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Experience #3 - Windhoek, Namibia

We passed through a third country, a new culture, history and its people. The truth is that we noticed, what we assumed to know, that we started through the most developed African region, better countries to live and part of the modern society. Of course there are the brand new imported cars and a few barely working, giant houses and shacks, impeccable suburbs and others without even electricity… We still couldn’t do a profound research about the colonization history of the fifty-four African countries, but there are at least two common grounds among the ones we already passed through – South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. There is a huge influence of its settlers (England, Netherlands and Germany) and their natural resources that are still valuable, the diamonds. Important to stress that this second point isn’t necessarily good, if we remember about the unhappy civil wars in Serra Leone and Angola due to this mineral…

In other words, the introduction of this text is to highlight that the reality we had the pleasure to know doesn’t represent exactly the majority of the continent. One of the cities that we had been in, Windhoek, is the capital of Namibia. Its population is small, as well as in the entire country. In total they are a bit more than two million habitants, the second smaller demographic density of the world. People are very serene, the city is very organized and the environment has a clear German influence. We had the opportunity to be there during a national holiday (Heroes’ Day – August, 26th) and we felt as being part of a fiction movie, once everything was absolutely desert.

As we were unaware, it surprised us. Naturally we didn’t forget to look for the most vulnerable areas to meet people and understand their challenges. One of these regions is called Katutura, a township quite similar to Soweto. Mainly because they both were part of the Apartheid, as Namibia was under South Africa control during the majority of the past century. Katutura has its best and worst areas, but again we saw people living in extreme conditions.

In a couple of discussions we had, we understood that the country has resources that could solve its inequalities, but as occurs in all cases, the focus is lost… We heard about frustrations due to that. A ridiculous example of that was the construction of a new Presidential house spending millions, while the contribution given by the government to maintain an orphan child is one dollar per day… We don’t need to remind that in any country this amount is insufficient to even buy food for a baby, so the government imposes to the orphanages the impossible mission of creating a child and attending all his basic needs with that.

Thinking positively, things happen in our favour, so we met Nicholas Menner at the Angola’s Embassy. He was also trying the miracle visa, which some people say that its’ the hardest to obtain. He is Australian and has an amazing experience travelling all around the world during five years. We met him in his African round and when he told us about his time in Windhoek, we discovered that he was a volunteer at an orphanage called Dolans House, that takes care of sixteen youth who had lost their families or had to be taken from them.

Unfortunately we couldn’t explore Dolans House founder’s story, Dona Rosa, because our agendas didn’t match. At least we had the chance to go there, where we met the children and played with Dolores and Johnny, pure energy… The atmosphere is warming and it seems to be always fun. We felt a lot of enthusiasm seeing the result of a single person action, who, on her own decided to take care of children that were in need of home and love! Just that!

I want so much to talk about the incredible people that we met, but before I will tell you an interesting episode. Even being English one of the official languages, not everybody speaks very well, reason why we took a long time to obtain information about transportation and how to find local villages. Maybe because the people that we talked to were not so available to help us – trying to believe that we were just not lucky.

We went to a tour agency seeking for more information where they kindly received us and we finally had our doubts clarified. Of course that in the current context this could be just a minor detail, but believe me that for a person who suffers from a slight organizational disturb (me), bothers a lot not having clear information to decide the next steps. When we left the agency we were feeling impacted and very grateful for having spent ten minutes with someone polite, capable and totally available to help us. The famous generosity, after a sequence of goodness lack.

In one of our searches we knew about Penduka, that acts with women from Katutura. We were welcomed by Taimi Benjamin, who manages the office and the factory. She kindly showed us everything they do and told us the story of the organization, which was created twenty years ago to capacitate women to make handicrafts. Two important facts are that the creativity of each woman is very stimulated, so that they can create their own style, what brings them an identity. Also, since the beginning the founder built a foreign network for sales outside Namibia, which guarantee until these days a real and continuous income to these women. This also allows them to dedicate more time to their families, once they don’t need to spend so many hours in street markets to sell their products, which is a hard work and not very productive.

This experience, further than the inspiration of Penduka, was exciting to know Taimi’s vision for thrive. Discussing her future, she told us that besides thinking about creating a “success” company to accumulate wealth for her, she believes in business models capable of creating more jobs. For her, it means to have a greater mission than just being profitable, as it can also create employment and distribute income, instead of just aiming for more earnings with less people. What some people call as traditional capitalism… In my opinion this is the type of business that directly fights the absurd social inequality that exists in all countries (yes, I risk myself to say all countries).

Well, I couldn’t hear anything more inspiring that this. So there, in that moment, far from home, in a country that I didn’t even know how it was. This gives me a lot of hope, because it clearly indicates that there are people around the world who already understood that our capitalism in its linear economy and consumerist has no logical sense if we think that we are just seven billions… Unfortunately, this still goes against what the successful men of today believe in. Poor us…

Through Nicholas we also met Claire, who works in a hostel that supports some good will projects. She nicely received us and when she told us about one of the projects we felt that we were about to meet a very inspiring person. Suspense… When we arrived at Monica Imanga’s house, we had a first shock: a black woman with a fascinating smile and charisma that makes me happier every time I remember that moment. She started to tell us about what she created and the feeling of self-realization was noticeable. In 2007, after she lost her daughter to HIV, she felt she really needed to contribute to others. That could be a way to react and avoid that children would suffer the same pain that she saw her daughter suffering. This way, she started the Soup Kitchen to feed kids from Katutura, who didn’t have anything, neither families in most cases.

She was not rich at all, but got together with a friend to start and just in the first day she fed 45 children. The project increased and conquered a lot of fans, including those outside Namibia, who contribute to maintain the project. Today, seven years after starting, the Home of Goodhope feed 500 children on a daily basis. Can you believe it? And we are not talking about a simple meal, she guarantees that children are receiving proper vitamins and assisting school. Knowing the importance of education, she enabled an extra activity that grants school, materials and basic needs for some children. Does it thrills you? Spontaneous generosity is like that, give us happiness and make us think twice.

The best part comes when we asked Monica about her dream. She smiling answered that when she was young, she used to ask God to have a lot of children without having to marry to a man. Today she lives like that, taking care of boys and girls all the time and concluded: I’m living my dream.

This is an example of when purposes transform realities.

Thank you all that were part of this experiences and inspirations!



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