Shamwari. A Shona word that means my friend.
For the people of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, shamwari is more than just a word. It’s a place. A beautiful, welcoming place in the heart of Victoria Falls. A place for people to come together in friendship and for the good of the community. A place called The Shamwari Center.
As home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls welcomes over a million tourists a year from across the globe. Naturally, most of the businesses in Victoria Falls are geared toward tourists. And while tourists will be welcome to visit the Shamwari Center, it wasn’t built for them.
MATTER President Quenton Marty explains, “The people of Victoria Falls don’t receive, they give. As a tourist town, their top priority is to give the millions of tourists that visit a once-in-a-lifetime experience. When we shared with the residents of Victoria Falls that this center was for THEM, they were emotional, even stunned. One person said to me, ‘There’s nothing in this town for us businesspeople. It’s all for the tourists.’”
The Shamwari Center was built to honor the legacy of one of MATTER’s founders, Dennis Doyle, who passed away in 2021. He and his wife, Megan, successful business leaders in Minnesota, started MATTER more than twenty years ago, to help people living in under-resourced communities. Honoring Dennis’ strengths as a business leader and collaborator, the Shamwari Center’s purpose is to be a place where the businesspeople of Victoria Falls can gather to collaborate on ways to improve their communities and have conversations about things that bring meaning and purpose.
Having opened in the fall of 2022, the Shamwari Center is already bustling. Twenty MATTER Innovation Hub students study there, working hard to complete their certification so they can be hired by US technology companies as remote employees. Once employed, they will office out of the Shamwari Center.
It also serves as MATTER’s “home base” for our Zimbabwe team of 15 staff. The space is perfect for their weekly staff meetings, strategy sessions with partners, and debriefings with Insight Trip participants.
As a business incubator, the Shamwari Center will be home to Victoria Falls’ first coffee-roasting business opening in May. Providing quality coffee to tourist lodges and hotels, as well as those meeting in the Center, the roaster will create valuable job opportunities in a community devastated by unemployment over the last three years due to the pandemic. The Center itself created three full-time jobs upon its opening.
Perhaps the most exciting event to be held at the Shamwari Center since its opening was the first Christian Business Development Summit in November. With more than forty businesspeople attending from South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United States, it was a remarkable time of sharing personal experiences and business practices cross-culturally, with a special emphasis on using Christian principles to help care for employees and customers. The Summit was so successful, it has been slated as an annual event with the second one being planned for November 2023.
With its doors open to the community, The Shamwari Center is fast becoming a gathering place for everything from early morning Bible Studies to weekend weddings. One young man even proposed to his girlfriend in the Center’s picturesque tree house. (Happily, she said yes!)
“We’re excited for what this Center means to the people of Victoria Falls,” Quenton said during its opening celebration. “A lot of good will happen here. You can say it’s going to be a lighthouse, a city on the hill for this community. A place where people come together to do good.”
For Megan Doyle, the Shamwari Center stands as a beautiful testimony to the principles that guided how she and Dennis lived their lives, conducted their businesses and treated others. She explains,
“Hebrews 13:16 says, ‘And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for such sacrifices God is pleased.’ Galatians 6:2 says, ‘Carry each other burdens and in this way, you fulfill the law of Christ.’ God favors those who set these verses on their hearts to serve the poor. I always say, if you CAN help, then you MUST help! Never turn away from those who are in need. Find the most economical way to help them and remain committed. Jesus said ‘The poor will always be with you’ so we must always help them. Always leave room in your heart for the poor. And in all these ways give glory and honor to God.”
Learn more about the Shamwari Center and how it is bringing people together for good in the video below!