Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our little AIM team

In the last few months we have seen a few changes to our team here in Rundu.

Early December we said goodbye to an amazing lady, Dr. Mary Bennett from England. Mary served here for a two year term as a teacher in the College of Education here in Rundu, the training center for teachers in this region. Education has become, in my opinion the number one area that needs desperate help in this country. The day after independence only 18 years ago, the President declared Namibia an English speaking country. Up to that point the schools mainly taught in the Africaans language but suddenly things changed. In the village of Kaisosi kids in grades 1-3 get one hour of English a day and then in grade 4 the classes are all taught in English. English is not spoken at home or in the communities and so this transition is tough on the students and the number of kids that pass subsequent grades decreases significantly. One of the biggest problem is that the teachers also struggle with English, and so the quality of the teaching decreases significantly. Hearing stories from Mary and some of the other teachers at the college has helped me see that English proficiency (and hence education in general) in this country has a long way to go when compared to the majority of its African neighbours. Mary was also very committed to serving the church, setting up training for Sunday school teachers, writing Bible studies and spending time with the ladies in the church doing sewing projects. A very encouraging, hard working, and inspiring woman of God. Rundu will be forever changed.

We have just said goodbye to Kimmie this past week as she headed back to America after 3 years in Rundu. Kimmie is a nurse that was working as a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) nurse back at home and so was quickly slotted into the paediatric ward here at Rundu State Hospital, as there is no specialized ward here. Kimmie served faithfully on the ward for 2 years doing a 4 on 4 off rotation, and had many horrific stories of her time in the hospital. Her time there was no doubt very necessary as she tried to bring insight, and a strong work ethic, not to mention a passion and deep love for sick kids. After 2 years Kimmie was promoted to In-service Training Coordinator which was a nice change from the ward (although she continued to do one shift a week on the ward). But the new position came with its own set of struggles. As we have mentioned in past blog entries, the work ethic here is disparagingly low and she found that the nurses weren’t very interested in continuing education, attendance was low and not all that appreciated. By the end of 3 years, Kimmie was excited to go back home for the first time and see all her friends and family and we applaud her for her perseverance! She is missed already.

After unloading all of Kimmie’s luggage off at airport and saying our goodbyes, we turned around and packed the car full again with 2 girls, Nicole and Tricia and all their belongings and headed back on the road up to Rundu. Nicole and Tricia are close friends from Louisville, Kentucky (pronounced Louvull for all us non Americans!). To quote Daryl, “they are two angels sent to us from God”. They are both bright rays of sunshine and full of joy and laughter. What a huge blessing!

Tricia is also a NICU nurse in the States, but instead of entering the hospital scene will spend the next two months loving on the kids at our OVC project and helping me get some of the overwhelming administrative tasks organized, of which I am so thankful! She has already been keen to jump into wound care at the project and has the sweetest attitude.

Nicole has a Masters in Dispute Resolution and works with kids who have emotional disability. Can you imagine how excited we are to have her here!!! Nicole has already jumped right into our meetings with the social worker trying to bring much needed aid to our kids in abusive situations. We just found out that the social worker will be away for the next 6 weeks, so I feel that “for such a time as this” she has been sent to do a great work. Nicole has committed to a 6 month term here in Namibia but as we are leaving Rundu in 2 months (!), we are unsure as to whether she will stay here (we are praying for someone else to come and join her) or head back down to Windhoek to finish her term there.

The kids at project are over the moon excited to meet and play with these energetic and fun loving girls, they all want to be their new best friends. They are a gigantic gift.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Building a hut and so much more...

Our last blog entry was in regards to one of our orphans at the project, “Jessica”. Although there were no signs of another physical beating, things continued to look dismal. Both her grandmother and her aunty kicked her off of their properties and she was literally sleeping under a tree, in rainy season.

A couple of weeks back I was sitting with Jess asking lots of questions as I usually do and found out that there was some tin roofing at her uncle’s (in a different village) that had been left by her parents for her and her brother but they could never afford the rest of the construction material to build the hut. The tin roofing is one of the bigger expenses in building a hut and is a huge start so immediately my heart said that we needed to build this hut for her, and we needed to do it ASAP.

The question was, where should we build it? With the Grandma, who treats these kids as slaves (no joke), or with her aunt who is an alcoholic and turns to violence when under the influence? With the help of our dear friend Zeka as translator we started to talk to neighbours to find out some outside perspective. Grandma said she didn’t want the hut on her property because she felt “aunty would be too upset”…don’t know if that was the whole truth. Then the aunty came in search of us.

We spent two hours sitting with aunty, Jess and her brother trying to mediate between them. Aunty began with a very defensive and angry attitude saying that these kids are practically her own as she has been responsible for them since their mother died when Jess was 5 and her brother was 10 days old. She was adamant that the hut be built on her property.

We then wanted to try to understand why she was kicking Jess off the property if she wanted her so badly. Some of the answers were: she is still wetting the bed, she is sleeping around with a married man, and she refuses to sleep next to another teenage boy. We asked Jess to leave so that we could talk to aunty alone. We explained that she is wetting the bed because of the physical abuse when she was younger and that she is not doing it intentionally, and by telling the community she is embarrassing her even more. We asked what evidence she had that Jess was sleeping with this man and she said “she heard it from someone” (Jess was beside herself with tears when this was brought up and told us that the rumours were unfounded), so we again tried to explain that shunning “her own daughter” for something that she could not prove was extremely hurtful, especially to a 13 year old girl with a history of sexual abuse. Then we tried to explain that it was understandable that Jess didn’t want to share a hut with another boy because she already feels unsafe. These are but some of the issues that came up and it is evident that there will need to be much intervention and counselling in order to restore this relationship.

The next day, Zeka and Daryl spent the afternoon purchasing materials for the house (basically wandering around the village to different spots where piles of wood and sticks were for sale, then Zeka haggling over the price with Daryl trying to stay out of the way so we didn't have to pay the "Sharumbu" (white person) price.) The next morning at 6 am, with all the material bought, we picked up our team of workers that Zeka had recruited and began building the mud hut from scratch (see pictures!).

We were praying for no rain and were so thankful that for two and half days, we were rain-free giving the majority of the hut time to dry. We had an incredible day being in the community and blessing Jess (and her brother who will live there with Jess when he is a bit older).

We had been feeling quite a bit of frustration and disappointment with a multitude of things regarding the project these last few weeks and what an uplifting and positive experience it was in the face of all the negativity to produce something good.

As an update, I met with the social worker yesterday (finally) and she is going to gather a team of colleagues to meet with the family next week. We are very keen to involve these folks, so that the family understands that it is not just our opinion that what they are doing is wrong. The team will also explain their actions are against the law and warn them that they have the right to remove the children if things don’t improve. We are also hoping to get some information translated regarding alcohol abuse. Please pray for us as we seek to show love and grace all the while helping to protect and counsel those that are hurting.