Thursday, June 19, 2008

Opening Day at OVC

One of the main areas of ministry that we are involved with in Rundu is the Kaisosi Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s project. The idea of the program sprung up from the compassionate response of the pastor of a local church in Kaisosi, a neighbourhood village next to Rundu. The pastor was moved by the great need of all the underprivileged and orphaned children in his area, and the idea of organizing an after school program for some of the kids was born. Presently there are about 170 kids that are registered in the meal program and another 30+ kids that show up for the games, songs, stories and extra leftover food. The program began about a year ago but it still is very much in its infancy.

The project has been operating outdoors, but there was a need to get a building for the OVC project to expand the programs available to the kids, such as computer classes, a class room for after school help, a library, a kitchen for the rainy season, and storage. The US embassy, together with a large number of individual Canadian donors, gave funds toward the project to help cover building expenses.

So at long last the building was up and we had a huge “Opening Ceremony” for the community to come out and see what this OVC project was all about. It took days to prepare for the party. The cooks slaughtered a cow the day before and it took them 24 hours straight of cooking…they worked all through the night over fire in the middle of their winter (gets down to about 5-10 degrees at night). But of course even after all the “planning”, this is Africa and things are just done differently here.

The program didn’t start on time, to no one’s surprise, but all the official people were there, including the mayor of Rundu, school principles, the head of the District Hospital, and even NBC (Namibian Broadcast Coporation) recorded the proceedings. Then the speeches started. Next time you are at a wedding/banquet, just be glad you’re not in Africa - there is no rush here and the microphones weren’t working so barely anyone could here what was going on.

For the most part the kids were honoured, and the kids were given a chance to play on a brand new playground. It was such a joy to see the smiles and laugher of the children on the playground equipment. Inevitably one tire swing broke after only about 3 hours, after 30-40 kids piled on to it! All the children were also given a blanket that day to help get them through the cold evenings.
Our joy was tinged with disappointment in that we wanted all the children to get served food first, which is counter to the usual situation in Naimibian culture where the important adults get fed first, and eventually the kids are remembered. In the end some of the kids had to wait up to 4 hours, while others got tired of waiting and left before getting any food. Attempting to feed over a thousand people is a huge undertaking, and with all the volunteers sleep-deprived and undermanned, chaos soon ensued. People are in such need and so desperate it is hard to ensure that things are done fairly, so people were attempting to get as much for themselves without much concern for others. Even after a positive day of media coverage and community support, our enthusiasm was tempered by the reality of how far we still need to go.

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