Monday, March 5, 2012

To the Coast Week 6

By Sarah Caska & Mary Schaefer

The week began the same as many, with our internships on Monday followed by Politics and Internship classes on Tuesday. This week in internship class we had a guest speaker from USAID who came to speak with us about grant writing. She outlined the do’s and don’ts of grant writing, and gave us wording and formatting tips that are essential if an organization wants their grant proposal to stand out from the rest. This was particularly helpful for me (Sarah), because I have been involved with a lot of editing and writing of grant proposals at my internship, NamRights. Hearing what someone on a grant proposal selection committee looks for, gave me a lot of necessary knowledge that I will be able to bring back to the organization.
We finished off our week by heading to Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. We left in the van bright and early at 7:00 Thursday morning. On the way we got to see more of the beautiful mountains and Namib Desert that make up the country. We passed numerous uranium mines that are outside of Swakopmund, and although they provide jobs they also cause a huge amount of controversy in the country. Not only do the mines disturb the country’s environment but many of the workers at the mines are not treated well either. Many of the mines violate workers rights and cause terrible health problems from blindness to lung problems. Also, the miners are not given proper safety gear to protect them from the potential hazards that can occur in the mine. Not always, but some do. Most of the mines are foreign owned and are capitalizing on the resources of the country without giving many things back.
After passing through the mines and the desert we finally arrived at the coast. It was beautiful to be nestled in between the desert and the beach. On Friday, we took a tour of Swakopmund and saw what it was like beyond the tourist hotspots. One of our stops on the tour was the Democratic Resettlement Community. We learned that eighteen years ago the government began the attempt to make formal settlements for the people living in the DRC, but up until this point the government has yet to create new homes for the people living there. Stretching for miles are these settlements, which have portable toilets for bathrooms, water pumps for water, and no electricity. Despite the number of different informal settlements we have seen it is still shocking that the government has yet to change the standard of living for those that are patiently waiting. In the DRC we went to a community center that provides children with a safe atmosphere to go to after school. All of the children seemed excited to have visitors and to interact with us. It is a relief to know that it seems that everywhere we have gone people will do whatever they can to help children and this organization is no exception, they never turn away a child and let them stay from 7:00 in the morning until 7:00 at night. The children also did a traditional Oshiwambo dance for us and our intern Ndaku joined in at the end, and in return we sang them “Row Row Row Your Boat” in rounds (it didn’t seem that they were impressed).
We also visited a community shelter where children can go to in between being adopted and being taken from their parents. When many of these children are found and taken to social workers, they have been abandoned and often times abused. The people who run the center do everything they can to make sure the children are cared for but often times struggle to financially support all of them. It was amazing to meet such loving people who spend their lives helping children that have been abused and allowing them the chance to have a real childhood. All of the children held our hands and showed us around their rooms and their living space. It was one of the best tours we have had yet and one of the most educational. We got to see all of the different parts of Swakopmund and were shown that it is not just a tourist town where people come to relax, but it is also a place where people live, fight for jobs, and have to deal with life’s day to day problems.

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