Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter

HIGHLANDERS Football Club has shown solidarity with a Covid-19 survivor who has complained of stigma in her locality, by walking her to a local shopping centre, shopping and walking her back home in a bid to show that one can recover from the virus and still be integrated in the community.

The Bulawayo based football club represented by chief executive officer Mr Nhanhla Dube and some players last week showed up at the home of Case #20, an 11-year-old who survived the virus together with four other members of her family, and walked her to the Hillside Shopping Centre while singing songs of encouragement.

The team walked the young lady to the shopping centre to show the community that stigma must be removed from people who suffer such incident.

Case #20 had been refusing to leave the house or go to the shops as she said people were giving her the ‘Covid-19 look’ and stigmatising her and her family when they visited the shopping centre or were in the streets.

Mr Dube said the team came to show the community that Covid-19 was a disease that one can survive and lead a normal stigma free life afterwards.

“These children are our brand carriers, they carry the flag and represent Highlanders. Why it was important for us is that we realised that society looks at new events or realities by panicking and creating more victims. By so doing we tend to ‘kill’ people more than diseases actually do. It is because we are going to then keep our distance, label them and dehumanize them in the process.

“When Covid-19 visited the family, they became the victims and there was no sympathy for them. The net sum is that if we do not assist these affected or infected persons, we also do not learn from this, how to heal and how to also reintegrate those that were affected,” he said.

Mr Dube said it was important for the club to show that it was community based.

“We also want to show that we have a humane side. We came to show them that we care for them although we know we cannot heal the pain of stigma,” he said

He added that the community needed to remember that diseases come and go but the community remains.

“We cannot be stuck on who had Covid-19, we will now be segmenting society on the basis of diseases. By doing so we are making people live longer with the scars of the disease. We came as Highlanders to uplift an affected family, the strength that we should be as Zimbabweans post covid-19 is based on what we have leant and how we treat each other.

By stigmatizing them, we will be preventing them from accessing medical attention, interacting with the society, community activities, going to church or gym to name a few. This is an opportunity to learn and correct our mistakes associated with stigma,” he added.

A player at the club, Mkhokheli Dube, said there was need to help Covid-19 victims to feel safe.

“I can only imagine what you (case #20) has gone through, and yet you are still standing here. Challenges make you stronger and as a young girl you are looking forward to enjoying your youth but now it is tough because of this stigma brought by Covid-19.

“You cannot struggle to go to the shops or to come out and play with other children. Stay strong we have come here as Highlanders to support you and rally behind you,” he said.

Another player Rodi Sibanda, said the team will continue to rally behind the girl.

“We are here to bring life back to the young lady to show that there is life after the virus. We hope she recovers from the trauma and she has Highlanders support and the community at large. Her being a survivor shows how strong she is as she has conquered the virus at such a young age,” he said.

Case #20 said she was relived that there are people who care and support those in needy.

“Thank you, Highlanders, for coming to spend time with me, you have shown love that I will never forget. Thank you for the uplifting words, they are a treasure. To those that are victims, there is life after Covid-19, stay strong knowing that there are people like Highlanders Club who are ready to walk with you saying no to daughter.

“It was amazing to walk with the team because it made me feel like a celebrity for a moment. I was the youngest but they respected me so much,” she said.

Her mother, who is Case #21 and has also recovered was also overjoyed by the gesture and said she was grateful for the time spent with her daughter.

“The team took their time to come and walk with her. I am glad they realized that after recovering there is a need for emotional healing and support. They showed us a lot of love. The club is known for playing football but they showed that there is more beyond that and we were left in a better emotional state, we are grateful,” she said.

@NyembeziMu