Conversations Archives

The 'Real' Roots of CLUBHOUSE- a mother's perspective

By Dr. Pauline Gwatirisa

"I obviously have fond memories of Shingi (founder – CLUBHOUSE) as a small boy growing up in my parents’ care in the high density suburb of Dangamvura. I was working in the capital city, some 260km away, but would go back home (to Dangamvura) almost every weekend. I remember one of my visits quite vividly: after asking the commuter bus driver to drop me off at my destination, I disembarked at a corner street leading to my parents’ residence (for all you need to do is call out your destination and the driver drops you off right then and there). Our house comes into full view after walking halfway down the street:  most notably the fowl run, the avocado tree, and a vacant patch of land which for several years my parents had tried to acquire to no avail. The land (or stand), as building space is more commonly known by the locals, was eventually sold to someone else (another story). But for a very long time, it was a vacant sandy patch, which my son and his peers had successfully converted into a soccer field. Every now and again, Shingi would mobilise his peers from the neighbourhood, and play soccer there.

On the day in question, as I walked down the street, I had an encounter of a lifetime! The kids had gathered to play a game of soccer as usual. I couldn’t help noticing one of the team members wearing a T-shirt similar to the one I had got my son from a local store, and I thought well, it’s a small town - people buy from the same shops anyway. Another team member appeared, again with a T-shirt just like one of Shingi’s, and then another, and yet another, and I thought wow, this is very interesting coincidence!! Small town indeed!!  Eventually another kid emerged, this time clad in one I had not bought from the local store, but from England on one of my business trips. I remember thinking - not too many people from this neighbourhood have been overseas (true at the time) - there must be something sinister going on around here, and where is Shingi anyway? The young man, then only 9, had seen me from a distance, and cowered behind the fowl run, the consequences of his actions too ghastly to contemplate.  In turned out my son had taken out nearly all of his T-shirts from his wardrobe, new and old, local and exotic – he didn’t care, everyone needed a T-shirt – what’s mine is yours too - we are a team come on!!

 Little did I know that God was propagating in this young life fundamental values that would give birth to and continue to drive this amazing initiative: sharing, sensitivity and selflessness. May God bless CLUBHOUSE, its members, and its cause."


Yes...They Know It's Christmas...

pic by marfis75 (flickr)

Ahh, ‘tis the season again. Across the world, a festive spirit engulfs the land. Whether it be under the snowy blankets presiding over North America, the blessed rains brim-filling the African landscape, or the relentless sun descended over Down Under; Christmas is indeed upon us.

For many (religious or otherwise), Christmas provides a universal time of thanksgiving and reflection. Friends and families bask in the joy of each other’s presents and, more importantly, each other’s presence. Christmas is a victory lap; one stands tall and relishes in the glory of having lived through the trials of the year.

Almost 30 years ago, the immortal song, “Do They Know it’s Christmas” was released to raise money for relief of the 1983-1985 Ethiopian Famine, and raced to break all sorts of records in a short space of time.

What a reality to face. While many of us spend Christmas with loved ones, probably exchange small tokens of appreciations before topping the day off with a hefty meal; there are those among us who will go hungry, unsheltered and lonely.

 The burden of existence weighs heavy upon them 364 days a year.

But on Christmas, it weighs a little heavier. Do they know it’s Christmas? Chances are they do. One can argue it would be a relief not to know it is, because then the realization of what is alack would not be especially hammered into their consciousness.

Yet they do. They are reminded of life’s seeming injustices. They sit in silence, imagining what could be. Providers dream in agony, hurting at the thought of letting down those entrusted to them by life.

Above all, however, Christmas exists in the hope that comes from being alive. It lives in the belief in human goodness manifested in charity. It shows on the smiles given out by those who have nothing else to give.

To answer the age-old question: yes, they know it is Christmas. If they do not know it is, they do. What Christmas means to those less fortunate than us, however, is up to you and me. So go forth; make these holidays that much more special for someone else. It might be the best present that both of you get this season!


Moment of Reflective Silence (World AIDS Day Reflection)

picture by Ebby (flickr)

December 1st is World AIDS Day. The commemoration, established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and what is now known as UNAIDS in 1988, bears testament to arguably the biggest global plague known to this generation.
Hundreds of millions have been affected, billions of dollars spent and communities virtually destroyed by the disease.
Despite the international scope of the epidemic, Sub-Saharan Africa has been hardest-hit by AIDS. 90% of AIDS orphans around the world are in Africa. 1n 2009, 1.3 million Africans are said to have died of AIDS, while 22.5 million were living with it. These figures are more terrifying when we consider that the worst has been, and 2009 represents a ‘better’ year in recent history. (

The plight of AIDS in Africa does not exist in a vacuum: it is not a simple matter of a contagious disease spreading to millions of people. Instead, it speaks to systematic failures on not only the health front, but the economy, politics and society as well.

Here is an illustration of how AIDS would grow in a broken system, turns around, and becomes a chief catalyst in breaking down the system.

Picture a group of young, vibrant Zimbabwean adults who ‘work hard and play hard’ in the late 1980s/Early 1990s. Without being patronizing to any one community, young adults everywhere tend to be very sexually active: have always been, will continue to be. Only this time, this particular group is unfortunately living through the advent of AIDS. Not only is the disease still new at the time (and thus information and educational resources are not yet easily available), their society (as with most African societies) views sex as a taboo subject, and conversations about it are generally frowned upon. So not only do most people not know about it, those who do are not talking!
And so the young people get infected. Now, that same group is the core of the economy, right? So when they are sick and dying, the economy takes a hit because no one is able to work anymore. And boy did the fledgling economies of Southern Africa take a hit due to AIDS. In response, the governments start investing money into the health sector to try and bring people back on their feet; but that takes money away from other sectors-and so it goes.
This generation is also the generation having children. So as they become too sick to fend for their children and dying, it creates even an even larger burden on the economy and a society devoid of parents.
The economy is getting worse, and people are dying. Now, the previously morally upright society turns to some less-than-dignified measures to sustain themselves (they have to sustain themselves, right?), among them corruption, crime and prostitution. Corruption perpetuates the cycle of a weakened political and economic system, and prostitution continues to increase society’s vulnerability to the disease…

The scenario painted above is a glimpse into the complex relationship between AIDS and other variables. While there are several other factors not accounted for here, the degeneracy of society at the hands of the disease is unmistakable.
Thus when we, at CLUBHOUSE, venture out into societies such as Dangamvura, Mutare in an effort to be of service to the community’s youth, we are fully aware that we are not just dealing with donations and football. We have a mandate to educate society; to replace that which has been taken away from. We are more than just ‘the help; we are there to rebuild a broken communal spirit


Welcome to CLUBHOUSE

Hello Everybody!

My name is Shingi Mavima, the founder and international director of CLUBHOUSE.

Let me start by thanking you all for checking our work out. Being a community-centric organization, we fully depend on your support to achieve our goals. More importantly, our communities will be best-served through our collaborative efforts; and that is something we can never under-appreciate.

So, how did CLUBHOUSE come about? Well, I spend the earlier part of my childhood in Dangamvura, Mutare in Zimbabwe and, although my environment was humble, those remain the best days of my life. Living in my grandparents' house with half a dozen aunts and uncles and twice as many cousins, I learned early the importance of community.

Some time in junior school, I discovered the fantastic manifestation of talent and community that is football (soccer.) And Oh, how we played. Any piece of open land was a field; and round object was a ball. Although I was modestly talented compared to everyone else, my passion for the game brought me back to the field eveyday.

Fast forward ten or so years. Now I am in graduate school at Penn State University, getting a Masters Degree in International Affairs. While my life path has taken me through twists and turns, two things have been constant; 1) I have always felt football (and sport/culture in general) has a much higher purpose than physical strength and entertaiment and 2) I always felt life is worth living only if a portion of it is dedicated in service to your underprivileged fellows.

And thus the idea of CLUBHOUSE was born ( I set out and approached a few dozen people for advice and assistance, before settling on the excellent board of 8 that created CLUBHOUSE ( These are more than just  people I work with. These are more than just people I went to school with or grew up with. These are my family: the people who volunteered to work with me in chasing a life purpose and to bring much-needed relief to the communities that desperately need them. Thank you All

Finally, my thanks go out to you all again for giving us your time. We look forward to your support!


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