Monday, February 4, 2013

Week 2: Welcome to the Heat, Beauty, and History that Namibia Holds!

Post by: Hannah Anderson and Jacquelyn Vorndran

Ongaipi from Windhoek, Namibia! We knew we had made it when our plane landed amongst the dry desert and big blue skies. Our time in South Africa was well spent, but we are excited to finally settle into our home and routine here in Namibia.

These are the informal settlements surrounding Windhoek
Early Thursday morning, our guide, AB, took us on a tour of Windhoek and Katutura; a township outside of Windhoek. Throughout the day we learned about the current state of Namibia's economy such as: the 51% unemployment rate, no available housing for the hundreds of people that are flocking to Namibia each day, 100,000 individuals living in informal settlements and no government regulation of the whole situation. It was crazy to drive up a huge hill, look out the window at an absolutely beautiful setting, then proceed to see past the hill at hundreds of tin shacks where families live. The fact that the government is unable to assist the communities leaves few opportunities for education and healthcare. Though problems similar to these occur in the U.S., we have never seen nor chosen to acknowledge these issues. Guilt isn't the type of feeling that came to mind - it was disbelief. These are just issues that you read about in textbooks and see on the news, not encounter, right?

After a bit of an overwhelming morning, we were sent out in groups of four on walking tours around the city. One favorite place we came across was Christ Church, a famous Lutheran church in Windhoek. It was definitely a change to be surrounded by white people singing in German but felt very similar to Lutheran churches in the U.S. The racial contrasts, both in the church and around the city were very surprising and clearly show the lasting impacts of an era of forced racial segregation. The city is very similar to home: malls, restaurants, and theaters.

We also received a tour from people that are a part of a youth driven club in Katutura called the Young Achievers. This group provides support and community to youth when it comes to furthering their education and dreams. They took us to Hope Village, a privately funded orphanage that is made up of 92 children and
The headquarters where the Young Achievers group meets weekly

Hope Initiatives, a preschool for orphans where they provide necessary skills for children entering formal education. In Namibia, mothers receive N$250 (USD$29.76) every month to help out with each child. When children are put in an orphanage the mother still receives that money but will use it on herself since the child is being cared for elsewhere. We both found it hard to understand how or why this was allowed. Even though not many people see $30.00 as a lot, these organizations depend solely on private funding; the government provides no support. We find ourselves with questions like "Who decides how this country's money is used? Where do people's basic needs and education fall on this scale? Why is it that no one in surrounding areas seem to want to do anything about it? Does personal comfort come before the well being of others?" These are questions we hope to tackle throughout the semester. These children are full of love and energy; they inspired us in a way that we will never forget. These children were able to show us through action what truly should be appreciated in ones’ life.

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