began to give their words of thanks in English. One little speech that I will always remember came from this little kid who is living with HIV and I quote, “I would like to thank CLUBHOUSE for paying our school fees so that we can have a bright future.” Then he was finished. Here is a child, living with one of the most deadly viruses in the world and the only thing that was standing between him and a bright future, at least as far as he was concerned, was school fees!
Those kids opened my eyes that day, now I am looking at life with a whole different perspective. It is the simple things that make life worth living. You don’t need to be rich or have great influence for you to change the world. Changing the world does not mean altering everything until it all looks different, or helping improve the lives of millions of people. If one dollar, one word of encouragement, one compliment, or even one smile from you is going to help the way one person views life, then my friend, for that one person, you have changed the world.