Finnish funding for hope and knowledge in Kabila
Being an orphan, becoming a widow, being poor or a victim of HIV/AIDS does not mean an end to life. It does not matter what you have in your pocket or the depressed life you have lived; what matters most is that there are people who always think of you and plan to do great things to enable you to move forward. This is what happens with orphans, widows and children from vulnerable environments in Katutura, a township in Windhoek, Namibia. With the establishment of Kabila Village Centre in 2005, many children - mostly orphans - have been benefitting from the provision of an education that can improve their prospects.
On the right path
It is this centre where orphans and vulnerable children expect to shape their future. It is a place where hope is developed and candles light for the young to take the right path for a better future. For HIV/AIDS victims and for women in general, it is a centre of encouragement and enthusiasm, and the beginning of a new life.
The centre, which has been sponsored by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has offered education to more than 200 children since 2008. Presently, there are two teachers, four caretakers and two cooks. Journalists from Suomi/Africa recently visited the centre, to gain an understanding of the work being done there, and to see how Finnish support is translating into improved quality of life.
With financial support from the Finnish government and strong leadership of the centre, many goals are being achieved and the centre continues to make progress. The women and children at the Kabila Village Centre welcomed Suomi/Africa, and officials from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, with traditional dances and sweet songs, which expressed the need for hope and a courageous spirit to face the challenges ahead.
With words and gestures, the children expressed their feelings in verse. They sang, “I am happy to be me.”
Speaking on behalf of the group from Suomi/Africa, Mr Simon Kaheru - a media analyst from Uganda - told the children that most of members of the group had grown up in the same way they were, and had faced the same challenges as they were facing.
“We are journalists here. I know some of you would like to be journalists. You need to study hard, so that you can be like us,” he told the children. In response, the children collectively promised to study hard and become good citizens when they grow up.
To the mothers, Mr Kaheru said the main goal of the group’s visit was to learn from them and to see how the project has changed their lives. Explaining the school’s progress, Ms Albetina Nakadhilu, a caretaker and head of education at the centre, reported that all the success they had achieved was due to the great support they had been getting from the Finish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
“In 2008, I did not know if we could manage this, I really doubted if we could make changes. Today, I thank the Finnish government for enabling us to record some positive changes for us and for others in this community,” she said.
Commenting on the process of getting children ready for study, Ms Nakadhilu said, “We identify kids in the surrounding communities and tell their parents to bring them to the centre for enrolment. All these children come from the surrounding community. Some are orphans and others are vulnerable.”
Ms Nakadhilu said, then, that the children are aged between four and six years old. All children attending classes are given at the school.
On the matter of payment for attendance, Ms Nakadhilu said the education is for free - but that some parents pay something and others do not, depending on the economic situation of a given family. She said those who can contribute are paying N$70 (US$7) per month.
The challenges facing the community
There are challenges, however, in ensuring children gain an educational advantage. Ms Nakadhilu stressed that not everyone in the community has been willing or prepared to allow his or her child to join others at the centre. Moreover, there are dropouts and absenteeism, most often due to the challenges of life at home requiring that children stay to work or support family members. Children leave, also, when parents move home when they search for or secure employment. According to Ms Nakadhilu, an average of at least five children drop classes every year.
“As you can see, this centre is within a poor community. Its people live in shacks and huts. These are people work mostly in mining, and can move to from place to place any day any time,” she explained.
The centre also supports women. It is concerned, particularly, with providing advice to people affected with HIV/AIDS in the area - encouraging them to face the condition like any other challenge, and not as if it is a death sentence.
Ms Linda Nanyaga is one of the volunteers on HIV/AIDS programme. She explained to the group from Suomi/Africa that, at the time of the visit, there were 36 volunteers at the centre, five of whom were men. She said that the volunteers meet every Wednesday to discuss various issues related to their job. They are also engaged in craftwork and used the money obtained to help them to get medication. Ms Nanyaga also said that the majority of the people she meets in the community value the job the volunteers are doing.
“They appreciate what we do. We started with only a few people – but today we reach many of them, and the response is very good,” said Ms Nanyaga.
Unlike in other African countries, where stigmatisation is still high, Ms Nanyaga said the situation in Namibia was different. She said it was easy for the HIV/AIDS sufferer to get medication in conducive environments. According to Ms Nanyaga, most of the victims receive their medication from local hospitals. However, she said that the lack of food was a major challenge among sufferers.
“The shortage of food is a big challenge in our community. It is dangerous for a victim to take medication without having enough food. Therefore, this has been a major challenge, as some fail to take medication as directed by doctors,” she said.
A great deal of additional support and direction has come from Diakonia in the City (DIC), a development programme run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN). The centre in Kabila is managed by the Reverend Gerson Neliwa, who works for ELCIN. Most of ELCIN’s funding for Kabila comes from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Helsinki Deaconess Institute. The Reverend Neliwa said there was a need to empower communities to take power of their future in their hands. He added that, so far, there were two centres for supporting children and women in Windhoek. He expressed thanks to the Finnish donors for all that had been made possible due to their extensive support.