Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Spare time

I, Sabrina, work at the hospital 3 mornings a week and I am at the OVC project 3 afternoons a week, so what do I do with my all my “spare time” you ask? A big project that I have taken on here is trying to get at least some of the kids in our project (about 180) registered with the government in order that these kids’ caregivers might receive a monthly grant of 100 Namibian dollars a month (about $15 Canadian). Although past missionaries have tried to begin this enormous task, it seems that very few of them have gotten any where, and I am now beginning to understand why. Here is a glance at a typical afternoon in this endeavour.

It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I arrive at Kaisosi village (where the kids from the project live) at around 2:30 after getting back from work and grabbing a quick lunch. School gets out at about 1:00pm so when I arrive there is a bunch of teenage boys awaiting my arrival. In the car I have a number of important documents collected by past missionaries with a list of some places to start on the journey. Five boys happily jump in the back (they love car rides) and off we go back into town to our first stop, the police station.

Three of the boys have fathers who are missing, which is a very common story. We need to prove somehow (in order to apply for the grant) that these fathers are gone and were told the police could help. After explaining to a police officer why I, the white girl or “sharumbu“, was with these boys, we were told we needed to get a letter from the “Head Man” of Kaisosi village stating that in fact these boys fathers were missing before they could help. Strike one.

Next we went to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare. I needed to get some letters signed by a social worker in order for a couple of boys to get birth certificates (in order to get a grant). There was a sign posted on the board (not in English of course) saying that they were gone for the week. When I say “they”, I mean all 3 of them. That’s right, there are 3 social workers assigned to the whole North Eastern region where there are tens of thousands of orphans. Strike two.

Next stop was the Department of Home Affairs. One of the boys whose father has gone missing also has no mother because she died eight years ago but was not issued a death certificate (necessary to apply for a grant). He had been in a few weeks before with a previous AIMer to apply for his mom’s death certificate and was told it would take 2 weeks to process. After standing in line for some time the man at the desk agreed that it only takes two weeks but you can only pick them up on Thursdays, and as it was Wednesday there was nothing he could do. Strike three.

Then into another long line up to apply for birth certificates with 3 previously signed letters from the social worker. I was able to come away with 2 full birth certificates, but one of the kids only had a baptismal card and not an “abridged birth certificate”, so his application was denied. I had a long conversation with the gentlemen explaining that most of the kids only have baptismal cards and he insisted that the caregiver (usually the grandmother) must come in and explain in person why they don’t have an abridged birth certificate. (I have since this particular day found out after bringing in these kids and their grannies that the process is significantly more complicated than that). Another strike out.

So, after multiple dead-ends, we decided to find this “Head Man”, whose “office” is in his mud hut. I was sceptical of this so called head man before I got there, and my scepticism only increased the longer I was there. Since the head man wasn’t there and apparently never is, I spoke to a young girl who ended up being the “secretary”. Meanwhile we had to fend off a drunk man who was accosting me the entire time. After a very long time I convinced her that we needed letters for three of the boys with me whose fathers were missing. The first letter she wrote was for a boy with a missing father and a dead mother and although my instructions were very clear, she wrote that both parents were dead. I read the letter and said “no, the father is missing”. She replied “well he could be dead” and my response was “but we don’t know that, he could also be very much alive!”. She rewrote the letter and after paying 20 dollars a piece I had three letters. As it was getting dark and I had to drive the boys home, I called it a day.

In spite all the frustration with the oppressive bureaucracy which seems to block these orphans from getting the support they are entitled to, not all is bleak. It has been a tremendous blessing to have spent the last couple of weeks trekking in and out of town with these boys. I count it a privilege to show these kids love in a practical way and in a way that no one else does. They have shared with me their current living situations and family histories, all which are shocking compared to the norm back at home. Please pray that they would see the love of Christ through me and that through these ventures they will have hope for a bright future. The attached picture is two of our young stars at the program Kahilu and Earnest.


Sara Wiens said...

Remember trying to get prayer letters printed in FSJ? Apparently it was training for one of your roles in Africa! Dealing with ridiculous bureaucracy. Love you both!

lene said...

Keep on keeping on, Sabrina! Your perseverance will continue ministering to these kids, and will likely continue showing them the love that others in the past have started showing them.
God bless you & Darryl in your time there.
Lene (:~]